Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

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New tribes

July 31, 2017

Foreword written for Southern Communicator, Issue 41, June 2017

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New tribes

Tribe: Colloquial (humorous) a family or class of people (Macquarie Dictionary)

In September 2008, after 16 years in the software technical writing world, I segued into editing technical documents. It was just as the global financial crisis was happening, and a time when mining and software companies (my main source of income) were getting rid of contractors to preserve their bottom lines. I lived in a rural area three hours’ drive from Perth (Western Australia), so was fortunate to land a temporary three‐month telecommuting contract with a global oil and gas company—I’m now in my tenth year with them—editing some of their Word documents. Yes, Microsoft Word.

Word is still heavily used by corporates for much of their day‐to‐day documentation and reporting. We can talk all we like about how other software is better for constructing documents, managing the review cycle, formatting, publishing to various outputs, and the like, but the reality is that other software (for example, Framemaker, InDesign, Author‐it, and so on) often remains the domain of specialist tech and marketing communications people, with little inroads into mainstream corporate life.

As I moved into this different, but related, editing world, I was still very much attached to my technical communication ‘tribe’ (I attended and spoke at techcomm conferences until 2014). But eventually I decided it was time to embrace this world I’d inhabited for six years. And what better way to embrace a new tribe than by hanging out with them in the places they frequent. For me, that’s conferences and online.

Dr Google told me about various professional and informal editing organisations, some of which were very specialised (for example, medical editors, thesis editors). I was already a member of the Western Australian editing society, which recently became part of IPEd, the professional group for Australian editors. IPEd holds a two‐day conference every two years, and the state branch holds a one‐day seminar each winter. But, like Oliver Twist, I wanted more.

Professional editing groups in North America and Great Britain were my focus, especially those that held multi‐day annual conferences. But which to choose? Eventually I opted to join the American Copy Editors Society (ACES); ACES’ original focus was newspaper copy editors, but now covers all types of editors. I attended and spoke at my first ACES conference in the US in 2015—I was a total newbie, only knowing one other person attending that conference. This was so different to the techcomm conferences where I knew many people. I’ve since attended and spoken at the 2016 and 2017 ACES conferences, and the circle of those I know in this new tribe is growing wider.

Speaking at a conference is a great way to meet people—it’s amazing how many stop you in the hallway to tell you how much they enjoyed your session, ask you a question, or just strike up a conversation over a drink or a meal because they feel they know you because they’ve heard you speak, or, as an Australian in the US, because they ‘just love your accent’! Speaking is also a terrific icebreaker, and I can’t recommend it enough for those who find themselves very lonely at a conference. Put yourself out there and offer to speak. The ASTC conference is usually held each October, so consider putting in a submission to speak at the next one, or try the TechCommNZ conference, held every two years.

Another tribal behaviour is the chat around the camp fire, or today, around the coffee machine. But how can you informally pick fellow editors’ brains when you work alone and are physically distant from your work colleagues, or don’t have any work colleagues? Join an online group. Despite the time zones, I try to participate in the monthly, hour‐long #ACESChat on Twitter. I also hang out at the Editors Association of Earth (Facebook group), where editors from around the world help each other decipher awkward sentences, solve Word problems, share bloopers, talk about language variations and regionalisms, and so on. And because we’re global, there’s always someone awake somewhere to help with a curly question, or offer moral support.

Tribes—it’s all about finding ‘your people’ and the feeling of belonging when you do. So search, join, attend, participate, speak—hang out with your people because it’s good for you professionally and it’s good for your soul to be with like‐minded people, even if just for a short while.

References:

[Links last checked July 2017]

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ACES Conference: 2017

April 13, 2017

I attended (and spoke at) the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) annual conference in St Petersburg, Florida in March. I loved the Tampa/St Pete area!

Just for my records, here are the sessions I attended, with a brief summary for each of them.

Thursday March 23

  • Quick fixes you may have forgotten about (Merrill Perlman): A nice refresher of things that you can overlook when editing. Merrill is a funny, engaging speaker.
  • Catch as catch can (John Russial): Math!! Especially the difference between percentage and percentage point increases/decreases. Valuable.
  • Professional Etiquette: Navigate networking without making enemies (Christina Frey, Sarah Grey, Barbie Halaby, Heather Saunders): Very professionally presented, with seamless segues between members of the panel. Lots of content and great ideas.
  • ‘Word by Word: The secret life of dictionaries’ (Kory Stamper): Kory’s book had just been published a few days before the conference and this was her first-ever reading from it. She read an excerpt from the first chapter. It was so good, I ordered a copy online immediately afterwards (it was a hardback and only 24 copies were available at the conference) — my ordered copy beat me home. I’m about halfway through it and thoroughly savouring every word. Highly recommended for word nerds!

