Breville: Why do you need my date of birth?

May 14, 2015

I bought a new slow cooker the other day. I usually register such products, either via the little card they provide in the packaging, or, more recently, via their online registration form as the little card seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

And so it was with Breville. I started their online registration process and was stunned to find that they wanted my date of birth. Now, why would an appliance company want my date of birth? I can understand them wanting an age range (e.g. 35 to 50), or even perhaps a year of birth for ‘marketing purposes’, but the full date? What’s up with that? And it was a mandatory field too. If I remember correctly, manufacturers don’t ask for date of birth on registration cards, so why ask it online? So I gave them an incorrect date.

Even more surprising, though, was the drop-down selection list of birth years. Instead of placing the focus in the middle of the list, or at the most recent year, they had it at the beginning of the list, which started at 1900!!! Breville_age There are probably only about 10 people in the entire world still alive today who were born in 1900, and none of them live in Australia (Australia’s oldest resident is 112), let alone are out buying a new Breville appliance and registering it online. Yet here was Breville Australia listing years of birth from 1900 onwards. As you can imagine, it took a lot of scrolling to get to my fake year of birth ;-)

As far as user experience went, this was a fail in two ways, Breville:

  • requiring my full date of birth to register a product (I immediately suspect identity theft when a company that has no need for this information requires it)
  • starting the selection list for year of birth at a date (1900) that predates the year of birth for almost 7 billion people on this planet.

PowerPoint: Apply a template

April 15, 2015

Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT) doesn’t use templates like Microsoft Word does. You can’t just ‘apply’ an existing template to a deck of PPT slides and assume that all the styles and formatting will automatically update. Sure, you can do things with Master Slides and format painter for individual slides (see the links at the end of the article for some of these techniques), as well as some global things with themes, colors, fonts etc.

But if you’re working in an organization and they have dictated that you now have to use a new ‘template’, how do you easily convert your legacy PPT slide decks to the new ‘look and feel’? I was asked this question and went looking for an answer, and in the process I found a ‘reuse slide’ feature in PPT I didn’t know existed, which, for the most part, applies the new look and feel to an existing slide deck with almost no effort on your part.

Before you start, you should have the organization’s new PPT ‘template’ loaded onto your computer, or know where to find it on the network. In the instructions below, I’ll use a sample template provided with PPT, and one of my own slide decks. In your case, you’ll use your own template and your own slide decks.

  1. Open PowerPoint.
  2. Go to File > New.
  3. I then opened Sample Templates (you will likely open ‘My templates’), and selected one of the samples.
  4. Once the slide deck is open in PPT, click the drop-down arrow next to New Slide and select Reuse Slides.
  5. A panel opens on the far right of the PPT window. Click Browse, then select Browse File.
  6. Navigate to the old slide deck you want to ‘convert’ to the new template, and click Open. The slides are shown as thumbnails in the right panel.
  7. Right-click in the right panel, and select Insert All Slides.
  8. All your slides are immediately added to the new PPT presentation and that presentation’s ‘template’ is applied to them all. You can compare thumbnails in the panels on either side of the main window to see how your presentation has changed.
  9. Delete any unwanted slides, then save your ‘new’ presentation.


  • As with any such conversion, please check ALL slides after you have changed them to the new look t make sure everything has been captured correctly. I noticed a couple of slides that didn’t convert — I’d added a graphic as a background to these ones, so would have to fix that.
  • Don’t forget to delete all the unwanted ‘placeholder’ slides from the template you used, and then save your work.

See also:

[Links last checked April 2015]


ACES 2015: Pittsburgh: Day 3: Friday 28 March

March 29, 2015

These are my notes from the sessions I attended at the American Copy Editors’ Society (ACES) annual conference (2015: Pittsburgh). They are MY opinion and reflect no-one else’s opinion.


Beyond the plain language edit (Claire  Foley,  Tracy Torchetti)

42% Canadians have low literacy skills

Aging population affects literacy too (read,  remember, act)

Diverse society – immigrants,  English not always first language

How are your readers reading? Laptops,  tablets,  phone, background noise,  multitasking,  visual ability, cognitive ability, in stressful situations

There is no perfect reader!

Plain language looks at message from readers point of view.

Writing clearly,  clear organisation and layout,  reader centred writing

(see slides for basic writing techniques,  formatting and style, readability best practices, readability formulas (not reliable indicators of readability, but do have some benefits), punctuation, contractions, parentheses, numbers, dates, percent vs frequency, fractions, ESL perspective)

(good speakers,  worked well in tandem,  good examples)

Fast facelifts for copy (Merrill Perlman)

It’s all about the audience.

