Interview 39: Malini Devadas

Years editing: 17
Job title: Editor and coach
Job description: Helps editors earn more money in their businesses
Location: Canberra, Australia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I was in the right place at the right time when I got my in-house job. In 2013, I decided I wanted the freedom of freelance life because I had a number of caring duties and wanted to be at home.

What training do you have in copyediting and what positions have you held?
I received a graduate certificate in editing and publishing from the University of Southern Queensland in 2006–2007. I passed the Institute of Professional Editors’ written accreditation exam in 2009, after some intensive study. I worked in-house for 10 years, and there were a number of in-house training sessions. I have also been to many conferences. In 2019 I did a structural editing module at Queens University. I believe that continuing professional development is critical in any field.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I used to be a scientist, and while that didn’t teach me any explicit editing skills, it did make me more confident to edit journal articles in health and medicine. My clients also seem to like the fact that I was a scientist. But I do take the time to explain to academics that editing is a specific skill that requires training.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
When I worked in-house, I loved being able to chat with colleagues and ask questions about tricky issues. Once I went freelance, I joined online editing groups to get the same support.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I don’t work as an editor much these days, so I’m not in any other groups. I set up a second business a few years ago, working as a mindset coach to help editors earn more money in their businesses. I have a free Facebook group associated with that business, and the aim of that group is to provide a safe space for editors to share their business goals and then reflect on what is stopping them from taking action. Mindset plays a huge part in running a business, but there are not many editing groups that have this focus. So I wanted to create something that would fill the void.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?Ah, I could write a book on this (and am planning to do so — hopefully this year). Yes, editors absolutely need to be “out there” meeting potential clients and talking about what they do.

But the focus needs to be on solving a problem that a client has. There’s no point talking about copyediting if an author is worried that their book isn’t good enough to send to an agent, for example. In that case, the editor should talk about how they can give the author honest feedback and help them get the book into shape, ready for an agent.

In general, editors spend too much time talking about their work as if they’re talking to other editors, rather than looking at their business through the eyes of their potential clients.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
I think if we make it clear that we are a partner in the publishing process and we want the best for the author, we can build trust and a strong rapport with our author. If we have that, then we don’t need buy-in. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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? 
Not that I know of. I haven’t had trouble getting clients. If anything, I find that clients from Asian backgrounds feel comfortable with me because my family was from Asia. (I was born and raised in Australia.)

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Probably to not be afraid to ask questions of the author. 

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I think to start with, just look around your office and see whether your staff reflect the population in your area. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
My podcast, the Edit Boost Podcast. I started it last year to help editors take action to grow their editing businesses. 

Interview 33: Carlanda Jones

Years editing: 11
Job title: Manager, product safety communications
Job description: Writes and edits consumer-focused content about chemicals and safety
Location: Virginia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
Prior to my current position, I worked as an editor on a contract with the US Department of Transportation’s Office of Railroad Safety, and I enjoyed that role. I am interested in creating consumer-focused content about safety and health — in chemical safety — though, so when I came across an opportunity to write for a website focused on chemicals and safety, I researched the organization, applied for the role, and was selected. 

What training do you have in copyediting, and what positions have you held?
Most of my training in copyediting was gained through on-the-job experience. I also have a bachelor’s degree in communications, which introduced me to interpersonal skills, technical communications, mass communications, and public relations. My experience in corporate communications has also been helpful. 

In my first role as an editor, I supported the Customs side of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I edited everything from standard business letters to reports to Congress. Taking trainings on editing gave me a better understanding of technical editing marks and different types of editing (e.g., substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading).

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I’ve found working in different communication roles and the skills gained from them extremely helpful. In one of my first jobs in communications, I developed marketing materials for members and employees of a small credit union. This involved writing for the web and basic desktop publishing. Writing and editing for social media have been important too. 

