Debating accreditation: This was the title of a contribution by the PEG newsletter editor at the time, André Snyders, in the edition dated November 2007. How far we have come. And how long it has taken!

Copy of PEG newsletter November 2007

Sixteen years on, the questions regarding whether or not we need to be accredited or regulated still persist. The South Africa Language Practitioners’ Council Act was established as far back as 2014 to, among other aims, promote and protect language practice in South Africa, accredit language practitioners, regulate the provision of language services to members of the public and protect members of the public who use the services of language practitioners.

More recently, Prof. Ralarala was appointed chairperson of the South African Language Practitioners Council. He said that professional language practitioners played a crucial role in various sectors of society and he emphasised that accreditation for these professionals was important. He added that the language profession should be given the status it deserved, just like any other profession.

We decided to ask several PEG members their opinions on PEG’s Accreditation Scheme and the Accreditation Test. Their responses are captured below:

Question 1 

As a professional editor, what is your opinion on PEG’s Accreditation Scheme and the mandatory requirement from 1 March 2024 for all members to accumulate proof of commitment to continuing professional development (CPD)?

Continuing professional development is a good principle but should not be mandatory. It may be a means of achieving membership and advanced grading, but should be at the discretion of members. Broadening of the scope of training should be sought. I know members may be rather passive in this regard. The possibility of CPD in other fields that relate to editing work should be considered … Trusting that the initiative and my input will contribute to the development of the Guild, without serving the desire by bureaucrats to control and stifle free speech.

I feel that the accreditation scheme adds weight to an editor’s reliability. Most other professions require their people to be accredited in one way or another (e.g. HSRC [Human Sciences Research Council] for healthcare practitioners, SACE [South African Council for Educators] for teachers, etc.). In addition, these professions require members to accumulate CPD points to make sure that there is self-development and that members (and their skills) stay up-to-date. This results in professionals remaining relevant to/in the industry and producing better results as practitioners. I know that I still have a lot to learn, which makes accumulating CPD points a by-product of improving my skills. At the moment, anyone can call themselves an editor and, to some extent, this puts the work of accredited/professional editors at risk as those who aren’t accredited haven’t been assessed to ensure that they produce good results. The accreditation process can seem arduous, but it really is worthwhile, even if it’s just as a confirmation to yourself that you know what you’re doing (and thus puts imposter syndrome at rest).

Granted, we are not a certifying/licencing body (eg the Health Professions Council or Council of Educators), but if we are aiming to raise our profile as a professional body (and the SALPC Act ever in the back of our minds), then we need to start somewhere. It raises the profile of all members and the Guild itself. We (PEG) can state in our publicity materials that all of our current members adhere to a CPD requirement. We therefore need to continue to make a clear distinction between the mandatory CPD hours as of the next membership near and voluntary (at this stage) accreditation. Different types of training appeal to people at different life and career stages – be it core editing skills, new referencing styles, business skills, expanding one’s tech skills, ‘unlearning’ zombie rules and keeping up with modern usage. So there should always be something on offer that you can benefit from! It is about an attitude of lifelong learning. I guess this is easy for me to say at the ripe young age of 37 years (and even younger in terms of my editing career), but old dogs can still learn new tricks!

Question 2 

You are a PEG Accredited Text Editor (ATE), having passed the Accreditation Test with a minimum of 80%. What does this mean for you as an editor/language practitioner?

After having passed the ATE exam there have been a couple of instances in which I felt that having accredited status (with the PEG signature indicating such) new or referred clients who were possibly a bit unsure about me were willing to take the leap on the basis of my ATE status.  In another case, there was a change of director at the business school department I’d worked for for ages and, prior to using ‘old’ (!) service providers, the new director decided to reassess each one.  In that case, I heard from a staff member in the department that my ATE status coupled with reference checking clinched the deal. So, to sum up, ATE is useful for completely new or referred clients and, in cases of leadership changes, with long-standing clients.

I am really glad that I passed the exam and that I am an Accredited Text Editor. It has boosted my confidence and has helped with overcoming that ‘imposter syndrome’ by knowing that my knowledge and work is of a higher standard and at an accredited level. It is good to have the accreditation on my CV, especially for clients who ask about my qualifications. There are a lot of editors out there – some with a wealth of experience, and others who are editing without much experience. Either way, it is good that all members of PEG will have to keep up continued professional development from next year. The ATE is an excellent way of setting a strong standard in the industry, and will hopefully help with getting more work.

Passing the PEG accreditation test has significantly reduced my level of imposter syndrome, boosted my confidence in my editing skills and abilities and, consequently, also increased my confidence in marketing myself. I haven’t had anyone approach me for my services because I am an ATE, so the benefits for me are more personal ones.

