My Editing Experience
My biggest recent project was proofreading an entire dictionary—an extraordinary online “Dictionary of Canadianisms.” This second edition of The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP-2) was an 11-year undertaking by editor-in-chief Stefan Dollinger and associate editor Margery Fee, working with many students at The University of British Columbia’s English Language Lab. The dictionary was published online on March 17, 2017 and is available in open access here.
You can also read more about the DCHP-2 on the blog section of this website.
A more traditional proofreading job I completed recently was also for UBC. I proofread a large double issue of the academic journal Canadian Literature. This job was a perfect fit for me because I enjoyed the detailed analysis of Canadian books (several of which I had read). This job required intense concentration due to the sheer amount of text in a publication adhering to the strictest levels of grammar and style consistency.
I have also worked with Paragon Testing Enterprises, a Vancouver-based company specializing in producing tests of English language proficiency for people seeking employment or admission to university programs. I recently copy edited a Paragon textbook designed to prepare students for taking English proficiency tests. The textbook included extensive exercise sections so students could gain practice with exercises similar to those they would encounter in a test situation. I enjoyed this work because I was not only copy editing, but also giving the Paragon writers feedback about the exercises.
Small businesses and organizations
In 2014 and 2015 I was the editorial co-ordinator in charge of a team of editors working for the Vancouver Writers Fest to proofread and fact-check their Program Guide.
I have done rewriting and copy editing of websites for small businesses such as Com-Tech Learning Solutions, MYRA, and Athletics Illustrated. I have given editing workshops to organizations such as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
As an intern at The Vancouver Board of Trade in the summer of 2010, I was responsible for editing and proofreading all of The Board’s print and website communications.
I have worked with several self-publishing authors on their memoir books. Some authors required structural editing or even rewriting. Most of my work was heavy copy editing that included some rewriting and extensive grammatical and spelling corrections. I have found that most self-publishing authors are unaware of style inconsistencies (in spelling, number formatting, capitalization, and more). By addressing these issues, I can make their book professional.
You can download Les Besser’s memoir Hurdling to Freedom from the Hewlett-Packard Memory Project website page here.
Many writers are now publishing digitally. In addition to editing their manuscripts, I can direct self-publishing authors to other professionals who can assist them with e-book conversion, book design, printing, and marketing of their book.
Working as a volunteer editor at the Editors BC Blue Pencil event in May 2012 gave me additional experience with structural editing. I worked with four authors, both in-person and online, to offer feedback and guidance about their manuscripts. This gave me valuable experience editing different forms of writing, including science fiction, creative non-fiction, and memoirs.
I also volunteered my editing services at another Editors BC Blue Pencil event in 2015, this time in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library.
Over the past four years I have written articles and copy edited articles for West Coast Editor, the website of Editors BC. My volunteer proofreading with the Vancouver Writers Fest led to a paying position as the editorial co-ordinator for their Program Guide in 2014 and 2015.
Nancy Tinari coordinated a team of volunteer professional editors to proofread and edit the 64-page program guide of the 2014 Vancouver Writers Fest. The job, which involved fact checking book and publication details, biographical information, schedule dates and times, and French language copy, was done to deadline and to the highest professional standards, and using our company’s style guide. Nancy’s coordination of the editing was efficient and her communication with me was clear and precise. I would not hesitate to recommend her services.
—Ann McDonell, Director of Marketing & Development, Vancouver Writers Festival
Designing and Editing
For projects that involved both document design and editing, please see my Promotions and Design page.
Why do I need an editor?
If you’re a small business owner, you might think you don’t need an editor for your website or promotional materials. Perhaps you’re an excellent writer, or a friend helps you with proofreading.
It’s true that some people need editors more than others, but everyone needs an editor—even editors themselves. Editors are trained to catch errors and improve stylistic writing problems that even those with an excellent command of language may not be able to do.
The reality is that our education system does not train people to write well or to understand the complexities of English grammar.
Many people even believe that correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation aren’t very important in today’s fast-paced, visual world. I strongly disagree—so please keep reading!
Five reasons to hire an editor
- Be confident your website looks professional. Spelling mistakes, clunky grammar, or other errors create a bad impression that destroys your credibility.
- Get your message across clearly, concisely, and persuasively. Editors are trained to write in a style that is audience-focused.
- Ensure all your written materials are consistent with respect to spelling, punctuation, and formatting choices. There is often more than one “correct” spelling or punctuation choice; an editor can help you make the choices that are most appropriate for your audience, based on your business field, your country, and other factors. Editors usually create style sheets for each organization they work for so that consistency is maintained across the organization. You can read more about style sheets near the bottom of this page, and view a sample style sheet.
- Delegate tasks that you don’t have time for to a professional whom you trust. Editors can do fact checking, source photos, and obtain copyright permissions. Some editors will also write your social media messages or blog posts.
- If English is not your first language, use an editor to ensure that all messages targeted for English speakers are written in fluent, audience-appropriate English.
What do authors need to know about editing?