I’ve also worked closely with graphic designers, writers, and editors, and served as an intermediary between creative services teams and clients. Working with these teams helped me to be empathetic to the challenges they may face and made me aware of how communications and marketing materials can be improved. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
PerfectIt looks like an excellent tool, but I haven’t used it. I use the editing tools available in Microsoft Word (spelling and grammar checks, thesaurus, word count, tracking, and comments). 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
At the American Chemistry Council, I do more writing than editing. We work collaboratively to edit our writing before sharing a draft with a subject matter expert, and then we finalize it. At other organizations, I’ve worked on editing teams. On one team, a person would be the primary editor for documents generated from one part of the organization. Then an editor from another team would provide a second review and vice versa. This process was especially important for highly visible material. For both teams, we used SharePoint for version control.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I served on the board of the Washington, DC, chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) a few years ago. IABC has many resources for business communicators that are relevant to editors. I was introduced to the Society for Technical Communication (STC) several years ago, and although I am not currently a member, I would recommend them to anyone interested in technical editing. I am also interested in ACES: The Society for Editing.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
The work often does speak for itself, but editors may also need to help others better understand the value they provide. Showing someone materials that were not edited can help with this. When someone reads something that has many errors or other issues, it can give them a negative impression of a product or service. 

The editor’s value is also seen when you ask someone to think about a publication they enjoy. That publication — whether it’s a website, newspaper, book, or magazine — is enjoyable because of good writers and good editors.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Sometimes, it helps to meet with them beforehand to explain your role and why you may be suggesting changes to their content. In addition to using Track Changes, use the Comments tool in a Word document to provide feedback and ask questions about the content. It can also be helpful to schedule time with the author to discuss your edits. People are often very sensitive about their work. If you can explain that you’re helping to make their writing easier to understand, they may be more receptive to the changes.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office?
We don’t have editors here, and the diversity of my department varies by teams. At some of my previous workplaces, there were diverse teams of editors and writers (race, age, gender), while at others, the teams were more homogenous. I worked at a public relations agency where the editors and writers were women of all races, the graphic designers were both men and women, and there were more women on the program and project management side.

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?
Yes, some industries were more difficult to find positions in or advance in than others. In my experience, working for organizations where people cared about the quality of the work and about meeting their goals and producing their deliverables above everything else minimized the likelihood of not advancing because of race or gender. It’s also important to cultivate relationships with people inside and outside of your organization to grow your network.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
1. Take your time to discover the type of work you enjoy (e.g., the pace, the frequency, the volume of work).

2. Try to understand how your role contributes to the overall goals of the organization.

3. Learn to improve your ability to accept and give feedback. (Are your edits too severe? Can you offer alternatives for the content? If you don’t understand something you’re editing, do you ask for clarification? Are you too sensitive when you’re told your editing or writing needs to improve?)

4. When editing, embrace your role as the expert. (Be confident about the changes you’re recommending and be able to explain the reason for the changes.)

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
If you work in a communications department, on a program, or on a project, suggest that your organization add editors to the project and have someone in mind whose skills and experience might be a good fit. If they can’t be brought on as in-house staff, hiring them as contractors can still help to raise awareness about the value of editors and increase diversity. 

Employers could also encourage employees to join organizations like ACES, STC, and IABC to network and increase their knowledge about careers in editing, writing, and communications.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
There are a few, but the most recent is my work on ChemicalSafetyFacts.org, a consumer-focused website that provides information about chemicals and safety. The National Eye Institute’s Write the Vision eye health awareness initiative is another project I am proud to have worked on.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Over the past year, I have enjoyed cooking more often, doing mini jigsaw puzzles, and working on my skills with my planner (#plannergoals).

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
I like the GrammarGirl and Poynter websites. It’s always helpful to have The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook on your desk if your organization wants you to edit using those guidelines and rules.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
Having the opportunity to work in different industries and various communication roles has been rewarding. It is satisfying to know that your work helped to improve the clarity of written materials and made the information more accessible. Working in employee communications roles has allowed me to help employees increase their understanding of a company’s accomplishments, mission, vision, and goals. And I’d like to think that my work on consumer-facing projects and programs may have helped someone.

