Conference 2014: Editing: fit for purpose

Page owner: Conference director

Reports from the 2014 conference at Royal Holloway, University of London



And finally...

These edited articles first appeared in the conference supplement of the November/December 2014 issue of Editing Matters.

Whitcombe Lecture: The end of the beginning

Robert McCrum

Reported by Paul Churchouse

Conference delegates assembled first thing on Sunday morning at Royal Holloway, in the Founder's Building lecture theatre, to hear internationally renowned writer and editor Robert McCrum deliver the Whitcombe Lecture, entitled ‘The end of the beginning'.

From journalist to author

Robert's career began at Faber and Faber in the 1980s, first as its editorial director, then as its editor-in-chief, before moving to The Observerem> in 1996 as its literary editor, where he is presently an associate editor. He has written a number of books, and speaks regularly on literary issues relating to the digital revolution. In 1995 he suffered a massive stroke: he wrote a book about it with his wife, chronicling his devastating experience and his recovery.

He brought with him a back copy of the Evening Standard, where the name McCrum appeared in that day's edition. Fascinated that his name was in print, he was somewhat deflated to discover that the article related to his brother, Mark, who without his knowledge had self-published an ebook, and it was this that the paper was reviewing. The print run was just 500 – in contrast to Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, which has sold over 100 million copies to date.

A golden age of publishing

Robert described an explosion of print towards the end of the 16th century in Shakespeare's time, and again when the Education Act of 1870 was introduced. In 1880, 350 books were published but by 1895 that number had increased to 1400.

He believes that we are currently in the golden age of reading, with Kindles, iPads and tweets providing alternatives to traditional paper publications. In 2013, more people under 30 read books than in 2003 because of the digital revolution.

The end of the Net Book Agreement in 1990 meant many more titles being published than ever before. In that year, 100,000 new titles were published, but by 2000 that figure had doubled. Coupled with that was the IT revolution, the growth in freelancing, and the arrival of on-line publishing and distribution, with the market being cornered by Amazon and the single-copy sale. The introduction of e-publishing in 2000 ensured that the book will survive and that it will be the saviour of the hardback.

Looking to the future

He ended his talk by looking to the future. He argued that the first crisis (the market crash) is over and that the fundamentals of publishing remain. Consciousness, copyright and culture are the issues that will be at the forefront of the future. Global English is the language of renewal, and the writer's essential task is unchanged, as we are still voracious consumers of words.

After-dinner talk: Joy: an incorrectly italicised colon

Mark Forsyth

Reported by Matt Whelan

In the Victorian splendour of Royal Holloway's dining hall, lavishly bedinnered and with pudding comprehensively proven, we settled to hear Mark Forsyth muse upon our language, dispel a few myths, tell a few tales and make a few hitherto unknown etymological connections.

For those new to his brand of witty and erudite pop-etymology this may have been an unexpected pleasure, but for those among us who were already fans of Mark's books, The Etymologicon, The Horologicon and The Elements of Eloquence, or of his 'Inky Fool' blog, this was a familiar indulgence in wordy trivia. We were treated to live renditions of hits from his back catalogue, with virtuoso riffs and solos, along with a selection of new tracks tailored to amuse an audience of editors and proofreaders. A proofreader himself in a previous life, Mark touched on some misconceptions about the word ‘proof' (simply ‘test' in the context of eating pudding, by the way), and on the private joy to be had from spotting an incorrectly italicised colon. In light-hearted bite-sized chunks of etymology (definitely the best kind for an after-dinner speech) and ‘the glory that is proofreading', he shared with us the relevance of the positioning of inverted commas to our place in the afterlife, the power of the original editors over life and death in the Roman circus, the wartime devastation of a village that was averted by moving a comma one word along, and the direct relationship between a sheep and the dimensions of a Kindle. A nicely pitched, frequently very funny, meander through some of the tangled roots of English, particularly where it has rubbed up against publication and editorial control.

