Les Dawe

Les Dawe

Les Dawe

Intermediate Member

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

After twenty-five years in the corporate world, I requalified and set up a home-based Skin and Sports Therapy Clinic. My thriving clinic lasted three years until my problematic hands became too painful to continue. During this period, I found my Dad reading a personal account which my Grandfather had written about his prisoner of war (POW) experience during WWII. Squadron Leader Norman Myles Taylor was in Singapore when he was captured by the Japanese and forced to work along the famous Burma-Thai railway line (Thailand) under horrific conditions. After Norman passed away his story was given to my Dad who, after reading it, safely stored it in a box under a bed for several years. The pages, which had deteriorated so much, made it hard to read without causing further damage to them and I offered to retype it. Little did I realise that my offer would send me on an incredible journey of discoveries and ultimately lead me down a different career path. I began researching every POW Norman had referred to, cross-referencing dates and facts and, amongst many findings, even found my Grandad's three world-wide patents which had been lost. My research took me global and I connected with relatives of the POWs known to Norman, several of whom had even authored their own books which I purchased. I was delighted to read that Norman had even been mentioned in several of them. Their contributions added to Norman's story and provided new insights into his POW experiences. I had the completed 'project', along with all my research findings, professionally printed and bound and gave it to my darling Dad for his 80th birthday.

It was through this experience that I chose to pursue a freelance career in copyediting and proofreading. I have a good attention to detail which I've come to appreciate as a strength.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

As I was living in South Africa, I completed a Copyediting and Proofreading Certification through the University of Cape Town. As a member of the Professional Editors Guild (PEG) in SA, I completed short training courses through them.

What work are you most proud of?

  • My Grandfather's story.
  • I'm proud of all my work but, specifically, for one of my clients who passed her MBA with distinction having worked with her from the beginning of her MBA journey until her final report.

What do you do if you're struggling on a job?

If it may impact on the deadline, I discuss options with my client as a priority. I have excellent resources to refer to and I'm not afraid to ask. I am part of a small group of strong and supportive freelance copyeditors.

What does being a member of the CIEP mean to you?

  • The ability to meet other like-minded individuals in this industry.
  • I believe in sharing what I've learned and I also hope to learn from other's experiences.
  • The CIEP training courses – learning new skills. 

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

Academic papers and how much I'm learning all the time. As I find mistakes, there is a great sense of satisfaction knowing I've contributed towards someone's success because I've picked up and corrected things they've missed. 

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

  • Overuse of unnecessary words: 'that', and 'the'.
  • When reading a novel by a well-known author containing multiple errors. I feel cheated.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

How much I enjoy what I do and the satisfaction it brings when my student clients receive better results for their dissertations than they expected, only because they've taken the trouble to have it properly edited. I get a lot of 'word of mouth' referrals as a result. 

What's the best career advice you've received?

  • When editing anything, regardless how insignificant the edit, always be able to 'justify' reasons for the changes.
  • See your contributions as 'valuable' and be unafraid to charge what you feel that value is worth. 

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

  • Any aspirant editor should do a reputable course.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help if one don't know something.
  • Be willing to share knowledge so others can learn.
  • Decide at the outset what type of editing one intends to pursue. Start out with that and branch out later.

Do you ever stop editing?

Never. I'm told I even edit myself when I speak! 

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

I restore old pieces of furniture from battered and bruised pieces, back to their former glory. What tales they could tell if only they could speak.

The CIEP does not give any special endorsement to the members who appear in Meet our members. If you are looking for an editorial professional, we recommend you search the Directory of Editorial Services.