Years editing: 7
Job title: Proposal editor/administrator
Job description: Offers editorial and administrative support to researchers applying for federal grants
How did you get your current job?
I live in a university town, and I was specifically looking for an editorial job. I had previous experience in editing, which gave me the confidence to apply, but I was also nervous, as I had little to no knowledge of proposal development. I’ve been with my organization two years now.
What copyediting training have you had?
My academic degrees are in English and related disciplines. While earning my master’s, I was introduced to style guides and other aspects of editing, but I had no formal training. Editing and proofreading for friends, I recognized that I had an eye for detail and started to hone my skills.
Soon, I was invited to join the editorial team of a nonprofit magazine, where I reviewed and edited articles in English and Malayalam. (Malayalam is my mother tongue. English is my second language.) This was a great experience, for I learned the craft of editing by doing it. I remained in academia for a couple more years, and by the time I submitted my PhD dissertation, I knew that if I did not teach, I would edit. In other words, I didn’t know what else to do!
What positions have you held?
Soon after earning my PhD, I joined a government agency in India as a content editor. I mostly edited content for the state of Kerala’s official websites and social media pages. I managed content in English and Malayalam. When I moved to the United States, I left that job and started volunteering as list editor for an academic organization (Kerala Scholars eGroup). This was a valuable experience, as I had a mentor there, Ashok. R. Chandran, from whom I learned quite a lot about editing — everything from precision to ethics.
DOING THE JOB
Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Communication skills (which all of us editors have). These skills have come in handy when managing external communication and coordinating at work. Also, the ability to quickly distill and interpret information in lengthy documents is especially useful in research, be it for resource development or to understand requests for proposals. (I have this skill thanks to the years I spent in grad school!)
Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
We use Grammarly Premium at work. However, I turn it on only after I do the first round of edits, and except for the punctuation and spelling corrections, I don’t always accept the suggestions.
COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS
How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
Editing is more than half the work my colleagues and I do, though we have different titles. In other words, we speak the same language. We have an open thread where we alert each other of available courses, profiles to be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn, and other resources, such as webinars and conferences.
Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I am an ACES: The Society for Editing member, but I am not active in the community. This is partly due to the deadline-driven nature of our industry and partly due to my unfamiliarity with the communities and networks in the United States. However, this is changing, as I am now more active on LinkedIn and other platforms. I attended the ACES 2021 conference.
Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Since I was mostly on my own during my early days of editing, I did not know who to turn to if I had a question. Google did not always give me the right answer. Eventually, as I started frequenting groups and forums on the internet, I got answers from experienced editors, and there was a sense of community. In addition, networking gives you visibility. For me, as an editor of color, this visibility, my presence, is a statement.
How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Editing a scientific proposal for linguistic clarity when you are not a subject matter expert is like walking a tightrope. I edit for grammar, punctuation, and minor edits using Track Changes in the text. Otherwise, I rewrite the sentence in the comment box and explain why I made the suggestion. At times, I give multiple options and let the principal investigators decide. Also, while noting inconsistencies and offering suggestions, I use the pronoun “we” (“Can we move this paragraph?” “Can we rewrite this as follows?” “Are we talking about … ?”) and frame the issue as a query. “Can we rewrite?” definitely sounds better than “Rewrite.”
How diverse is your office?
Our organization is part of a university system, and we have a diverse group of people working here. However, I haven’t met many in editing whose first language is not English.
Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others?
I haven’t faced any such hurdles, but as a person of color and as someone with a heavy accent, I often feel the need to prove myself. (Yes, self-doubt and marginality.)
What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
This is proposal specific: I wish I had known how to edit proposals with the deadline in mind (sometimes two days and sometimes two hours), rather than aiming for perfection. I also wish I had known that compliance comes first and then the details.
Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Hiring diverse staff should be a conscious decision. No structural change happens without conscious thinking and decision making, especially in India, where newsrooms and publishing houses are still not accessible to the Bahujans.
Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
A couple of months back, I edited a multi–principal investigator proposal. The document required language support, and the principal investigator was very receptive to the changes and suggestions I made. It was a confidence booster to go one step ahead, to rewrite the nontechnical part. I thoroughly enjoyed working with that team.
Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Reading and cooking. These days, books about editing and by editors dominate my reading list. The last book I read by an editor was Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, by Mary Norris, and the one on my table right now is Stet: An Editor’s Life, by Diana Athill. Food and culture is another area of interest.
What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Apart from dictionaries, CMOS Shop Talk, KOK Edit, (SM)EDITS, Rabbit with a Red Pen, and Quick and Dirty Tips are some of the places I frequent. I also use Ludwig to see a sentence or phrase in context. Editors’ Association of Earth is one of my favorite hangouts on Facebook.