I'm not sure it had ever occurred to me to wonder why paragraphs are indented, but Mark's vivid account of the origins of the pilcrow (¶) in the specialised rubrication of a ‘C' to signify a chapter or new section in medieval manuscripts was, dare I say it, illuminating. It seems that early printers assumed that these special characters would be inked in by the purchaser of the book, and so left a space. Who knew?


How we got started

John Firth, Gale Winskill and Richard Hutchinson

Reported by Robin Black

With the promise of getting rich quickly and crushing enemies under our jackboots, we shuffled meekly into Room 16 (aka Room C3P0-0A-16, or whatever the administration called it; I felt the campus location system was short of one copy-edit, but perhaps comments like this are why it's so difficult to find venues). We were to be inspired, encouraged and given a dose of gentle reality by folks who have been there, done that, and come out on the other side with real big-boy-and-girl editing careers.

Cold calling

With his craftsman's background, John Firth emphasised the number of perfectly reasonable approaches to developing an editing career, and as many different definitions of success once you have started. John spoke of the dreaded double-c word: ‘The cold-calling hurdle is frightening, but once you're over that, it can be helpful.'

If the words don't make sense...

Gale Winskill went freelance without even realising it, taking on extra work while editing full-time for a publisher in Hong Kong, and her roles for multiple clients ramified from there. She reminded us to walk away if the words on the screen stop making sense. Go garden, Gale implored, or play conkers for as long as it takes until you've recovered from the stupor. Also, she shared, ‘Establishing an online presence was a godsend for me.'

Richard Hutchinson gamely admitted that he doesn't remember why he picked proofreading, but he is pretty happy with the decision. Upgrading and securing a Directory entry was ‘the single best bit of marketing I ever did'.

Time for a new hat?

Melanie Thompson

Reported by Helen Stevens

Those of a certain age will remember Mr Benn, the TV character in the bowler hat who set off on a new adventure every week. Taking Mr Benn as her starting point, Melanie Thompson presented case studies featuring individuals who have embarked on exciting adventures into areas beyond traditional editing and proofreading. To keep us on our toes she asked us to play ‘hats off' bingo, which meant looking out for the different types of headgear – from tricorn to balloon hat, and everything in between – pictured in each case study, and crossing them off on our cards as the session progressed.

Branching out

Several of the individuals featured were editors who have branched out into training and tutoring, using their previous skills and experience in new and challenging roles. Another editor has developed a sideline as a ‘blogger and podcast-meister', mentoring others through her online content.

Turning to consultancy, Melanie used case studies to reassure us that this was simply about using detective skills to find out what is required, and applying knowledge and experience – editorial or otherwise – to solve problems. Two further examples demonstrated how a non-editorial skill – in this case, photography – had led to new work.

Future hats

Each case study explored the pros and cons of putting on a new hat, and served to demonstrate that we could all use our skills and experience in novel and potentially lucrative ways. ‘Hats off' bingo was a fun activity, but it also made us think about the various ‘hats' we wear, and the ones we might put on in the future. An entertaining and inspiring seminar.

Marketing tools for the freelance editor

Mary McCauley

Reported by Jen Toyne

This seminar, run by Mary McCauley, was aimed at those of us who are just beginning our freelance careers, and those who have not yet ventured into the world of marketing.

Being specific

First and foremost she advised us to ask ourselves some key questions: Which clients do we wish to target? Which services do we offer? She urged us to be specific and define these exactly in order to focus our marketing activities. And then: How are we going to persuade those people that they need our services?

A range of tools

Thankfully, Mary offered up something of an answer to the last question, and went on to give us an overview of a selection of tools available to us: customer service, branding, a website, social media, networking. And she made them sound easy! I had personally already found that creating a website using free DIY web-building software is dead simple, and she persuaded me not to be afraid of social media: to use it to reach out to people and direct them to my website! The other tools also gave us plenty to think about – have you prepared an elevator pitch: that is to say, can you describe what you do in just ten words? Well, of course we were all experts in networking already – after all, we were at the conference doing just that!

