The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Editing Digital Products is a fabulous London-based 1-day training course run by the Publishing Training Centre (PTC). I'm attended recently and highly recommend it.
I'd originally intended to mention this in my Link of the Week feature, but on reflection I felt it merited a more detailed, stand-alone review. This is because on the 4-hour journey home I had time to think about all that I’d learned and consider how I might apply it to my day-to-day freelance proofreading business.
What’s in it for the freelance proofreader?
First of all, Editing Digital Products is not designed to teach the skills of onscreen editing (or proofreading).
Thus, if like me you spend much of your day working with (a) printed material, (b) onscreen content that will be printed further down the line, or (c) onscreen material that will be handled as if it was print (covering letters that will be emailed, for example), then the relevance of this course may not be immediately obvious.
Bear with me, however, because I've come to the conclusion that aside from the excellent foundational training I did to learn the method and practice of proofreading (Basic Proofreading my Distance Learning, also from the PTC), Editing Digital Products might well be the most important chunk of learning I've carried out in my freelance career.
High praise, you might think, but here’s the reasoning.
Future-proofing your editorial business
The world of publishing is changing. It’s highly likely that proofreaders (and editors) who work within mainstream publishing will come across an increasing number of opportunities to do what they do but within a digital setting. I’m not just talking about proofreading PDFs or editing Word documents; I’m talking about being asked to engage with specifically online material that works in a different way to traditional print media – interactive learning and entertainment resources that incorporate links, animation, games, click-and-drop functionality, and so on. You’re probably already using these types of resources on the various gadgets you have at home, such as your phone, your tablet, your PC, your e-reader.
If you want to be able to show publishers that you’re not afraid of engaging with digital material over a number of platforms, you need to be able to “think” in a digital way – to understand what it means to publish digitally and to manage, or operate within, digital workflows. And that’s what Sarah Sodhi, the course tutor, will help you to do.
If you like to sit quietly on your backside and let the tutor do all the work, then this course won't be for you. Sarah's style is very much one of interaction, encouraging students to work together in groups and in whole-class exercises that require them to engage and think creatively about:
Adding value to the service you offer outside the traditional publishing environment
One of the services I offer to independent non-publisher clients is that of “proofreading your website”. This service has, until now, focused on making sure all the spelling, grammar and punctuation is in order, and ensuring any links are intact. But now that I've learned about “thinking” digitally, I can offer a more tiered service to clients.
Creating a website is easier and cheaper than ever, and many local, small businesses are taking advantage of self-build functionality in order to enhance their online profile.
Editing Digital Products made me think about layout, about the words in which links are embedded, about the depth of a website’s click-throughs, and about the structure of digital content.
“Proofreading” a website means something different to me now than it did before. I can offer a two-tier service to these smaller, independent clients – yes, I’ll polish the text but I can go further if they want me to by offering to review the website as a digital entity and how it works for their visitors – usability. I can also engage with the meta tags at a basic level to ensure that they’re taking advantage of the SEO options available to them – searchability.
Enhancing my own digital presence
Editing Digital Products has helped me to think about how best to present the digital product that’s closest to me – my own business. If I can add value to a small business in Norwich, I can apply the same usability and searchability to my own website and my blog.
Starting at your own front door is the best way to put new-found skills into practice. I’m scheduling time to review my own metadata, the way in which I embed links on my website and my blog, and the way I structure the information that I offer to my website's visitors.
As is often the case, the very best training doesn't just fill knowledge gaps – it opens one's eyes to new ones.
Certainly I think there’s much, much more I can learn about mark-up languages, digital platforms, digital content management software, and SEO. It isn't that I was ignorant about these issues before; rather, my application was often accidental and ad hoc. It lacked strategic direction.
No training course can provide all the answers but it can put you on the right path. Editing Digital Products gave me that much-need focus – I can see how pre-existing skills, newly acquired knowledge and future training can be applied strategically to my ongoing business planning and service provision in a digital environment.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and copyeditor. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I'm a signatory to its code of practice as a professional editor.
Featured in The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies: Joel Friedlander's collection of 'outstanding articles recently posted to blogs'.
Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.