Practice notes

Page owner: Information director

Our editorial practice resources boost your learning on how to edit and proofread and how to work as an editorial professional in publishing or communications. They also help you explore aspects of English language and grammar and why editors and proofreaders make or suggest changes.

Learn from leading writers and language professionals

Learning from others is at the heart of the CIEP community. Most of our practice notes are written by CIEP members, who have distilled their experience into short but jam-packed learning resources for you. Others are written by influential writers and language professionals who are leading the way in their field.

Select the thumbnail image to download the PDF. If you are an editor or proofreader you may find some of the free resources useful to pass to clients to explain what you do, especially our free quick guide to using editorial professionals.

Who can access CIEP practice resources?

Some of our practice resources are public. Anyone is welcome to read them. Others are for our members only – usually those that cover core learning about editorial practice.

That’s a good reason to join us if you’re working as a proofreader or editor.


Public resources


For CIEP members only


Proofreading or editing? A quick guide to using editorial professionals

CIEP factsheet: Proofreading vs copyediting

Working with an experienced editorial professional makes sense if you are producing any sort of written text. This free booklet will show you why. Learn what editors and proofreaders do and how they can help you produce clear and consistent communications.

  • Use our ‘who does what and when’ chart to find the right person to work with you.
  • Apply the tips and proofreading checklist to help check your own writing.

PDF download, 24 pages

Proofreading or copyediting?

CIEP factsheet: Proofreading vs copyediting

Do you need proofreading or copyediting? This fact sheet summarises some of the differences to help you find the right kind of editor to work on your text. Editors may find it a useful resource to pass onto clients.

What training do I need to become a proofreader or copyeditor?

CIEP advice sheet: Training for copyediting or proofreading

Advice on how to get started as an editorial professional, why it's important to invest in training and how to choose a course. There’s more to it than being good at spotting typos.

Focus papers

How to write irresistible copy for your website

CIEP focus paper: How to write irresistible copy for your website

Bestselling author and copywriter Andy Maslen tells you how to make your web copy stand out in a crowded marketplace, how to keep readers on your webpage and how to communicate quality and justify your fees.

How well read should editors be?

CIEP focus paper: How well read should editors be?

Freelance copyeditor and writer Stan Carey explains the importance of reading to professional editors. Stan looks at the benefits of reading broadly, highlights the ‘must-reads’ for editors, and likens reading to a workout for editors.

Imagine an editor

CIEP focus paper: Imagine an editor

The CIEP’s honorary president, David Crystal, puts the case for using the services of a professional editor. A good editor, as he makes clear, is not a pedant or a self-styled member of the grammar police, but someone who reads the author’s work carefully, objectively and sympathetically; points out ambiguity and lack of clarity, checks references and cross-references for accuracy and consistency, and ensures that the style follows the stylistic norms of the publisher. Someone, in other words, who can keep the author ‘linguistically and creatively safe’.

In a globalised world, should we retain different Englishes?

CIEP focus paper: In a globalised world, should we retain different Englishes?

Professor Lynne Murphy questions whether a worldwide standard English would help us communicate, or whether there's value in retaining the distinct voices of the many different Englishes across the globe.

The future of the editorial role in publishing

CIEP focus paper: The future of the editorial role in publishing

Professor Alison Baverstock considers how the publishing industry and the role of the editor might develop in the future. She explores the value of editors both to publishers and the wider society, and argues that the role of the editor will continue to be essential.

The linguistic sophistication of swearing

CIEP focus paper: The linguistic sophistication of swearing

Rob Drummond, Reader in Sociolinguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University, looks at his research on language and identity, language diversity and the language of young people and asks what makes swearing so linguistically interesting in form and function.

The state of gendered language

CIEP focus paper: The state of gendered language

In this discussion paper, Sarah Grey looks at recent changes around gender and language. She starts with a quick review of how language change works, looks at some specific examples of recent changes, and ends with tools you can put to work in your editing to make sure that you stay up to date with language usage.

To whom it may concern

CIEP focus paper: To whom it may concern

In this entertaining and erudite focus paper, Jeremy Butterfield considers what editors should do about the whom vs who debate.

What's in a name? Disability terminology for writers and editors

CIEP focus paper: Disability terminology for writers and editors

Social scientist and bioethicist Tom Shakespeare looks at the changing terminology around disability. How do we know what's acceptable? Where's the line between sensitivity and political correctness? Can we use generalisations at all?

