Sharon Joseph Paul is the first editor to complete the Professional Editing Standards Certificate through Queen’s Professional Studies. Sharon is an editor at a research institute in Kuwait. We interviewed Sharon to find out more about the kind of editing she does, what professional development experiences have helped her to improve her skills, and what she plans to do next.
Professional Studies: What drew you to editing?
Sharon Joseph Paul: I’ve been reading since childhood, so books have always been my weakness. But choosing a career as an editor was not deliberate. After my first job as a lecturer of English language and literature, I moved to instructional design. As I wrote course materials and checked them for quality, I felt I enjoyed editing content more than writing it. But I did not have any experience in editing per se till then. That’s when I came across this opening for copy editing at Macmillan Publishing and jumped at it. Working there was a huge learning experience for me as I learnt about language from a different point of view and revisited all those grammar rules that I had always taken for granted. Later, marriage took me to Kuwait, where I got into technical editing. Once I started editing for researchers, I found it more rewarding and thus got hooked.
PS: How long have you been editing?
SJP: Around 8 years now. I’ve been at my current position for six years.
PS: Where do you edit?
SJP: At a research institute in Kuwait.
PS: What kind of editing work do you do?
SJP: I do technical editing of research papers for a scientific research institute. It’s more or less a mix of stylistic and copy editing. Most of the papers that I edit are meant for a wider, generic audience, so I think more than authors of other genres, scientists require the most help in communicating with their readers. Some of them have a lot of knowledge about specialized topics, which can sometimes interfere with the way they try to communicate, especially if they are non-native speakers of English. I enjoy editing here. It is a rewarding and professionally satisfying experience helping researchers simplify their technical language and making their text easier to read and understand.
PS: What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started editing?
SJP: I wish I had known how much difference a professional certificate in editing would have made to my confidence in editing.
I would’ve made braver editing decisions then. I realized that difference after I did a few certificate courses via Coursera, and later, the Queen’s Professional Editing Standards Certificate. After doing them, I felt different and more confident while editing, as well as while communicating with authors.
I wish I had known how much difference a professional certificate in editing would have made to my confidence in editing.
PS: Why did you decide to take the Professional Editing Standards courses?
SJP: I think I wanted my authors to have more trust in my skills.
I started in my current job with two years of editing experience and the required qualification of an MA in English. But I was still a non-native speaker of English, and it took time for authors to trust the changes I made. And then I found the Professional Editing Standards Certificate. It was what I was looking for, in terms of subject, reputability, and time.
I think I wanted my authors to have more trust in my skills.
PS: What was your experience while doing the Professional Editing Standards courses?
SJP: It was an awesome experience, right from the start. I had a great time, and my instructors were very helpful and supportive. To be honest, I still miss that time. There were weeks when four courses were going on at the same time. It was frenzied, yet I had fun. Also, some of the assignments were partner works, and I had a great time getting to know a few of my classmates and doing those assignments with them. The sense of achievement I got after completing all the courses was enormous. It’s something I feel proud of even now.
The sense of achievement I got after completing all the courses was enormous. It’s something I feel proud of even now.
PS: What opportunities do you hope the Professional Editing Standards Certificate will make available to you?
SJP: I hope it will increase my reliability and credibility quotient. I conduct training sessions annually on scientific writing for the researchers in my organization, and I hope my current portfolio will bring more students to my sessions. Also, I plan to appear for the Editors Canada Professional Certification tests next year, and I hope the Professional Editing Standards courses will help me to a great extent.
PS: What advice do you have for editors who are interested in taking the Professional Editing Standards courses?
SJP: I think it’s better to try the courses after gaining some experience in editing. Most course assignments would be easier if you have done some editing before. Also, I suggest doing one course at a time. That would help you concentrate more on an assignment. I did all of them at one go, and there were times when four of them were going on at the same time. Thinking back, it was fun, but it was a rollercoaster too.
PS: What’s next for you?
SJP: I started an Instagram account recently to give grammar and vocabulary lessons for non-native speakers of English. Being a non-native speaker of English myself, I feel I can help them more because I can empathize with them, know what they want, and with my experience and qualifications, provide what they need. So I plan to be more active on social media, build my profile, and help out authors, mainly in scientific fields.
I plan to try for the Editor’s Canada and Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) tests. I thought I wouldn’t be able to try for the Editors Canada’s Professional Certification tests, but they have recently opened test centres in remote locations, which is very helpful for editors like me who might find travelling to Canada difficult and expensive.
PS: Where can our readers find you?
SJP: I’m moderately active on LinkedIn (sharonjosephpaul), where I spend most of my time on editing forums and groups. I recently started accounts on Instagram (agirllovesgrammar) and Twitter (girlovesgrammar), where I create content and share language-related news.