Why I’m proud to be a member of the SfEP


It’s that time of year again.

My annual membership of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is due.

I have to admit it’s a time I dread. Being an independent consultant means that I have to account for every penny and no matter how diligent I am, I never manage to put money aside for my memberships. There are always other bills to pay, and memberships always get forgotten.

Last year, when I attended the annual conference and AGM, I was one of those who voted for an increase in membership fees, and I will admit to having to think long and hard about it. No one likes increasing their fees, and that includes societies, but every now and then you have to take stock and see what everyone is getting for their money. This is one of the reasons I increase my fees, and this year will be no exception. I increase my fees because the cost of living is rising, but so is my experience and value to my clients. I undertake regular training, keep up to date, hone my abilities and work hard for my clients – to undervalue myself would be wrong.

And the SfEP are no different. The costs are rising, but so is the value of being a member of the society. I’m proud to be a Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.


Here’s why:

  • The SfEP has a wonderful online forum. This, to me, is invaluable. Being in a remote part of the country, it can be difficult to find the time and money to get to networking opportunities outside of the Highlands, and the forum is a fantastic resource. Most other societies I’ve joined in the past relied on email lists, and still do. These, while being a good resource, mean that conversations are stilted (especially with daily digests of posts), quite often cliques build up and there are snarky comments and bitching. This, to my knowledge, has never happened on the SfEP forum. Instead, it’s a safe place where newbies and seasoned professionals come together for mutual support, to get questions answered, and just to talk. If you have a query you can be damn sure that there’s someone there to help – the members come from all subject specialisms and if no one can help, they usually know where to go outside of the Society. The forums allow us all to talk without boundaries – including our overseas members.
  • The local meetings are great for networking. Although I can’t make it to my ‘local’ meetings very often (due to them being 5 hours away – the joys of remote living!) I know from the ones I have attended that they are friendly, informative and a great way to network and talk face-to-face. Newbies shouldn’t be scared about attending as they’re the same friendly faces that often appear at conference.
  • The conference is second to none. I was extremely apprehensive before my first conference, but as it was ‘local’ to me I felt it was a great way to break myself in (ok, it was in York, which meant I could go home for a week on either side of going to conference). It turned out to be the best conference I’d ever been to (and I’d been to a few), and is now a regular feature of my autumn. Mixing workshops and seminars with extremely friendly editorial types over a weekend is something I now look forward to. This in itself is worth the membership fee.
  • Being a member proves that I’m serious about my job. I’m a Professional Member, which means that I’ve had to prove that I’m good at what I do. I have trained to a high standard. Clients can be secure that they are hiring a trained professional, not someone who was good at English at school and can ‘edit’ your document as a hobby.
  • I’m in the directory. Another great benefit for me is that I am in the SfEP directory. This is a great place for clients to find the editor or proofreader who will best fit their job specifications. If you need a professional, bookmark the site – there’s no need to trawl the internet, this should be your ‘go to’ place when you need editorial help in the UK.
  • The society has great training courses. Their classroom-based workshops are great, but I’m happy that there are more courses delivered online, allowing me to learn at home. I’m about to apply to do another one, just as a way of brushing up and refreshing my skills. I think training is an important part of my professional development, which is why I am constantly learning.
  • The society has member benefits. Whether you use them or not, there are member benefits that range from discounts on books and stationery to discounts off courses and legal advice.
  • The society is a comfort blanket. It’s good to know as a freelancer that I’m not alone. There is always someone there to talk to, whether it’s the lovely office staff, the directors or the members on the forum. When you are a member of the SfEP you are never alone.
  • I’ve made some wonderful friends. Despite how brilliant all the other points are, the best thing about the SfEP is that I’ve made some real friends. My favourite part of the year is finding my way around the conference and seeking out my editorial pals. There’s nothing quite like spotting a friendly face and heading off to the bar for a catch up. Without the Society I would never have met all the wonderful people I’m proud to call friends. Ok it’s cheesy, but it’s true. That first conference in York, I thought I’d sit in a corner as usual, watch what was going on, eventually figure out where the cliques were and see who was approachable. Instead I slotted in, was welcomed with open arms and ended up feeling like I’d found the best group of people in the world.

