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IPEd Conference 2019: Day 1

May 12, 2019

Last week (8 to 10 May 2019) I attended the biennial IPEd Conference (Institute of Professional Editors, the national association of Australian [and now New Zealand] editors), held in Melbourne. These notes summarise MY experience at the conference and my opinions and represent no-one else’s experience or opinions. I took notes for many of the sessions I attended, but as there were several concurrent streams, these notes in no way reflect the full breadth of the conference sessions. NOTE: Many of the sessions were only 10 minutes long and there was limited changeover time. Some session notes may be missing if I had to leave for the next session before the current session’s presenter finished.

Opening Ceremony

Blah blah blah… Call me cynical, but I’ve attended many many conferences, and most opening ceremonies are full of thanks from the organisers, rah rah rah about how good this conference will be and how much ‘fun’ it will be, messages from the high levels of the organisations and other ‘dignitaries’. This one was no different. However, despite a lot to cover and limited time, one of the invited ‘dignitaries’ went on and on and on and on… So much so that she cribbed a lot of time from the opening speakers who actually had interesting stuff to say. I felt very sorry for these invited opening speakers—the keynote speaker (yes, the important keynote address) didn’t start until 30 minutes after her allotted start time, and was pressured to finish early. All because the blah blah blah stuff went on too long.

The two other speakers in the opening time slot were good. First up was Angela Savage on ‘Great moments in editing’, where she shared some anecdotes from several Australian authors about how their editors made them look good. Much of the stuff the authors related were where their editors had picked up issues related to fact checking and verification, such as who really was playing cricket against whom in the year the novel was set. And whether a left-hander could hit a ball into the holly bush in the backyard based on where the editor had mapped all the backyard vegetation to be. Or the fact that a certain brand of sports shoe wasn’t released into the Australian market until after the date in which the novel was set. She finished by adding that a robot editor couldn’t do that sort of work.

The Welcome Address was given by Roly Sussex, who talked about language shortening and widening. My notes:

Shortening:

  • Over the centuries, the time taken to write and publish has shortened from months, even years, to milliseconds.
  • Reading time has also shortened, and people tend not to read long passages of text anymore.
  • Production time has collapsed (e.g. newspapers, books), with a flow-on effect on quality.

Widening:

  • Despite more than 6000 languages worldwide, there’s more of a move to English than any other language. English has become the ‘world language’ for business, commerce, and in other areas.
  • Initially, only the educated male clergy could read and write. With Caxton, literacy jumped the gender barriers, and with the 1871 Education Act in the UK, literacy was available to all. Now, anything can be published, whether it should be or not.
  • About 75% of English transactions are now carried out by those whose first language isn’t English (e.g. India, Pakistan, etc.)
  • English may have widened, but is has also weakened. Unlike French, there’s no regulatory body that decides what’s in the dictionaries, how the language is used, what words can be imported into the language etc. In the absence of a regulatory body, editors are guardians/gatekeepers of English language usage.

Other notes:

  • In public, written English, there are country/regional variations (spelling, date formats, punctuation rules etc.).
  • Australian English has three main dictionaries and three main usage guides as authorities.
  • Editors in some industries (e.g. newspapers) are in danger.
  • Be guardians of flexibility and innovation, exercise judgment.

Keynote Address

As I mentioned earlier, the keynote address started 30 minutes late and therefore the (invited) speaker had to finish much earlier than she would have expected. This was really unfair to both her and the delegates and I’d have been furious had it been me.

The keynote speaker was Susan Butler, a previous editor of the Macquarie Dictionary. Her topic was ‘When to care and when not to care: The editor’s angst’. The premise of her talk was based on words that are often confused, and which ones we should take note of and stand firm on, and which ones may well be becoming acceptable terms. Her pet peeve was using ‘infamous’ instead of ‘famous’. Common usage errors are often caused by confusion and proliferated in social media and the like (e.g. alternate/alternative, toll/toil, endure/endear, ensure/ensue, etc.). We need to make sure we respect the author’s wishes, but also need to advise authors if we think they are making an error, and thus aim to protect the author from ridicule. Confused words affect clarity.