Causing the audience to stop and/or back up is bad – you need to smooth out the wrinkles.

When you see an ‘-ing’ word,  ask WHO is doing it.

Editors are like male dogs – we have a desire to show we’ve been there!

Put the familiar before the unfamiliar.

We are all HOEs – human optimisation engines.

Finish one thought before starting another.

Limit the use of dashes.

Don’t edit a quote with brackets or ellipses.

Always start with the easy fix.

Say it once.  One time only. A single time.

Addition and subtraction don’t belong in quotes.

Use only the instruments you need

Merrill’s 3 rules of editing :

  • Do no harm
  • If you can’t explain why you want to change something, you can’t change it
  • No surprises

(engaging speaker,  great examples)

Proofreading : catch mistakes before they cause a crisis (John Braun,  Sherri Voss-Matthews,  Sherri Hilldebrandt)

Proofreading is more detail-oriented than editing (see slides)

Fresh eyes are a good thing.

Catch things other don’t catch to become a sharp-eyed editor — and a genius!

Learn basic percentages and maths you need to know to be able to spot a problem.

Beyond print: use checklists for Web,  social media, video, promotional material etc.

Take nothing for granted, pay attention to everything, don’t trust spell checkers, don’t be afraid to speak up, know your weaknesses, know your experts, listen to the voice in your head,  read in reverse.

(great examples of boo-boos)

LUCIA: shedding the light on editing government reports (Laura Cameron)

Long,  short,  even automated reports.

Multiple authors trying to be one voice.

Auditors have to follow standards in performance audit report writing.

Audit reports have varied audiences but bottom line is the audience is the audited agency.

Audit description (1 to 2 pages):

  • What’s the problem
  • What’s the objective of the work
  • What’s in and out of scope
  • Why do it now

Are there words to watch out for? (adequate, consistent, independent and impartial, accurate and complete)

Field work is when auditors gather data. Results in field work notes.

Develop audit’s message (approx 8 pages). What’s discovered so far,  confirm/adjust initial ideas,  considers recommendations. Gives context, the ‘so what’, and ‘what we’ve found’. Where will the audit’s story start? (usually doesn’t relate to the linear structure of the audit) What will the recommendations be? What will be the effect of this audit/recommendations? Is the cause of the problem most compelling? What are the criteria of ‘what should be’? What is the effect of the problem on the clients?

Auditors love checklists!

Template with relevant headings and boilerplate text on what to add to each section (see handout of Appendix D for example).

Timeline showing when need to start writing to hit final deadline. (see Appendix D handout)

Mandatory edit!:

  • Structure
  • Order of content
  • Word choice
  • Missing arguments
  • Invisible actors
  • Ask questions!
  • Look for places where a picture could go

Most common line edits:

  • They used ‘provide’ instead of ‘give’, ‘determine’ instead of ‘decide’, ‘ indicate’ instead of ‘show’
  • Replace ‘increase’/’decrease’

Illustrations are important:

  • Show relationships
  • Show time and sequence
  • Show process and risk
  • Data can become art
  • Tables may say it best
  • Know when to give up! Sometimes data cannot be converted into graphic or table

Agree and amend – it’s about the questions I ask and how I ask them. Praise,  explain, and pass the ammunition that auditors need to support their arguments.

It’s complex, with simultaneous tasks and multiple reviewers downstream.

Value-added extras help busy readers connect – website, video and audio podcasts, presentations required by law, short (2 pages) ‘leave behinds’, social media => auditors much happier

(clear speaker,  clear presentation,  interesting case study,  lots of info on performance audit reporting)


ACES 2015: Pittsburgh: Day 2: Friday 27 March

March 28, 2015

These are my notes from the sessions I attended at the American Copy Editors’ Society (ACES) annual conference (2015: Pittsburgh). They are MY opinion and reflect no-one else’s opinion.