Interview 23: Shara Pantry

Years editing: 4
Job title: Part-time freelance medical writer and editor
Job description: Writes patient education material; copyedits grant proposals and scientific manuscripts
Location: Florida

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
My first copyediting job came from a listing on the job board of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). Currently, the majority of my medical writing gigs come through Dragonfly Editorial. I connected with the owner on LinkedIn and have been one of their freelance medical writers for the past year.

I’ve also gotten writing and editing gigs through the professional network that I’ve built over the past six years.

What copyediting training do you have, and what positions have you held?
I’ve taken copyediting and science writing courses. I’ve taken the Writing in the Sciences course on Coursera, copyediting.com’s Copyediting for ESL Authors, and grant-writing courses from the university where I work.

My experience has come from freelance editing jobs: scientific grant proposals and manuscripts, training modules, resumes, and personal statements. For editing large grant proposals or manuscripts, I find it useful to have the specific aims page or abstract printed. This gives me an easy way to refer back to the main conclusions and most important information as I proceed through the document. I also keep a running list of abbreviations and use the Microsoft Word search and replace feature regularly to ensure consistency.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
As I aim to grow my freelance career, I am beginning to learn more about marketing and maintaining a strong social media presence. Right now, I’m reading The Fearless Freelancer: How to Thrive in a Recession, by Lori De Milto. It offers great information how to find your niche as a freelancer and how to develop a client-focused LinkedIn profile and website.

I’d also like to learn more about using graphic design to make science communication more accessible, which would complement my skills as a medical writer and editor.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
I use Grammarly to double-check for simple grammar mistakes, extra spaces, and missing punctuation. But I use my discretion, as Grammarly isn’t always accurate when used on scientific materials.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I have a network of writers and editors in the AMWA community. I’ve been a member of AMWA for the past four years. It has a helpful forum where members can post editing questions. AMWA is a very welcoming community of people who are generous with their time and knowledge. I’m lucky to live in an area with a very active AMWA community. Our local networking group meets monthly (virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic) and has been invaluable.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I think that everyone, regardless of their chosen career, should be open to networking and sharing what they do with others. Building relationships across disciplines helps to highlight careers that are often not completely understood. Many people may not truly understand what a copyeditor does and how copyeditors may benefit a variety of businesses. Keeping an open line of communication will help to solve that problem.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Authors can be very defensive about their writing, and as a writer, I know the feeling. If the issue is somewhat of a personal preference, I think it’s best to leave it alone. But if something absolutely must be changed, providing a good rationale for the change may help the author to be more receptive.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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’m not aware of any biases that have kept me from progressing in my freelance career. I’m grateful to have always felt welcome in the spaces I’ve been in regardless of my race and gender.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
In general, I think that the science community needs to educate graduate students on the variety of careers that are available outside of academia and normalize the choice not to pursue a long-term research career. As students are exposed to editing as a career choice, the diversity in the field will continue to grow.

THE PERSONAL

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
My longest-lasting hobbies are reading and cooking. I’m also taking Spanish lessons right now. For a while, I was into calligraphy, but I haven’t picked up my pen and nib lately. I’d love to get back into it and maybe pick up floral design.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
The must-have resource for a medical editor is the American Medical Association Manual of Style.

Interview 22: Otito Frances Iwuchukwu

Years editing: 8 years
Job title: Pharmacist-educator (day job), consultant
Job description: Teaches and conducts research in the life sciences; edits technical writing in the life and social sciences, business writing, narrative nonfiction, and children’s books
Location: New Jersey

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I got my current job through a job board posting. I get freelance editing projects through marketing on social media and through client referrals, for the most part.

