I spent many years acting as a senior secretary/PA, utilising my expertise in English: grammar, vocabulary, and spelling, for secretarial work, audio-typing, proofreading prior to production of advertising materials etc, and have always been an avid reader. With the advent of Indie Publishing and the gift of a Kindle a few years ago, I started to read novels by new authors, many of which had great storylines, but there was one drawback…
There were numerous occasions when my enjoyment of a story was disrupted by glaring mistakes that had slipped through either a shoddy or non-existent editing and proofreading process. Even some established and successful authors were victims of less than professional editors, and on a couple of occasions, with great trepidation and not wishing to cause any offence, I contacted the writers to inform them of the issue.
I worried unnecessarily as the response from both authors was extremely positive and my professional career as a proofreader and editor was soon to become a reality.
With encouragement and much assistance from Sean Campbell, I decided to focus on proofreading and editing as an integral part of my career and am now lucky enough to combine my passion for reading with my love of our wonderful English language.
My Love of Books
My earliest memory is of sitting on my mother’s knee reading a book: I think about a dragon with a name full of Zs and Xs, and I distinctly remember that the cover was a woven-type dark green and cream check.
I was able to read by the time I started school, beginning with the ubiquitous ‘Janet and John’, and my love of reading continued to the now politically incorrect Little Black Sambo, Noddy and Big Ears etc, the classic fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, The Brothers Grimm, and Aesops Fables.
I progressed with the much-maligned Enid Blyton, interspersed with classics such as Stig of the Dump, The Secret Garden, Ann of Green Gables, Black Beauty (I still have the beautiful hardback copy I received as a Christmas present one year when I was very young), Alice in Wonderland, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
In my final year of junior school (now year four I believe), at the age of ten, I read The Hobbit for the first time of many, and have clear memories of that year in school, when we had a different teacher each term. One of these, Mr Short, used to read to us at the end of the day and his chosen stories were, believe it or not, Edgar Allen Poe!!! I’m not sure that a teacher would be allowed to read The Pit and the Pendulum or The Telltale Heart to a group of ten-year-olds these days, but we had no complaints.
This was the beginning of my love of books and although I now use a Kindle a great deal I still love the smell and feel of a real printed book in my hands and they look much nicer on a bookshelf than a Kindle ever could.
I continued reading throughout my adolescence, Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, as well as periods of enjoying Westerns, Horror, Historical Fiction, Historical Romances etc, and into my working life, frequently going to bed with a good book, promising myself an early night, and finding myself still reading when it was time to get up for work in the morning.
After successfully attending secretarial college in my early twenties I began to enjoy Austen, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and some of the great authors of the English Language. I must confess that I have yet to find time for many of the American Classics, but fully intend to do so.
As an Executive Secretary/PA, my role was partly to ensure that any correspondence leaving the office was free of errors. Many people would suggest that bosses should do be able to write grammatically correct English themselves, but that is not their job. One director I worked for was technically brilliant, but also dyslexic and it was obviously important that I was able to ensure his letters were perfect before being mailed.
In the same way, an author doesn’t need to be brilliant at English. In my opinion, the role of an author is creative and to tell a good story, however, if this is then published without the aid of a competent editor the potential for errors and ridicule is vast. Do you really want thousands of readers to see your mistakes in all their glory?
Having been accused of being pedantic about English on more than one occasion, and continuing to read avidly, I have come to find the slipping standards in published English, by authors, the BBC, and also quality newspapers, to be increasingly frustrating. How are the children of today, surrounded by “text speak”, ever supposed to learn the beauty of English, expand their vocabularies, and improve their spelling, if the people who are supposed to set an example are sloppy in their use of language?
As a result of this, and after much encouragement from Sean Campbell, author of the DCI Morton detective series, I am embarking on a new career and offering my services as a Freelance Editor to anyone wishing to publish work in English (British, American, Canadian, or Australian). It will be wonderful to work doing something about which I am passionate and I hope that many of you will give me a chance to read, edit, preview, and publish reviews of your work.