Archive for the ‘Technical writing’ Category

h1

EditorsWA Winter Seminar, August 2018

August 28, 2018

On 25 August 2018, I attended and spoke at the annual Winter Seminar, held by EditorsWA, the Western Australian branch of IPEd, the national professional association for editors.

Here are my notes from two of the three sessions; the third session (on efficiency) was mine, so there are no notes for it.

Conflict of interest (Vanessa Herbert)

This was an interesting and thought-provoking session. Vanessa started by explaining what conflict of interest means, and that it can be actual, perceived, or potential. She then spent a bit of time discussing IPEd’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct members must abide by, and the Conflict of Interest Declaration that IPEd councillors, committee members, contractors or volunteers must sign.

But the most revealing part of the session was when we worked in small groups, discussing the three potential conflict of interest scenarios she posed for us. The biggest takeaway is that what initially appeared to be black and white, may not be, and that many shades of grey exist between those black and white stances. The group I was in found all sorts of fuzziness around the edges, making it difficult to come to a firm answer. Vanessa had made us aware of using false justifications, and that was the hardest part to reconcile.

As I said, thought-provoking. The bottom line is to be open and transparent in all dealings.

Scientific writing (David Lindsay)

Some notes I took during David’s session:

  • The theme of all good scientific stories:
    • how and why does it fit (or not) with other scientists’ work
    • how and where does it fit into the ‘real world’
    • what does it mean for science and the real world.
  • The primary aim of a scientific article is to be read by as many people as possible, and for those readers to be influenced by it.
  • These days, the influence of an individual article is measured by the number of citations it gets (i.e. citation indexes), and the influence of a scientific journal is measured by its ‘impact factor’ (i.e. number of articles from that journal cited in the past xx years). Many articles are never cited and many journals have an impact factor <1.
  • The secret of telling a scientific story is based on the principle of expectation:
    • Readers should have some idea of what to expect from the article (informative and interesting title, familiar structure, sections that deliver what’s expected [e.g. scientific method] and build expectation for what’s coming in the next section, writing style that is clear, concise, and brief [avoid being ‘impressive’, otherwise you’ll alienate readers]).
    • The hypothesis is just a prediction of what the scientist expected, and the rest of the article shows evidence to support or reject that hypothesis.
  • The scientific story has these parts:
    • title (must be interesting and informative to attract the reader)
    • introduction (two parts only—the hypothesis, and the reasoning that makes that hypothesis the most plausible explanation)
    • methodology and materials
    • results (prioritise—some are much more important than others, so spend more time and space on these; include those that relate to the hypothesis and those that don’t)
    • discussion (again, prioritise the arguments that support/refute the hypothesis; consequences for others and possibly the ‘real world’; discard anything that just adds fluff and doesn’t help tell the story)
    • references
  • Characteristics of good scientific writing—precise, clear, brief.
  • Every paragraph must have a conclusion and a way to lead into the next paragraph. Every sentence must follow on from the previous sentence.
h1

How a copyeditor can help your business

July 24, 2018

I found this excellent image on Northern Editorial’s website (an editing company based in the UK)—it sums up all the sorts of things I do, with the aim of making you (and your communications) look better.

The text on this image is:

Copy Editors Help Your Business because…

  • They catch: bias, blindspots, politically incorrect language, potential libel, offensive language, copyright problems.
  • They see: what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote; what the reads see, not what you see; holes in our argument; padding in your prose.
  • They find: repetition, overused phrases, ambiguity.
  • They check: readability, facts, links.
  • They fix errors in: grammar, punctuation, format, style, voice.
  • They spot: missing information, mislabelled information, wrong information.
  • They uphold: quality, credibility, standards.
  • They are invisible; they are valuable; they get your message out there and make you look better.

Thanks for allowing us to share this, Northern Editorial!