The in-house view

Amanda Vinnicombe

Reported by Rachel Hamar

Amanda gave a frank and straightforward picture of the world of publishing. There is a strong business case for using freelances: they keep better track of costs and time than in-house staff and allow flexibility when lots of projects are running concurrently.

Getting your name on a company's list of freelancers, however, is not so easy. Experience counts far more than training, which seemed to be given little weight. Even experienced editors may expect to face a proficiency test before being given work.

Relevant experience

The key point, according to Amanda, is the relevance of your experience. Editing magazines is not the same as editing books, for example. Time pressures mean that publishers usually can't develop the skills of potential freelancers who may need additional support.

I was feeling a little deflated by this point, but Amanda shared some more positive thoughts. Publishers are happy for freelancers to contact them (email, please). CVs are welcome, and useful ones are filed, but don't expect a reply or work instantly. Your experience may not be relevant for current projects, but in a few months' time you could be exactly the person they need. Remind them you exist by sending an updated CV periodically. Do try haggling over your rates, but don't take it personally if you don't get far. And be reassured that no one does well in the test!

The self-publishing process

John Bond

Reported by Su Box

When a speaker steps into the breach at very short notice, as John Bond did, he can be forgiven for straying away from the seminar's title from time to time. Personally, I was fascinated by his presentation – learning a little about one way ahead for self-publishing and a lot about various other aspects of publishing today.

In 2012, after working at director level for several prestigious publishers, John co-founded a new company (whitefox) operating from a small London office. It is now the UK's largest curated network of publishing freelancers, working with publishers, brands and individual writers.

Finding a niche

John suggested that the really successful self-published titles are those that find a niche market and go into print at the start of a trend. But what about authors with less obviously marketable titles? This is where whitefox comes in, offering professional editing, design, PR and marketing, and managing resources more flexibly and cost-effectively than traditional publishers – although they don't promise a published product.

Does whitefox compete with the SfEP Directory? Or could it offer some of us another source of work and revenue? I suspect opinions were divided, but whitefox is clearly in a position to make use of SfEP skills and experience. Some of us will be happy to hand over a percentage to whitefox in return for bidding successfully for a particular job, while others prefer to be in control of all aspects of their work and income.

John spoke about a wide range of publishing-related issues (too many to write about here) in what I felt was an unexpectedly entertaining and informative presentation.

Evolution of workflow tools

John Pettigrew

Reported by Philip Burke

‘Very good', ‘good', ‘very good' and ‘very good' was the result of my limited exit poll at the conclusion of John Pettigrew's seminar ‘Evolution of workflow tools: stasis and change'. I shall (readers who attended Bas Aarts' workshop might appreciate that) also add my own ‘very good'.

It is interesting to reflect that, in the mid-1990s, digital manipulation meant using more than one pen. Computers are now an intrinsic part of the editorial process and a straw poll during the talk revealed the overwhelming prevalence of on-screen editing. John showed us that the growth of computers and specialist software had removed many tedious tasks, allowing us to focus on our core skills. He also emphasised the huge improvement in communication, with the likes of Dropbox, OneDrive and Skype replacing the (much hated) fax.

The digital age has, however, generated a new set of problems, with content often needing to be published simultaneously in multiple forms as well as being continuously developed and updated. John was concerned that publishers were often focusing too much on ‘digital' and that editorial skills were being devalued and in-house teams reduced. Good news for the freelancer – at least in the short term.

The future was not bleak, but John felt that publishers needed to realign their focus on content rather than sales and marketing, and that we all needed to be aware of changes in commercial models. If you're unsure that things are changing, I suggest you have a look at Wattpad.


Word's styles

Anne Waddingham

Reported by Kate Short

On booking a place at my first SfEP conference, my attention was drawn to Anne Waddingham's ‘Working with Word's styles' workshop. Having grappled with styles and templates in the past, the workshop seemed an ideal opportunity to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and to benefit from Anne's expertise.

