Helen Stevens, School Proof
Many editors and proofreaders work alone and enjoy doing so. That’s certainly been my personal experience. Yes, I enjoy liaising with clients and colleagues – whether online or in person – but I’m perfectly happy working on my own, focusing on a piece of work for a specific client.
When it comes to proofreading school reports, though, I relish the opportunity to work closely with a colleague – SfEP Advanced Professional Member Laura Ripper – through our dedicated proofreading service, School Proof.
The partnership came about a couple of years ago when I began proofreading student reports for a school. The work was very enjoyable, but the deadlines were tight (and non-negotiable). The summer report schedule was particularly demanding, and I realised in advance that it would be difficult to fulfil it on my own.
Fortunately, Laura was willing to take on some of the school proofreading. And the rest, as they say, is History (plus Geography, French and Computer Studies).
I needed someone who was highly competent, and who could grasp the system I’d already set up (including dealing with the fact that the text was supplied in Excel). Laura came on board, quickly picked up what was required, and took to it like a duck to water. She also made some excellent suggestions on how we could improve our working methods, something that I really appreciated.
Laura and I were able to share the reports throughout the year, including the busy summer period. We developed a number of clean-up routines that we carry out before and after proofreading, using find and replace, spellcheck and tools such as PerfectIt (consistency-checking software) and macros. We focus on style points such as initial capitals on subject names, punctuation preferences and the names of extra-curricular clubs and activities. We look out for commonly confused words (flare/flair, practice/practise, rigor/rigour). We check the spelling of student names and make sure the full name is used (the school style is for no nicknames or shortened forms). And during the proofreading itself we check the usual things – spelling, grammar, punctuation – but query anything that seems amiss.
Together we keep the style sheet up to date and customise PerfectIt to meet our proofreading requirements. When working on the reports we email each other throughout the day to discuss style points, and sometimes to alert one another to specific recurring errors in a particular set of reports. It’s good to be able to make joint decisions and to keep each other up to date with progress.
This working arrangement has been so successful that Laura and I decided to set up School Proof, a specialist proofreading service for student reports, alongside our own separate businesses.
All in all, it’s been a very positive experience. I’d give it 10 out of 10 – and long may it continue!