Archive for August, 2009


Freelance editing rates

August 31, 2009

Looking for freelance editing rates in the US? Then look no further than this list on the Editorial Freelancers Association’s website:

[Link last checked August 2009; thanks to Whitney P for alerting me to this website]


60 day system outage = outrageous!

August 30, 2009

I needed to register a piece of equipment I had purchased, so off I went to the manufacturer’s website — only to be confronted with this message (my highlights):

warranty_rego01While they give alternatives methods for registering the product, and give a timeframe for when the system will be back on line, I think 60 days sounds like a guess — how do they know it will be 60 days? Maybe it will be 27 days, or 53 days, or perhaps 94 days.

And the message needs editing too…


Australian book prices

August 28, 2009

For some years now it has been cheaper for Australians to buy specialist books from Amazon and other online stores based in the US, than to purchase them from Australian booksellers (bricks and mortar or online). Even adding in the shipping costs from the US to Australia (there’s no free shipping to Australia from Amazon — the free shipping option is only available to US addresses), it’s STILL cheaper to buy books from Amazon.

Much as many of us would like to support local businesses and employment, the cost differential is a big factor in deciding whether to buy locally or buy from overseas. Even adding in the shipping charges, it’s often still cheaper to buy direct from overseas. Go figure…

Anyhow, this preamble is to let my fellow Australians know that there is now a local alternative to Amazon that will not only credit you with any price differential between their prices and Amazon prices (+ shipping), but add 10% more to sweeten the deal if the total purchase is more than AU$50 and delivery is to an Australian address. The online retailer is Oh, and they take PayPal too — Amazon doesn’t.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost differentials on a set of five books I ordered recently — click the image to see it full size.

Book prices: Comparison

Book prices: Comparison

The individual prices of the books are MUCH higher in Australia, even accounting for the exchange rate. And the two main Australian booksellers — Angus and Robertson (A&R) and Dymocks — didn’t even stock some of the books in my list (highlighted in red) and still their AU$ averages for the books they *did* have were some $10 to almost $20 higher than Amazon’s AU$ equivalent, even allowing for the cheaper shipping rates from A&R and Dymocks.

Fishpond has no shipping charges on orders over AU$50 (an easy target to reach for books!), accepts PayPal as a payment option, and has a ‘Better than Amazon’ guarantee that credits you the difference PLUS 10% on your next purchase. Gotta be happy with that! I get the books I want, with the order filled by an Australian company employing Australians, at a price that now beats Amazon.


Fishpond have very clear order tracking facilities on their website. I ordered on a Saturday evening, got an immediate (automated?) reply listing the ordered items and expected delivery times. I received an email first thing on the Monday morning telling me that one of my five items had been shipped, with an expected arrival date later in the week.

Update: My first book arrived within the time frame they said — they said between Friday and the following Wednesday and it arrived on the Monday, right in the middle of the expected date range. I’ve since received notice that my other books are on their way and should be with me later this week or early next. Update: And they were!

One small issue…

Their Better than Amazon guarantee? Well, I didn’t quite get the credit I had expected, so I emailed them. I’ve had quite a long email conversation going with them (this is good — it means they monitor and respond to their emails), and the upshot is this: They calculate the Amazon shipping costs based on a single book in a single order (i.e. almost AU$12 PER BOOK instead of AU$6 per book plus another AU$6 for the order). This is NOT clear on their website which states (as at August 18, 2009):

If you order a book where the total cost (including shipping fee) is more expensive on than Amazon, we will credit your Fishpond account with the difference plus 10%. The guarantee is valid only for books that are destined for Australian addresses where the cost of that single book (including shipping fee) is more expensive on than Amazon.

After quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with cost breakdowns, they  confirmed that they calculate the Amazon shipping based on a single book per order rate, NOT on a single order plus the number of books in the order. This means that I was credited with about $20 less than I expected.

Now, I have no problem with them setting the calculation rules — it’s their business, after all. But I have suggested they make the shipping calculation MUCH clearer on their website. And, if you know me at all from the posts on this blog, you’ll know that I even suggested the text they use! ;-)

The guarantee is valid only for books that are destined for Australian addresses where the cost of that single book (including the single order shipping fee plus the book shipping fee per book) is more expensive on than Amazon.

I wonder if they’ll make that change? It’ll save them answering emails from pedants like me who DO check the details and ask questions. I’ll check back in a few weeks…

[Links last checked August 2009]


Word: When Restart Numbering doesn’t work

August 27, 2009

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you just can’t get a numbered list in Word to restart numbering at 1.

Here’s a trick that works sometimes (I don’t guarantee this trick will work every time, but it’s a quick and easy thing to try):

  1. Put your cursor at the beginning of the first item in the list.
  2. Press Enter. The first item now moves down one to the second position and the first position becomes a blank line.
  3. Put your cursor at the beginning of the second item (was the first), and right-click.
  4. Select Restart Numbering. Your second item should now be number 1.
  5. Delete the blank line above it.

Book review: Conversation and Community

August 26, 2009

Anne Gentle, Book Sprint maven, long-time blogger, regular contributor to the technical writing profession, and mother to a couple of young children has somehow found time to write and publish a book. And what a topical book it is.