Tips for copy-editors

Anne began by emphasising the importance of styles for the on-screen copy-editor – not only do they enable quick and consistent formatting of a typescript but they also help to produce a document that typesetters can convert easily. Anne described the differences between paragraph and character styles, and advised us on how to overcome some of the pitfalls of working with ‘misbehaving' styles. The hands-on workshop allowed us to practise the steps involved in creating, modifying and managing styles, as well as how to switch between different display options. Along the way, Anne passed on a few tips she had received from typesetters on how to get the most out of styles.

Working with templates

For the final section of the workshop, Anne provided us with an overview of templates – how to create, save and attach them – but I get the impression that this alone could have filled a two-hour session. Throughout, the workshop was interspersed with lots of handy keyboard shortcuts, to save us valuable time and (as I was later to discover in Denise Cowle's session on posture) save our backs! Thank you, Anne, for a thoroughly informative session that is sure to have an impact on the way I work in future.

Working for business

Ali Turnbull

Reported by Gary Blogg

One of the main challenges for both new and established freelance editors and proofreaders is finding work. Ali Turnbull's workshop, which was aimed at those of us wishing to explore the ‘big ocean' of non-publishing clients – notably the business, public and voluntary sectors – fittingly attracted a mixed but unified audience.

Developing a client base

Go fishing, Ali recommended. This wasn't an invitation to get the fishing rods out! Ali used a piscine analogy, with us being ‘small fish' needing to create ‘bigger fish' by teaming up with other local creatives. We learned that we should identify the target market of our specialist subject areas, get ourselves on to the sonar of potential clients, and focus on developing a broader client base.

With niche clients identified, we examined the methods and tools we should be using to win and manage new work, including the use of social media. As each job is so varied, it is essential that the client's requirements are clearly understood and confirmed. Divided into groups, we contributed to producing a detailed checklist for responding to prospective clients, which will be invaluable. This included the warning to beware of client requests starting with ‘Can you just do a little bit of ...?'

Finally, we collectively discussed some of our individual experiences in negotiating terms, invoicing and the pitfalls of getting paid.

Group participation during the workshop made for an enjoyable and useful exchange of ideas.

Proofreading ebooks

Gareth Haman

Reported by Patric Toms

Proofreading ebooks turns out to be a niche within a niche.

Gareth Haman told us that there are many issues that need to be considered when working in this specialised area of proofreading.

Because of the dynamic nature of the end presentation, any ebook proofreading will incorporate some copy-editing and typesetting, particularly if there are graphic insertions. Some of the more common style-formatting of text can generate unexpected results.

Which platform?

There are multiple platforms to consider, for example Kindle, Apple (iBook), Kobo, Nook and Sony, and several conversion tools, such as Kindle Direct Publishing (more commonly known as KDP) or Calibre – both of which are free to download and use. There are also several different formats for ebooks, such as EPUB (open standard), IBA (iBooks author), AZW/KF8 (Amazon, also called MOBI), PDF, straight text and HTML. A valuable comparison of these can be found on Wikipedia.

Other valuable sites that can provide insight into creating ebooks from raw materials are the KDP section of,, and

Trial and error

It is important to bear in mind that ebooks and the processes for their creation are still in their infancy.

A trial and error approach is best. Different conversion applications can give different results at different times, and a relatively minor change in the source can have an unexpected effect on the converted file. Be aware of the dynamic nature of the content itself, because each structural element of the ebook will have its navigational means for switching between chapters, to the index, references and so on. External links must also be valid.

The idea of proofreading ebooks is now no longer as daunting as it previously appeared; however, becoming comfortable, and sufficiently competent, will require time and commitment. It sounds like fun, though.

An introduction to editing fiction

Gale Winskill

Reported by Justine Sherwood

Gale Winskill's workshop at the SfEP conference was a good opportunity for those like myself – with no idea about editing fiction or how to get into this area – to pick her brains.

Gale's first fiction-editing assignment was critiquing a novel, which she was later asked to edit. The days when a publisher would have given anything bearing its name a thorough edit belong to the past, and many authors are turning to freelancers to edit their novel before submission. The self-publishing industry has also created a completely new client base of independent authors.