Many writers are self-publishing these days. They are trying to cut down costs by enlisting the help of friends, relatives, and writing groups. While all these forms of support may be beneficial, they will not result in the creation of a polished, professional-looking book.
As a writer, you can’t afford not to have a professional editor. Sure, anyone can publish these days, but that also means there is a huge amount of competition. You want to differentiate your book from the large percentage of books out there that are poorly written, bloated with excess words, or riddled with errors. If you publish a poorly edited book, you’ll likely destroy your reputation and damage your ability to convince readers to buy any of your future publications.
The sections above explain the basic functions that editors perform. For authors, editors serve additional functions.
With structural and stylistic editing, an editor looks at your book (with fresh eyes!) and helps you make decisions about the “overall picture” of what you’ve produced. Does the book have a clear theme(s) or purpose? Are events covered in a logical (or explicable) manner so readers don’t get confused? Are all parts of the book in keeping with the theme? Are critical sections or information missing? Is there unnecessary repetition? Are the voices (of the narrator and other characters) consistent and believable? This part of editing varies somewhat depending on whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, but in all cases structural and stylistic editing is a cooperative process between author and editor. The author always has the final word. However, it’s difficult to view one’s own writing with objective eyes, and an editor may offer invaluable advice.
Copy editing occurs after the writing (perhaps several drafts) is finished and both author and editor are satisfied with the overall structure, content, and tone of the book. Copy editing includes correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting errors; fact checking; and ensuring consistency of style choices.
A third stage in preparing a book for printing is proofreading. The terms copy editing and proofreading are often used interchangeably. However, for print books, they are distinct processes. Copy editing is typically done using a program such as Word’s Track Changes, before the layout, design, and typesetting of the manuscript. Proofreading is typically done on a PDF after the manuscript layout is done. Proofreading may catch small errors that a copy editor has missed, but its purpose is also to correct different kinds of mistakes: typesetting problems such as bad line breaks, widows and orphans, incorrect page numbering, and incorrectly numbered tables or figures.
Is editing expensive?
Editing is not expensive when you consider it in terms of ROI (Return on Investment).
If you simply need an editor to do a quick overview of your website and promotional materials, this could be accomplished quickly and inexpensively (unless your site is a complete mess!). Even minor changes could make a huge difference to the impact of your website.
Editing a full-length book manuscript is going to require a chunk of money, that’s for sure. But book authors need to consider the value of their own time. Dick Margulis, writing for the website www.intelligentediting.com (read full article here), makes the following points:
Your time has value, and you have to decide how it is best spent. Editors check documents for a living. They can do it faster, better, and more cost-effectively than you can possibly do it yourself. In economics terms, the opportunity cost of employing an editor is very low to anyone who is self-publishing. That’s because you can use the time you save to sell more books… or get started on the next book.
What do I charge?
I offer you personal, flexible, and reliable service at very reasonable rates. Every editing project is unique so I prefer to discuss rates after you contact me to describe your needs.
What is a style sheet?
A style sheet is a document used by editors, writers, and organizations to ensure that all their written communications are consistent with respect to spelling, punctuation, treatment of numbers, capitalization, and other features.
Most people are aware that there are many variations in English spelling between different countries such as Canada, the United States, and Britain. You might be surprised at how many hyphenation and word compounding differences there are between these three countries as well.
And although most words have only one “correct” spelling, some words have more than one version that is considered acceptable. In addition, some punctuation rules are considered fixed, but other punctuation choices are a matter of taste and style. What is important is that the spelling, punctuation, and other formatting choices are kept consistent—whether within a single document, a website, or the whole array of an organization’s communication materials.
A style sheet for a simple document might consist of a single page. The style sheet for a large corporation might be many pages long, with additional sections with guidelines that apply only to specific documents.
It’s easy to understand that in an organization where many different writers, editors, and marketing people might be contributing to written materials, they will all need to adhere to the same style guide in order to maintain consistency. This consistency becomes part of a company’s branding, and a lack of it looks sloppy and confusing.
Even a single editor working on a book by a single author must work with a style sheet. It’s impossible to remember all the style choices that both author and editor make, especially over the course of a long manuscript.
Style features covered by all style sheets
What dictionary is the guiding authority for spelling choices?
What style book (for example, The Chicago Manual of Style, Canadian Press Style Book) is the guiding authority for various style questions?
Note: all exceptions to the choices advised by the listed dictionary and style book should be mentioned in the style guide. Sometimes an author will insist on a non-standard spelling or style.
Punctuation: For example, is a comma included before the final word in a series (the Oxford or serial comma)?
Numbers: Which numbers are spelled out, and which ones are written as numerals?
Date and time: What format is used?
Capitalization: should follow the style book, but list cases where confusion could be common or where exceptions are made.
Italics and bolding: where are they to be used?
Heading and subheadings: What are the formatting choices?
Spelling: include a list of words that may commonly be spelled in different ways. Note any exceptions to the spelling advised by the reference dictionary.