She also said she’s in favour of killing off the apostrophe as it’s so often misused in plurals. However, she thinks she’s a lone voice on this and doesn’t think that will happen any time soon.

When new words were introduced to Macquarie, she said they always got the pedants riled who sent in letters stating ‘I’ve never heard that word in my life’ [and therefore it can’t be a real word]. She emphasised that old dictionaries and style guides are NOT an authority [and I’ll add that your 5th grade teacher isn’t an authority either!]. Similarly, not every word in use has to be in the dictionary to be a legitimate word.

By the way, she said that ‘a wigwam for a goose’s bridle’ [a common Australian expression that I remember hearing often when I was a kid], was derived from ‘a whim-wham for a goose’s bridle’ (a whim-wham is a trinket).

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After the opening session and keynote address, we broke for a yummy morning tea. There were some nice savoury items as well as sweet, a pleasant change from many conferences were there are only sweet items. But still no soft drinks or juices to cater for those who don’t drink tea or coffee. We always have to buy these ourselves, which always seems unfair when the tea and coffee drinkers get all their drinks (and as many as they can imbibe) included in the conference fee.

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Next up were the main conference sessions. There were three streams running concurrently over 90 minutes, and 14 sessions to choose from. Most sessions were about 10 minutes long (an incredibly short time for a conference presentation!) with a 5-minute changeover. You could stay in the one room for the whole stream or chop and change according to your interests. For this first concurrent session, I went to five different presentations across two streams, going from Ballroom 3 to 1 to 3 to 1 to 3 again. As a result of the changeover and the fact that nearly every speaker went over time, I missed the ends of many presentations. Also, each speaker was introduced by a host, and many gave their own Welcome to Country message, thus adding an extra two minutes to most time slots and reducing to eight minutes the available time to get their message across. It was always going to be interesting…. My notes are NOT complete—in some rooms, I had to stand at the back and thus couldn’t take notes easily, but mostly I had to leave before the presenter finished. Many of these presentations were understandably rushed and the speakers could not get through all the content on their slides, or even all their slides. Or they went over time. Or all the above.

Pam Hewitt: ‘For love and money’

Pam has done studies of salaries and hourly rates for editors over time and shared some of her findings with us. In the past few decades, editors’ salaries have decreased in real terms (i/e after taking inflation, CPI, average minimum wage etc. in to account), and are now less than the average weekly earnings. For freelancers, the average hourly rate in 2001 was $50, and by 2016 was $60, which doesn’t even cover inflation; taking inflation into account, it should have been $74/hr by 2016.

She also mentioned contributing factors such as:

  • the wage gap by gender (editing is a predominantly female profession, and thus attracts lower salaries; even within evenly gendered industries, women are paid only 77% the salary that a man gets for the same job)
  • globalisation: in-house editors are an endangered species. Clients now have access to editors around the country and around the world; equally freelancers can work with clients around the country and the world, so there are possibly more opportunities for work, though not necessarily at a liveable hourly rate
  • treating editing as a second income or post-retirement income, with the editor not being the main breadwinner, or doing editing as a ‘hobby’. One of the associated issues is the lack of superannuation for women in general, and for editors who don’t work sufficient hours to put away enough Super. Pam suggested including an amount to cover Super in your hourly rate.

Other things for freelancers to consider when setting rates include overheads (advertising, insurances, professional development/education, phone/ISP, maintenance, professional memberships, non-billable hours, office supplies, professional library, accountancy fees, utilities, health, holidays, Superannuation).

She also stated that being transparent with others about your salary/hourly rate can only help the everyone in the profession. IPEd is considering setting baseline rates so that clients know what to expect [I think that’s what she said, but I’m not 100% sure as I had to leave about then].