Get reading!

Gale explained that the best way to get into editing fiction is to read fiction. Read something that does not appeal to you, and broaden your perspectives. A challenge if, like me, you cringe at the thought of chick lit, but I will certainly give it a go! Be honest if it's your first time. Bear in mind that the author is paying for you to be constructive and dispassionate. Respect the author's text and don't think about how you would have written this book. Besides the obvious stylistic and copy-editing work, look out for errors in the plot such as sudden changes in characters' names. And, as the examples that Gale handed out showed, authors seem to delight in failing to punctuate dialogue.

So, are you an avid fiction reader and tempted to venture into editing? You could try critiquing a book and hope that you would then be asked to edit it. And you will be pleased to learn that an SfEP fiction-editing course is in the pipeline.

What next for the SfEP?

Sara Peacock, Gerard Hill, Liz Jones and Rod Cuff

Reported by Piers Maddox

About 20 people heard advanced SfEP members Sara Peacock, Gerard Hill, Liz Jones and Rod Cuff separately present summaries of the rationale behind the coming changes in membership categories and the upgrading process. The current ‘associate' and ‘ordinary' categories will be replaced by a clearer, easily understandable membership structure. Some work experience will be a future requirement for the upgrading process, and online testing will offer a new optional contribution to the process (the syllabus is on the SfEP website).

A better balance

It is expected that these changes, in combination with the introduction of a time-limit element to the new student/ candidate categories, will lead to a more balanced membership structure. It is anticipated that the current approximately 2000 membership of 700 ordinary/ advanced and 1300 associates will evolve over a five-year period to a better balance of around 1400 professional/ advanced and 600 student/candidate members. The SfEP council believes that this restructuring will put the Society on a more mature footing for the future.

Growth of online training

The introduction of online courses last year has been very successful, and led to a substantial increase in training net income during 2013 and 2014. In coming years this is expected to grow further, so that training income will become a much more significant proportion of total income.

Issues that are currently being addressed by the council focus on management structure and marketing. Following a recent ‘strategy day', the council is preparing plans that will be circulated to members in the coming months.

The challenge of balance

Mariette Jansen

Reported by Simone Williams

Mariette Jansen's workshop, ‘The challenge of balance: creating a work-life balance, not a battle', set out to address some issues that working as a freelancer can create. The fear of not getting enough work or taking on too much, unacceptable deadlines, chasing unpaid invoices and working in isolation can all contribute to the feeling that the ‘work-life scale' is unbalanced and not as we would wish it to be.

Improving the work-life balance

Those attending the workshop were encouraged to think about and explore aspects and challenges of their own working day – what works well within it and what doesn't – and how making changes could tip the balance for the better. A debate took place as to how and why work can overtake and preoccupy everything we do, and how that imbalance affects us emotionally and physically. We were asked to think about our current work situation with regard to the percentage of time, mental energy and physical energy we use and what our ‘desired' percentage would be if changes could be made to our workstyles and life boundaries. We were also given strategies to use when the overbalance got the better of us – a simple, easy-to-do-anywhere meditation session was well received by all.

Mariette Jansen is an author, meditation expert and, in her words, ‘life changer'. She is also known as Dr De-Stress, and I found her authoritative yet calming disposition did just that – de-stress.

Finance for your future

Amy Taylor

Reported by Russell Fairless

There were only eight of us for Amy Taylor's workshop session on ‘Finance for your future', which meant that Amy was able to address the individual requirements and questions of those present. Topics covered included tax and thresholds, payments on account, book-keeping and records, budgets and cashflows, cash accounting versus accruals accounting, and pensions – far too much to summarise here, but all very relevant to a ‘newbie' like me. My only regret was that I hadn't known enough about my personal finances to take full advantage of Amy's advice. But at least I have a flying start for next year's tax return.

