Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

h1

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

 

h1

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.

*********

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)

h1

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.

*********

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.

 

h1

ACES 2015: Pittsburgh: Day 1: Thursday 26 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.

*********

Editing in a digital environment (Adrienne Montgomerie, Rachel Stuckey)

Digital process AND digital product

Digital has changed proofreading. No need to compare a printer’s proof to the manuscript. All is now cold reading and immediate edits.

(This session was not what I expected. I expected to learn about apps to edit digitally, and these weren’t touched on at all. Instead, the focus was on how digital methods were changing the book production process. The presenters didn’t seem to really know what the other was doing – perhaps they were being too polite with who went next but it seemed they hadn’t rehearsed their presentation ‘live’ and determined who was doing what and when.)

The (editing) checklist manifesto (Samantha Enslen, Dragonfly Editorial)

(Book to borrow: The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande)

Checklists make sure we cover everything and ensure we don’t have to remember everything (thus freeing our brain).

(see her slides for sample checklists and checklist items)

(Engaging speaker who knew what she was talking about and delivered with confidence. Lots of practical tips, but many she talked about in detail could be automated in Word.)

10 apps for editors (Stephanie Yamkovenko)

Apps for staying in touch:

  • Google Voice (Google phone #, call forwarding, and texts); also Hangouts has phone app too  (‘Dial’)
  • Asana (project management app)

Apps for staying in the know:

  • Feedly (RSS aggregator)
  • Pocket (keeps everything together so can access on any device; e.g. save article for reading later; text to speech facility)

Apps for organisation:

  • Dropbox (file storage in cloud; share files)
  • Google Drive (Office-style suite; files saved to the cloud; can edit; can edit collaboratively; immediate saves; can scan documents using phone’s camera and will save as PDF to Google Drive)
  • Google Keep (notetaking app; can take picture and add to note)
  • Push Bullet (shows phone’s notifications on ALL devices including desktop; can push files to another device; browser extension or desktop app for desktop) CHECK THIS ONE OUT!!!

Apps for photos:

  • Photoshop Express (not Photoshop with layers etc.; but has filters, crop,  exposure,  shadows etc.)

Apps for almost everything:

  • IFTTT (if this, then that; connects all accounts; create recipes ‘if I do this, …’)

Extras:

  • Twilight (helps you sleep better by taking out light from phone)
  • Shush (asks how long you want to keep phone on silent)
  • Swype keyboard
  • TripIt
  • Copy Bubble (great for tweeting a quote etc.)

(Engaging speaker. Lots of interesting apps, some of which I wasn’t aware of, or had heard of but never investigated.)

*************

I presented my session on ‘Working away from the office: Benefits and drawbacks’ during the last time slot of the day. About 50 people attended (rough estimate), and I had some lovely positive feedback at the end of the session and throughout the next day.

 

 

h1

Proofread before publishing #2

November 16, 2014

Maybe this candidate for election might have had more success if she or someone else had proofread her advertisement…

Hobart_election2014

How could they have NOT seen that the twist on her first name and initial letter of her surname spelled the word ‘debt’??

And what does ‘please contact … for the issues that need to be addressed’ mean?

h1

Proofread before publishing

September 22, 2014

I stayed at the lovely Sydney Hilton when I spoke at a conference held there last month. When I was checking the hotel’s website prior to my trip, I clicked a link to a spa business on (or very close to) the premises. The link is so tied into the Sydney Hilton’s website that I initially assumed it was part of the hotel’s services.

This spa business promotes itself as high-end and their prices reflect that. Their alliance with the Sydney Hilton also attests to that.

However, I didn’t try any of their spa treatments. Why? Well, cost was one reason, but the main reason was the lack of care taken with their website and its content. While there may be no correlation with the quality of their website and the quality of their services, in my mind lack of care in one equates to potential lack of care in the other.

So what was so wrong with their website? Here are a few examples (screen shots below):

  • spelling errors, typos, and duplicated words
  • sentences that didn’t make sense
  • placeholder text instead of real content
  • photos that showed dirty fingernails.

How could they have fixed this before their website went ‘live’? Well, having someone proofread every page, every heading, every caption, and check every photo would have been a good start. And if there’s no-one in-house who felt comfortable doing this, then they could have hired an editor for a couple of hours to do it for them. A small price to pay to NOT turn potential customers away.

