Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

The benefits of travel for a proofreader and editor

Posted on 27th June 2017

As many of you know, I have been travelling and working since April 2016. I haven't blogged about this too much as it's largely business as usual for me and my clients, but I have lately been thinking about my fears before setting off and the cultural and linguistic impact of this lifestyle and thought I'd share some of these ideas.

What language-related fears did I have before setting off?

As a native English proofreader and editor, it is obviously essential that I keep abreast of developments in language. In the internet age, this is easier than perhaps 20 years ago, lugging dictionaries around and buying updated style guides every so often, but I didn't know what impact, if any, there would be on the more cultural side of English.

How do I stay up to date with my English?

To make sure I don't lose touch, I have a valid excuse for reading lots for pleasure, watching English-language TV and films, and participating in plenty of online forums. As seen with the recent Covfefe Twitter storm, online crowdsourced dictionaries can have 'definitions' up within minutes; maybe if a word isn't 'created' by the US President, it will take a little longer to enter the mainstream but this real-time updating of words and language online means it's easy to stay in touch.

Another positive spin: I've recently read lots of news stories about the waning importance of British English and though I can't personally see it not continuing to be used, especially as English is an official language for Malta and Ireland, it does raise the issue of a more 'international' English being used. For me to therefore be speaking to lots of people for whom English isn't their native language hopefully means I can understand more about their 'false friends' and why they use certain language and constructions and this will hopefully help me and my work. I loved seeing doors in Romania saying 'Impinge' (I didn't study Latin) so to connect impinge and push was quite the revelation!

What are the cultural benefits?

Even before I set off travelling on a longer-term basis, I was addicted to travel and holidays. Interestingly, a few years ago, I went on holiday to Japan and soon after, an author I work with wrote a book set in Japan (in the future so he had a certain degree of literary licence). The author had never been to Japan and was using websites, films and books for research, but when he sent me the file, knowing I'd recently been, he asked if I had any feedback on the cultural aspects. Although I was proofreading, I was happy to help with this and I pointed out a few key points that I didn't think worked in the Japanese context; editors can of course be asked to fact check but budgets and schedules are usually not enough for them to look up every nuanced detail so to have been to a country and seen first hand how certain things worked (or not) meant I was able to query certain elements for the author to then review.

A similar thing happened again recently when I was working on a book set in a snowy/icy land. I spent a large part of January and February in Norway and Finland so got used to a lot of snow, and the description used in the book didn't work as the way the snow and ice compact and affect how one walks wasn't how the author had put it. I was therefore able to query this, with personal experience as my reference, and the author could then decide how to proceed. Of course, many books are set in Britain but I feel that having lived there most of my life, and still going back regularly, I will keep on top of the cultural side of things.

Other business concerns and the reality

I might have worried about the overall impact on my clients but before finalising my plans, I asked a few regular clients how they would feel if I wasn't physically in the UK when working on their projects and none of them minded (in fact, most seemed very interested and enthusiastic). I have not been more than two hours ahead of the UK so far so I haven't had to deal with potentially inconvenient time differences, but even then, I don't envisage major issues. In fact, a big time difference could be a bonus: if a client is about to go home at 5pm and needs something editing by 9am, that might fit nicely with my standard office hours.

Of course, working on hard copy is not so easy (though not impossible), but I can count on one hand the number of clients I worked for on hard copy in the six years of running my freelance business from a home office in the UK. And going in-house isn't so easy either, though again, I only had one client I did that for and since being on the road, a few international clients have shown an interest in me going to their offices to offer training or to just meet the team.

As with any freelance business, there will always be potential hurdles but with some planning, decent internet connection and an open mind, I believe my current lifestyle can really enhance my editing and proofreading service.

Written by Kate Haigh.