What training do you have in copyediting and what positions have you held? 
I have the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing and have taken a plethora of self-directed courses from the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and ACES: The Society for Editing. I get on-the-job learning with every project.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Subject matter expertise is the basis of what I do. Because we’re in a digitally driven economy, though, social media and technology skills are more important now than they have ever been, no matter your area of work. 

Also, a skill that has helped me a lot is reflective listening, hearing what the client is not saying directly in the consultation and being able to reframe their focus and move them along the path to their desired outcomes. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use Paul Beverley’s suite of macros (and have gone through his training as well), in addition to PerfectIt. I do the majority of my work in Microsoft Word, so I find PerfectIt and a set of shortcut keys with the macros to be most useful right now. 

I do a general document analysis with Paul’s macros, to look for things such as treatment of numerals and the serial comma, curly and straight quotes, line and page breaks, UK versus US spelling, and em and en dashes. I follow that with a general cleanup before I start working on the finer details of structure, syntax, and context. I use PerfectIt at the end for a final consistency check and a final check for US or UK spelling. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I am the sole consultant editor for my clients at the moment, but there is future likelihood of a partnership to serve more clients in the humanities and law.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Oh, yes. I am a member of ACES and the Council of Science Editors. For support groups, I am in the smaller spin-off groups within the Editors’ Association of Earth (EAE) Facebook group: the EAE Backroom and the Business and Professional Development groups. I also recently found the Black Editors Network through an Outside-the-Book.com profile on the founder, Tia Ross.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Hard work is critical. Editing is hard work and requires a level of attention to detail that may not be required of some jobs. However, if you are a freelancer or a consultant, then you have to work to get chargeable work. Networking, getting to know people, and having them get to know you and what you do are crucial elements to moving the field forward. I am so glad that there are now more virtual opportunities to meet up and network that do not necessarily involve showing up for face-to-face meetings. 

It seems like introversion comes with many editor territories, but if people don’t know you, how can they work with you? (This coming from a person who would rather curl up with a good book at home any day than spend that time at a meet and greet.) 

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
I always tell my clients to imagine life from their readers’ perspectives: They should want to make the reading of their written work as smooth as possible for the audience. And since we all get so attached to our work, it pays (even though it may be uncomfortable) to sit back and consider the editor’s suggestions. Because in the long run, if you didn’t think there was any value to having a second or third pair of eyes on your work, then we would not be collaborating on your project.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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 think the issue of structural racism has no bounds — cutting across all professions, really — and copyediting would be no exception. However, a peculiar issue for me is that akin to the sour cherry on the cake: people questioning your perceived command or mastery of the English language due to your name. They assume you cannot speak or write English, and so you can’t possibly edit their work. 

I always laugh those comments off, because I frankly feel my time could be better spent defending other issues. I would not want to work closely (by choice) with anyone who doubts my competence. Although I am multilingual, speaking and writing in four languages, I think in English. That was the first language I spoke, and British English is the official language of the country I was born in. Needless to say, I am always puzzled when people talk about native and non-native English speakers, as though being native in and of itself gives one a pass on English mastery, talk less of editing skills.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Increasing diversity is not a “nice to have” component of an organization. It’s necessary, especially in the “reproductive” work that is publishing (“reproductive” in that writing and publishing are huge ways that writers get to put parts of themselves out in the world for posterity). “Hire, support, retain” should be an aspiration. And support looks different for different people. We need to see people who look like us all through the publishing chain, from acquisition to the final published work. As an editor, I am happy to be contributing to getting diverse books out there. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I work with a lot of authors who are physicians and educators and choose to be independently published. One of my favorite projects in the children’s book genre is a series on Mia, a little girl who has big dreams and a village of people supporting her and helping her find her voice. This project resonated so much with my background growing up in a more collectivist society, where everyone had a hand in helping raise a child and ensuring they were successful at what they wanted to do or be. And the author is an educator, like me.

