IPEd Conference 2017: Day 2

September 16, 2017

Panel: Building Alliances

There was a slight change in the order of business today, with the Keynote address coming after the Building Alliances panel.

The theme of the panel was the issues facing similar and/or allied organisations to IPEd (Australian Institute of Professional Editors), and how can we work together to address them. The panel comprised representatives from the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Copyright Agency (CA), the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC), and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers (ANZSI).

Issues facing the various organisations


  • Assault on copyright
  • Funding issues (actually, no funding!)
  • Changing markets (publishing and producing is easier than ever, but the marketing side is more difficult as there are fewer opportunities for writers to get a foothold with more risk-averse big publishers)


  • Similar issues to ASA
  • Small membership base; most are freelance indexers; ageing membership (difficulty in attracting younger members)
  • Diversification of publishing models (without large publishing houses, more difficult for indexers to market themselves and know what’s going on)
  • More of the larger publishers are outsourcing indexing to overseas indexers
  • Need to advocate for quality indexes
  • Understanding required as to the many types of information that indexers work on


  • Working rights and conditions for freelancers, as well as in-house employees
  • Copyright issue is huge; lots of plagiarism
  • Diversity of membership and the sorts of things they are able to get published (e.g. a [insert name of ethnic group/culture] cookbook might get published, but probably not a work of fiction)


  • Same concerns as ASA
  • How do we communicate the value of what we do, and thus give the best advice to members


  • 30K members in Australia
  • Lots of educational content, but fighting the impact of globalisation of textbooks
  • Copyright issues and threats, with global forces trying to water down Australian copyright law

Key issues for partnership with IPEd

  • Promoting the value of what we do and being paid appropriately for that
  • Developing standards, codes of conduct so we are seen as trusted professionals and not hobbyists
  • Fair and equitable pay
  • Strategic issues (e.g. Style Manual, copyright, education and training)
  • Sharing resources between groups
  • Educating politicians about copyright, and the benefits of a sustainable local publishing industry

How can we work together as a bloc to address these issues?

  • Work together as a group for advocacy and lobbying
  • Change focus from dealing with crises (e.g. copyright issues) to looking for opportunities to cooperate

Keynote: Sean Leahy

Sean is a well-known Australian cartoonist, most noted for his topical and political cartoons and for the more light-hearted ‘Beyond the Blank Stump’ comic strip. Some of the highlights of his talk:

  • Online comic books/graphic novels are more like games with choices (‘choose your own adventure’ style)
  • Too much separation of comics/cartoons and books; however, children’s picture books join the two.
  • Cartoonists have difficulty monetising their content on the web, so they often get into merchandising other product with their cartoons

Sean showed us many of his astute political cartoons, and explained a little about how he caricatures political figures — and some of the responses of those caricatured (including talking about a defamation writ from a previous Queensland Premier, which was later dropped when the issue it was about actually came true some weeks later). He finished his presentation by drawing about half a dozen quick sketches of some of his favourite Australian politicians (favourite to draw, that is, not necessarily favourite person), including Pauline Hanson, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, and John Howard.

(As an aside, here’s a hint for presenters — find out beforehand if you can access the internet from the room [he could but didn’t know he could], and make sure the site(s) you want to show are either preloaded in the browser window, or are written down so you can type in the URLs and not spend 10 minutes doing random Google searches in the hope you find what you want to show, then wait to install Flash Player only to find it wasn’t the site you wanted anyway! You can seriously alienate an audience if you don’t.)

Embracing the future: Technologies to transform the business of being an editor (Peter Riches)

This was a great, practical session, with lots of hints and tips as to the sorts of technologies Peter uses in his tech writing and editing business in Melbourne. He split them into two categories — editing and proofreading, and business apps. His business uses Macs, but when he needs to use Word, he runs it via VMWare in a Mac.