Level up: how to get more out of your freelance business (Panel: Erin  Brenner; Laura Poole; Samantha Enslen; Adrienne Montgomerie)

  • Set aside time to work on your business (10%)
  • Be yourself
  • Getting to where you choose to want to be /how you want to work
  • Teach what you know – blogging, podcasts,  mentoring, training, speaking at conferences etc.
  • Break down your income –  direct services versus training,  speaker fees,
  • Go beyond editing – offer more than one service (examples: say ‘yes’ – offer complementary services; offer packaging services [value add] such as complete package to completed book; ask for and pay referral bonus (10% on first job only); teaching other editors to use software – not selling your hours, but selling your training (teach online, webinars,  books etc.; know what you WON’T do too; copy editing.com pays their presenters; hire subcontractors;)
  • Create products and on-demand services that can be sold continually. Examples: training, core workshop with ancillary webinars, EFA may take on courses and pay well,  ebooks, automated products on website, free reports, sell individual chapters (e.g from blog posts)
  • Offer value-added services (could be for free or paid) to existing clients to increase client loyalty and spread your brand. Examples: upsell ‘do you also need help with… ‘; write blog posts for clients; look at franchise models; ask people what more they want; offer middle of the line and premium services – premium (platinum package) makes middle of the line look reasonable!; ‘how can I make your life easier?’; strategically doing free work can get you lots more paid work; offer the style sheet you’ve created for the client back to them for free.
  • Work with subcontractors – you only have so many hours to sell, but you can sell other people’s hours. Examples: there’s a big difference between 2 or 3 and 25; google docs for collaborative style sheets; complexity of managing subcontractors increases while your billable hours decrease – cash flow; ‘Teamwork PM’ project management system; virtual assistant well worth the money; hire out things you don’t want to do; use subcontractors to expand, fill in,  cover extra work, vacation etc.; have systems and checklists that others can follow; markup can be $,  %,  or ‘admin fee’

Other notes:

  • ‘let me send you a simple letter of agreement’ – non-threatening,  not a lot of effort,  but documents what each side will do.
  • Communications Central – also pays (Ruth Thaler-Carter)

(Some good tips and info from those involved in various editorial services businesses)

Critical editing (Gerri Berendzen)

  • Use your bullshit detector
  • Always ask questions
  • Be skeptical about everything
  • Check anything that raises a red flag – even the small things
  • Check names are spelt correctly, URLs,  phone #s,  email addresses
  • If a question pops into your mind, don’t ignore it
  • If it seems to good to be true, question it,  especially superlatives
  • Coincidences are rare, so check them out
  • Question anything (including images) that doesn’t ring true
    • Numbers, dollar amounts,  data and polls (e.g size of crowds)
    • Inconsistency and repetition
    • Hearsay
    • Out of context examples and references
    • Visuals that are meant to distract or misrepresent
    • Innuendo
    • Biased sources
    • Absolutes (all, always,  never, the oldest,  the best,  the worst – demand the source!)
    • Direct quotes, partial quotes
    • Image and caption supports rest of story
    • Generalisations
    • Unnamed sources
  • If the words that raise red flags aren’t important, consider taking them out or reword
  • Use common sense
  • Accuracy checks (but don’t rely on it as the person who supposedly checked it may not have); working from checklists

(Good speaker,  great examples. Excellent info.)

Bulletproofing data-driven stories (Mark Rochester)

(It seemed that the speaker wasn’t familiar with the computer he was using – I suspect it was not his own, and no-one was there to help him. He wasted a lot of time trying to get programs to run, and never did get his PowerPoint to work. He was hard to understand too — perhaps nervousness, stress related to the computer issues. I left after 15 minutes, as did many others. I felt for him under those circumstances — it’s not pretty as an audience member, and even worse if you are the presenter.)

Beyond the red pen: new directions in editing (Sarah Black)

What makes a good copy editor?:

  • Attention to detail
  • Creative
  • Flexible
  • Problem solving
  • Time and project management skills
  • Excellent communicators

All these skills are transferable!

Editorial services:

  • Skills in field of editing
  • Skills not necessarily traditionally associated with editing (content strategy, Web editing….)
  • To internal clients. Many materials in a company involving words that might need to be managed (employee newsletter, marketing materials,  policies and procedures,  press releases….)
  • To external clients. Examples: Dragonfly Editorial,  true north,  penultimate editorial services,  Wainscot Media – check URLs
  • Different areas of focus, clients,  markets

What services will you provide,  what makes you unique,  why are your services valuable?

Example services: see her slides for the tree /leaf examples and others

Pitching ideas to leadership (see slides):

  • Identify the problem/opportunity
  • Start with your boss
  • Get solid numbers
  • Be willing to be the one to make it happen
  • Also be willing to let it go if it’s not going to happen
  • Start small and keep at it

(Great speaker,  lots of ideas and examples,  not the session I was meant to be in [my error!] but ended up being interesting and useful nonetheless)

Between you and me (Mary Norris)

Copy editor job is somewhat invisible unless you make a mistake.

Mary told anecdotes from her life at The New Yorker. And read from her new book Between you and me.

It was interesting and funny but not what I expected based on the summary provided to delegates.