So, in the next few days I’m going to scrape together my membership dues (and the money for my next online course) and I’ll be happy to do so. I’ll be secure in the knowledge that for another year I’ll be part of a community that takes itself seriously, and promotes professionalism, but is welcoming, knowledgeable and approachable. It’s a society that I’m proud to be a member of.


5 Steps To Effective Communication

coffee, notebook, notepad, writing

Let’s get things straight.

Writing is a form of communication.

Your English may be perfect, but if you can’t communicate well, your audience is going to give up pretty quickly

So here are a few quick tips for effective communication:

1. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Before you write anything make sure you’ve made notes. Get everything down in note form and it will focus your mind to the task in hand. This way you won’t miss anything and it will all become clearer to you before you put pen to paper. Clear objectives make for clearer prose.

happy woman

Make it clear, keep them happy

2. Know who your audience is. There’s no point in writing the same thing for a bunch of academics and a load of high school students. Keep the language audience appropriate. If it’s too academic for the reader it will put them off, and you’ll come across as a snob. If it’s too basic, you’ll come across as condescending. Keep your writing at the correct level, and if you don’t know what that is ask around or go look at texts aimed at the same audience.

scared child

don’t make her read your company newsletter

3. Get rid of the jargon. There’s no point in using jargon unless you’re writing for industry professionals, and even then you should try to ditch the jargon. By using jargon you are, right from the beginning, alienating those who aren’t sure what the jargon means.


ditch the jargon

4. Keep things simple. Plain English is brilliant. No one wants to read something that they can’t understand, so get rid of the arsey language and make your writing something that everyone wants to read. If you mean a ‘bin man’, say a bin man and not a household refuse technician. If you mean ‘wages’ say that and not ‘institutional renumeration packages’. It’s easy to keep things simple if you think about what you’re writing.

tightrope man

reading shouldn’t take that much concentration

5. Break it down. If you have a load of stuff to get across your audience, a great way to communicate effectively is to break it down into digestable pieces. There’s no shame in using lists and bullet points. It’s preferable to a whole heap of long paragraphs that become convoluted and lose their way. Break it down for your audience and they’ll thank you for it.


make a list

So, there you go. Five steps to great, effective, simple communication.

If you have any of your own, pop them in the comments.

This blog sponsored by ‘We’re getting puppies and I’m too busy to write a big blog post’.

In association with ‘Orignally written on an ipad, which suddenly deleted the post for no good reason’.

corgi pups cartoon

5 Pros and 5 Cons of Hiring an Editor

pros and cons of hiring an editor

When you’re a writer at some point you’re going to have to decide on whether to use the services of an editor or not.

There are writers out there who pride themselves on ‘not needing an editor’, and there are those who will always set aside an editing budget in their publishing schedule. But there are many writers who are unsure what editing entails and whether it’s really needed or not.

So how about looking at the pros and cons of hiring an editor?

looking at a book

Five advantages of hiring an editor:

1. An unbiased critique

When you hire an editor they’ll tell you, in a professional and unbiased manner, what works and what doesn’t. Family and friends won’t want to hurt your feelings, and beta readers may feel the same. They may skirt around certain issues for fear of offending, or they may not want to tell you that your book just doesn’t read well. Reviewers of books that you give away for free may feel that they want to give a positive review in return for the book.

There are many reasons why you may not get a thorough critique from your friends and beta readers or reviewers. A professional editor, whether carrying out a full developmental edit or a copy edit, will let you know, gently but firmly, if something really doesn’t work. They’re not only looking at the book from a professional viewpoint, as readers they’ll also want your book is as good as it can be.

Pad of Paper and Pen

2. A professional, easy to read document

When you have your book or document professionally edited, all those problems that you’ve failed to spot will be addressed by your editor. When we write and edit ourselves there are things we miss no matter how many times we go through the document. And that’s true for editors who write too!

A structural edit will uncover plot holes, pace that is too slow (or too fast) and other ‘big picture’ problems. A copy or line edit will eliminate bad grammar, spelling errors, badly constructed sentences and suchlike.

When your document has been edited your authorial voice will still be intact, but the words will flow and the reader will enjoy the experience more than with a raw, unedited manuscript. We all have word ticks, bad habits and, on occasion, sloppy writing. An editor will sort these out for you.

glasses highlighting a book

3. A chance for better reviews

You’ve put your heart and soul into your work. You’ve spent months writing your masterpiece. Why risk snarky reviews? Readers pick up on those spelling mistakes you’ve missed, the plot holes and the inconsistencies and some delight in telling the world.