Fact sheets

Anatomy of a book

CIEP factsheet: Anatomy of a book

Books usually adhere to a standard basic structure. This fact sheet looks at the terminology for some of the main features of books and the order in which they appear.

Easily confused words

CIEP factsheet: Easily confused words

A list of some easily confused words in British English, including some tips for remembering the differences and choosing which word to use. Plus keyboard slips: a paired list of words that look very similar but mean different things.

Editing and proofreading numbers

CIEP factsheet: Editing and proofreading numbers

Numbers used in text are subject to style choices in the same way as words. When editing or proofreading, it’s important to make sure that consistent styles are used that are suited to the material you’re working on. This fact sheet will help you to decide the style treatment for all sorts of numbers, including dates and times, ages, percentages, cross-references and general numbers.

Good editorial relationships

CIEP factsheet: Good editorial relationships

This infographic has some top tips for building good working relationships between client and editor.

Good practice for author queries

CIEP factsheet: Good practice for author queries

This fact sheet summarises some good practice tips on writing queries to authors, gleaned from the CIEP's experienced trainers and mentors.

Making the most of the editorial community

CIEP factsheet: Making the most of the editorial community

As an editor, one of the most valuable resources you have access to is the editorial community. Editors are renowned for their willingness to share professional and emotional support, best practice tips, efficiency hacks, favourite macros, and all sorts of other advice and practical suggestions. This fact sheet suggests how you can get more involved.

Slaying zombie language 'rules'

CIEP factsheet: Slaying zombie language rules

Zombie rules are ‘laws’ of language that are no longer, or never were, valid. Yet they refuse to die, and so continue to haunt people who work with words. We take a look at some common zombies and why they may be best laid to rest.

The publishing workflow

CIEP factsheet: The publishing workflow

This infographic sets out the ideal stages in the publishing workflow, for all sorts of texts from documents to books, and highlights where editors and proofreaders can help.

Working with multiple-choice questions

CIEP factsheet: Working with multiple-choice questions

Writing an effective multiple-choice question (MCQ) is difficult and requires specialist skills. Subject knowledge or teaching experience alone is often not enough to create a question that adequately tests students’ understanding. This fact sheet outlines some of the common problems that writers and editors of MCQs might encounter.

For CIEP members only

Please first log into the members' area of our website to download these member-only resources.

12 ways to make your online communication more accessible

CIEP factsheet: 12 ways to make your online communication more accessible

Good communication removes barriers and helps our audience access our messages. CIEP communications director Louise Harnby outlines 12 things every editor and proofreader can do to improve the accessibility of their online content.

Academic editing in the humanities and social sciences

CIEP factsheet: Academic editing

Academic clients include academic publishers, packaging companies, academic institutions and independent authors. This fact sheet looks at the general considerations when working in this area, and how to get started.

Being aware of gendered language

CIEP factsheet: Being aware of gendered language

Language can sometimes perpetuate unconscious biases, stereotypes and unfair assumptions. It’s our professional responsibility to advise the authors we work with if their use of gendered language is problematic and to help them to find inclusive alternatives. This fact sheet summarises some of the main points to look out for and how to sensitively raise issues with your author.

Building a business resilience and disaster plan

CIEP factsheet: Building a business resilience plan

Unlike a business plan, which tends to focus on financial outcomes and growing a client base, a business resilience plan sets out the potential problems you and your business may face and how you will cope with them. It will help you to organise your daily working practices, but can also be given to a trusted colleague or family member who may need to cope in your absence. We should all have one!

Common style differences between British and US English

CIEP factsheet: British and US English

Changing a text from one version of English to another or checking that the desired style has been used isn't a straightforward task: there are often subtle differences in spelling, meaning and usage that distinguish the versions of English around the world. This fact sheet is a starter list for some common differences between British and US style.


CIEP factsheet: Copyright

Even experienced editors can be confused and intimidated by the idea of copyright. This fact sheet clearly outlines the basics, to help editors advise publishers and authors on whether they need to seek permission to reuse copyright works and how to go about it.

Dealing with scope creep

CIEP factsheet: Dealing with scope creep

Scope creep happens when a project’s workload expands beyond what was originally agreed between the client and the editor or proofreader. This fact sheet will help you learn strategies for identifying and dealing with scope creep to avoid negative consequences for you, your client or the project.

