Crossing the Pond: One Editor’s Transition from Canada to the UK

by Melissa MacAulay

Published at 2016-11-24


The past few years in Toronto have been very eventful for me: I've defended my PhD thesis, got married, started my freelance editing career, and had a baby! As it turns out, the adventure isn't ending there. In the New Year, my family and I will be crossing the Atlantic to move to the UK.


In addition to getting used to driving on the left side of the road, I'll soon be studying up on how to push ahead with my freelance editing business over in the Old Country. Here's what I've found out so far!


Being an Editor in the UK

As it turns out, there is an extensive and collegial community of freelance editors based in the UK. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders, for starters, is the UK’s answer to Editors Canada, offering similar membership perks such as job listings, online forums, and professional development courses and seminars. (A UK address isn’t required to join the SfEP, so even Canadian editors can take advantage of these benefits!)


The SfEP, like Editors Canada, runs an annual conference for editors of all kinds. Held in September, this conference includes panel discussions, lectures, and other activities aimed at developing editors’ editorial skills and business acumen. It isn’t clear where the conference will be hosted in 2017, but the dates have been marked on my calendar already! 


Editing British English

Previous blog posts from TEC have touched on some of the differences between Canadian and British English. Professional editors who have never edited British English before will naturally have some reservations before they start: Just how different is it? What style guides will I need? Will I need to completely re-train myself?


Luckily, the differences between Canadian and British English aren’t so worrisome.


Spelling differences: As we know, Canadians have maintained British spelling in many instances. For instance, think of the “u” in “colour” and “honour,” which has been dropped by our American neighbors – or neighbours, rather – to the south. Some of our spelling trends, however, come from the Americans, such as the use of “z” rather than “s” in words like “recognize,” or, appropriately enough, “Americanize.”


Lexical differences: Of course, the British lexicon can be quite different to the Canadian one – particularly in areas of the UK where idiosyncratic dialects have developed, such as Glasgow or Newcastle. When in the UK, my (half-British) son wears “nappies” not diapers, sleeps in a “cot” rather than a crib, and takes his walks in a “pram” rather than a stroller.


Punctuation differences: Canadians (and Americans) are more likely to place punctuation marks such as periods or commas inside quotation marks, whereas British English tends to place them outside. British English also tends to omit periods after titles such as “Mr,” “Mrs,” or “Dr.”


These are only a few of the differences between British and Canadian English. Still, the challenges presented to non-British editors can be readily met – especially since an essential skill for any editor is adapting to different style guides and reference systems. 


Turrah for Now!

Moving to the UK will no doubt bring about many changes to my life, both personally and professionally. But never fear! Although I’ll be settled in Old Blighty for the foreseeable, I don’t intend to sever ties with my Canadian clients and colleagues – especially those at TEC! I’ll be keeping you all posted on editorial life in the UK.