The value of community: my experience with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading

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They say that our human and not-so-human ancestors evolved learning that they needed to be part of a community to survive. They did everything they could to remain in the group and keep the group strong. When a bear was waiting around the next tree to eat you, it paid to not be on your own.

So two and a half years ago, starting to work in publishing (and first time as a freelance, to boot), I found myself on my own a fair amount. What was my millennia-honed survival instinct going to make of this? Find some company!

So I did, and I haven’t looked back (so I can only assume the bear has indeed been scared off). Two groups seemed to fit my situation: the Society for Young Publishers (SYP) and the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP*).

The SYP aims to support those new to (or considering) publishing, an obvious one for a newbie like me. I live out in the sticks, so I’ve only made it to two physical events, but I successfully applied to join the 2019 InPrint team (the SYP’s quarterly magazine). The experience and friendships were invaluable: producing InPrint gave me an insight into the various stages of publishing; chatting together showed me what life was like across the industry; and the connections I made led to some of my most exciting projects.

The CIEP has a different flavour. There’s a wealth of experience from across all aspects of publishing (and beyond), but the focus is on developing and maintaining high standards of editorial work – through training and mutual support. When I wanted to know the current thinking on an area of inclusive language, I turned to the CIEP. When I decided to explore freelance copyediting as well as proofreading, the CIEP provided a well-trod path towards a respected qualification.

But it’s not just about my questions: the CIEP’s forums are like sitting at the coffee machine watching numerous professionals discuss solutions to problems, giving me a collection of troubleshooting tips before I even start a job (and sometimes I even feel like I have something useful to add!).

In many ways, I’d say that being part of the CIEP community (for that’s what it is) gave me the confidence, skills and support necessary for 100% of my 2019 portfolio. It truly has been the oxygen of my professional development.

It’s fair to say, however, that 2019 feels a long time ago now. Even just a month or so back, when I was asked to write this piece, coronavirus was something somewhere else. By the time I started planning, I was in self-isolation (we’re fine – don’t think it was Covid-19). When I sat down to write, the country was on lockdown.

It’s a fast-changing world, and both the SYP and the CIEP have given me a way to connect to others for support and to know what’s going on across the industry. In particular, the CIEP’s well-established forums have meant that I have felt professionally and personally supported without missing a beat, even when unexpectedly spending two weeks in the house.

My survival instinct paid off – I already had the right community in place.

I’d like think that my instinct went beyond survival though. How do you like the idea of a thrival instinct? To me, humanity is today presented with a fair few options for shaping its future. I don’t want to simply scrape out a living. I don’t want humanity to either. I want us to thrive. And I think, whatever industry we’re working in, hauling each other up the path will get us further than any lonesome trudging.

* Until recently it was the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) but I’ll stick with CIEP for simplicity.

Ben Dare has been a freelance proofreader since 2017 and began copyediting in 2019. The majority of his work is nonfiction but he throws himself into whatever project comes his way, especially if it’s aimed at building a better world. Outside of editing, Ben enjoys his share of preschooler childcare, cooking, gardening and training for his first triathlon.

BookMachine members get discounts to both (SfEP) and the (CIEP) – membership from £5/month.

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