08 Jan 2023

CIEP Member: Jen Farquharson

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

I’ve always dabbled in it, but it wasn’t until university when I found that proofreading my essays was actually kind of relaxing. When I took up an internship with Historic Environment Scotland, I was suddenly learning to edit and proofread all these publications and I’ve been hooked ever since.

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

On the job, taking as many different kinds of projects as I could: books, guides, leaflets, adverts, prospectuses, websites and blogs, film scripts – the lot. I wanted to be able to edit content for anyone and it’s been a really rewarding experience and helped build my confidence, despite the lack of formal training.

What work are you most proud of?

When I take really technical content, like climate change research or materials analysis from a historic building, and edit it into something that anyone can pick up and enjoy without losing any of the meaning. It’s quite a labour of love between editor, author and publisher. It takes a lot of work but that collaboration is essential and something I really enjoy.

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

Walk away. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned: it’s not always about ploughing ahead and getting through the work no matter what. Building that time into projects, to allow yourself to step away and gain some perspective has become a standard practice for me.

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

I’ve had a lot of non-traditional publishing and editing experience, but the CIEP has helped me really ground those skills in proper training – and whittle out the bad habits!

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I still find proofreading relaxing so I love that whole process, especially when you receive the design proofs and it suddenly becomes so much more than just text.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

Jargon. I see it a lot in the subject matters I edit. If a project is aimed at that specialist audience it’s fine, but if it’s not, and half of your target audience can’t understand what you’re writing, then your work isn’t going to have the impact it deserves.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

In the best way, the effort it has taken to get it off the ground. I’m full-time employed, and I run my freelance editing business in my spare time. But it has taken real dedication and commitment to build up that part of my career. And I think this speaks to the skill and expertise of editors and proofreaders. I think there are too many articles online about how easy it is to be an editor or a proofreader, and they’re really misleading for people considering that career path.

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

Prioritise what makes you happy. It’s easier said than done when we all have bills to pay, especially now. But have a checklist of things that would make you happy at work. What hours would be ideal? Do you want travel opportunities? Is it all about the next big step? Keeping these goals in mind has helped me make the right career choices.

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

Put in the effort to get the right training and core skills built up. It will become very clear to clients very quickly if you don’t have this. It takes time and commitment so don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Do you ever stop editing?

Not quite! We have a wee slate in our house saying, ‘Spoilt dog lives here’ and my partner edited it with a bit of chalk when we got our second dog because he knew it would annoy me.

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

Thanks to my work in heritage, I’ve been on the odd historic roof or two! And I’m trying to collect as many as possible. So far, I’ve been on the roofs of Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Doune Castle, Clackmannan Tower and Sweetheart Abbey. I’d really like to do Glasgow Cathedral…

I’ve had a lot of non-traditional publishing and editing experience, but the CIEP has helped me really ground those skills in proper training – and whittle out the bad habits!

Jen Farquharson

Intermediate Member


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