After the session, Amy emailed guidance material on sole traders: top tax tips and a ready-reckoner spreadsheet covering home-based expenses for the self-employed. I noticed that her signature block describes Amy as ‘Winner: Highly Commended, Best Business Support Mumpreneur Awards 2012'. Ever fascinated by new vocabulary, I went to, and discovered, unsurprisingly, that it is an organisation for ‘mums running their own business'. A blog entitled ‘Why you need a niche' describes Amy Taylor as the mumpreneur's accountant: ‘If you're a mumpreneur who is baffled by your tax return, Amy is the first accountant you'll find. That's the position you want to have in your niche ...' – which must be good advice for any copy-editor or proofreader starting up in business, whether mum, dad or otherwise. Amy can be contacted at

On corpora

Bas Aarts

Reported by Ann Kingdom

The SfEP conference is probably one of the few gatherings where Bas Aarts could be assured of an audience that would take a lively interest in the finer points of English grammar and syntax and how and why they have changed over time. Language use and language change are, after all, issues with which we grapple in our daily working lives. How much should we be applying so-called ‘rules'? How do we balance the need to retain the author's voice with making the text as accessible as possible to its intended audience?

The changing nature of language

This was more of a seminar than a workshop, with Bas giving us a fascinating insight into a relatively new area in language studies – corpus linguistics. We have all witnessed the increasing informality of language, and we learnt how the collection and analysis of spoken and written language in various corpora has enabled researchers to study such changes in minute detail. The larger the corpus, and the wider the range of written and spoken sources from which it is derived, the more generally applicable are the results. (The speakers recorded for the Survey of English Usage, established by Randolph Quirk at UCL in 1957, were predominantly well-educated, middle-class southerners, for example. But perhaps this middle-class bias served to provide a ‘standard' English, and certainly one that should be taught.)

Modal verbs

Among the interesting examples that Bas discussed with us was the decreasing use of modal verbs, particularly ‘must' and ‘shall', and especially in spoken English, perhaps reflecting the less authoritarian nature of society and milder ways of imposing obligation (eg ‘You have to hand in your essay' rather than ‘You must hand in your essay'). Had we not been obliged to go for lunch, we could happily have carried on discussing this and other issues for much longer.

Calligraphy and illumination

Patricia Gidney

Reported by Jane Sugarman

Ever since my time in primary school, where I learned to write with an Osmiroid fountain pen using an italic nib, I have had a fascination with beautiful lettering and illuminated letters. So the title of this workshop with Patricia Gidney struck a chord.

Uses and tools

Patricia decided not to go into the history of calligraphy and illumination but to provide us instead with a breakdown of all the uses to which this wonderful artistic technique can be put, and the various fonts/scripts and implements that are at the calligrapher's disposal. The materials available include vellum or paper (the former is stretched calf's skin, and there is now just one company in the UK that produces it), different inks and gouaches/paints, different nibs (metal or a quill) and gold leaf for gilding. Mistakes on vellum can be rectified – although the process is time-consuming – but any made on paper mean starting from scratch.

Patricia prefers to work with the broad-edged nib (a square affair) but many use copperplate nibs (pointed). Some of the fonts used are many centuries or even a millennium in age; some more recent are named after their creator, eg Gill Sans.

Calligraphy's key factors

We were fascinated by a demonstration of how Patricia would choose what weight, pen angle, form, number, order and direction of stroke, and speed to use according to the seven key factors recommended by Edward Johnston (1872–1944), who revived calligraphy and created its modern form. The broad-edged pen is ideal for retaining consistency once these factors have been implemented. She also guided us through the principles used to design the text and border areas of a book to provide a pleasing aesthetic result without having to measure anything – a simple task using a pencil and ruler.

Sorting out sentences

Sarah Price

Reported by Melanie Smith

This session, run by SfEP advanced member Sarah Price, was both informative and fun. We were a chatty little group, and we shared our experiences of those aspects of grammar and punctuation that trouble us all from time to time, as well as amusing stories of the howlers we'd come across.

