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Minding your p’s and q’s: qroofreading for The Language Teacher

Writer(s): 
Paul Evans, Proofreading Coordinator & Trainer for The Language Teacher

 

Take a look at any issue of The Language Teacher, and you’ll see an entire back page filled with the names of all the people involved in its production. As a monthly, peer-reviewed academic journal, it might be surprising to learn that all of those people are volunteers. I started out as a proofreader with TLT just over a year ago, and now coordinate proofreader scheduling and training. It’s been an interesting year and, for those who may have wondered about becoming a part of TLT, I’ll try to describehow things work.

Joining TLT usually begins withour proofreader training. Ihave afairly typicaleducation and a reasonably good eye for detail, butI had never done professional proofreading beforejoiningTLT. No problem—most people come to us with similar backgrounds. The proofreader training is a logical place to start, as it lets you get to know people and become familiar with how things work. Then, once youmove up to being a regular “proofer” andgain some experience, if you want to become more involvedthere areregular opportunitiesto do so.

Proofreading work is divided between two roles: copy editors and proofreaders. If you’re curious, take a look at the Society for Editors & Proofreaders (UK) FAQ pages <www.sfep.org.uk/pub/faqs/fedit.asp>, which provide a thorough description of those job titles. At its best, proofreading gives you the opportunity to work with great writers and ideas, and keeps you active and engaged in your profession. But itcan also be quite challenging, asthere is a lot to think about whenworking withother people’swriting. One of the worst things is when you find yourself proofreadinga piece of less-than-brilliant writing (it happens). You put a lot of effort into trying to make it better, submit it to youreditor, and later on find that most of your corrections were rejected. An important part of the job isto constantly remember that you’re not the writer,and just because you don’t like a particular style or phrasing doesn’t make it “wrong.” Nonetheless,my mentor (Greg Rouault, who also edits TLT’s Recently Received column) encouraged me to remember,“It’seasier to help someone come down from noticing too many things… compared with those who are generally oblivious to the things that need to be addressed.” In other words, being “picky” is a good place to start.

TLT’sproofreader training includes a number of steps, and we try to make them task-based so it won’tfeel like you’re just being given a lot toread. The first thing we have people do is take an in-depth look at a recent issue of TLT, to understand the organization of content. That’s followed by an overview of our workflow, and the various production steps we go through with each issue. After that is an introduction to proofreading resources, both print and online, and on the TLT Staff Website (sorry, access is restricted). The remainder of the training involves working with practice documents, and then a shadowing phase where you proofreadactual articles, but under the mentorship of an experienced proofreader. People come and go, and eventually new proofreaders are able to step into an open regular position.

As is probably true of most journals, TLT is constantly evolving. Changes, while intended to improve TLT overall, throw an immediate wrench into the training process, as we need to make significant updates to the training resources. This typifies what is probably the biggest challenge for many of us working on TLT: It’s work, and it requires a limited, but serious, time commitment. Despite being an all-volunteer staff, we depend heavily on everyonefollowing an established schedule and meeting strict deadlines.

I’m very glad I got involved. In a relatively short space of time I have worked on quite a few ESL-related articles (in the process, reading far more than I ever would have otherwise). I have also gotten to know somegood people andfeel myself part of a community, which is nice. That said, our work is mostly an online experience so, until the Shizuoka conference back in November, I’d only actually met a very small handful of my colleagues face-to-face.

If you are interestedin joining us, we would behappy to hear from you. Please contact either of our Coeditors, Jerry Talandis and Damian Rivers,at <tlt-editor@jalt-publications.org>. (Note: To be considered, you should be a current JALT member.)

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