In the adult genre, one of my favorites was a self-help book for physicians (Physician Heal Yourself) written by a physician, author, and coach. The writer wanted to continue the work of helping physicians defeat burnout on the job with strategies that had worked for her and her clients over her many years in the personal and professional development field.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I am a self-confessed bibliophile. Curiosity and a love of learning are two of my top strengths on the VIA character strengths survey. I love books, reading them and collecting them. I think reading widely and avidly is a gift we give ourselves, as we get to expand our world so much more and help contribute to increased diversity. 

A huge part of my collection includes cookbooks, because I consider myself a professional home cook, if such a thing exists. Mixing, matching, and creating new recipes in the kitchen bring me so much joy. And because way back in graduate school I worked in an organic chemistry lab synthesizing new molecules from various reactants, I like to use the analogy that my kitchen is my home lab, where I synthesize new ready-to-eat products using naturally sourced ingredients. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Oh, my — too many to mention. The relevant style guides that apply to one’s field are indispensable. For books, I would recommend The Subversive Copyeditor, by Carol Saller, and What Editors Do, edited by Peter Ginna. The Copyeditor’s Handbook, by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz, is almost like a style guide. For associations, I have found ACES and the EFA to be really good resources. 

On an individual level, I recommend editors whose labor of love in doing their own work has contributed to my growth in this field: Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (KOK Edit), Erin Brenner (Right Touch Editing), Louise Harnby (The Editing Blog), and Jake Poinier (Dr. Freelance). 

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I am so happy to be doing this work and contributing to elevating the voices of writers of color. I believe everyone has a voice, and for many, writing is the best form of expression. While some are born into the English language, others are raised and rise into it. Either way, we all get to use this amazing language to impact our world.  

I can be reached at editor@getfabediting.com.

Interview 20: Chris Obudho

Years editing: 15 years
Job title: Owner of CJO Writing + Editing LLC
Job description: Writing and editing technical and marketing copy
Location: Indiana

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I work with a broad array of clients to write an equally broad array of products, including blogs, product descriptions, press releases, articles, social media posts. I also edit scientific journal articles, LinkedIn articles, corporate training courses, government agency newsletters, and many other materials. Every day is truly different!

I fell in love with the process of editing about 15 years ago while working on political campaigns. Polishing press releases, campaign plans, and other documents was (and is) intellectually stimulating. Finding the right words, correcting mistakes, and making the message clear is fascinating (and can be fun)!

I’ve always had a desire to work for myself. The opportunity arose when I left an advertising agency (where I served as the primary proofreader) here in Indiana. I landed my first client after offering to help them create an in-house style guide. They’re a copper fittings manufacturer and their long-serving marketing manager had been struggling with consistent messaging and style. I thought a style guide would be a great first project. 

The president of the ad agency I’d left actually referred them to me. Maintaining relationships throughout an organization is key. That first client led to others, and now I’m going into my third year and (fingers crossed) many more.

What training do you have in copyediting, and what positions have you held?
I have a liberal arts B.A. from William Paterson University — so no specific copyediting training. Over the years, I have gained an appreciation for the nuances of the language. I had the opportunity to work for many political and public affairs campaigns, which, obviously, require strong language skills. 

I also was lead writer and editor for the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in New Jersey, an effort that involved working with architectural, engineering, community planning, and public affairs experts. 

At the ad agency, I worked with many corporate clients (Whirlpool, Fifth/Third Bank, Amway, Stryker, etc.) to write and edit various documents (digital and print).

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I’ve come to realize that basic graphic design and layout skills can improve your chances of landing a project. Even if it’s just understanding how to lay out something in Microsoft Publisher, you can offer that extra service and add value to your client. 

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I think it’s an important skill to have. But I’m seeing some transfer of the “240 character” mindset to other types of writing, and I don’t really think that’s healthy (though linguistic evolution is a thing!). Being able to distill a fairly complex thought into short, concise content is an important skill to have. 

