Author Archives: Rhonda Daniels

Editing is not an academic cheating service

Academic editors provide a range of valuable and useful services to a range of clients, both academics and students.

Editors were concerned that Australian government legislation to deter the provision and advertising of academic contract cheating services could inadvertently apply to legitimate support for students such as editing.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019, which formally became law on 3 September 2020, defines an academic cheating service as:

‘the provision of work to or the undertaking of work for students, in circumstances where the work:

(a) is, or forms a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake; or

(b) could reasonably be regarded as being, or forming a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake.’

The explanatory memorandum to the legislation explains:

‘The definition of academic cheating service limits the types of assistance that are prohibited by the Bill to cases where all or a substantial part of an assessment task is offered or provided by the service. In practice, this means that incidental or inconsequential assistance, advice or example answers that might be offered to a student are not at risk of being captured by the new offence provisions. Any assistance that did not change the intent or meaning of the student’s work would not be prohibited by the Bill. For example, while editing of a student’s work by a third party might be prohibited by institutional policy, it would not be prohibited by the Bill so long as it didn’t represent a substantial part of the work.’

The explanatory memorandum further notes:

‘The definition of academic cheating service limits the types of assistance that are prohibited by the Bill to cases where all, or a substantial part of an assessment task that a student is required to personally undertake is offered or provided by the service. Because of this, no specific exemptions for types of assistance are considered necessary to include in the Bill.’

Assistance which is not an academic cheating service

However, the explanatory memorandum does provide seven examples of assistance that are not academic cheating services including editing, assisting with reference formatting, providing advice and providing tutoring services. Example 3 specifically refers to a professional editor editing a doctoral thesis.

‘Example 3: Debbie is a student at a higher education provider, completing a doctoral thesis. Debbie’s higher education provider allows the use of editorial services for doctoral theses. Claire runs a professional editorial service that fixes formatting, typographical and grammatical issues in higher education assessment tasks. Claire is paid by Debbie to edit Debbie’s doctoral thesis. As editing Debbie’s doctoral thesis does not represent a substantial part of the assessment task, Claire has not committed an offence or contravened the civil penalty provision under section 114A.’

Academic editors and their clients should be aware of three items:

  • the new legislation to deter the provision and advertising of academic cheating services
  • each individual university’s own policies on editing
  • the Institute of Professional Editors’ Guidelines for editing research theses (2019).

More information

  • Department of Education, Skills and Employment (3 September 2020) Tackling contract cheating.
  • Read the 21-page Bill, 25-page explanatory memorandum and  7-page addendum here.

 

Is a sample or trial edit worthwhile?

Sometimes a potential client may ask a potential editor to do a sample or test edit.

There are several reasons why this can be useful. An inexperienced client may think it can help choose an editor, but it is rarely a good guide to the total time and cost required to edit a long piece of work.

More or less time?

A sample edit may take less time or be done at a faster work rate than the full work if:

  • an easy or well-written section is chosen for the trial that does not reflect the full work
  • it is not ‘for real’.

A sample edit may take more time and be done at a slower work rate for several reasons:

  • it takes time to get used to the writing style and content
  • it takes time to make key editing choices and do a style sheet
  • it takes time to read and apply a specific style guide
  • the section is particularly difficult or time-consuming.

As a professional editor I avoid doing unpaid sample edits. A very short piece is unlikely to sufficiently show my skills, while a longer piece takes time away from doing paid editing work.

I have a detailed website to help clients decide if I am the right editor for them. It explains my experience here, provides information on what affects the price of editing here, and contains many words that I have written and edited, including all these blogs here.

The Institute of Professional Editors has an online directory of professional members, including Accredited Editors such as me who have passed IPEd’s accreditation exam.

When receiving any new work to quote on or edit, it is important to check technical and practical issues like versions of software and compatibility. I always ask the client to send the full file when I prepare a quote to test these issues. My quotes also specify that I edit in track changes and by inserting comments. In preparing a quote, I use my extensive experience on similar work to inform the fixed price I quote.

Better uses of time

In summary, while a sample edit may appear useful, there are usually better uses of both a client’s and an editor’s time to help choose the most appropriate editor for a job. Clients can research appropriate editors, and editors can prepare well-informed quotes.

For advice on editing, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Fair hourly pay rates for Australian self-employed editors released

The Institute of Professional Editors, known as IPEd, has just released its first guide to hourly pay rates for self-employed editors. Information on the range of rates and how to use them is available here and there is more information for members of IPEd in the members only section of the website.