Keen not to make any howlers myself, or let those of others slip through, my hope was that this session would refresh my understanding of the rules that hold our language together and increase my confidence in dealing with convoluted or awkward writing styles.

Taking us back to the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation, Sarah's friendly approach and practical examples soon had us all engaged in a lively discussion about verbs, prepositions and the dangers of letting our participles dangle!

Know your audience

After a test to see if we could sort out sentences using our refreshed skills, we moved on to writing techniques. As editors, as well as having a good grasp of the basics, we also need to have the skills to edit text to ensure that it is written and presented in a way that is right for the intended readership.

For this last section Sarah talked us through structuring the text, writing styles for business and informal publications, and the art of querying substantial changes with the author. For any remaining tricky grammatical conundrums, the advice, which I shall take to heart, was, ‘if in doubt – reword!'.

Proofreading on PDF

Claire Ruben

Reported by Susan Milligan

Claire Ruben's workshop addressed an area of our work that is increasingly important, as many clients now expect freelancers to return a corrected file in PDF format. Software is constantly being developed, so that this format – originally for distributing files that could not be edited, and were therefore a ‘safe house' – now, as well as permitting annotations, allows limited changes to its content.

Software options

Claire's presentation took us through the various kinds of PDF-editing software, from the free but limited Acrobat Reader to professional applications with more sophisticated possibilities. The various methods for indicating corrections were described – chiefly sticky notes and a variety of stamps that allow the use of BSI symbols. Claire makes her own set of BSI stamps freely available to download, as does the SfEP's Louise Harnby.

Tips for efficient marking-up

Claire recommends putting your favourite tools onto a custom toolbar, setting up a style sheet to record decisions made as well as specific configurations for that client, and exporting the customisations so that they can be reloaded for a future job.

She gave several tips and ideas: for using the different kinds of view available for different aspects of each job, for running searches, for using the built-in tools, and for collating by importing pages from a different file. Finally, when exporting the file it is helpful to shrink it by ‘flattening' it or printing it to create a new PDF file, and Claire provided a checklist of things to remember when sending the job back.

And finally...

SfEP tweetup

Helen Stevens

Many SfEP members are avid tweeters, but most have never met face to face. So, we arranged the very first SfEP tweetup at the conference (hashtag #sfep14).

We had no idea who (if anyone) would turn up to the inaugural SfEP tweetup, but we needn't have worried. Around 20 tweeters gathered to put faces to names, and their tweets give a flavour of the event:

  • Coming up, sure to be the main event of #SfEP14: the Tweetup! (Cath Hanley, @CathHanley)
  • At the tweet up meeting Sfeppers with faces and everything! (Denise Cowle, @dinnydaethat)
  • I'm at the #SfEP14 tweet up. Feel like I should limit all sentences to 140 characters (Gareth Haman, @gazhaman)
  • Demoing my bluetooth keyboard at the #sfep14 tweetup (Louise Bolotin, @louisebolotin)
  • Too busy real-time talking with some lovely people at the tweetup to tweet about the tweetup (Mary McCauley, @MMProofreading)

I hope the event will be repeated next year. In the meantime, see you on Twitter?

A new extended family

Lucy Metzger

I arrived at Royal Holloway with two Glasgow colleagues, one of them a conference newbie like me. We were delighted with the warm, hazy sunshine, as we don't get much of that. Having checked into our rooms (which were far nicer than students deserve), we sat down to eat our sandwiches on a terrace overlooking tall old trees. At once, a fellow SfEP member introduced himself: a Californian who now lives in London. None of us had met him, but the conversation was immediately friendly, lively and wide-ranging. We could have sat chatting all day. This set the whole tone of the conference for me: everyone I met was a friend; every conversation I had, bar none, was both a pleasure (to me at any rate – hope I didn't say anything stupid) and an intriguing window into other walks of life and other kinds of work. I don't know where else I would encounter such a wide range of backgrounds and expertise all enthusiastically directed towards a common purpose. I spoke with a banker, a teacher in special educational needs, a publisher of gay romance novels, a designer who photographs bugs, a lawyer – and we're all aiming to uphold editorial excellence, and we all love tinkering with words.

