Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

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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?

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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!

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IPEd Conference 2017: Day 2

September 16, 2017

Panel: Building Alliances

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

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

Issues facing the various organisations

ASA:

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

ANZSI:

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

MEAA:

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

QWC:

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

CA:

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

Key issues for partnership with IPEd

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

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

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

Keynote: Sean Leahy

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

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

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

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

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

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

He started off with five general tips for choosing tools:

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

Editing and proofreading tools

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

Business tools

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

Everyday agreements and contracts for editors (Roslyn Copas)

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

She differentiated an agreement and a contract:

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

General points

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

Why have an agreement/contract?

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

Minimum characteristics of any agreement/contract

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

Before you sign

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

When you make an agreement

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

Considerations for editors

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

Resources

Giving science a style makeover (Julie Irish)

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

Some information about AMOSS:

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

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

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

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

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

Related websites:

Index of unreadability (Philip Bryan)

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

Materials in order of increasing unreadability

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

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

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

Print items and selection options for readability

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

When selecting options for readability consider:

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

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

Electronic items and selection options for readability

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

However, other areas of consideration for screen include:

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

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

See also:

Conference close

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

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See also:

[Links last checked September 2017]

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IPEd Conference 2017

September 14, 2017

Held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, September 13 to 15, 2017.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Endnote

This was meant to be 4-hour workshop on learning some of the basics of the Endnote referencing software. However, we only had three effective hours after taking out 30 mins for afternoon tea, and 30 mins for a late start and the presenter dealing with those who, despite multiple emails and other information on the conference website months ago, had not downloaded the required software or sample files.

The actual presentation by Dr Hilary Cadman was good and I learnt a lot. I’d played with the software for a few days the week before the conference, so had some familiarity with it, but this answered lots of my newbie questions and gave me enough information to decide whether to purchase it or not.

Day 1: 14 September 2017

The first day of the conference started with the usual welcome speeches, including a ‘welcome to country’ from a local Aboriginal elder, followed by a keynote address by Sophie Cunningham who spoke about her editing life in the Australian publishing industry.

Freelancing Panel

This panel comprised six freelance editors, who each spoke for 5 minutes on one aspect of freelancing that they now know that they wished they’d known when they started. Even though I’ve had my own freelance business for nearly 20 years, I still learnt from their experiences. Some points made by the various presenters:

  • After taking out time for 4 weeks’ leave, 2 weeks’ sick leave, and 2 weeks’ for public holidays, you’re left with a possible 44 billable weeks. Assuming you can work 5 billable hours per day (some of the rest of the day may be business admin etc.) and that you work 5 days a week, then you have 1100 potential billable work hours in a year. To calculate your fee, work out the salary you need to earn, take off $5000 for expenses, and then divide the result by the number of billable hours (e.g. $60K salary less $5K expenses = $55K, divided by 1100 hours = $50/hour).
  • Networking as an introvert:
    • Move out of your comfort zone – talk to people in person.
    • Look for opportunities to connect anywhere
    • Be personal and supportive, whether in person or online
    • Present a professional image – personal, website, logo etc.
    • Be confident – in yourself, your services, your expertise.
  • Promoting ourselves online – sand, river, and ocean:
    • Sand: Foundation for our own promotion (website, mailing list of clients, create free product (e.g. videos, handouts)
    • River: Social media (choose three platforms – e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); online networking (e.g. answering questions on related forums, Quora)
    • Ocean: collaboration with 3rd parties (write for online ezines, IPEd website entry, bid for work on online editing sites)
    • Use a simple strategy
    • Do one marketing task every day.
  • Implement a structure – working in an office gives you a framework; as a freelancer, you need to create one for yourself. Structure time for:
    • Admin minutiae
    • Exercise, lunch, when you stop/don’t work
    • Have weekly and daily plans.
  • Be more efficient with your time by using technology such as IFTT (if this, then that for creating alerts for jobs posted on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
  • Make sure your business is set up as a business:
    • Cultivate good long-term relationships
    • Take care of yourself – no money comes in if you’re not healthy, so good eating habits, good exercise, and set boundaries.

Editing for Education in a Digital World (Kylie Challenor and Lian Flick)

Kylie and Lian did a joint presentation on how the world of educational publishing has changed at Wiley in the past few years, from printed text books to far more interactive and online media. This was a good session marred by a slightly late start and then more than 10 minutes of the 45-minute session taken up with them discussing their backgrounds and history (much of which was in the printed program), thus leaving only about 25 minutes for the presentation and a short time at the end for questions. They handled the segues from one presenter to the other very well and it was very clear that they had practiced this beforehand.

How will editors adapt to an evolving digital future? (Dr Stephen White)

This was a fascinating look into the editing world of the Geological Survey of Western Australia, where digital atlases, maps, and virtual tours are becoming common. However, despite all the fancy technological innovations, editing existing text once it’s in the programs is still an incredibly manual and time-consuming exercise. What’s desperately needed are tools (external or built into the software tools used) that allow the metadata to be edited directly, or for the information to be tagged for changes.

Keynote: Monolithic and multilithic languages (Roly Sussex)

This was a super interesting presentation on the nature of languages and cultures. Monolithic languages are those that are pretty well fixed and rarely change (e.g. dead languages such as classical Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit; computer languages; and languages such as Icelandic [texts from 900 AD can still be read by Icelanders today], Estonian, and Latvian). Multilithic languages are those such as English, which have many variations (geography, dialect) and no fixed Academy to prescribe the ‘correct’ form of the language. He spent some time on the relationship between language and culture, an aspect that I found particularly interesting (e.g. L1/C1 means you speak the main language of the country and follow its cultural norms; L1/C2 – you speak the main language but follow another country’s cultural norms [e.g. speak Australian English, but follow Chinese cultural norms]; L2/C1 – you speak English as your second language but follow the cultural norms of the country you’re living in; and L2/C2 – you speak English as a second language, and follow the cultural norms of another country [e.g. new migrants]).

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

[Links last checked September 2017]

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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