Copy Editing and Proofreading Seminar

Posted on March 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

On Wednesday 25th February the SYP held their first proofreading and copy editing practical workshop, which proved to be a very popular event, as the 60 reserved places went straightaway and a waiting list was soon put in place. The workshop was organised into two separate 1-hour sessions; the first of which was lead by Cecilia Rushton, Editorial Manager for non-fiction at Hodder and Stoughton, and the second by Ruth Tross, Assistant Editor at Sceptre, a literary fiction and non-fiction imprint of Hodder and Stoughton.


I am hoping to break into the world of publishing, as are many others, and found the session a very useful introduction to the editorial sector, outlining the key roles and skills involved, and giving us the opportunity to have a go at putting these basics into practice, through the use of real-life examples. The session started with a power-point presentation, which clearly defined the roles of proofreading and copy editing, describing what they involve and the differences between the two. This was very useful, as these terms can often be brandished around with no explanation of what they are, and this can be confusing to anyone new to the industry. The presentation also included a general tips section, in which I was surprised to learn that they never use the same person to copy edit and proofread, finding instead that it is necessary to have a fresh pair of eyes on the work.


We were then taken through the editorial process from start to finish, which was interesting, as often it is only possible to get an insight into a part, whereas the whole system is in fact very involved and runs to a tight time schedule. The process should take about a year but sometimes if the book is rushed it can be condensed into a period of only 2 months; I can’t begin to imagine how stressful that must be! In the next part of the session we were taught the key proofreading marks, which reminded me very much of learning a foreign language, as they consist of odd looking squiggles and shapes. We were shown how to mark up mistakes in the text itself and the corresponding mark to put in the margin, and then worked through a set of simple sentences together.


Then it was our turn to have a go; the first task was a sample blurb containing many grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and language inconsistencies. Luckily this wasn’t too tricky, with many of the errors being clear to see, and after about five minutes or so we compared what we had found. A handy tip to remember is the importance of neatness, as I soon found that my scribbly writing and crossing out was impossible to read (luckily we got to mark our own, but you might not be so fortunate in an interview practice proofreading test). The second task was a section of a sample chapter, and was much more challenging, with the mistakes being less obvious and I, as well as many of the others, found it surprisingly hard to tell that part of the text was in a different font to the rest.


Overall, the session was a success, enhanced by the yummy drinks and snacks provided by the SYP committee, and the opportunity to chat with the speakers at the end. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the editorial side of publishing, either new to the industry or wishing to brush up on their proofreading skills, so make sure you keep an eye out for any future workshops! 

Ali Paskins is an MA Publishing Student at UCL.