David Zmood: ‘Scientific and technical editing for the non-specialist editor’

David advised us to focus on what we’re good at—language, and how the information is being conveyed to the reader. Polish the language. ‘Let the researchers research, and the editors edit.’

Look at the document type—different ones have different requirements.

Look at the writing style—passive, or first person/active (which is easier to read and becoming more acceptable)

Is the language clear, consistent, and precise? Remove ambiguity; check jargon, abbreviations, acronyms; check the structure; are units of measure used consistently throughout; when decimals are used, are they to the same level for each value (e.g. 3 versus 3.25, which should be 3.00 and 3.25)?

Check figures, tables, and charts. Watch for duplication of the information in the fig etc. in the main body of the text (don’t make the reader re-read the information). Do figs etc. have a clear purpose, are they introduced in the text, and are they in the right location (i.e. near where they are introduced)? Are they readable and accessible? Avoid 3D charts, colours and patterns that aren’t visible/readable in greyscale, and be aware of other vision impairment issues of potential reader.

Karen Farrar: ‘5 Ws of advocacy – lessons for editors from other professions’

Karen had a varied career in the medical sciences before becoming an editor. She has been a member of many professional bodies and thus can see the commonalities between them and the editing profession. First she defined professional advocacy as ‘raising awareness to achieve change’.

Who:

  • who are you (as an organisation)?
  • who do you represent?
  • who is your target audience for advocacy?
  • who should be involved?

What:

  • what do you want?
  • what are your key messages?

When:

  • when you’re invited to contribute
  • when opportunity knocks
  • whenever you can make connections (e.g. current events)
  • when you can make your own news (e.g. awards publicity)
  • should be done constantly

Where:

  • professional bodies, such as governments, industry meetings and publications, website, social media
  • individuals: educate clients, educate friends and family (they often have no idea what you do)

[I had to leave this session before it finished)

Joely Taylor and Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (via video link from the US): ‘Purging plagiarism: Why authors plagiarise and how to fix it’

[When I arrived at this session, it was standing room only, so I didn’t take notes. The staff brought in extra chairs, so I started to take notes when Katharine started her section of the presentation]

Types of plagiarism:

  • self-plagiarism: re-using your own material that’s been published elsewhere and passing it off as new material; entwined with copyright and research and publication ethics; data augmentation; double dipping
  • patch writing: patching together different parts of words/sentences/paragraphs from the works cited and passing off as your own; unsuccessful paraphrasing; possibly a learning stage
  • copy/paste writing: copied from original works with little/no attempt at paraphrasing; done without attribution.

Finding plagiarism:

  • Look for suspicious text and ask questions about it: changes in language style, syntax, grammar, length of words and sentences; font changes, text background colours.
  • Check Adrienne Montgomerie’s ’10 signs of “lifted” text’: https://aceseditors.org/news/2019/ten-signs-of-lifted-text
  • Plenty of plagiarism detection software available—some free, some not.

Bobby Graham: ‘Blogging for your business’

Bobby updated us on her story so far—it seems at the last conference she’d just embarked on blogging (a niche market blog for those wanting to travel light). She said to date her plans and dreams hadn’t come to fruition and she’d made no money, so she was changing tack.

There are four pillars that sustain a blog/website: technology, design, content, and governance.

  • Technology/design: She recommended all-in-one solutions like SquareSpace (https://www.squarespace.com/), which is a blogging platform with things such as e-commerce, predesigned templates, etc.
  • Content: This is where writers/editors shine. Consider tools such as CoSchedule headline analyser for coming up with alternative headlines to the one you’ve written that are better for search engine optimisation (https://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer)
  • Governance: Have a content calendar for your blog posts

Blogging is a lonely business, so perhaps consult with a content strategist to help keep you on track.

Consider guest blog posts—you being the guest on others’ blogs, and they being a guest blogger on yours.

