Professional Editorial Standards with Elizabeth d’Anjou

2019-03-13 20.37.36

Kingston Twiggers puzzle over the Professional Editorial Standards word game.

Nine people came together on Wednesday, March 13, to learn more about these standards and share their experiences of using them. Afterwards, we tested our knowledge by playing standards matching games.

At the request of student member Monica Laane-Fralick, who isn’t able to attend meetings in person, Brenda Leifso set her up to attend using Zoom. Our meeting venue has wifi, and since Elizabeth was using slides for her presentation, she used the Share Screen function of Zoom to enable Monica to see the slides. Monica reported that she thought the meeting was “terrific.”

As a lead-in to her presentation, Elizabeth d’Anjou talked about her upcoming trip to attend the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) on March 30–31, representing Editors Canada. At previous conferences, several people have told her that they use our standards. (There isn’t anything similar in the United States.) Many U.S. editors are also intrigued by our certification program; according to – and thanks in large part to – honorary life member Lee d’Anjou, who said, “We invented it!” Elizabeth will be giving a talk on standards and certification at ACES.

What Are the Professional Editorial Standards?

The Professional Editorial Standards (PES) set out (to quote the 2009 version) “the knowledge, skills, and practices most commonly required for editing English-language material.” They clarify what is expected of Canadian editors working at a professional level, and they define the criteria against which an editor’s knowledge, skills, and practice can be measured. There are five categories: The Fundamentals of Editing, Structural Editing, Stylistic Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading. They’re comprehensive but succinct – only 16 pages long. And they’re available to anyone – you don’t need to be a member of Editors Canada – and can be downloaded from the association’s website.

Who Uses PES?

Editors use PES to guide their professional development, expand their editing skills, explain what editing is and what editors do, and prepare for certification. The word professional is key: to call oneself an editor, it isn’t enough to have a flair for noticing grammar errors; the job is more comprehensive than that. Standards provide a method for agreeing on what it is we’re talking about. Cat London suggested that freelance editors can use the standards as a tool for explaining to clients what’s involved in the type of editing they’re planning to do and as a rationale for their fee.

Editors Canada uses PES to develop and maintain certification, explain what editors should do when performing various stages of editing, increase awareness of the value of editing, and design material, seminars, and courses on editing. An example of such material is the set of four Editors Canada workbooks, Meeting Professional Editorial Standards, each of which contains exercises based on the standards in one of the four main areas (plus the fundamentals). A new edition is  in the works – Elizabeth is the project’s volunteer editor-in-chief – under the new title Edit Like a Pro, and it will include downloadable Word and PDF files for realistic, hands-on practice. The Proofreading volume is expected to launch in June and the Structural Editing one in the fall.

Those who hire editors (both employers and freelance clients) use PES to determine what skills will be needed for the level of edit, to define the scope of a project, to help write statements of work, and to train in-house editors.

Instructors of editors use them to prepare and mark teaching material for seminars and editing courses. Twig member Brenda Leifso is currently teaching the Fundamentals of Editing course, which is part of Queen’s University’s Professional Editing Standards Certificate. Each of the five courses is based on one category of the PES. Brenda said that many of her students are taking the course to determine their skill level. Most students have no experience in editing, but some are at the top level.

History of PES

Development of PES began in the 1980s and arose out of discussions about certification as it became clear that a test of editing skills needed to have a clear set of expectations to test against. Developing a set of standards required a long consultation process and approval by the membership. The original categories were Structure and Style Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading, and Knowledge of the Publishing Process. These were updated in 2009 to Fundamentals, Structural Editing, Stylistic Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading.

The update in 2016 kept the same categories, but with a number of smaller changes – in particular, updating many examples. It also changed some standards and added a few more to improve clarity and reflect new realities. For example, in The Fundamentals of Editing, the introduction was updated to define the difference between knowledge and practice. A new standard was added (A11.1: Ensure everyone on the team is aware of the appropriate level of intervention for the edit). Standard A6.1 added “and accessibility in print and electronic media,” and A8.1 added “Use editorial judgment when deciding whether to intervene, leave as is, query, change, or recommend a change.”