I’m a generalist, and I know that’s bitten me in the backside looking for jobs, because many employers feel that their industry is so unique that you have to have a graduate level of knowledge to even walk in the door! I think generalists with skills and interests in writing, editing, leadership, communications, discipline, attention to detail, patience, curiosity, and teachability are just as valuable as someone with a degree in mid-century Venezuelan agricultural history (apologies if that’s a real degree)!

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
Most of my editing is done in Microsoft Word, so I don’t use any other tool. I don’t use macros either! I do some editing in Adobe and just use the edit option. Pretty basic stuff.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
When I was the proofreader and editor for the ad agency, I was responsible for training my backups. We would have periodic discussions (once a month or so) about the in-house style guide, proofreading marks, other style guides that clients used (AP, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.), and other grammatical topics, to make sure everyone was up to speed. They weren’t “word nerds” necessarily but understood the importance of consistency with the different client documents.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Unfortunately, I don’t. I’ve often meant to join something like ACES: The Society for Editing or Society for Technical Communication, but I never seemed to find the time or resources to attend conferences. I’d like to one day!

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
It all depends. What are your career goals? If you want to head a large copyediting operation at a corporation or newspaper, then networking, interning, having great clips and samples, etc., will definitely help. Obviously, you have to get work in that organization, but once you do, it definitely won’t hurt to network both internally and outside the company.

Starting your own shop means you definitely have to network. I hate cold calling, but this is where social media may be a good place to start. For example, find local people you’d like to work with and connect with them on LinkedIn. Ask for a coffee or lunch meeting to pick their brain about their industry and begin to build that relationship. Be patient. Don’t focus on what you want from them, but on what you can give to them. Be open. Be friendly. Be humble.

A colleague of mine said his secret (he’s in financial public relations) is simple: “Do good work.” That’s stuck with me. My first client liked my work, which built my confidence and pushed me to seek more work. I did good work for the next client, and so on and so on.

Editing is a very solitary exercise, but being around people can be helpful to both your mental and emotional health, and your professional progression.

Another way to network is to go to a co-working space. You never know who you’ll meet there. I actually picked up a client that way too.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Writing is a very personal process. Spending all of that time developing an idea, writing, rewriting, and having the courage to put it out there is a big deal. Empathy and professionalism are the keys, in my opinion (and all of the editors and proofreaders I’ve met have been authors at some point). Understanding what the author has gone through is a great way to connect. Explain your editing process so they know what to expect. After you’ve read their piece, compliment them on it (regardless of how it looks, reads, or feels to you!). You should already know the purpose of the piece, so explain that your editing is part of reaching that goal and you look forward to teaming with them to make it happen.

Once you’ve made the suggested revisions, walk the author through each one and have a justification for each change (no matter how small). Be professional about it. The first edit for a new author is always the toughest, but once they see that you’ve “done good work,” they’ll be more receptive to the editing process.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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? 
Thankfully, I haven’t faced any racial issues with respect to getting jobs or clients. Now, maybe I didn’t get a job along the way because I’m black, but I never knew about it. Throughout my career, I haven’t worked with very many people of color (POCs) in the writing, editing, and proofreading space. I do see many online.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Whew! That’s an interesting and tough question. I think that it has to be addressed from both sides (i.e., what can employers do and how can we get more POCs interested in the field?). As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t see many POCs working in this field. That’s got to change. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, only 15% of editors were POCs.

Our broader mission as editors is to make communications clear between our clients/companies and their audiences. It can’t just be on the employers to do this. POCs often have unique perspectives to bring to editing. Building a love for precision, curiosity, and attention to detail is a great way to become more attractive to employers. Are these intangible skills being taught in schools now? I don’t think so. That may be the more fundamental issue. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
One of the largest documentation projects I worked on was a statewide disaster recovery plan called the Recovery Support Strategy. The plan involved multiple federal and state agencies and laid out how FEMA and other federal agencies would assist New Jersey with recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Over about 10 months and thousands of hours from dozens of agencies, we wrote, edited, revised, and sought approval for this plan, which would help my home state recover. I had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest, most talented, and dedicated people in the country. As the process went on, I was given the responsibility of leading the project to completion (final edits, final approvals, and submission to FEMA leadership and the governor).

