Ethical Issues in Editing: What the Professional Standards Say

Ethical Issues in Editing: What the Professional Standards Say

Professional editing is about more than fixing grammar and plot holes. Professional organizations like EC, CIEP and IPEd (see the sources list at the end) all convey the standards that professional editors are held to in practice. This post rounds up their expectations as well as some unofficial guidance from other orgs for publishing pros as they relate to ethical issues in publishing. In the coming posts, I’ll round up issues these orgs don’t address, such as promising perfection, cultural appropriation, whether AI can/should be used and how/whether to credit it, and when to reject work you don’t agree with or think is ready.

The standards quoted below are roughly grouped by topic. Click a topic to expand it and see the related standards from professional editing organizations. Wordings have been shortened to fit. It’s a work in progress!

Understanding of Related Laws

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Generally” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

EC: A9 Identify and address legal and ethical problems — …dimensions of the publishing process, at the earliest possible opportunity….

IPEd: Professionalism and competence — comply with IPEd’s Constitution and this Code of Ethics

IPEd: Respect for IPEd, its principles and its members uphold the reputation of IPEd, and maintain a supportive public attitude towards IPEd and the editing industry in general not make statements claiming to represent the views of IPEd without IPEd’s consent.

IPEd: A4 Legal and ethical matters — …alert the publisher at the earliest opportunity to any possible legal problems…

IPEd: Professionalism and competence — perform work in accordance with the principles and practices of the Australian Consumer Law and any other applicable federal, state and territory legislation

COPE: Post-publication discussions and corrections — …have mechanisms for correcting, revising or retracting articles after publication

COPE: Ethical oversight — …policies on consent, …vulnerable populations, …research using animals… human subjects, handling confidential data and ethical business/marketing practices

COPE: Allegations of misconduct — …clearly described process for handling allegations …take seriously…. Policies …to handle …whistleblowers.

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Copyright, Libel, Obscenity, etc.” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

EC: A5 Know the legal and ethical requirements pertaining to publishing—Understand that an editor is part of a process with legal and ethical dimensions.

EC: A5.1 Understand the legal dimensions of the publishing process, including the fundamental concepts of copyright (e.g., ownership of works, public domain, licensing, moral rights), plagiarism, libel, obscenity, privacy protection, and related matters.

EC: A9.1 Identify and either resolve or flag possible instances of legal problems (e.g., copyright infringement, plagiarism, libel, obscenity, privacy violations) or ethical problems (e.g., breaches of the requirements for confidentiality and privacy).

IPEd: A4.1 …Includes libel, defamation, obscenity, discriminatory language, cultural sensitivity, intellectual property, plagiarism, moral rights and copyright, privacy and confidentiality, visibility of material, the ease with which material can be copied and republished in other formats, and different copyright protections available in Australia and other countries.

CIEP: 3.1.3 Legal issues — …be familiar with the main provisions of current relevant legislation, and any [CIEP] policies …relating to libel, obscenity, blasphemy, incitement to racial hatred, plagiarism and the reproduction of copyright material…. ensure … provisions are adhered to and bring any suspected infringement to the attention of the client.

CIEP: 5.4.19 Legal issues — Report …evidence or suspicion of …contravening the laws regarding libel, obscenity, blasphemy, incitement to racial hatred or plagiarism.

CMOS17: Shop Talk about the Ethics of Blurb Editing.

CMOS17: II.14.1: The purpose of source citations; Shop Talk about plagiarism.

CP: See sections on Big and breaking news(several), Copyright (several), Corrections and Correctives (several), Cause of death, Freedom of information laws, Libel, Obscenity, and other topical mentions throughout.

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

Social Justice

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Confidentiality, Bias, Racism & the Like” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

EC: A5.2 Understand the ethical dimensions of the publishing process (e.g., the need to address biased, non-inclusive, and offensive material and the need to respect confidentiality and privacy).

EC: A9.2 Identify and either remove, amend, flag, or document potentially biased, non-inclusive, and offensive material (e.g., racist, sexist, culturally stereotyped assumptions or content).

EC: Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Student Texts — Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Undergraduate Student Texts; Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Graduate Student Texts

IPEd: A1.5 Professional ethics — Includes objectivity, confidentiality, conflict of interest and implications for editing academic material such as theses. ([see] ‘Guidelines for editing research theses’.)

IPEd: A4.6 When it is appropriate to remove, amend or flag potentially biased, non-inclusive or offensive material.

IPEd Code: Respect for confidentiality — maintain and respect client confidentiality not disclose information acquired during the course of professional work except when authorized to do so.