Structural Editing has two new standards – B3: If necessary, recommend headings and navigation aids to clarify or highlight organization of material; and B4: Recommend or implement the most effective positioning of auxiliary textual material (e.g., sidebars and pull quotes). Stylistic Editing was reorganized to add an explanation to the preamble and explain when a stylistic edit is performed, and it includes one new standard (C1: Improve paragraph construction to more effectively convey meaning). Standard C4 changed “rewrite” to “revise,” and C11 was changed to “Establish, maintain, or enhance tone, mood, style, and authorial voice or level of formality … (e.g., making text more engaging or entertaining).” Elizabeth likes to call this the “make it not be boring!” standard.

Copy Editing has one new standard (D6: Review visual materials and organizational information to ensure they are accurate and correct, or query as required). Standard D5 added “historical details, narrative timelines” to the examples, and D11 changed the wording to include “arbitrary and confusing shifts and variations in terminology, logic, and mechanics.” Proofreading has two new standards – E6: Whenever possible, proofread the material in its intended medium; and E7: Understand English spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and correct errors within the limits of the proofreading role.

More Information on Standards

Did you know that Editors Canada has a YouTube channel? Watch “Professional Editorial Standards: Do They Matter?” (1:15 minutes) at

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=editors+canada

Editors Canada hosts the Editors Weekly blog, which has featured a series of posts on PES, starting with “Professional Editorial Standards: What Does an Editor Do Today?”

Follow PES on Twitter! @ProEdStandards tweets excerpts from the standards about twice a week, and sometimes examples from other people’s tweets are connected to the standards.

Our Own Standards

We had a brief session of sharing examples from our own editing that represented various standards and using the standards in our editing work (for example, to justify fees for a job or make clear that a particular task was an expected part of an edit).

Fun with Standards

Elizabeth passed out brightly coloured standards stickers, and then we matched our wits against the PES matching games. Each game listed five random standards on the left side of a page and the five standards categories on the right; several letters were printed in the middle. As we drew a line from each standard to its category, the line would pass through a letter. We then had to unscramble the letters to reveal the hidden word. If no word emerged, we hadn’t matched a standard to the correct category. Each game was challenging and a lot of fun. (Most of us had little trouble matching the standards, but struggled with the unscrambling!)

Announcements

Upcoming Editors Canada Webinars:

  • What’s the GST? with Michelle Waitzman – April 2 – Everything a freelance editor needs to know about GST/HST.
  • Starting a Freelance Editing or Writing Career with Christine LeBlanc – April 6 & 13 – Learn the basic steps to your dream job!
  • Usage Traps and Myths with Frances Peck – April 10 – Is impact accepted as a verb? Why are prevent and avoid so often confused? Is it okay to verbify? Learn the answers to these and many more scintillating syntax questions from one of Editors Canada’s most accomplished members and best presenters.

Visit the Editors Canada training site for more info on upcoming webinars. You can also purchase past webinar recordings.

Conference – June 7–9 in Halifax. It’s Editors Canada’s 40th anniversary!

Twig and Branch Zoom Meeting Report

Stephanie and Elizabeth attended a conference call with other twig and branch leaders in February. After learning about the governance of the organization from President Gael Spivak, we had a lively discussion about attracting and retaining members. All groups find this a challenge, and several people offered their trials and tribulations. One branch finds that people join when they’re working as freelancers but stop renewing their membership when they’re hired for in-house jobs. Attendance at meetings is often low. Two groups give presentations to students: Quebec and Barrie (the latter meets at the local community college, which has a writing and editing program).

Graduated Student Member Fees

Student members can now transition to regular membership over two years instead of paying for full membership in one shot. They’ll pay $100 the first year after they’ve graduated from their program, then the regular membership fee starting the second year. Editors Canada wants to encourage student members to become full members.

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