Update September 2018: Intelligent Editing, the creators of PerfectIt, one of my go-to editing tools, blogged about why you should hire an editor: https://intelligentediting.com/blog/you-should-hire-an-editor/

h1

About editing and editors

June 17, 2018

In my opinion, this Facebook post sums up editing:

In its early days [early 1980s?], the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada sent its members a series of sentences to edit, to see which were the most common approaches to fixing some kinds of problems. We were in the very very early days of thinking about standards. One sentence, memorably, was edited by 101 editors. Only one pair of editors made the same corrections to it. So there were literally 100 different edits trying to fix a two-line sentence. And almost all of those edits worked perfectly well.

–Greg Ioannou, Editors Association of Earth (Facebook group), posted 16 June 2018

Every editor approaches a sentence in their own way, and applies the conventions and styles THEY are familiar with or have been asked to use. There are no rules — only traditions**, conventions, and guidelines. This is why I’m conflicted about editing exams and tests — whose ‘rules’ are you meant to apply? And whose ‘rules’ do the examiners follow in marking you? What is ‘correct’?

** Some of  those ‘traditions’ and beliefs may have been embedded into your brain by your Grade 5 teacher several decades ago, and who’s to say they knew what they were talking about? Who’s to say they weren’t repeating what they’d learned at school several decades before too? How much was ‘assumed wisdom’, passed along from one generation to the next without question — or evidence?

h1

Creating a Mac Command symbol in Windows

June 7, 2018

I needed to include some Mac commands in a PowerPoint presentation, but couldn’t easily find how to create the loopy Command symbol (⌘). Google to the rescue!

The symbol is U+2318 (Unicode) or these characters (but with NO spaces) & # 8984; (HTML), or, if you’re typing in Word using a full keyboard, hold down the Alt key while you type 8984 on the numeric keypad.

 

h1

ACES Conference 2018: Chicago

April 30, 2018

I’ve just finished attending the ACES Conference in Chicago (American Copy Editors Association). This was my fourth conference and it was the biggest yet. In fact, the conference was sold out several weeks beforehand, and attendance was 710 members!

The conference was held at the historic Palmer House Hilton, a gorgeous building with ornate architectural features. The rooms were standard hotel rooms for a Hilton, so nothing much to say about those. However, the conference rooms we were in on the 3rd floor left a lot to be desired — many had large pillars slap bang in the middle of the room, which created issues for speakers, their screens, and for the audience who either couldn’t see the speaker or the screen, or both. And on the first day, the sessions I attended had no microphones for the speakers! By Day 2, the rooms I was in all had microphones, though some were wired and taped to the floor, which didn’t allow the speaker to move. Others had radio mics that kept failing (mine failed at the beginning of my session AND again halfway through). No lapel mics were provided.

The program was extensive, and the sessions I attended were mostly excellent.

Freelancers Happy Hour

This was held the evening before the conference started and was not an official ACES event. It was sponsored by Copyediting.com and was held at the Encyclopaedia Britannica world headquarters in Chicago! Wow! What a room we had, with all sorts of editions of Britannica publications on bookshelves surrounding us, and with big screens projecting elements of Britannica’s style guide to us. The food was good, the company was good, and the room was LOUD.

Day 1

On Day 1 after the opening session, I attended a session on diagramming bad sentences (Hillary Warren), one on editing for inclusion (Pam Hogle), and one on readability (Sam Enslen).

As far as I know, Australians don’t learn to diagram sentences, so I wanted to know a bit more. I came away very confused and wondering why I would go to so much trouble when I already move and remove things in a bad sentence in my head anyway. I always learn something in every session, and in this one I learnt that sentence diagramming is not something I’m likely to do ever again! Full kudos to Hillary for operating under terrible conditions — the room layout with the pillars was really bad and she had no microphone, so she moved to the centre of the room and projected her voice from there. She also had a room of 100+ people, and got us to work in (very loud) groups — I’m sure it was like herding cats! (Hillary also recommended pretty much anything on Reddit if you want examples of bad sentences.)

Most of Pam’s session on editing for inclusion was familiar to me, so it was a good refresher. But I did learn that there’s something called ‘audio description’ that’s now being included in movies etc. If you’re watching a movie/DVD on your own TV and it has audio description, you should find the setting to turn it on in the language settings. She used the example of the Frozen trailer with and without audio description — it was funny without it, and even funnier with it.