Look at your target market and consider how you can get noticed where they hang out (e.g. she targets female travellers over a certain age [e.g. http://sixtyandme.com/]). Narrow down your target market—she made the mistake of thinking she would target all travellers, but no is more focused on a particular demographic.

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Lunch was held in the Cliveden restaurant in the hotel and was a delicious buffet lunch, with a good range of hot dishes and salads, and dessert. Much better than in Brisbane when I think we stood around juggling plates of food and trying to talk and eat while standing up. This time we sat at tables of 4 to 6 people, which was much more civilised and much easier to talk with others.

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After lunch, the three streams had a combined 11 sessions over 90 minutes. I didn’t move around so much this time—my first two sessions were in the same room, with the next two also in the same room (though a different room to the first!).

Panel: ‘Academic Editing’ (chaired by Susan Keogh, with panellists Sharon Lierse and Robyn Williams)

The PhD process:

  • Typically three years
  • Student has to write a 10,000-word confirmation of candidature, and an ethics application within the first few months. At this point the supervisor gets a clear idea of their writing skills. Supervisor must sign off on both these submissions.
  • Dissertation may be 80,000 words and is usually supervised by up to three people.

Dilemma: How to convince students to pay for a professional accredited editing services as versus the ‘We’ll edit your thesis in 24 hours for $250’ signs rampant around uni campuses.

IPEd has clear guidelines for editing theses (updated earlier in 2019 and available from the IPEd website: http://iped-editors.org/About_editing/Editing_theses.aspx). They list what editors can and can’t do (e.g. no substantive editing). Essential to make students aware of their responsibilities and that of their editor. There’s a grey area between copy and substantive editing of theses, and sometimes questions of clarification need to go back to the supervisor. Supervisors are more hands-on with the student’s work.

Who pays for the editing? Students often can’t afford the cost. Sometimes the uni pays up to a certain amount. If the uni is paying, then need to involve the supervisor. Some students can afford to pay for editing, but many can’t—does this lead to inequality? Not all unis have editorial support—many are cash-strapped and don’t offer this.

However, once a student has attained their PhD, any editing after that can involve the whole range, including substantive as they are no longer subject to the same rules. The chair asked the panel if this was fair.

If a student’s English is poor, where are the boundaries? Editors need to flag issues, not rewrite (e.g. comment, perhaps with a link to someone like Grammar Girl who discusses the issue). Editors must stay at arm’s length. Typical writing issues for ESL students include: subject/verb agreement, length of sentences/paragraphs, plurals.

At one point, editors weren’t ever involved in PhD theses, but now are getting involved in Masters and sometimes undergrad work. Will editors eventually be asked to edit year 12 assignments? Up to schools to teach students how to write, but often grammar etc. not taught. Should Ed Depts give a blanket statement to schools about the use of editing with students? Is it already happening with some tutoring services? In some private schools? ‘Editors for everyone’?

Universities should have clear policies as to when/if students should engage an editor. Not all do. Role for IPEd?

Editing mills: Very cheap/free. The uneducated consumer doesn’t know the difference between a professional editor and someone who hangs up a shingle and calls themselves an editor. This affects everyone in regards to credibility, wages/rates.

Academic authors want better quality, in a shorter time, and cheaper! (i.e. all three on the ‘pick two’ continuum).

University/scholarly presses: Many are abandoning scholarly publishing (very expensive). Is there a space for indie publishing for academic authors? Uni presses need to maintain high standards to keep their reputations. Some now want authors to pay—self-publishing/vanity model? But do these works go out for peer review? Academics are unlikely to self-publish because their prestige depends on being published by reputable presses.

Cooperation with unis is vital. It can’t just be editors holding up the guidelines—it needs a joint approach from the unis too.