Editing and proofreading music

CIEP factsheet: Editing and proofreading music

This fact sheet looks at how to edit or proofread music, whether it’s a short excerpt of a few bars or a whole piece of sheet music. It includes a checklist of aspects to consider and a marked-up example with explanation.

Editing dialogue

CIEP factsheet: Editing dialogue

When editing dialogue in fiction, what should you look out for and how far should you go in making or suggesting improvements? This fact sheet answers these questions by looking at three overall aspects of editing dialogue: rules, punctuation and style.

Editorial judgement

CIEP factsheet: Editorial judgement

This fact sheet looks at what editorial judgement is, the factors that affect it, how far we should go in different situations, the role of querying, and how to improve our editorial judgement over time, with links to plenty of helpful resources.

Emotional wellbeing for editors

CIEP factsheet: Emotional wellbeing for editors

This fact sheet is intended to help you think about how doing your job as an editor may impact your emotional wellbeing – and how to cope with that.

Getting started with macros

CIEP factsheet: Getting started with macros

Efficient editors use macros in Word to speed up repetitive tasks or carry out several actions at once. This fact sheet will introduce you to macros, step you through creating and running a macro and get you thinking about how they can make your editorial practice more efficient.

Getting your first clients

CIEP factsheet: Getting your first clients

This fact sheet gives some useful tips for getting those all-important first clients when you are starting an editorial business.

Increase your editing efficiency in Word

CIEP factsheet: Editing efficiency

Experienced editors use a range of tools and techniques to achieve greater efficiency, making their work more financially viable. Here we look at some timesaving tools for working in Word, which is the program professional editors use most often to edit text.

Keyboard shortcuts for editorial work

CIEP fact sheet:

In many of the applications you’ll use in your editorial work, you can use keyboard shortcuts for actions to avoid needing to navigate toolbars and dropdown menus. This fact sheet lists some of the most common shortcuts for PC and Mac.

Medical editing

CIEP factsheet: Medical editing

This fact sheet looks at how to get into medical editing, from the qualifications needed for this specialism, to the type of work you might undertake and where you can find it. It also considers what experience and technical skills you will need, some ethical issues to be aware of, and where to find more information on this rewarding area of editorial work.

Negotiating business contracts

CIEP factsheet: Negotiating business contracts

If you are running a freelance editorial business, you need to understand what's in contracts you are asked to sign by clients and be able to draw up your own simple agreement where you are setting the terms. Epoq Legal, providers of the CIEP legal helpline, have written this fact sheet to help you understand the various contract provisions and ways to negotiate the best possible outcome.

Reference books and resources for editors

CIEP factsheet: Reference books and resources for editors

There are very many books and resources on the English language, but you can't (and shouldn't) buy them all when you're starting out. This sheet highlights some of the essentials and priorities for supporting your editorial practice.


CIEP factsheet: References

References can be found in academic texts, other non-fiction works and, occasionally, in fiction. This fact sheet is a simplified version of some of the content found in the CIEP’s References course, and looks at referencing systems and styles, what to watch for when editing references, and technology to save you time.

Software for editing and proofreading

CIEP factsheet: Software for editing and proofreading

The majority of editing and proofreading is carried out on screen. This fact sheet looks at the most common software used by editors and proofreaders, and provides resources for those who want to extend their skills further.

Sustaining your freelance editorial business

CIEP factsheet: Sustaining your freelance editorial business

There are as many different ways of building sustainability into an editorial business as there are editors, but here are some general tips to keep the momentum going through the first few years, and take your business to the next level.

What will happen to my editorial business if I die?

CIEP factsheet: What will happen to my editorial business if I die?

It is good professional practice to plan how your business matters will be dealt with after your death. This fact sheet looks at what to consider when drawing up a succession plan.

Working with packagers

CIEP factsheet: Working with packagers

In the context of book and journal publishing, a packager is an intermediary company that produces a finished document for the end publisher. They often work with freelance copyeditors and proofreaders, and it can be a way to gain steady work and experience. However, this way of working has its frustrations and issues too. In this fact sheet we look at the pros and cons.


Editing jobs log

CIEP toolkit: Editing jobs log

A practical tool for recording your editorial jobs, including hours worked, word counts and fees earned. A more extensive set of recording spreadsheets, which can be used for upgrading your CIEP membership, is available in the Going Solo toolkit.