The final session of the day was Sam’s on readability. When I got to the room, it was standing room only, and I was at the very back of the long narrow room. Sam wasn’t provided with a mic either. She let those of us at the back know that her session was the same as the webinar she did last month that’s available for free on the ACES website for members, and suggested that we might find that easier to access than trying to hear her at the front of the room. Along with others, I left to do just that, only to find that it’s only available to those who registered for the webinar! I’ve let Sam know and she’ll get that sorted after the conference. By this stage, I was wondering why I’d come halfway across the world to sit in a hotel room to watch a webinar that I couldn’t access! Had she been provided with a microphone, I’d have stayed in the room — she’s a good speaker and always has lots of interesting stuff to say.

That evening we had the Reception, which was held in the opulent Red Lacquer Room on the 4th floor.

Day 2

The sessions I attended today were on dealing with difficult situations (Laura Poole), managing your freelance business (Melanie Padgett Powers, Michelle Lowery, Sea Chapman), and Microsoft Word macros 201 (Amy Schneider). I also presented my session on being more efficient with Microsoft Word. The evening ended with the Conference Banquet in the Red Lacquer Room (excellent food, great keynote speech by Lynne Murphy on American and British English differences).

Some of my notes from Laura’s session:

  • Key principles:
    • frame around recipient’s needs
    • what’s in it for them
    • use their language
    • practice manners and positive spin
  • Make it right, even if it costs you
  • Be firm and blunt if polite doesn’t work
  • You can be a ‘people person’ but you don’t have to be a ‘people pleaser’
  • Legally you own the copyright on the edits until you are paid
  • Raising rates:
    • my new rates are… (don’t apologise or explain)
    • negotiate with existing clients, if necessary
    • backup your case with facts, if asked (can be hard to quantify your value — see below)
    • am I willing to lose a client if I raise my rates? know what you’re willing to walk away from
  • Some ideas for quantifying value (from audience):
    • how many edits do they accept/reject?
    • times you’ve worked overtime, gone above and beyond, done extra work
    • kudos received, LinkedIn recommendations, brag book, ‘win jar’
    • before/after examples to show how written material affects brand
    • ‘good catch’ file
    • what could potentially happen that would reflect poorly on company if the editing wasn’t done
    • check before/after work with readability tools; readability = time = money
  • Rejecting/leaving a project:
    • “Your project would benefit from a different kind of editing”
    • “This work falls outside my area of expertise and skills”
    • “The scope of the project has changed”
    • soften with a referral to someone else, if you can
  • Firing a client:
    • “I’m not available” (repeat)
    • “I’m specialising in a new area”
    • “Take me off your freelancer list”
  • Applying for a job/gig:
    • highlight skills (not job positions)
    • describe relevant communications tasks
    • learn what you need to to get the job
    • list topic specialties
    • list tools familiar with
  • “It only needs a proofread”:
    • “I’ll take a look and see what it needs”
    • “I’ll give it a standard edit”
    • “I maintain editorial standards for this organisation”
  • Triage editing:
    • have a ‘levels of edit’ document that describes what you do, what each level includes, and approx how long it takes
    • what can you cut out?
    • you can never guarantee perfection or that the final doc will be 100% error-free
  • Reporting plagiarism:
    • contact client immediately
    • be clear about the problem — give passages, link to original sources
    • ask for guidance
    • escalate as necessary

The session on running a freelance business had an extensive handout that I won’t reproduce here. However, I was pleased that one of the presenters clearly defined ‘opportunity cost’.

My session on Microsoft Word efficiency tips was packed. There were 102 seats in the room — all were full and I had about 20 people sitting on the floor at the front and at least that many sitting on the floor or standing at the back. As mentioned earlier, my mic died halfway through so I had to use my teacher voice — with no mic, an Aussie accent, and the fact that I speak fairly quickly, some people may have had difficulty understanding me, and for that I apologise. This was the 3rd consecutive year I’ve presented this session and each year it’s been as packed as the previous years. I might have to offer it again for next year’s conference!