Question 3

You are a PEG ATE who passed the test after having been unsuccessful the first time. What made you persist and earn the accreditation status?

I persisted because I wanted an external benchmark to prove to myself and to others that I am a top-notch editor. It came as a shock to fail the first time, but it was a necessary learning experience since I discovered a weak spot (formal grammar). I was able to work specifically on that in the interim, and then I passed. So the fail worked as a prod to really knuckle down and work with a purpose, rather than live with the internal status of failure.

I decided to rewrite the test because a setback shouldn’t stop me from pursuing my goals; it is recognised proof of competency and an ATE status means I can justify higher rates.

Question 4

You wrote the Accreditation Test but were unsuccessful. What is your perspective on this and has it had an impact on your work and identity as an editor?

I was one of those who wrote the test and found it difficult in that many of the tasks were often hidden in grammatical rules. My editing has been based on the sense of English as she flows, a very auditory approach (it doesn’t sound right). In doing my read over the test when I’d found I hadn’t achieved, I was able to do much of the test to the same level as originally but discovered that I needed to get back into grammar, something I hadn’t done in English since a primary school learner. With my discovery of linguistics, my interest in grammar fell away so much of my editing often with second-language English writers was based in an African way on the sound a sentence makes.

I think I would wait until the test becomes mandatory.

Question 5

You have decided not to write PEG’s Accreditation Test. What are your reasons for this?

There are many reasons why I would rather not sit the test. Just one is that I am a very poor examinee. Others are that I am pretty old (75) and do I really want my self-confidence knocked (which will undoubtedly be the case as often I have to guess the placement of commas and the use of prepositions, English being what it is)? I am pretty old fashioned … in many of my approaches to language, but all my clients (mostly repeats) must be happy with me, otherwise I would not be kept as meaningfully busy as I am. … I do not tout for business, I have no qualms about charging a good rate for what I do. I send an editing brief to newbies who approach me, giving details of my rates and if they accept them, well and good. If not, I get on with something else.

I decided not to register for the 2022 test in order (1) not to put myself under the same kind of pressure as in 2021, and (2) to give the accreditation team time to sort out the glitches that had been recognised in the first couple of rounds with (for example) the range of questions. This year I revisited the matter, and decided that, given my age and the fact that I do not depend on my editing income to survive, but rather see it as a way to serve others that brings in some useful income to supplement my pension, I would not seek to become an ATE. Instead, I regard my membership of and active involvement in PEG as a good enough basis for offering a professional service. To enhance that, I’d like to seek full membership of PEG, and will most likely apply to join the mentorship programme as part of that process.

Question 6

You are hoping to write the Accreditation Test. What are your reasons for not having done so yet?

I am very interested in writing the accreditation test. However, I have never been able to attend any of the ‘prep’ workshops. They are long and usually at times when I am not available. So logistics is my issue, mainly. I have a recording of one of those workshops, but it doesn’t really benefit if I’ve missed out on the previous ones, right? If there was some sort of workgroup that I could turn to / work with (like an old-school study group), that would be a much better option for me. So, while it may seem that I have no interest, I really do.

 It has been a busy year for me as I was doing a PEG mentorship this year and an Academic Editing course with a university. So I didn’t want to take on the exam and make a half-hearted attempt at it. Plus I wanted to gain some practical experience and the volunteer work at PEG is helping me achieve that. It’s definitely my plan for next year. 

Accreditation: Current status

As it stands, the opinion on accreditation in PEG as a professional organisation still seems to remain somewhat conflictual or misunderstood. Aside from the opinions expressed above, some PEG members have voiced concern about having to accumulate hours of continuing professional development (CPD) from 1 March 2024 when this is not yet a statutory requirement. Others who have achieved PEG Accredited Text Editor (ATE) status are wondering about the ways in which they can accumulate 20 hours of CPD a year to retain their titles as ATEs. Many members have not understood the need for or value of continuing professional development.

PEG has a range of offerings accessible to members to ensure professional reputation and credibility through commitment to minimum standards of editing practice. Our website page on Accreditation explains the scheme in more detail and the Webinar page will give you the programme of upcoming opportunities for professional development. Members can download a table that helps identify activities for CPD hours and a spreadsheet that will help them to keep track from our website page on CPD.

In our pursuit to maintain high standards of copy editing and proofreading, and to uphold our professional status, there can be no doubt that PEG’s Accreditation Scheme has been significant in its contribution to these objectives. Members will be required to accumulate 20 hours of CPD annually from 1 March 2024, but taking the Accreditation Test will remain optional. It seems that there is no longer a debate – just the requirement to commit.

Published on: Oct 3, 2023

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The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About PEG members in collaboration

A number of PEG members were asked to contribute to this post. We have included the contributions anonymously of all who responded and value their honesty about PEG’s Accreditation Scheme.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.