On some days, a stack of copies of the plan that had been sent out for reviews by various stakeholders was piled on my desk (3-4 feet high!). I had to make updates to the master copy. Lots of nights and weekends reviewing, revising, and pulling my hair out attempting to keep things on track. We used hard copies for most things, so daily, my supervisor (or another reviewer) would drop an additional reviewed copy on my desk with a thud and say, “Here are more revisions. Good luck!” 

I learned a lot from that process: I worked with people of varying experience and interest levels. I learned more about grammar. I saw how a large government project works. That’s when I really knew I loved editing!

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I’m a super Star Wars nerd and spend way too much time thinking and reading about what’s canon and what’s not! I also became an accidental gardener when I started feeding birds and squirrels in my backyard and they dropped or buried some seeds. Surprise! Sunflowers, sorghum, and corn sprouted up. That pushed me to find out what else I could grow, and now I have fresh basil, lettuce, cilantro, and, hopefully next year, a bounty of fresh vegetables!

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Match and search games. I spend a lot of time using these to help hone my attention to detail. Games like Find Objects, June’s Journey, and Find the Difference are great detail-oriented games that can keep editors sharp.

The more traditional resources I use a lot include the Title Case Converter and Google’s Ngram tool. Ngram has helped me justify a word choice on many occasions.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I really appreciate the chance to share some thoughts with your readers. Increasing the representation of POCs in the writing, editing, and proofreading space is a noble goal, and I think there just needs to be more interest in the precise use of the language. Whether you’re a prescriptivist or descriptivist, there should be a baseline of accuracy before you can start “riffing” with words. How do you get there? It’s got to start young. Read to kids. Correct mistakes (lovingly). Play word games. We can build future generations of editors by starting early!

Interview 18: Eilis Flynn

Years editing: 43
Job title: Principal and sole proprietor of Flynn Books, Words & Ideas
Job description: Freelance editor
Location: Washington State

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I had picked up freelance gigs throughout my career, so when I was laid off from the financial magazine I had worked at for more than 20 years, I just went full-time freelance on my own. I had made sure I had editorial experience in everything I could over the years, picking up freelance gigs in projects ranging from finance to tech to comic books, which helped me get subsequent gigs in the same field and helped me network.

What copyediting training have you had?
I was trained on the job, in college in a university press. I started as a production assistant, doing pasteup (using real paper!), before the editor decided she could train me as a copyeditor. (She wandered in, dropped The Chicago Manual of Style on my desk, and said, “Learn this.”) So that’s how I got started. 

Since then, I’ve been a copyeditor, managing editor, editor, developmental editor, and structural editor. My first job after graduate school was as an editorial assistant at a financial magazine. I had no experience in finance at all, but I learned. From there, I went to Wall Street and learned more on the topic. And because I really didn’t have any affinity for finance, I freelanced in other places: a financial magazine with a different emphasis, a romance publisher, a general science magazine, a tech company. The only commonality among all of those gigs was copyediting — and my willingness to learn.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Marketing, social media, subject matter — I’m not a natural at any of them, but my husband is a marketing professional, so he reminds me that I have to network. I have to remind myself to tell people what I do for a living. And I can tell you, those topics have been much more challenging to learn than finance, science, romance, or even tech! If editors get the chance, they should learn something new whenever possible.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I’ve used Adobe stamps when I proofread.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I belong to the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Northwest Editors Guild, and ACES: The Society for Editing. Facebook has a number of editing communities, so I belong to a handful there.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Editors need to network more and talk to others about their work. We’re generally way too shy.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Keep communicating. It won’t hurt, and it will help relax authors. So they understand that what we’re doing is to help them, not hinder them.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
I’m diverse enough (biracial, Japanese American, female). But in past jobs, I’ve usually been the only person of color (and sometimes the only woman). 