A sample of screen shots from this website — there were many more examples I could have used as the site was littered with them.

spa01

Typo in heading, and use of irrelevant placeholder text

spa03

Repeated words (‘for for’), one word split in two (‘I deal’ versus ‘Ideal’), and a sentence that just doesn’t make sense

 

spa02

Spelling errors and typos (‘form’ instead of ‘from’)

spa04

And you promote facial treatments by people with dirty fingernails? Ewww! If this was a stock photo, get another one. Better yet, get your own photos taken by a professional photographer.

 

h1

SOEWA Winter Seminar

August 19, 2014

I attended (and spoke at) the Society of Editors (WA) [SOEWA] Winter Seminar on Saturday. It was a day packed with good information and a variety of speakers and topics. Here’s my summary of the sessions (not including mine on the pros and cons of telecommuting).

These are my note and opinions, and do not reflect anyone else’s experience.

soewa01

soewa02

Dr Hilary Cadman: PerfectIt and other editing tools

Hilary had two sessions at this seminar.

The first was on PerfectIt (http://www.intelligentediting.com), which I use. This was a hands-on demo, and considering the time she had and the number of people in the room (about 27) and the varying levels of comfort with PerfectIt (from those who’ve never heard of it to those who are users of the software), she did well in covering as much as she did. Even though I’m a PerfectIt user, I still learnt something in this session, like how to add customizations to a style as you go (I’d been doing it the manual way). She also mentioned the free style sheets available from PerfectIt such as those that covert UK to US spelling and vice versa, and the Australian Government style sheet.

Her other session later in the day covered other editing tools that can automate some of the repetitive processes we do.

Takeaways:

  • embrace technology
  • start somewhere
  • get connected

Advantages of tools:

  • save time
  • save sanity
  •  improve quality
  •  decrease RSI
  • look more professional — improved image, better client confidence in you
  • add value to client (e.g. offering client a PerfectIt style sheet for their future docs); can go beyond the client’s expectations

Disadvantages:

  • over reliance on tools
  • can mess things up (e.g. beware of replace all, fix all)
  • cost of the tools and time learning program
  • employer resistance to installing unknown applications on their systems
  • potential overlap with functions in tools

Hilary’s ‘can’t live without it’ recommendations — PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, and PhraseExpress (http://www.phraseexpress.com).

Editor’s Toolkit (http://www.editorium.com) — looks overwhelming, not user friendly, but once installed and start using saves lots of time; has about 48 shortcuts, but don’t need to use them all. Many are very useful. ~$70 (Jack Lyon’s program)

EndNote (http://www.endnote.com) — for managing citations/references.

EdiFix (http://edifix.com) — online search tool for citations/references that you can use to find references that can then go into Endnote.

John Denton: Business systems

Essential to have systems for your business:

  • Process: flow of work — start, do, end; Flow charts can map about the business flow (e.g. how to respond to an enquiry)
  • System: how the process is recorded, executed, and communicated to be consistent every time

Process: what needs to be done; System: how it needs to be done

Where do you start?

  • what are the areas of greatest frustration in my business?
  • how do these frustrations impact my business?
  • what results am I NOT getting due to these areas?
  • how is that impacting me personally, emotionally, financially, health, time etc.?

Systemization gives you time to document etc. the system! Need to make time to ‘sharpen the saw’ (Steven Covey)

  • ‘The real problem is that my business lacks a system to….’
  • What will be the benefits to the business of implementing a system?
  • What will be the benefits to me personally?

Map out business aspects/processes (production [do the work], admin [e.g. invoicing], people, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing)

Need for:

  • Contact Management System
  • Document Management System

Can change Windows folder icons to help identify where files are (http://www.foldermarker.com), and/or use a consistent numbered system for folder names (e.g 01Admin)

Benefits of having systems:

  • prevent or minimize errors
  • reduce need for and cost of rework
  • easier to train/employ staff
  • can use temporary staff/outsource when you have a system
  • frees up owner to work on the business — or have time off! (e.g. holidays)
  • things get done consistently and in a timely manner
  • business is not ‘owner-centric’

Challenges of systems: Business personalities:

  • The analyzer — loves detail, analysis, problem solving (left-brain dominant)
  • The safekeeper — works to a structure, systems, checklists, plans (left-brain dominant)
  • The carer — people person, counseling, making sure people are OK (right-brain dominant)
  • The player — entrepreneur, doesn’t organize anything, risk taker (right-brain dominant)

In a perfect business, need all those elements. most have all traits in some degree or another, but some personalities will dominate. Various personalities will drive each other crazy!!