The final session of the day was Amy’s on Word macros. Wow — she uses macros like I’ve never seen before. She showed us some loop and shell macros she uses, and explained them. I’ll definitely have to go back to her slides to get my head around what she’s doing and how.

Day 3

The third and final day of the conference! I attended sessions on why English spelling is so weird (James Harbeck), promoting your editing services in a corporate environment (Kristen Legg), letting go of perfectionism (Alysha Love), and finally, 79 editing tips (Mark Allen), which might have been 79 or not — no-one’s really sure! And then the closing session, followed by the Saturday After Party at the Chicago Athletic Association about a block and a half away.

First up was James’ wonderful romp through English spelling through the ages, from Old English (which he spoke!) to Middle English (he spoke words in that as well!), to the Great Vowel Shift, then on into Modern English, with some side tracks into Greek (he spoke those words too!). It was way too fast and fascinating to take notes, but believe me when I say this was an outstanding session on why we currently spell words like we do.

Kristen’s session was full of all sorts of useful information and I’ll be rechecking her slides once they’re up on the ACES website. She works in an editorial team that’s part of an engineering and environmental consultancy (of 35 people) in Seattle. Her theme was about making yourself an essential part of the team/company. Some notes from her session:

  • Use before/after examples to show value — esp. embarrassing errors that you caught that could have reflected badly on the company
  • Have consistent requirements for editing:
    • makes things easier for you/your team
    • helps when scheduling and estimating time
    • provides info to authors
    • reflect corporate initiatives
  • Stay relevant:
    • find ways to drive point home (e.g. levels of edit, best practices, QC data, historical documentation, how to ‘write good’)
    • send list of docs due
    • additional skills editing team has
    • weekly emails re workload
    • market yourself and your team – advocate for yourself, let boss know stuff done for others
    • let know when super busy or if worked extra time to get out a huge doc you’re proud of
    • recap 6-monthly to boss and discuss any general issues with authors
    • provide public praise to authors who work with you to make your life earier
    • make yourself known — get to know co-workers
  • Work with your authors, not against them
  • Be visible and be needed
  • Use internal deadlines to hold authors accountable — “Missing a deadline by 1 day cuts back on my time to make the document better”
  • Have a chart of time estimates for different levels of editing and make authors aware of it
  • Have a ‘top 10’ list of items from the style guide and promote with authors
  • Summarise # track changes/comments/fixes in transmission email to author(s)
  • Explain that not just ‘other scientists’ will read the material — other stakeholders, executives, possibly public too
  • Sometimes you have to let some things go — e.g. send out doc as is with note “this hasn’t been edited”
  • Dealing with conflict (see slides)

Alysha’s (from CNN’s political desk) session on perfectionism and letting things go covered some definitions of perfectionism (it’s NOT a defined mental illness, though some defined mental illnesses have perfectionism as a trait!). My notes:

  • Hewitt and Flett define three types of perfectionism, all of which lead to negative outcomes:
    • self-oriented (what we expect of ourselves; may have positive attributes, such as resourcefulnes)
    • other-oriented (what we expect of others)
    • socially prescribed (what we THINK others expect of us)
  • Why should we learn to ‘let it go’?
    • time
    • energy
    • money
    • mental wellness
    • helps our relationships with others
    • stress — fighting an uphill battle
    • KNOW WHAT MATTERS MOST!
  • Working on letting it go:
    • adjust self-expectations
    • communicate with others to clarify and understand their TRUE expectations (not what YOU think they are)
    • implement strategies to help catch what matters most (NOTE: you should still have high standards)
    • reality check re deadlines
  • Reframe goals:
    • catch most important errors in allotted time
    • make sure this aligns with boss’ assessment of what’s important
    • type of content can lead to different expectations (e.g. breaking news, Tweets, versus a book)
    • spend the appropriate amount of time and focus on each type of content you edit, given the constraints that exist (e.g. Tweets are ephemeral)
  • Online stories/content:
    • readers find grammar errors troubling and distracting
    • they notice garbled and confusing writing, misspellings, misused words
    • less concerned about style errors and structure than about professionalism and grammar
  • TRIAGE!:
    • decide what’s most important to fix under pressure (hint: rank each item in the triage list from career-altering errors [1] to personal nitpicks [5])
    • process: 0. Prepare; 1. Assess the situation; 2. Determine the action; 3. Edit; 4. If time available, reassess; 5. Let everything else go.
    • STEP 0: Prepare:
      • boss’/client’s expectations
      • client/company priorities
      • what does the audience care about
      • what tools can help (e.g. spell check, consistency checkers)
    • STEP 1: Assess:
      • how much time do you have?
      • what are the critical needs?
      • can you fix it on a later pass?
      • size of audience?
      • how long is the written piece?
    • STEP 2: Action:
      • what’s important? STICK TO THAT
    • STEP 3: Edit:
      • stick to triage list
      • know your needs versus nitpicks
    • STEP 4: Reassess:
      • if there’s time, decide if it’s worth investing more time in it
      • if so, what’s the next level of triage to fix
    • STEP 5: Let it go:
      • what can you let go?
    • Triage list (rank each as a 1 to 5, with 1 the highest priority; no order in the list below):
      • cosmetic fixes
      • career-altering errors
      • smooth transitions
      • errors readers care about
      • grammar
      • hyperlinks
      • accuracy
      • potential libel
      • flow
      • voice
      • tone
      • fact check
      • full rewrite
      • profanity
      • name spellings
      • math
      • style
      • split infinitives
      • errors that cause harm
      • plagiarism spot check
      • duplicate words
      • wordiness
      • consistency
      • clarity
      • trademark attributions
      • sources and refs
      • word preferences
      • bad breaks
    • You can’t do everything — triage so that you’re meeting realistic expectations AND serving your audience
  • Identify needs versus mitpicks
  • Consider evolution of language and writing
  • Keep type of content, lifespan, and audience in mind as you edit
  • Reframe your goals, know your triage rankings, and keep it in perspective
  • copyediting.com has an article on acceptable error rates in editing

The final session I attended (other than the closing session) was Mark Allen’s ‘Edit Sober – 79 tips for on-your-feet editing’. With no numbering, it was hard to figure out how many tips he (and the audience) offered, but it was a lot. I think I got most of them! Here they are:

  • Look it up
  • Never ignore that little voice
  • Use mnemonics
  • Edit on your feet (use a standing desk)
  • Learn until your brains rot
  • Embrace your ignorance
  • Slow down
  • Always reread the first and last para
  • Think like a reader, not like an editor
  • Step away — you’ll see different things when you come back
  • Change your viewpoint — increase font size, change font, print it out
  • If what you’re editing takes forever to get to the point, read the conclusion and perhaps move it to the front
  • Check the facts
  • Don’t take Strunk and White too seriously — omit needless words, favour the active voice, don’t fear the passive voice, keep the good words
  • Edit out loud
  • Edit sober
  • Always check the quotations
  • Rest your eyes
  • Consider using the pomidoro technique (25 mins focused work, 5 mins break)
  • Be wary of absolutes (always, never)
  • Be a partner to your author
  • You are superior, but you don’t have to show it
  • Set a schedule and stick to it
  • Use online resources, but only good ones
  • Keep a style sheet — use it for yourself and for your authors
  • Follow your cohorts
  • Come back to something that stops you from moving on
  • Resist, but accept that language changes
  • There are no rules (only traditions, conventions, guidelines — and they server communication not vice versa)
  • Follow your style guide
  • Don’t ALWAYS follow your style guide
  • Make peace with words
  • Be conscious of othering language — we all have our own biases
  • Once English accepts a word, treat it as an English word
  • Never stop paying attention and questioning
  • There is no such thing as multitasking
  • Read backqwards
  • Eschew obfuscation
  • Down’t sweat the Oxford comma
  • Limit exclamation points to exclamations
  • Know your audience
  • Errors often travel in pairs
  • Check for parallelism
  • Know your peak productivity times
  • Favour hyphens for compound modifiers
  • Think before cutting emphasis and intensifiers
  • Consider rephrasing to avoid expletives
  • Avoid using qualifiers
  • Always check the maths
  • Amused does not equal bemused
  • Use tools to increase your efficiency and watch your back
  • Don’t fear the semicolon
  • Reset spellcheck in Word to get it to recheck
  • Parenthetical content may not be needed
  • Affect and effect are not the same
  • ‘All of’ — one of these can usually be deleted
  • When figuring a percentage, think chronologically
  • Use an editing checklist
  • Use ‘an’ before a vowel sound
  • ‘Aw’ = cute; not ‘awe’
  • Check all contractions — double check it’s and your
  • Work for the reader not the person who pays you
  • Use your business cards; tell people what you do
  • Be a good editor
  • When you edit well, you bolster the professoin
  • Read once for meaning, and again for grammar, and again for technical/mechanical stuff
  • Assume what you’re reading is wrong
  • Never assume someone else checked all the numbers
  • Change perspective — read aloud
  • Some resources: newspapers.com (subs); Library of Congress website for original documents; Google image search for pics of actual things (e.g. title as listed on the original record album cover)