A professionally edited book will lower your chances of a bad review. You will never make every reader love your work, but you can stop those reviews where ‘Mr P of Plymouth’ spots that the character’s eyes changed colour midway through the book, or the book switched from UK to US spelling in the final chapters.

thumbs up, great service

4. A better chance of being traditionally published

With so much competition out there it can be hard to be noticed by agents and traditional publishers. Even if an author bypasses a structural edit, a copy edit will make your manuscript more polished and less likely to end on the slush pile without a second glance. An edited manuscript won’t guarantee success, but it will show that you value your work and respect the agent or publisher enough to submit something of quality.

bookshelves full of books

5. It sets you apart from the rest

The majority of self-publishers still think that getting their friends, family and readers to edit their book is a good idea. Entrusting your book to your old friend who is an English teacher may seem like a no-brainer, but nothing can beat a professional job by a professional editor. Having your book edited is an investment in your writing future. It shows you are serious about your writing and you value your readers.

 editorial budget


Five disadvantages of hiring an editor:

1. It’s tough getting critiqued

You need a thick skin and a certain detachment. Every writer dreads getting back an edited or critiqued document – it’s your baby, you want to think it’s perfect.

The fact of the matter is, very, very, few books are perfect. There will be corrections, even if it’s just spelling, grammar or the odd clunky paragraph. When you get a manuscript back from an editor you need to have a quick look, put it down for a little while then, when you are ready, go through it page by page in a calm, matter-of-fact way. Leave emotions behind if you can and know that at the end you will have a much neater piece of writing.

editing proofreading publishing

(c) Nic McPhee Flikr

2. You may feel that your work is no longer your own

Writers love to write and, unless you are collaborating on a manuscript, the work is yours and yours alone. But you might think that once an editor starts to suggest changes that you are no longer in control.

This is where a good author/editor relationship comes in. Remember – any changes to a document are suggestions. You remain in control and although it might be unwise not to follow through with changes made by your editor, if you want to leave something then that’s totally up to you. It’s still your work, even when you work with an editor.

And don’t worry about confidentiality. A professionally trained editor would never do anything with your work other than what has been agreed upon. Your writing is safe.

loneliness of the writer

3. It’s difficult to know what kind of edit you need

Unless you work in the publishing industry or have hired an editor before, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Luckily there’s plenty of help available out there – I’ve written on the types of editor you need, as have a number of my colleagues and professional societies. You just need to take the time to do your research and perhaps ask other authors about the types of edits they have found useful. If in doubt, social media is a wonderful thing … find editors online and chat with us.

What type of edit do you need

4. It can be difficult to find an editor

Once you’ve decided on the type of edit you need, you need to find an editor. Now, it’s not actually that difficult to find an editor. There are loads of sites out there aimed at author services, but quality, and price, varies.

The best way to find an editor to suit your needs is to look for one who is professionally trained and who works in your subject area. There are editors who will happily work on anything but, if your budget allows, you may find it better to look for one who specialises in your subject, or has in-depth knowledge. Look in professional directories such as the one here for the SfEP.

Do your research. Look at an editor’s background and qualifications. See if they are a member of a professional society that vets their editors. Talk to a few editors you’ve shortlisted to see if you are compatible. It takes time to find the right editor, but when you do you can have a great, long-term relationship.

good communication

5. Editors don’t come cheap

It’s true.

There are many out there who work for content mills and will work cheaply. Some may be excellent at their job and have valid reasons for their low fees (they desperately need the work, or they’re new to the business or they need to build a portfolio), but there are many unqualified ‘editors’ out there who haven’t been trained to edit properly. Unfortunately, at the moment, anyone can call themselves an editor and set up in business.

As with many things, you get what you pay for. A professional edit may be expensive to you, but it may not be to another author. And there may be more than one round of editing needed. But if you are looking for a professional edit, look for a professional editor with training. You may choose a newly qualified editor over a more expensive, established one, but expect to pay a professional price for a professional job. You will need to budget for this.

broken piggy bank

When it all boils down to it, what’s good for one writer may not be so good for another. There are pros and cons to having your work edited, but most of the disadvantages are ones of time and perception. It does take time and effort to find the right editor, work through your manuscript and budget properly, but if you are serious about your writing a good editor can make a huge difference to your work.