What do Boeing and David Lee Roth have in common? Van Halen were first band to take 18+ trucks of gear on the road, so had to use systems to make sure everything worked. Roth developed a process for setting up everything so that it was done right and wasn’t a hazard. His contract stipulated removing the brown M&Ms from the artists’ room as a test to see if the system had been followed. Boeing – created checklists for aircraft back in the 1930s(?)

Don’t need to produce manuals to document processes — can produce videos, use diagrams and pictures, flow charts, swimlane diagrams, checklists

Improve system:

  • continuous improvement — act, plan, check, do
  • put a QA process in to see that keeping on track

Procrastination and perfectionism are your worst enemies in putting systems in place!

John uses Trello (http://www.trello/com) for collaborating on projects and Fiverr (http://www.fiverr.com) for outsourcing some tasks.

Margaret McNally: How many P’s exist in ‘publication’?

Margaret was managing editor for a university (print) publications team and described the complex workflow in getting documents from concept to publication.

‘P’ aspects of publication:

  • pen
  • paper
  • process
  • production
  • patience
  • persistence
  • PANIC!
  • print
  • pleasure.

Implications of digital for print publications that are competing with online environment:

  • length of stories
  • design and imagery.

Managing Editor – person in charge of managing all aspects of the editorial process of publications including staff, budget,and production schedules (copy editing, design, imagery, print, compliance [Competition and Consumer Act 2010], budget, staff)

Adobe InCopy — Lets copywriters and editors style text, track changes, and make simple layout modifications to a document while designers can be working simultaneously on the same document using InDesign — all without overwriting each others’ contributions. (from http://www.adobe.com) ~$AU382, part of Adobe Creative Suite 6 (Creative Cloud)

Takeaways:

  • know your company/organization
  • familiarize yourself with latest trends — publication,  print, online
  • develop ideas.

Georgina Wilson: Editing for the web — same, same but different

Case study of shifting the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) from print to web publications/communications.

Website wasn’t a resource priority for a long time – frustrating to use, poor navigation, lack of current material, thousands of pages getting no views, no incentive to upload new material.

Had to start from scratch — back end and front end.

BUT developers were employed before they did any user analysis!!

Chose DRUPAL as their content management system. Long process in agreeing on architecture.

Needed to comply with accessibility guidelines, large team of authors and approvers, training in writing for a new system (huge number of writers and reviewers funneling into 10 content approvers).

Arguments about where content belongs — e..g whether bees were ‘pests and diseases’ or ‘livestock’!! (they decided on livestock as bees are not a pest).

New website has 8 main headings (was 13). As 90% of visitors came in via websites, was the navigation that important?

Aims:

  • more visual, with good images
  • responsive design for different platforms
  • tag relevant topics for search
  • content review date of one year (default)
  • links to other articles on site
  • links to other relevant sites
  • contact details for further info.

Process was slower than expected to get website up… few extra resources were allocated outside the web development team.

Old website was 13,000 pages (mostly PDFs), but so far only about 2000 on new site, so still a long way to go, though some content may not get migrated as out of date.

Two approval stages:

  • author to project approver
  • directorate approver/publisher

Editing for the web:

  • need to follow the style guide
  • look for missing tags, links, quality of images
  • think scanning rather than reading; think of the reader NOT the writer
  • plain English
  • try to grab and hold attention
  • multiple screens examples (we all have multiple screens on at the same time — e.g. TV, laptop, tablet, phone)
  • must be accessible — add alt text to images

Audit trail and process:

  • usually draft text in Word where track changes are easy
  • theory is that author will consult with others but doesn’t always happens
  • some external editors have been employed
  • still waiting for pages that don’t need edits
  • audit trail of every change remains available

Writing basics:

  • reverse pyramid approach– big picture first, then drilling down
  • plain English
  • short titles (6 to 8 words)
  • one deck if possible [she didn’t explain what this meant]
  • keyword in title are the first and last words
  • short paragraphs (40-70 words, though may still be too long)
  • short sentences (15-20 words)
  • replace semicolons with separate sentences, or bullet points
  • lots of headings, bullet points
  • links to other useful sites
  • 10-second rule (lose reader if they don’t find answer in 10 secs)
  • no underlining except web and email addresses
  • no italics except scientific names