Sameen Siddiqui

Years editing: 11
Job title: Freelance copyeditor and trainer 
Job description: Copyedits scientific and academic content
Location: India and Qatar

How did you get your current job?
I am working for an online medical journal. The job opening was posted on the Indian Copyeditors Forum. After passing the editing test, I was hired as a junior editor in 2019. I get my other gigs by applying to jobs on LinkedIn and being approached by clients.

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
One has to be very organized, meticulous, and target oriented, especially when you are in the freelance business. Being a team player and possessing good networking and marketing skills are essential.

In the editing field, there is no substitute for excellent communication. Unless you are able to effectively and clearly communicate with the author, there can be a lot of confusion and delay in the publication process.

Last but not least, one should make a conscious effort to keep oneself updated about changes in the editing domain — for example, the latest editions of style manuals — and engage in continuous professional development if time and resources permit.

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? 
Being a person of color has not been a barrier yet, but there is no denying that marginalization exists. The only stigma I face when hunting for clients abroad is that of the preference for “native editors from the UK, US, Canada,” etc., over “non-native editors.”

Though I understand that there are many nuances and dialects that only a native of a particular country might be versed in, it is very disheartening when you know you are qualified, or at times overqualified, for a job but you do not get a response or get a response simply stating that “only natives are considered.”

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
The one thing that I feel I should have known when taking the plunge into copyediting is the importance of taking professional editing courses from the start. During my stint as a full-time copyeditor, around four years, my job was target based, and I did not pay much attention to self-learning and continuous professional development, as I was too engrossed in meeting the daily targets.

After 11 years of solid experience, I am planning to take up an advanced course in copyediting or marketing (e.g., from UC San Diego, Poynter and ACES, or the Publishing Training Centre). I also plan to join a professional editing society that suits my interests and goals (e.g., ACES, the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, the Council of Science Editors, or Editorial Freelancers Association). 

To all editors at a nascent stage: Never be ashamed to acknowledge your mistakes, and never hesitate to ask questions and get help. Receiving negative feedback with grace and learning from your mistakes will only make you a better editor.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I think that companies and clients should give more chances to people generally and to non-natives and not be so restrictive. They need to widen their horizons; reach out to experienced people irrespective of race, ethnicity, and country; and change the dogmatic approach toward non-natives.

The naive notion that only natives can be proficient when it comes to the English language needs to be changed.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Every manuscript I work on comes with its own set of challenges, and thus any paper I finish with satisfaction — and, of course, the author’s satisfaction — is something to be proud of.

But the latest work that I am extraproud of involved helping a Japanese author and their co-authors with the publication of their paper. There was a huge language barrier, and the corresponding author was not able to respond clearly about what exactly was needed. After many email exchanges, the paper was in good shape.

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Resources that should be handy while editing are dictionaries (Lexico, Oxford English Dictionary for UK English, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for US English), a thesaurus, style manuals (AMA, APA, CMOS, MLA, etc.), in-house style guides (if applicable), online resources (blog posts by editors), and online tools (Grammarly, PerfectIt, and even Title Case Converter).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I am very passionate about the work I do. But in my part of the world, the concept of copyediting is still relatively unknown. People address me as a writer.

If readers want to know about editing, or want guidance, they can connect with me through LinkedIn, and I will extend all the support I can.

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