He started off with five general tips for choosing tools:

  • Use as few as you can
  • Evaluation takes time and you must use real data for testing
  • You don’t have to use every feature
  • Not all tools (especially the niche ones) will be around forever
  • Sometimes, do-it-yourself is a better option (e.g. he’s created an Excel spreadsheet he uses for estimating)

Editing and proofreading tools

  • Microsoft Word
  • PerfectIt
  • AnyCount (deals with a range of file types, counts words more accurately than MS Word [includes hidden text, text in text boxes, headers/footers etc.]; these word counts are used in estimates for quoting)
  • StyleWriter (he uses this for assessing the overall quality of the writing for quoting; has statistical summaries of use of jargon, passive voice etc.)
  • Quote Engine (the Excel quoting tool he built for his business; not available publicly; NOTE: quotes always include a project brief)

Business tools

  • Daylite (project and lead management tool from Market Circle, Canada; only available for Mac)
  • Harvest (timesheet and invoice app; from the US; records all time spent on a project [including non-billable time] and generates invoices that can be auto imported into his accounting software; sends automated notifications about overdue invoices to clients; can also create a ‘retainer’ invoice for prepaid work
  • Xero (accounting software; cloud-based; can import bank statements; deals with payroll and superannuation payments; integrates with Harvest invoices)
  • Dropbox (he uses it for business accounts, email archives; has replaced a file server and backup, though he still backs up Dropbox data occasionally)
  • Confluence (wiki-based app for internal and external content to share with team members; has style sheets for various clients so all employees and contractors have access at all times; used to document his business’ processes [e.g. file-naming conventions])

Everyday agreements and contracts for editors (Roslyn Copas)

Another great session with lots of practical advice (I much prefer practical sessions where you can take away something immediately to action the following week, than sessions that are more theoretical). Rosyln emphasised that hers was general, not legal advice, and that she wasn’t a lawyer, but her experience with dealing with many state, national, and international contracts and lawyers has given her enough knowledge to share.

She differentiated an agreement and a contract:

  • Agreement: Expression of assent between parties; exchange of promise. May be in writing, could just be verbal. Email agreement is classed as an ‘everyday agreement’.
  • Contract: Specific agreement to do/not do certain things. Often in writing; tends to be more formal and/or complex. May be enforced by law.

General points

  • Using agreements is good practice for your business and makes your business look professional
  • Creating your own agreements or influencing the terms of agreements you’re offered is advantageous
  • If you understand agreements you received before you sign them, it’s more likely to end well
  • Only make agreements that reflect what you really intend to do

Why have an agreement/contract?

  • Clear record for all parties of the intent, obligations, and scope of the project (no conflicting interpretation)
  • Basis for claiming payments, refusing ‘scope creep’, assigning risks/benefits
  • Legally enforceable

Minimum characteristics of any agreement/contract

  • Is always between parties with legal capacity to make the agreement
  • Sets out expectations, obligations, intentions, offer and accpetance
  • Sets out the payments to be made, how, and when
  • Sets the dates — start/end dates, timeframe
  • Specifies the legal jurisdiction (if both parties are in the same State, then defaults to that State if there is no statement of legal jurisdiction; if in different states/countries, must specify the jurisdiction)
  • Signed and dated by all parties (some contracts require witnesses too)

Before you sign

  • Read EVERY word
  • Clarify where necessary — don’t assume you can get a variation later
  • If possible, draft your own scope of services, or influence the other party to do so
  • Verbal agreement is legal, but a written agreement (even via an email trail) will override any verbal agreement
  • Request corrections of any errors, or, for minor variations, make the change and initial it
  • Don’t sign if it isn’t what you agreed — get legal advice
  • Good idea to use an annex to the contract that details the scope of work

When you make an agreement

  • Be precise and specific, and ensure you meet the minimum requirements (above)
  • Make sure what is in the contract is reasonable, do-able, and legal
  • Make sure at least two copies of written agreements are signed, one for each party
  • Keep a safe copy of email agreements

Considerations for editors

  • Intellectual property — who owns it and until when?
  • Plagiarism
  • Confidentiality
  • Future of documents and other files, and ownership
  • Standards and guidelines to follow
  • Meaning of relevant terminology (e.g. client may not know the various levels of editing and these need to be stated)


Giving science a style makeover (Julie Irish)

Biotext, the company Julie works for, released the Australian Manual of Science Style (AMOSS) in 2016. It is only available online, under a subscription model (http://www.sciencestyle.com.au/). At the beginning of her presentation, she announced that they had just signed a formal agreement with Macquarie University (owners of the Macquarie Dictionary), so it would be good if AMOSS and the dictionary could become a combined subscription!