ACES 2015: Pittsburgh: Day 1: Thursday 26 March

March 28, 2015

These are my notes from the sessions I attended at the American Copy Editors’ Society (ACES) annual conference (2015: Pittsburgh). They are MY opinion and reflect no-one else’s opinion.


Editing in a digital environment (Adrienne Montgomerie, Rachel Stuckey)

Digital process AND digital product

Digital has changed proofreading. No need to compare a printer’s proof to the manuscript. All is now cold reading and immediate edits.

(This session was not what I expected. I expected to learn about apps to edit digitally, and these weren’t touched on at all. Instead, the focus was on how digital methods were changing the book production process. The presenters didn’t seem to really know what the other was doing – perhaps they were being too polite with who went next but it seemed they hadn’t rehearsed their presentation ‘live’ and determined who was doing what and when.)

The (editing) checklist manifesto (Samantha Enslen, Dragonfly Editorial)

(Book to borrow: The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande)

Checklists make sure we cover everything and ensure we don’t have to remember everything (thus freeing our brain).

(see her slides for sample checklists and checklist items)

(Engaging speaker who knew what she was talking about and delivered with confidence. Lots of practical tips, but many she talked about in detail could be automated in Word.)

10 apps for editors (Stephanie Yamkovenko)

Apps for staying in touch:

  • Google Voice (Google phone #, call forwarding, and texts); also Hangouts has phone app too  (‘Dial’)
  • Asana (project management app)

Apps for staying in the know:

  • Feedly (RSS aggregator)
  • Pocket (keeps everything together so can access on any device; e.g. save article for reading later; text to speech facility)

Apps for organisation:

  • Dropbox (file storage in cloud; share files)
  • Google Drive (Office-style suite; files saved to the cloud; can edit; can edit collaboratively; immediate saves; can scan documents using phone’s camera and will save as PDF to Google Drive)
  • Google Keep (notetaking app; can take picture and add to note)
  • Push Bullet (shows phone’s notifications on ALL devices including desktop; can push files to another device; browser extension or desktop app for desktop) CHECK THIS ONE OUT!!!

Apps for photos:

  • Photoshop Express (not Photoshop with layers etc.; but has filters, crop,  exposure,  shadows etc.)

Apps for almost everything:

  • IFTTT (if this, then that; connects all accounts; create recipes ‘if I do this, …’)


  • Twilight (helps you sleep better by taking out light from phone)
  • Shush (asks how long you want to keep phone on silent)
  • Swype keyboard
  • TripIt
  • Copy Bubble (great for tweeting a quote etc.)

(Engaging speaker. Lots of interesting apps, some of which I wasn’t aware of, or had heard of but never investigated.)


I presented my session on ‘Working away from the office: Benefits and drawbacks’ during the last time slot of the day. About 50 people attended (rough estimate), and I had some lovely positive feedback at the end of the session and throughout the next day.




Word: Macro to run multiple wildcard find and replace routines

March 3, 2015

After some digging around, I’ve found a way to save myself hours of running separate find and replace routines using wildcards in Microsoft Word.

The routines I commonly use already save me time, but now I’ve got one macro that runs them all at once — currently 110 of them that are just for replacing an ordinary space with a non-breaking space!

I didn’t write the macro — that honor goes to Microsoft Word MVPs Graham Mayor who wrote the initial macro, and Doug Robbins who helped me tweak it to do what I wanted it to do. Details are here: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2003-word/macro-for-performing-more-than-one-find-and/bd931bf7-5ebe-4650-924c-d15c9512129c?page=1

NOTE: EditTools software (http://wordsnsync.com/edittools.php) has a neat interface for setting up your wildcard find and replace routines, along with a facility to set up a script to run them all, and I use that on my own PC. However, I’m not allowed to install that software on my work PC (long story…), so I wanted to figure out a way to emulate what an EditTools script does by creating a macro to achieve the same end.

Before doing these steps, you need to be familiar with:

  • accessing the VBA area of Word
  • using wildcards to find and replace in Word.

I won’t cover either of those things in this post.

Step 1: Create a table of your wildcard find/replace routines

The first stage in getting this to work is to create a 2-column table in Word, listing what you want to find in the left column and what you want to replace it with in the right column. Use one row for each find/replace routine. Use the same syntax as you would for a wildcard find/replace.

This table will take a while to set up. You should test each wildcard find/replace routine on a document BEFORE you add it to the list, just to make sure it works correctly and doesn’t mess up anything else. These find/replace routines will all be done as ‘replace all’, so you will NOT have the opportunity to accept some and reject others. Testing is crucial to make sure you don’t replace something you shouldn’t.