I also met a calligrapher, Patricia Gidney, who ran a session in which we got busy with our pencils and rulers. Watching Patricia form letters, each a perfect little picture, was a refreshingly new experience, and reminded me how lovely letters can be. Patricia showed us the contrast between a font that has been designed by a calligrapher and a font that hasn't. The spaces within and around the letters make more difference than I ever realised. I have now become very sensitive to type and am repulsed by all the fonts on my computer.

I came away from Melanie Thompson's engaging session, about getting a new hat, determined to try on a consultant's headgear. Fortunately there's no prescribed uniform for consultants, so I guess I can style my hat any way I want. I was also galvanised by Ali Turnbull's session about editing for business. Ali has offered a prize to the first person attending the session who approaches a local business person, gets work with them, and gets paid. I want that prize – I believe it's some chocolates.

I'm a sucker for a gala dinner. I knew it would be fun, but I wasn't prepared for the grandeur of the setting. Perhaps my favourite location at this conference was the cloistered terrace looking out over a grassy quadrangle, where we sipped wine as jazz musicians played and dusk fell. Then up broad stone steps to the fabulous neo-Gothic dining hall – it made me feel that we were all very important people. (Trying to cling to that feeling now as I sit in my neo-shoebox house.)

I loved all the sessions I went to, and was envious of people who went to the other ones, but for big belly-laughs the ‘lightning talks' won hands down. (These were part of the ‘Something for everyone' sessions on the Sunday afternoon.) I would attend another conference with the sole aim of hearing some more of them. Each person spoke for five minutes on a topic of their choice, with a timer running. The talks brought forth surprisingly personal revelations, excellent advice presented with biting wit and sarcasm, and a few hilarious and blush-inducing double-entendres. I also added a new verb to my vocabulary: to spopp (don't ask!).

By the time I left the conference, I felt I was saying goodbye to a huge extended family. It's nice to know they're all out there, and I hope I'll meet more of them in York in a year's time.

Guidance from the client world

The final event of the conference was a ‘Meet the client' panel session. Four representatives of our client world answered questions from the floor: Michele Staple (editorial manager, The Stationery Office), Jo Bottrill (managing director, Out of House Publishing), Roz Morris (freelance editor and writer) and Amanda Vinnicombe (managing editor, Thames and Hudson).

Some questions and answers were as follows:

  • What is important in a freelancer? Experience, training and describing what that training has helped you to do, giving feedback, awareness of different kinds of editing, and thoroughness.
  • Do you use freelancers? Jo: ‘We're providing a service so we outsource most things.' Michele: ‘I have to keep my in-house team busy but may put out work that needs to be done somewhere quiet such as proofreading or editing.' Amanda: ‘I will put something out to a freelancer if it's not too complicated.'

Other comments included: We are happy to get unsolicited emails about work, and emails are better than phone calls. Also, make sure your email or CV is correct – in both spelling and grammar. Let us know what you did before freelancing – that can be instructive. The SfEP's suggested minimum rates are useful. The fee depends on the job, and there may be provision for an extra fee if the job turns out to be more complicated than expected. Thames and Hudson pay more than Penguin!

Thanks all round

Many thanks to our generous sponsors who helped to support this year's conference at Royal Holloway. They are the Publishing Training Centre (silver sponsor, Whitcombe Lecture), PerfectIt (bronze sponsor, Exhibitors' Fair) and Inera Inc (bronze sponsor, Anne Waddingham's workshop ‘Working with Word's styles').

Thanks also to those who took part in the Exhibitors' Fair: BioExact, Elizabeth Murphy and John Linnegar, Oxford University Press and Reedsy.

Many thanks to the honorary members who once again kindly sponsored the ‘Meet the council drinks' and to an anonymous sponsor. And thanks to Amanda Lettington, who contacted and dealt with our sponsors.