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? 
Because my mentor was so open minded, it wasn’t until I got into my first real job that I realized that yes, there was discrimination galore, both because of my gender and my ethnic group — and it was everywhere

This one particular man, unfortunately, a racist of monumental proportions, popped up as a hiring consultant in way too many places. Once I’d see him, it would be clear that I wouldn’t have much of a chance, even though I kept trying to win him over. Never did. Fortunately, I would get jobs when he wasn’t involved.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Keep an open mind. Talk to the applicants.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Working with an author to establish a new series of historical mysteries. Kate Parker, who had a series with a traditional publisher, decided to go indie. I got the rare opportunity to do some research to make sure the details were right (in one instance, the weight of gold coins and the currency used in late Victorian Egypt). (That book was Detecting Duchess, a charmer. But then, all of her books are.) It’s great to learn stuff!

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Not really a hobby, but I walk whenever I can. It clears the mind and helps me breathe.

RESOURCES

What advice would you share with fellow editors?
Read widely in subjects you’re not particularly interested in. It helps your work.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
Don’t hide it, because your diversity is you. It only helps in your work.

Interview #1: Tamira K. Butler-Likely, PhD


Years editing: 3
Job title: First-line editor, freelancer
Job description: Editing research grant summary statements according to AMA format
Training: Poynter certification in copyediting, job experience 

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I saw the job listing posted and applied because I wanted to stay up-to-date in the science field without actually working in the lab. I was not as familiar with AMA style, which was the guide that was used, so I had to study up on it and learn the internal style guide.

What positions have you held?
I own Likely Write Editing, so I have served as a freelance editor for books, academic grants, dissertations, and more.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
My background in biological sciences and research is definitely important in my job. Understanding scientific terms helps me better identify errors.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? If so, which ones and can you give us an example of how?
I always do a full read-through myself, but I do use PerfectIt to improve my accuracy. For instance, PerfectIt will catch any inconsistencies in capitalization, spelling (grey vs. gray), etc., that I may have missed.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

Are you the only editor in your department? If not, how do you and your colleagues talk about editing among each other?
I am not the only editor. The first-line editor position is a part-time position, so I believe most of the other editors also have other jobs. Each project is assigned a manager that communicates with the assigned editors on that project.

We don’t really communicate with each other, but we do with the manager of the project. The manager will then send out communications to the group as needed. We also have a team share page where updates are posted. Following the internal style guide is very important, so the communications that are sent are mostly feedback about any edits made that were against the style guide. An example of the error is given and the location of the direction in the style guide and the AMA manual is given.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors? If so, what is it / what are they?
Yes, I am a member of ACES: The Society for Editing. I am also in a few Facebook groups (Editor Alliance, Business + Professional Development for Editors).

Some editors think the editing speaks for itself, that the hard work alone will advance their careers. Do you have any thoughts on whether editors need to do more (e.g., networking and talking about what they do)?
I do believe networking, posting on social media, attending conferences, etc., is important to grow and advance your career. While your hard work may also open doors for you via referrals, advertising for yourself is crucial as well.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
The Making of Some Kind of Feminist: A Poetic Journey of Reflections and Revelations, by Dana L. Perry. It is the first book of poetry that I’ve ever worked on and it really spoke to me.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I love to garden, spend time with my family, and travel, which is why I have a travel business on the side lol. I also love to bake and read non-work-related books.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Poynter is great, and they have some free training courses (www.poynter.org). ACES is also great for networking and finding jobs, as well as training (www.aceseditors.org). The Purdue OWL is a great resource for different style guides (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/resources.html).