In the example below, I’ve set up routines for replacing a standard space between a number and a month of the year with a non-breaking space (^s) between those two elements, as well as replacing a standard space between a number and a unit of measure (e.g. lux, nm) or a word that often follows a number in the documents I work on (e.g. fish, indiv [for ‘individual’ or ‘individuals’). As I said, I have some 110 of these…


Once you’ve created your table, save it to a location that your macro can pick it up from easily — I suggest somewhere on your local drive, not a network location (unless you intend sharing it with others). I put mine in my Word > STARTUP folder, which is where I keep my macros.dotm file.

Step 2: Set up the macro to work with the table

Add the macro below to an existing document, or better, an existing template, or even better, a central macros template that loads whenever you open Word.

Once you’ve added it, change the line that starts with sFname and has the file path — that path points to MY file on MY computer. You need to change it to YOUR file name and YOUR file path.

NOTE: Copy all the code below to the clipboard — it goes off the page, so don’t type it out as you’ll miss some of it or could make a typo.


Sub ReplaceFromTableList()
' from Doug Robbins, Word MVP, Microsoft forums, Feb 2015, based on another macro written by Graham Mayor, Aug 2010
 Dim oChanges As Document, oDoc As Document
 Dim oTable As Table
 Dim oRng As Range
 Dim rFindText As Range, rReplacement As Range
 Dim i As Long
 Dim sFname As String
 'Change the path in the line below to reflect the name and path of the table document
 sFname = "C:\Users\rhonda\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\STARTUP\find_and_replace_routines_macro.docx"
 Set oDoc = ActiveDocument
 Set oChanges = Documents.Open(FileName:=sFname, Visible:=False)
 Set oTable = oChanges.Tables(1)
 For i = 1 To oTable.Rows.Count
     Set oRng = oDoc.Range
     Set rFindText = oTable.Cell(i, 1).Range
     rFindText.End = rFindText.End - 1
     Set rReplacement = oTable.Cell(i, 2).Range
     rReplacement.End = rReplacement.End - 1
     Selection.HomeKey wdStory
     With oRng.Find
             .MatchWildcards = True
             .Text = rFindText.Text
             .Replacement.Text = rReplacement.Text
             .Forward = True
             .Wrap = wdFindContinue
             .Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
       End With
 Next i
 oChanges.Close wdDoNotSaveChanges
End Sub

Step 3: Test that it works

After setting up the macro, run it on a test document — copy an existing document and test on the copy to make sure you don’t mess up anything.

As my file had 110 find/replace routines for changing some normal spaces to non-breaking spaces, I needed to test it on a document that had many normal spaces for the elements I wanted to change to non-breaking spaces. I opened a copy of an existing 400p Word document, used Word’s normal find/replace to replace all existing non-breaking spaces with a normal space (some 3000 of them in that document I tested it on!). Then I ran the ReplaceFromTableList macro to see if it worked.

It did. Beautifully. And it took about 3 minutes to run ALL those routines on that 400p document. The end result was a document that had more than 5000 non-breaking spaces added to it (I checked the number by taking them all out again and replacing them with normal spaces!).

One 400p Word document, 110 separate find/replace routines. In 3 minutes. In one macro.

That’s gotta be a win for automating tedious, routine tasks! Now, to think about what other find/replace routines I can add to the table…

[Links last checked March 2015]


Word: Wildcard replace transposes characters when track changes is on

February 26, 2015

A bug in Microsoft Word has had me baffled for several hours and at various times in the past. I thought it was me. But it’s not –it’s Word, and it’s a bug that’s been around since at least 2006. Microsoft have never bothered to fix it (I use Word 2010 and 2013 and it’s evident in both those versions).

What happens?

When you do a Wildcard find/replace in Word AND you have track changes turned on, the replace action transposes/reverses the items you want to replace!

For example, I have numeric values followed by their units of measure (e.g. 90 km) and I want to replace the normal space with a non-breaking space. To do this, I do a wildcard Find for ([0-9])( )(km) (i.e. any numeral followed by a space followed by km), and a Replace with \1^s\3 (i.e. replace the first part with itself, delete the normal space and replace it with a non-breaking space [the ^s bit], and replace the third part with itself).

If I have track changes on when I do the Replace, I get this: 5km<non-breaking space>, instead of 5<non-breaking space>km.

How to avoid it

Turn off track changes BEFORE you do the wildcard find/replace.


See these sites for information on how long this bug has been around, and other examples of it:

[Links last checked February 2015]


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