CIEP: 2.18 general knowledge – …be aware of controversy

CIEP: A4.2 When legal advice on implications for publishing should be sought. Includes legislation relating to copyright and digital rights; trade practices and trademarks; privacy and freedom of information; social justice, access and equity; sub judice matters; and parliamentary privilege. 

CMOS17: II.5.254: Bias and the editor’s responsibility (as well as sections II.5.251–260); parts of II.11: Languages Other than English; and (to date): Shop Talks about dead naming and citing AI use.

CP: See sections on Principles, Ethical behaviour, Sensitive subjects, Ethics and sources, Diverse sources, Taste and tough calls

APA: Ethical Compliance Checklist — …protected the confidentiality of research participants, clients–patients, organizations, [etc.]…

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Conflicts of Interest” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

IPEd Code: …conduct themselves with: integrity, professionalism and competence, respect for confidentiality, respect for conflicts of interest, respect for IPEd, its principles and its members.

IPEd: Respect for conflicts of interest — openly declare potential conflicts of interest, and undertake work only where conflicts of interest will not actually or potentially threaten the integrity of their work.

COPE: Conflicts of interest / Competing interests — …clear definitions …and processes for handling …before or after publication

APA: Figure 8.3. APA Disclosure of Interests Form

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

Professional Qualifications & Knowledge

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Editors & Publication Process” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

EC: A5.3 Understand the editor’s roles and responsibilities … address… related issues…

EC: A1.1 Understand the stages of a project, the typical roles and responsibilities of a production team, and the editor’s place in the publishing process.

IPEd: A1.7 The need for ongoing professional development. …ensure that they have the skills, training and experience necessary …when they need to acquire and apply specialised knowledge from other sources or professions. …    

IPEd: A3.5 Stages of the editing and proofreading process, including which stages need to be repeated to ensure consistency.

IPEd: A2.5 Respective roles of editor, author and client in decision making. … 

IPEd: 3.1.2 Continuing professional development (CPD) — …maintain, improve and update their skills and knowledge, especially where new technology creates changes in publishing practice. …

CIEP: 1.3 understand publishing workflow and production – who does what, when and how, and how this may differ among non-publishers, self-publishers, journals and others

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Knowledge” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

IPEd: Professionalism and competence — maintain a working knowledge of the Australian standards for editing practice and adhere to those standards

IPEd: Professionalism and competence — maintain and update their skills through ongoing professional development.

IPEd: A1.7 The need for ongoing professional development. …ensure that they have the skills, training and experience necessary …when they need to acquire and apply specialised knowledge from other sources or professions. …

IPEd: 3.1.2 Continuing professional development (CPD) — …maintain, improve and update their skills and knowledge, especially where new technology creates changes in publishing practice. …

CIEP: 5.1.1 Application of general editing [5.2.1 …proofreading] skills — …ensure …they are competent to fulfil the expectations implied by the use of the words ‘editor’ and ‘copy-editor’ [proofreader]. …appropriate, secure, up-to-date computer and communications equipment and software….

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Work Practices” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

These are only those points which might be considered ethics related; the guides are much more detailed:

EC: A12 Introduce no new errors—Make all changes without altering intended meaning or introducing errors.

EC: A11 Ensure edits are clearly communicated …Manage files and documents methodically.

EC: E2  Adhere to the editorial style sheet for the material and update it, if necessary. If no style sheet is provided, prepare one and update it as proofreading progresses.

IPEd: E2.1 An editing style sheet specific to the publication to ensure a consistent approach…

IPEd: Integrity — conduct all work with honesty, integrity and objectivity, and in good faith
accurately represent their qualifications
, training and experience.

CIEP: 1.17 are aware of the typical elements of a house style – what can be expected, what is usually essential …and can extend or create a systematic style sheet for a specific job 

CIEP: 5.4.8 [intelligibly] Raise queries for the author…

CIEP: 2.3 typical styles/variations, … understand and apply coding …and cues …to follow [or] create a style sheet or house style

CIEP: 3.1.9 Original material and records — …ensure the safe keeping of documents and …use the method of dispatch suggested by the client. …keep copies of query lists and important correspondence …for at least six months after publication….

APA: Ethical principles of publication forbid any intentional misrepresentation of images in exactly the same way that fraudulent data manipulation is forbidden.

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Clear Communication” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

EC: A7 Set and maintain a realistic schedule—Set realistic schedules and meet deadlines…

EC: A11.3 Communicate clearly and tactfully with team members at all stages.

