Being an Ambassador: a Different Dimension

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What is an ambassador?

You can have ambassadors who are envoys for their country and you can have brand ambassadors who promote a brand. But the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders (CIEP) have voluntary ambassadors who represent the profession and help introduce others to editing and proofreading as well as encouraging engagement with the CIEP.

What are important skills for ambassadors?

Any ambassador would be expected to know a great deal about the thing they represent and it is not a role for a newbie or novice. Alongside this subject knowledge they should have a high level of professionalism and be interested in spreading awareness of what that professionalism means to stakeholders. This, as far as the CIEP is concerned, means that they are members and thereby follow the Code of Practice.

This set of standards, entitled Ensuring Editorial Excellence, covers both in-house and freelance professionals as well as their clients. It sets out relevant definitions to help with clear communication. Professional standards are detailed in relation to issues including working agreements, working relationships, confidentiality, legal issues, levels of work and loyalty. Different forms of editorial work are defined and materials and practices are covered which include online content, page mark-up, multimedia and project management. The Code of Practice goes on to set out advice and a wealth of information on training, finances, health and safety, contracts, copyright, data protection and British Standard Institution marks.

Furthermore, an ambassador is likely to be keen to meet with others, to raise the profile of the profession and to set clear and accurate expectations of the profession within a wider context. They will be passionate about their chosen specialisms and happy to discuss them.

An ideal skillset for the role includes ability at networking, strong interpersonal skills and some confidence with public speaking.

What do CIEP ambassadors do?

Ambassadors might be asked to attend local CIEP groups, perhaps get involved in discussions or give presentations. Each ambassador will have particular subject expertise depending on their experience and background. The groups they address are often not CIEP members but may have a particular interest in publishing, writing or collaboration.

During 2018, as an ambassador for the CIEP, at that time known as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), I attended a two-day conference of the Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MaWSIG) at Oxford Brookes University. This group is a specialist section of the International Association of Teachers of English (IATEFL). As a group which includes many professional writers and professionals who write, they were interested to hear about editing and proofreading professionals and their organization. Several of the delegates were also SfEP members but others had not heard of the group before. Many of the delegates were considering how materials they had created for their own lessons might be shaped either for sharing with their work colleagues or as publishable resources to be shared more widely.

What’s a cauliflower got to do with it?

At the conference presenter Johanna Stirling proposed that teaching materials were becoming too strongly focused on testing. She stressed the need to move learning forward in interesting ways rather than just assessing current knowledge.

There was a lively talk by Fiona Mauchline about designing material for teens and adults entitled, ‘Not rocket science but brain science’. Speaking spoke enthusiastically, she waved a halved cauliflower to represent the brain and discussed how being aware of how the brain works helps with creating engaging, motivating and memorable materials. Her understanding of memory, and how memories are made, led her to urge teachers to go beyond language, language acquisition and methodology and to incorporate creativity and fun within their materials and within their lessons. She described these as valid and desirable, exhorting teachers to include creativity and fun as it would lead to greater retention. She stated that ‘if you use sensory stimuli to encourage an emotional response, you facilitate learning’.

The final session by Jon Hird, ‘Adapting texts for ELT: intuition, analysis and authenticity’ included a look at the importance of sensitivity. There is a risk or reducing authenticity when texts are altered. This thought-provoking presentation included some amusing adaptations of original texts which had been changed to avoid, in some cases, copyright infringement.

Jennifer Dobson and Michelle Worgan presented a session, ‘Giving up the day job – a double-edged sword’, in which they pointed out the pros and cons of leaving the teaching profession to write materials full time. They discussed some pitfalls of working as a freelancer, both full and part time, and stressed the importance of maintaining close links with the profession.

As a CIEP ambassador I have become a regular visiting speaker at Roehampton University, on the MA in Publishing course, in their School of Humanities. The thriving course is led by the author of A Poetics of Editing, Dr Susan Greenberg. It is a relatively new postgraduate course designed for students seeking a career in the publishing industry. The course can be studies full time for a year or part time for two years.

One of the optional modules presented to students is Dimensions of Editing. This takes a practical look at different editorial services and gives an insight into how the processes vary when carried out on hard copy and digital manuscripts. Although this is usually an in-person event, due to the Coronavirus pandemic it was held online in 2020–2021.

Being a professional body ambassador has led to meeting interesting people involved with words, writing, teaching and publishing. There have been some engaging discussions which have enriched my continued professional development in a dynamic and fascinating business.

Reference:

Fiona Mauchline, 6 June 2018 ‘Fun, Fun, creativity, imagination… What do secondary language learners really need?’ [Accessed 25-01-21] https://yltsig.iatefl.org/2018/06/06/fun-creativity-imagination-what-do-secondary-language-learners-really-need/

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