Pam Peters: ‘Best practice for editing – all at one URL’

Pam gave an overview of the upcoming collaborative ‘StyleHub’ portal (http://stylehub.edu.au/; due for launch mid-2019) that is a joint exercise between Macquarie Dictionary and BioText, and will bring together in one place the many resources that editors need, such as:

  • style manual (not sure which one this is, but later she talked about the Australian Manual of Scientific Style [AMOSS] being made more general and being called the Australian Manual of Style [AMOS])
  • Australian style (not sure what this is in comparison to the first one)
  • term finders
  • clear communication
  • research and testing
  • training.

[I had to leave before she finished, and have no idea how much this portal website will cost to access]

Julie Irish: ‘Accessibility: Creating content for everyone’

More than 4 million Australians at any one time have a disability, be it permanent or temporary (e.g. broken arm):

  • accessibility is a requirement for all federal government websites
  • best practice for web design/development
  • available to the broadest possible audience

Other impairments:

  • English is not the first language
  • situational impairments, such as trying to watch a video on a phone with no headphones

Accessible content:

  • clear/logical structure (headings essential)
  • inclusive language
  • good readability (check with Hemingway app)
  • [I missed a few here…]
  • alt text, captions, transcripts
  • link text
  • microcopy (e.g. button text)
  • writing to suit user’s purposes,

Accessibility is for everyone. There’s no such thing as ‘normal’.

Cathy Nicholl: ‘Making the accessible usable when editing for the online world’

Content needs to be useful to visual, audio, and kinaesthetic learners—must cater for different learning styles as well as different abilities.
Accessible, usable, multichannel.

Close of day keynote: Michael Williams, Director, The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas

Michael was a humorous speaker, who made a potentially dry subject very entertaining (governments have an ‘edifice complex’, a need to build something new even though it might already exist in another form).

The Wheeler Centre (https://www.wheelercentre.com/) was established by the Victorian Government after Melbourne became the second UNESCO City of Literature. It brings together in the one place several Victorian and Melbourne organisations associated with publishing, books, writing, comedy etc. They have an extensive talks program (about 250 a year, of which 80% are free to attend), and mentor new writers. By making talks free, there’s a greater chance people will spend that money saved buying the books etc. after the talk. And by starting them at 6:15pm, they get workers before they go home but after they’ve finished work for the day, and still have them back on the train by 7:00pm.

It’s a centre for public conversations that have been abandoned over the years by institutions of old—churches, railway and mechanics institutes, trade unions, local government, etc.

Their eclectic programs cater to multiple tribes. They host local writers and those who are visiting Melbourne.

However, they aren’t just an events organisation—they also help fill gaps in Australian publishing. They are concerned with how well supported the next generation of writers will be. Traditional publishing is typically very risk-averse, so new writers—no matter how good they are—may never get published. They offer a voice to those in the margins, those less privileged. Publishing is connecting an idea with an audience.

The proliferation of small publishers don’t have the resources to work with audiences and promote new writers. So The wheeler Centre, in partnership with Aesop Cosmetics Foundation, have established ‘The Next Chapter’, a mentoring program for ten new writers. Each person chosen gets $15,000, is assigned a mentor, and signs a moratorium contract to NOT go to a publisher. Their job is to hone their craft and make it the best it can possibly be, even if it never gets published. At the end of the 12 months, The Wheeler Centre will act as their agent to help them get published.

Close of day Panel: ‘Things I wish I’d known’

In this plenary session Renee Otmar asked six experienced editors for their take on what they learnt the hard way, or what they wish they’d known early in their editing careers. The panellists were: Ted Briggs, Edward Caruso, Ruth Davies, Loene Doube, Kirsten Rawlings, and Kathie Stove. This was a light-hearted finish to the end of Day 1.

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The Gala Dinner was held this evening, but I didn’t attend. There’s something about ‘fancy dress’ that turns me right off any event that has a dress-up theme!

See also:

One comment

  1. […] The official blog of CyberText Consulting – technical communication specialists « IPEd Conference 2019: Day 1 […]



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