Abbreviations and acronyms
Sample Style Sheet
To show just how comprehensive a style sheet for a single book can be, I’m including below the style sheet I used when editing Les Besser’s historical memoir book, Hurdling to Freedom. This long style guide is divided into two sections: the first section consists of an alphabetized spelling list, and the second section deals with style and formatting choices. (Style sheet used with the author’s permission.)
Hurdling to Freedom Style Sheet
Updated June 26, 2012
Dictionary: Merriam-Webster (American English)
Style Book: The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.)
Part I—Alphabetical list of problematic words
air raid (noun, adjective)
anaesthesia (can omit 2nd “a” but spelling shown is first choice in both American, Canadian dictionaries
Army: capitalize when used as part of a title of a particular army; i.e. German Army
but Hungarian army uniform
Audio—don’t capitalize department names
Compact Engineering or Compact for short (the company), COMPACT (the program), Super-COMPACT (for minicomputers)
cross-country (adj., noun?)
directions: southeastern but Eastern Station (proper name)
Earth (referring to our planet)
end user (software)
footnote style: period at end.
French Canadian (n), French-Canadian (adj.)
Goose-Tender Matty (or Matyi)
government (only capitalize Hungarian)
gravesite (Canadian Oxford, not shown in Merriam-Webster)
hand grenade (n.) hand-grenade (adj.)
hi-fi (short for high fidelity but would never be written out in full) Dictionary notes “1950.”
high jumping (n. and adj.)
Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government (note capitalization of “government” here as it is part of a title.)
judgment (first choice in Merriam-Webster, though e after g is a permissible alternative.)
naive (no special “i” is permissible according to Merriam-Webster)
National ID book
One to nine. 10 and up.
10 x 10, 4 x 4
10 x 400-meter
one by one
past life (n.) past-life (adj.)
Politburo (no italics because the word is well known in English)
railway station names: Southern, Eastern (capitalize)
revolution (Hungarian Revolution)
sewn (p.p.—“sewed” is correct but 2nd choice in dictionary)
shortwave (radio, adj.) and shortwaves (n.)
smart aleck (n.) smart-alecky (adj.)
tear gas (n) tear-gas (v)
time: 10 p.m. 6 a.m.
track and field clubs? (n. yes, adj. not given)
track team (n.)
trailer home (n.), trailer-home (adj.)
United States, U.S., U.S. dollar
University of Dubuque, U. of D.
water ski (n.), water-ski (v.)
weight training (noun), weight lifting (noun) weight-lifting (adj.)
Western (movie, nation, to do with nations of the West)
Western Railroad Station
World War I or First World War
Part II—Formatting issues: layout, capitalization, italics, abbreviations, numbers
Mother (when used as name), but “my mother, my mom”
First Confession, Communion
revolution, Hungarian Revolution
Communism, Communist are capitalized since this is the most common usage. Fascism, socialism and capitalism are consistently lower case (for the same reason.)
Capitalize Junior, Under-16 when referring to track age categories.
consulate. Capitalized only when part of a specific name.
Hungarian National Track Team
Canadian immigration documents
San Francisco Airport
Capitalization of Titles
Business/Organization job or position titles: do not capitalize. When referring to a company, do not capitalize “the board” or “board members.”
Examples: president, vice president of marketing, vice president of mergers and acquisitions, vice president of engineering but “one of the VPs” (informal)
Political titles: capitalize.
Examples: President and Supreme Commander of Yugoslavia [Marshall Tito]
Italics: When should they be used?
1) Les’s inner thoughts.
2) Hungarian place names, school names, monument names.
3) Military operations.
4) Special events (Hungarian names).
5) German names of special military divisions.
6) Les’s present-day thoughts i.e. “afterwords” like comment about opera p. 208.
7) Names of newspapers, magazines, books.
8) Names of sports clubs.
9) Acronyms of Hungarian organization names.
10) Names of Hungarian businesses. (Not Audio because it is an English word.)
11) Special Hungarian titles. Nagymama, nagypapa, except when used as a personal name. Elvtárs, Szaktárs.
12) Names of foreign currency. forint
Italics: not used:
1) Personal names, even though Hungarian.
2) néni and bácsi (even though they are Hungarian words, they are used as a form of address, as part of someone’s name.
AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization)
B’s (grades in school)
TB. Write tuberculosis at first mention.
TV. Use sparingly where informality seems appropriate.
U.N. Write out in full first.
United States, U.S. Use short form when informality seems appropriate or where used as an adjective.
VPs (informal for vice presidents)
One to nine. 10 and up.
10 x 10, 4 x 4
10 x 400-meter relay
- Use of paragraph indents. Note paragraph first-line indents are different on practically every page! Preface uses, Acknowledgements doesn’t.
- Layout: Final: Think about consistent line spacing, right/left indentation, paragraph indentation. Italicized sections within chapters need to have space above and below. There should also be spaces before and after chapter subheadings and below image captions.
- Captions: Bold. Period at end. Same font as body text. One point smaller.
- Footnote style: period at end. No bolding or italics. Calibri font. Two points smaller than body text. Left-justified.
- Chapter headings: Arial, size 14, bold. Indented.
- Subheadings within chapters: Arial, size 11, bold. Indented.