Roll on ACES 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island!

h1

US SIM cards

February 25, 2018

I used to get my US SIM card on leaving Australia, but the company has closed down its kiosks at Sydney and Melbourne international airports and you can only buy from them online now (www.simcorner.com). Although buying online isn’t an issue, the only mobile plan they sell that suits me is from T-Mobile. However, my experiences with T-Mobile on the past few trips have been less than stellar, to the point SimCorner have refunded part of my money as compensation for glacial speeds (meant to be 4G), and lack of connection, even in major cities like Boston.

Time to look for another Australian provider of US SIM cards. In my search, I found a website (www.frequencycheck.com) where you can put in your phone model and get an assessment of which US carriers your phone is likely to ‘play nice’ with. In that check, I found that AT&T and my phone are the best match (and unsurprisingly, T-Mobile didn’t rate very highly for my phone model).

I investigated a few providers — some were based in Europe, some required you to do the activation yourself on arrival (not good after a 16+ hour flight while waiting for a connecting flight), and some didn’t tell you much at all, like whether or not the plan you were looking at allowed you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot (aka tethering). Some also had NO way of contacting them if anything went pear-shaped, except via their online form or an email address — not very good if you’ve just landed at a US airport from Australia and you now have NO internet access. I had to email one seller to find out if any of their plans allowed tethering — only one did, but this was NOT mentioned on their website, so I could’ve spent about $100 on an ‘unlimited everything’ plan only to find out on arrival I couldn’t use my phone as a hotspot. (For those wondering why I need hotspot facility — many hotels have free wifi, but it can be glacially slow and it certainly isn’t secure. Similarly, I tend not to use public wifi.) All the sites I checked had Facebook pages, but many hadn’t updated them in more than a year*, so that’s another red flag, as well as the ‘Community’ posts on their Facebook pages where customers were complaining about not receiving their SIM or being unable to activate their card and needing urgent help.

Eventually, I went with the provider who wasn’t the cheapest (actually they were the most expensive), but whose website was comprehensive and gave me this information:

  • Full details of what each AT&T SIM plan had, along with any limitations and restrictions
  • Automatic activation based on the date of arrival you put in
  • No need for the phone’s IMEI to be provided
  • Various contact/support methods — Australian phone #, 24/7 US phone #, email address, specific email address of the owner of the company
  • Detailed instructions
  • Detailed breakdown of what you’re paying for — SIM card plan, cost of actual SIM card, registered post (plus expected time of delivery)
  • Testimonials (more than the three one website had)
  • Comprehensive FAQ.

Ultimately, my decision was based on how confident I felt that the company would respond to any problems, based on the information provided on their website.

Only time will tell — my next trip is mid-April, so I’ll report back after that.

Bottom line: When prospective customers are looking to buy from you, give them as much information as they need to make that purchase, set out clearly and written concisely. And if the product is one that may require support, make sure you offer more than just a contact form available only via the internet.