Some information about AMOSS:

  • Covers various scientific disciplines; started with health, biomedical, agriculture, and environment and will expand into other disciplines over time
  • Divided into four broad sections all related to science — writing, editing (including terminology for various disciplines), showing (use of tables, figures, graphs, etc.), and resources.
  • Doesn’t cover general style/grammar, highly technical details for specific disciplines (but has links to those resources)
  • Features: links to international and Australian standards and conventions and related resources; terms to watch out for; examples of usage; internal and external links; tips; search function; bookmarking ability to you can go straight to personal areas of interest; downloadable guides (short PDFs); feedback mechanism

The value of cross-linked scientific information in the age of digital publishing (Maryam Ahmad)

In this case study, Maryam talked about how the CSIRO was part of an interagency, multidisciplinary team (CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, and Geoscience Australia) who did a bioregional assessment of an environmental issue covering 13 bioregions on the east coast of Australia.

Some of the issues facing the team from an editorial perspective included:

  • Agreeing on the terminology and creating a common glossary
  • Version control
  • Hyperlinking publicly available datasets and coming up with the GUIDs and URIs to differentiate these, then automating the process of creating a list of datasets (like a list of references)
  • Producing PDF and HTML formats from Word documents

Related websites:

Index of unreadability (Philip Bryan)

I’ve done many sessions  on readability at other conferences and have done some of my own research into readability and usability of screen-based materials. But none was a fascinating as this insight from Philip, who had a bicycle accident resulting in concussion. For some weeks and months later, he had great difficulty reading any material on computers, TVs, and other electronic devices, though he had no problem reading on paper. He decided to investigate why and has come up with his ‘index of unreadability’, based on his own experiences. While his list is subjective, it matches well with information I’ve found over the years from other sources.

Materials in order of increasing unreadability

  • Book (print)
  • Newspaper (print)
  • Magazine (print)
  • Computer monitor (electronic)
  • Web pages (electronic)
  • iPad (electronic)

Philip’s thesis is that communication can be destroyed by the means of delivery.

He distinguished between readability (how hard something is to read) and legibility (the clarity of the material to be read).

Print items and selection options for readability

Print is all on paper — and paper has no other information than the symbols printed on it, which we interpret to mean something.

When selecting options for readability consider:

  • Typeface
  • Line length (too long [>80 words] is tedious  tiring, and causes the eye to flip back to the beginning of the same line when trying to go to the next line)
  • Text colour (black on white is the best contrast)
  • Serif/sans serif (serif for extended reading, sans serif for signs, facts, legibility)
  • Alignment (left-aligned, ragged right is best for readability)
  • Paper colour
  • Regular/condensed fonts (use condensed only for margin text)

No matter what selections you make, they MUST be suitable to the intention of the work, and to the reader.

Electronic items and selection options for readability

The considerations for paper (above) also apply to screen, though line length usually isn’t an issue.

However, other areas of consideration for screen include:

  • Pixellation (every pixel flickers, and with millions of pixels on screen at any one time, that’s a LOT of flickering)
  • Static/active pages (active pages include those with flashing things, autoplay videos, moving tickers, etc.; can use ReaderView [in Firefox and Safari; extension for Chrome] to eliminate ads, sidebars, menus etc. and just display the text and the images associated with the text, with options to change contrast, font size, etc.)
  • Brightness (less bright is better)
  • Moving images in general
  • Blue light, which goes straight through the retina into the brain (suggest get glasses that block out blue light)

Every design consideration has an impact on the readability of a page or screen. Don’t let the means of delivery destroy the communication.

See also:

Conference close

The final session of the conference was the closing, where those involved in organising the conference, the sponsors, etc. were all thanked, and where the team organising the next conference (May 2019, in Melbourne) were introduced. The Melbourne conference tagline is ‘for the love of words’ and the main themes will be inclusion, diversity (people and publishing methods), and editing ‘out of the box’.


See also:

[Links last checked September 2017]

One comment

  1. […] Day 2: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/iped-conference-2017-day-2/ […]

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