Last evening’s EAC-BC meeting featured a presentation by my fellow Certification Steering Committee members Ann-Marie Metten, Lana Okerlund, and Anne Brennan about dispelling the myths surrounding EAC’s certification program. I started off trying to take some notes so that I could post them here but found that I wasn’t engaged in the same way as I was for some past sessions, because I wasn’t hearing anything I hadn’t heard before and, of course, I’d already been through the process. So perhaps the best way I can contribute to the discussion is to say a few things about my experience and offer some (unabashedly biased) thoughts about the certification program.
When I began working in book publishing, my mentors at D&M Publishers were Nancy Flight and Lucy Kenward—unquestionably two of the best editors in the country. That position gave me extraordinary training and a deep respect for high editorial standards. But it was also enough to give me a serious case of impostor syndrome. A few years in, I wanted to prove—mostly to myself but also to my employer—that I was worth my salt as an editor, and the certification program provided a terrific opportunity to validate my skills.
I feel fortunate that I had experience working in an intense in-house environment in book publishing: I did all of my proofreading and much of my copy editing on paper, meaning I was very familiar with markup, and I dealt day to day with other members of the publishing team and so felt I had a solid grounding in the publishing process. I hear from other certified editors who had never worked in a publishing house that those were two of the most challenging aspects of the certification tests for them.
So I signed up for the knowledge of publishing process and the copy-editing tests (when they were divided that way) in 2008. I worked through the copy-editing study guide, reviewed the Professional Editorial Standards, read through Editing Canadian English, and over a few weeks ended up reading Chicago cover to cover (and in the process discovered stuff I’d been doing wrong for years!).
That year was the first time the certification program offered the structural and stylistic test, and I didn’t feel up to it quite yet. In 2009, knowing that only five candidates had passed that exam the previous year, I registered for it (along with the proofreading test) but mentally prepared myself to write it twice if I needed to; I was fully expecting to fail the first time and was going to use that as a learning experience in preparing for my second kick at the can. As luck would have it, I didn’t need one, and I attained my Certified Professional Editor designation in spring 2010.
To prepare for my last two tests, I again worked through the respective study guides and reread the Professional Editorial Standards. Nervous about the structural and stylistic test, I also dedicated time to doing the substantive editing exercises in Meeting Editorial Standards (now Meeting Professional Editorial Standards) and, on Nancy Flight’s recommendation, read Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams—an extraordinarily lucid read that I would highly recommend. If I had to offer any advice to prospective certification candidates, it would be:
- to know the Professional Editorial Standards. This is key, as the exams are made to test those specific competencies.
- to work through the study guides, which are very good exemplars of the tests. In each of them you get not only a practice test and a marking guide but also a sample test of a candidate that had passed the test and another that had failed, allowing you to get a good sense of what to prioritize.
I wish I’d internalized more from the experience (particularly the reading of Chicago, for example), but I can say that the process of studying for certification certainly made me a more conscientious, attentive editor. One of my colleagues asked me why, as an in-house editor, I decided to become certified, since I couldn’t really capitalize on the marketing advantage of being a CPE. At that point, my role in the company had grown from simply editing to developing editorial systems and communicating with freelancers. Being certified gave me the confidence to talk to our freelance editors—some of them veterans of the profession—as their equal. And now that I’ve gone freelance, I am that much more grateful that I’ve gone through the process and can easily prove to prospective clients that I am offering good value.
My commitment to the certification program runs deep; I have a vested interest in seeing my designation retain its value. I was involved in developing the framework for credential maintenance, and I’m now a member of the Certification Steering Committee. Although I’m not required to do any credential maintenance activities, I will anyway, because certification, to me, is not an end-point—it’s an extra motivator to keep learning.
If you’re considering certification and have any questions about my experiences or about the program, feel free to get in touch with me, and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my abilities.