EC: A8.1 Determine the extent of the edit to be applied: the stage or stages …and the level of edit…. Use editorial judgment when deciding whether to intervene, leave as is, query, change, or recommend a change.

CIEP: 2.24 …(when, what and how) and how many queries…; judging how and when to [look it up], and …trust the results; …alerting client to problems of content 

IPEd: Professionalism and competence — communicate respectfully with clients, editorial colleagues…

IPEd: B3.1 The project’s progress against budget, schedule, scope of work and required quality.

IPEd: A2 …communicate clearly and diplomatically with clients and colleagues. …

IPEd: A2.6 Negotiation techniques to apply when differences of opinion occur, and understanding of when to bring in an appropriate arbiter.

CIEP: 1.5 communicate well – responding promptly, raising queries or problems as soon as they become obvious, taking care to communicate politely in a sufficiently clear, detailed, comprehensive and timely way, avoiding errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation

CIEP: 2.4 know how to collaborate – with good practice in communication, consideration for others and responsibility in meeting requirements

CIEP: 3.1.7 Presentation of work — …present their work in a professional manner consistent either with normal trade practice or with a convention agreed with the client. …

CIEP: 3.1.10 Communication — …keep clients informed of their availability…. Urgent communications should be made by telephone….

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

Business Practices

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Generally” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

CIEP: 1.7 …manage …time successfully – understand and respect [interaction of] schedules and budgets.

CIEP: 3.1.6 Responsibility to clients — …making the best use of the time available …to the required standard within …schedule….

CIEP: 3.1.12 Subcontracting — …not subcontract work to others without the knowledge and consent of the client. …remain responsible for the terms …and …quality ….

CIEP: 3.1.13 Independence — …take full responsibility for …their businesses …taxes…. make their self-employed or limited company status known to clients.

CIEP: 3.4.4 Relating to documents — …ensure the safe keeping and subsequent disposal or return of confidential documents….

EFA: Ch1.Client-Freelancer Relationship — billing the client fairly and accurately, according to the agreed-upon terms, keeping confidential …resolve problems fairly

EFA: Ch2.Guidelines for Fees — Specific Fees,Rush Fees. …may, with the client’s knowledge, subcontract all or part of the project….

EFA: Ch3.Guidelines for Project Terms, Subcontracting, Disclosure — …subcontract work to another freelancer indicates this prospect in negotiations and in the contract with the client.

EFA: Ch2.Guidelines for Fees — Specific Fees,Rush Fees. …might also cancel a project because of a violation of professional standards [or being not ready for editing]

EFA: Ch3.Guidelines for Project Terms, Schedules and Estimates — ensure that the job can be completed comfortably within the time available, [with…] other jobs …anticipated delays, and …unexpected problems.

EFA: Ch3.Guidelines for Project Terms, Scope of Work — Both [client and freelancer] can expect that schedule and budget estimates might need revision …during the early stages….

EFA: Ch3.Guidelines for Project Terms, Location of Work — On-site freelancers also need to offset the cost, in both time and money, of commuting to the client’s office on a regular basis.

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Marketing & Promotion” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

IPEd: Integrity — conduct all work with honesty, integrity and objectivity, and in good faith accurately represent their qualifications, training and experience.

IPEd: A1.6 Standard business practices in the publishing and communication industries, whether as a freelancer or as an in-house editor responsible for contracting work. Includes knowledge of acceptable rates and methods of quoting; types of contracts and conditions; and the different types of insurance that may be required (such as public liability and professional indemnity) and the circumstances under which insurance may or may not be necessary.

CIEP: 3.1.4 Self-promotion — …give a true and fair representation of their qualifications, experience and skills….

EFA: Ch1.Client-Freelancer Relationship — The editorial freelancer is responsible for: accurately representing skills, knowledge, and background agreeing only to terms that the freelancer believes to be feasible informing the client of any problems that arise, especially those involving changes in schedule or budget

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

Sources

In addition to the professional organizations, most style guides (even those aimed primarily at writers or publishers) contain ethical considerations. These are included below.

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Professional Editor/Publisher Organizations” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

[ms_accordion style=”boxed” type=”1″ class=”” id=””] [ms_accordion_item title=”Style Guides” color=”#333333″ background_color=”#ffffff” close_icon=”” open_icon=”” status=”close”]

  • Canadian Press (CP)
  • Associated Press (AP [USA])
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS17)

[/ms_accordion_item] [/ms_accordion]

Image by David “FunkyFocus” from Pixabay

One thought on “Ethical Issues in Editing: What the Professional Standards Say

Leave a Reply