Update (March 2018): Since I wrote this, I’ve checked Telstra’s offerings (Telstra is the biggest Australian telco, and who I have my phone plan with). Previously, international roaming with Telstra required you to remortgage your house! They changed that a few years ago, but even a year or so ago, it was still expensive. The $10/day wasn’t so bad, but the data allowance was miniscule and they whacked you very hard if you exceeded it, with the result that you could still come home to bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Happy holidays, NOT! However, Telstra has changed (probably to compete with the offerings of the other carriers) and the rates are now more reasonable — it’s still $10/day for global roaming, with a 200 MB/day data allowance (expires each day, so not cumulative). If you exceed your 200 MB in any day, you can purchase another 500 MB for $10, and that 500 MB lasts for 31 days. In addition to the 200 MB of data each day, you get to keep your Australian phone number, and get unlimited standard international calls and texts. For a 20-day trip, you’d be up for about $200 (you’re only charged for the days you use, but be aware the ‘day’ is based on Australian Eastern Standard Time), with a possible extra $10 or $20 for extra data, if needed. Not as cheap as a US SIM, but you don’t have to change SIMs, possibly change APN details in your phone and let the new provider know your IMEI number, tell others your US phone number, update airline and other websites with your temporary US number etc. It’s an option I might consider for the next trip after the upcoming one, though I’d need to find out what data speeds (2G, 3G, 4G?) the international roaming plan defaults to — if it’s glacial, there’s not much point.

Update (April 2018): I arrived in the US last night, and turned on my phone after installing the new SIM while in the air. It connected immediately to the AT&T network for phone calls and text messages, but not for data. However, the provider had given full instructions for updating the APN settings on an Android phone if it didn’t connect for data (not necessary for iPhones — it seem they connect automatically), and after I entered those settings and waited 5-15 mins, I had data connection. However, I didn’t have email connection on my phone as I link to Exchange Server for my email — I didn’t worry about changing those settings as I get email fine when I’m on wifi, AND I’d set my ISP email settings to send a copy of all my email sent to my Gmail account, which I can access without any issue on my phone.

The data connection isn’t particularly good close to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), despite all coverage maps for all companies showing ‘excellent’ coverage in and around big cities and airports. I used Speedtest.net to check, and got 1.22 Mbps download and 1.86 Mbps upload, with a 27 ms ping rate. This was with 1 bar of 4G coverage. A few minutes later it was still 1 bar, but I got 3.18 down and 0.89 up. I’ll monitor it over the next few days, but will use free wifi for general browsing and checking email where it’s available and has better speed. (Note: Checking via Speedtest chews up quite a bit of data [about 7 mb each test?] so I won’t do it often otherwise I’ll use up all my data just checking the speed!)

Oh, the Australian company I got my SIM card through? https://www.usaprepaidsimcard.com.au/ I bought the MAX plan as it allows me to use my phone as a wifi hotspot in areas of very bad or no wifi coverage. The other plans with more data don’t allow this.

Further to this… I contacted the Australian supplier about the speed near SFO and after getting me to check a couple of things which didn’t work (they were VERY prompt in their replies to me!) they put me in touch with the AT&T help desk, where the lady I spoke to was also very helpful. The issue with speed resolved itself as soon as I moved out of the SFO environment, so I’m guessing something weird was happening at that location.

A week later… I took the train from San Francisco to Chicago. There was no wifi on the train, so I HAD to use my cell phone as a wireless hotspot if I wanted connection. My previous T-Mobile SIMs would almost die if I took them away from a major city, but this AT&T SIM was like the Energiser Bunny — it just kept on and on, even out in the wilds of the Sierra mountains and Colorado where I didn’t expect any coverage. Yes, in some places coverage was patchy, but we were in the middle of nowhere and no-one had signal in those cases. So, based on my experience on the train, I’d go with AT&T again.

******

* Yeah, I’m also guilty of not updating my CyberText Facebook page — to be honest, I only grabbed the page way back when to prevent someone else from grabbing the name; I never intended it to be a method for anyone wanting my services to contact me.

[Links last checked February 2018]

 

 

h1

Microsoft Style Guide

February 15, 2018

The online (and free) Microsoft Style Guide (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/style-guide/welcome/) has been released. It replaces the previous Microsoft Manual of Style, a ‘must have’ style guide for those working with online text — user interfaces, online help, etc.