Friday, March 24

  • The Online Misinformation Ecosystem (general session) (Craig Silverman): Craig works for Buzzfeed. This session was great on pointing out how news and social media can manipulate a story.
  • Computer-Assisted Copy Editing: Using Tansa’s Products for Clear, Concise and Consistent Content (Chris Grimm): Excellent overview of some online tools available for checking consistency. However, each requires a link back to an online server, and so wouldn’t be acceptable to my main client.
  • The Editor as Writer: Essential Tools and Strategies (With Music!) (Roy Peter Clark): Great session, covering many basic (but often forgotten) strategies.
  • Faking Extroversion as an Introvert (Samantha Enslen, Rachel Godward, Laura Lattimer): Good session, but unfortunately Sam only ended up with about 3 minutes to cover all she had to say, which was a shame as she’s an excellent speaker.
  • ‘French toast’ vs. ‘french fries’: The Wild West of Food Editing (Wendy Allen, Janet Keeler): I loved this session! I don’t do food editing, but I cook, eat, and dine out, and read cookbooks and menus. I’m sure that qualifies, right? Oh, I was the only one in the room who knew the difference between grazer (an animal that grazes on grass) and grazier (a person who looks after such animals) — obviously ‘grazier’, which is well known in Australia, is little known in the US.
  • Banquet – keynote speaker Anne Curzan: Introduced us to ‘grammando!’, and recommended we use it instead of ‘grammar nazi’

Saturday, March 25

  • The Art of the Possible: The Dictionary as Authority of a Changing Language (Kory Stamper, Peter Sokolovksi, Anne Curzan): Lexicographers and linguists — these are my people and they are ‘on fleek’! :-)
  • Save Time and Your Sanity: Increase your Efficiency with Microsoft Word (me!): The room held about 70 seats — all were full, and about another 30 people were on the floor or leaning on the walls, which is tough for 90 minutes! Thanks for coming — and for staying, if you were one of the floor people.
  • Government Contract Editing–Guidelines to Make It Work (Elizabeth LaPlante, Helen O’Guinn): Good advice on plain language when writing and responding to RFPs etc.
  • How to Diagram Sentences — and Why (Lisa McLendon): A whirlwind trip through sentence diagramming, with examples for us to try. This wasn’t taught in Australian schools when I was growing up, so was unfamiliar to me, but I like the structure of it.
  • Lightning Presentations and Closing General Session: More whirlwind presentations. Kudos to the presenters!!
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EditorsWA Winter Seminar: Sex, lies and editing

August 31, 2016

On 13 August 2016, 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 the three sessions; the second session (on plain language) was mine, so there are no notes for it.

Session 1: Sex, lies, and blogging (Amanda Kendle)

  • Tweets – 140 chars forces you to be concise, remove redundancies, ignore punctuation, and abbreviate
  • Blog/social media writing is quite different
  • Style tends to be casual
  • Repetetive words/phrases may be there for SEO purposes, so not just redundancies
  • Each type of social media requires different styles of writing (Facebook vs Twitter vs LinkedIn)
  • Tips for developing a good blogging voice:
    • write like you talk
    • consciously choose your level of informality/casualness
    • use contractions and first person
    • read other blogs and identify styles you enjoy
    • tell a story, no matter what the topic is.
  • How to edit content for blogs and social media:
    • read aloud to get a good feel for appropriate ‘friendliness’
    • communicate clearly with clients about the style they want to use
    • give clients examples of blogging and social media posts that are of a suitably informal standard
    • suggest clients do voice recordings to transcribe from if they are writing in an overly academic or formal way.
  • NOTE: the rules are ever-changing and highly flexible.

Session 3: To ‘do it’ or not to ‘do it’: Things to consider before including a sex scene (Chloe Stam)