Her book, Conversation and Community, is almost up-to-the minute (surely a first for a printed publication — some of the references were to blog posts I read just a few weeks ago). She has some really useful, helpful and very practical tips and strategies on how technical communicators can get involved in ‘conversational’ documentation with users, and how they can lead the charge for using social media in their organization. This may be scary territory for those technical writers who don’t even subscribe to email discussion lists, let alone blogs and forums, but Anne’s book is a helping hand to guide you through the maze.


However, her ideas are also very pragmatic — Anne has obviously worked in several organizational cultures, so she rightly advises against jumping in feet first. Her advice is to take it slowly, a little bit at a time, starting with listening to what users are saying about your product, then branching into commenting, before going all out with technologies and tools such as Twitter. And all the way along, getting buy-in from management and setting the ground rules for the interactions.

This is a well-researched book and Anne has provided numerous footnotes with references to books and URLs, as well as sample style guides etc. in the Appendices.

She’s also listed all links and footnote references for each chapter on (see for links to the Chapter lists).

For other reviews of this book, see Sarah Maddox’s blog post where she reviews the book, then links to further reviews at the end.

Related: Learning is Social article about how the Net Generation learn through Web 2.0 technologies and social media:

[Links last checked August 2009]


Acronym Finder

August 25, 2009

There are some really cool tools on the internet. Some are new shinies; others have been around for years — like Acronym Finder:

But just because Acronym Finder has been around forever doesn’t mean it’s lost its usefulness. Sure, it may not have the gloss of the new shiny objects, but it does what it does really well and very quickly. One thing I particularly like about it is that it offers similar items for the acronym you’re looking for — just in case you got it wrong, or in case there are multiple definitions for the one you entered.

The image below shows the results for CSIRO — in addition to the definition, the Abbreviation Database Surfer below it is pretty handy! (and yes, I know the CSIRO spells themselves as “Organisation”…)

Example result from Acronym Finder

Example result from Acronym Finder

[Links last checked August 2009]


How ANZSCO and the ATO sees technical writers

August 24, 2009

The 2006 edition (the first and most recent edition) of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), bundles technical writers in with journalists. Update: As does the Australian Tax Office’s Salary and wage occupation codes 2012 (

While that may be true for some, journalism is a LONG way removed from the sort of work I do every day. I guess this blog would be the closest I would ever come to journalistic-style writing.

Technical writers do get their own classification number though, so I guess that’s something. The number for ‘technical writer’ in ANZSCO is 212415, and they’ve put us in Major Group 2 — ‘Professionals’. Technical editors (or business or corporate editors), however, don’t get mentioned at all — only those associated with books, newspapers, and film/video and sound.

Web Designers get lumped in with Graphic Designers and Illustrators (2324) under the broad category of ‘Architects, Designers, Planners, and Surveyors’! And forget about editors… they are either under ‘newspaper and journal editors’, or (movie) ‘script editors’, but no other type of editor cracks a mention.

The full 9 MB PDF of the ANZSCO document is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:,%20Revision%201?OpenDocument

Note: When you search this PDF, be aware that ‘technical writer’ will find ‘Technical Writer’ but not ‘TECHNICAL WRITER’. There’s some sort of case-sensitivity issue going on here.

Here’s the full listing where technical writers appear, followed by the entry for the work we do (click the images to see them full size). I’m not sure who they consulted about this entry, but it seems to reflect only a fraction of what I’ve done within my technical communication career for the past 10+ years.

ANZSCO listing for journalists and other writers

ANZSCO listing for journalists and other writers

ANZSCO listing for technical writers

ANZSCO listing for technical writers

[Links last checked July 2013]


What you can and can’t ask in a job interview

August 23, 2009

The US-based Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) has put out a list of personal questions that employers can’t ask and those that *may* be acceptable under some circumstances — and offers advice for how to deal with these types of personal questions. The list and advice applies to all ages, not just those 50 and over.

While it is specifically relevant to the US and US legislation, the general advice in the list would likely apply to many other jurisdictions as well, especially in countries that had strong anti-discrimination and labor laws.

The AARP article is here:

[Link last checked August 2009; thanks to LJK on the Lone Writer discussion list for this link]


Want to find out more information about a phone number?

August 22, 2009

Do you want to find out more information about a phone number? Then try this site:

You won’t get who the number is assigned to (that’s illegal in many countries, including Australia), but you can see it’s general geographic location. For example, I entered a (fake) Australian number and got this information about it:


I already knew from the ‘+61’ it was an Australian number, but the ‘2’ could be anywhere in New South Wales or the Australian Capital Territory. What this site gave me was that it was from the Moree area of NSW.

Handy… I think!

[Link last checked August 2009; thanks to Nick M who alerted me to this site is his comment on an earlier blog post]


DITA basics

August 20, 2009

Do you need to come up to speed with DITA (Darwin information Typinmg Architecture) quickly?

Then for just under US$10 you can purchase a downloadable copy of DITA 101: Fundamentals of DITA for Authors and Managers — the latest book by Ann Rockley, Steve Manning and Charles Cooper of The Rockley Group.

You can get your copy from here:

[Links last checked July 2009]