  • Various types of sex scenes
  • Should there be a sex scene?
    • in some genres, it’s expected.
    • some publishers have quotas!!! (e.g. three sex scenes, this many pages apart…)
    • realism – sex is part of human life, and in current culture
    • relevance to plot — if no function, don’t do it.
    • sex scenes in YA novels — if true to the characters, don’t avoid, but tone it down, especially as written from first person; sex is a reality with YAs, but don’t centre entirely on sex; don’t introduce unrealistic/harmful ideas (e.g. BDSM, ‘porny’ sex)
  • Even if graphic and anatomical, sex is ultimately about emotion and communication; emotion doesn’t mean love.
  • Editing sex scenes:
    • male or female point of view?
    • senses — use sensual impression to pull readers in to the story
    • conflict of the characters — what’s at stake? is something holding them back?
    • pacing — build-up to the sex scene with increasing sexual tension
  • Character development:
    • how does the act change your characters, show who they really are, or what they’re afraid of?
    • who initiated the intimacy, how is it displayed, what happens when it’s over, are their reactions equal?
  • There’s a ‘Bad sex in fiction award’!
  • Representation of sex and people:
    • diversity — normal in life, therefore should be normal in books; POC, queer, other minorities struggle to find positive representation in mainstream media; not about meeting a quota or making a statement; makes the book more interesting
    • default — characters are seen as white unless otherwise stated
    • asexuality — don’t find other people sexually attractive; often depicted as non-existent, needing a cure, robotic characters
    • people with disabilities — how are they portrayed? are they shown as sexual, or just dealing with their disability? Are they 3D characters and a real part of the story?
    • exoticism– calling someone ‘exotic’ reminds them they are different and emphasises their ethnicity; lots of stereotypes!! (mostly around women, esp. black, Asian)
    • queer – LGBTI etc. Often written about negatively; rarely a 3D character where their life doesn’t revolve around sexuality
    • elderly — seen as sexless and infantilised; disparity between men and women
    • self-love — seen as natural for men, but deviant for women
    • BDSM – requires trust, communication and emotional maturity. It is not sex and violence with emotional manipulation.
  • Sexual violence — avoid:
    • rape to punish female characters
    • rape as a backstory to make a ‘strong female character’
    • rape/murder only to affect male protagonist (women in refrigerators)
    • rape for shock factor/titillation
  • Disproportionate levels of rape against women as opposed to men – therefore masks issues of sexual assault against men
  • Journalistic reporting on sexual violence, victim blaming etc.

Session 4: The plagiarism games (Ffion Murphy)

  • What constitutes originality and does it matter any more? Literary theft, mimicry, borrowing, homage, or inspiration?
  • Universities invest huge amounts of $$$ in detecting plagiarism (e.g. Turn it in)
  • What is ‘originality’? where is the line? Is this idea of a line or border misleading even corrosive or stultifying?
  • Transformation — can be derived from another but must be significantly different and must transform the ‘original’, re-patterning of earlier works.
  • Inspiration vs copying:
    • work needs to share at least some qualities of what has been judged ‘good’ in the past
    • value is located in an act of digression, transgression, homage to, or transformation of what has come before
    • must be an acceptable type of copy

 

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World domination achieved!

June 11, 2016

Yesterday I got an email from a US friend. He’s in Budapest (Hungary) attending a tech writing/user assistance conference (UA Europe). He’s in a session presented by someone from The Netherlands when he spots a screenshot of a page from this blog! He has enough time to capture it on his phone and send it to me. How cool is that — a Dutch presenter showing a page from an Australian’s blog, seen and captured by an American, in Hungary!

Even cooler, the presenter said that it was great example of a ‘perfectly complete task explanation’ and ‘This rocks!’ My work here is done — I think with this, I have achieved world domination ;-)

20160610_100935

(In case you’re interested, the blog post the speaker referenced was: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/word-insert-a-multi-page-pdf/)

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PowerPoint: How to show another app

January 5, 2016

This post is for me so I don’t forget what to do!

In days gone by, if you did a presentation using Microsoft PowerPoint (for Windows) and you linked to another app for demo purposes (e.g. Microsoft Word), then clicking the link would open the app on the screen, covering the presentation until you pressed Alt+Tab to return to the slide show.

However, in more recent versions of PowerPoint (2010 at least and later), this function seems to be gone when you connect your laptop to an external monitor, such as a projection unit. Instead, you get ‘presentation mode’ on your laptop and the presentation on the big screen, but when you click a link to display another app, nothing happens on the big screen, even though you get the linked app showing on your laptop.

This is disconcerting as you think the audience can see what you see, and frustrating as you try to figure out how to get back from the presentation to show the app on the big screen, then back to the presentation again. I’ve been caught with it in the past three presentations I’ve done, and it totally throws you off your spiel, and takes up precious time as you (or a techie) try to get you where you need to go.

Because I’m doing at least a couple more presentations this year, I decided to figure out the best combination of settings to use to display everything I need on the big screen. I connected my laptop to an external monitor and played with the settings to get a combination that works for me.

Here are my settings for future reference (do these in order):

  1. Windows 8.1: Control Panel > Display > Project to a Second Screen > Duplicate
  2. PowerPoint 2013: Slide Show > Monitor — set to Primary
  3. PowerPoint 2013: Slide Show — turn OFF Use presentation mode

What this does is duplicate exactly what’s on your laptop on the big screen. The upside is that you can now click a link in your PowerPoint and open another app and the audience will see it. The downside is that everything on your desktop, task bar etc. can be seen by the audience, so the usual caveats for presenting from many years ago still apply (i.e. don’t have anything on the screen that’s private!).

[If you have an easier way to do this, please share in the Comments]

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.