I am a member of IPEd’s Pay Rates Working Party which developed the information. I contributed information from my business workshops for freelance editors, my own experience as a full-time self-employed editor for over 6 years and additional research.

The rates are fair rates, not recommended rates. Like many writers, editors also deserve fair pay for their work. Self-employed editors are professionals running a small business and their hourly rates, whether stated directly or not to clients, should reflect all the costs of a small business in professional services.

Editors may choose to state their hourly rates or not, or provide prices another way. While hourly pay rates are useful, an hourly rate alone is not enough for a client to know how much an editing job may cost. The price of an editing job reflects many factors, which I explain on my website here.

Take care to find the right professional editor for your editing job and ask for a quote for the total price.

See my previous posts on the time, cost and value of editing:

For advice on editing, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Update – Communicating clearly about coronavirus and COVID-19

Only one month after my last blog on Communicating clearly about coronavirus and COVID-19, the health crisis thankfully appears to be easing in Australia.

Very many words and numbers have been written and spoken about the crisis. Communication issues remain, but the key messages have been grasped by enough people to make a difference.

Personal and professional planned activities have been disrupted for many, and researchers are using their time differently. It’s a time for research in many areas.

I have been pleased to edit several items on coronavirus and COVID-19 for clients in universities and industry. Some papers require same day turnaround to provide information to a wide audience quickly.

A paper I edited for Associate Professor Stephen Zhang at the University of Adelaide received worldwide attention and was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday 9 April 2020. Stephen says over 50 media have mentioned the paper on the mental health impacts of the pandemic, including HuffPost (US), Yahoo (various) and Wired (Italy), as well as in other Australian states (Brisbane Times).

With a University of Sydney co-author, read more about the research impact in Sydney Business Connect April 2020 newsletter here.

Stay informed and be safe. For advice on editing or writing to communicate clearly, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Communicating clearly about coronavirus and COVID-19

Our global health crisis highlights the importance of communicating clearly when messages must be understood by the whole community to save lives.

In Australia, there has been confusion in public messaging and discussion, with some key terms incorrectly used interchangeably and the specific meaning of other terms not clear or changing quickly:

  • coronavirus (the type of virus) vs SARS-CoV-2 (the specific virus) vs COVID-19 (the disease)
  • lockdown vs shutdown
  • stay at home vs self-isolate vs quarantine
  • essential vs non-essential jobs and services
  • social distancing vs physical distancing
  • a gathering
  • older people and vulnerable people.

The meaning of a term such as “gathering” has varied by both space and time, and context, across different states.

While graphs and figures are useful as visual summaries, they have their own challenges in communicating mathematical concepts of rates, risk, probabilities, growth, predictions and curves. A graph can convey a message quickly – but it may be the wrong message if the numbers underlying graphs and their sources are not clear and comparable.

Some confusion is inevitable when public health messages are developed quickly in a fast changing and uncertain environment, but keep it simple and consistent for the greatest impact. Messages given verbally at press conferences must be translated accurately into written messages by and for the media. Hopefully, the official government coronavirus app released in late March will help provide a consistent source of information.

Thanks to all the university researchers using their expertise to minimise impacts and writing clearly about the crisis for The Conversation website with “academic rigour, journalistic flair”. Support it if you can. Just as the global financial crisis has been recognised and studied in much research in the last decade, the coronavirus crisis will be analysed across many disciplines, including public communication, to learn lessons for the future.

Stay informed and be safe. For advice on editing or writing to communicate clearly, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

How writers, editors and academics can use social media

Anyone who produces content for their work life, such as writers, editors and academics, can use social media to build an audience.

There’s no shortage of advice and books on social media, so where to start? Social Media for Writers by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, found at my local library, reviews the many different types of social media and how each can work for writers. The easy-to-read advice in Social Media for Writers also applies to editors who edit the work of writers, and to academics who produce academic material.

Short text, long text, images, video and sound – choose your social media with your preferred medium or combination. The book explains:

  • WordPress – building and developing a blog, just like this one
  • Tumblr – drive-by blogging
  • Podcasting – focusing on sound
  • Facebook – the easy way to post short content
  • Twitter – keeping it brief
  • YouTube – for sharing video
  • Pinterest – online bulletin board for images
  • Instagram – for sharing images, including InstaQuote
  • Goodreads – for writers and readers to share reviews and news about books.

Surprisingly, the professional networking site LinkedIn is not covered, but it can be used like a blog or simple personal website.

Not all types work for everyone, but there are many ideas for creatively using the various social media. For instance, writers might not initially think of the image-based Instagram, but try InstaQuotes to turn a short quote into an image. Consider Pinterest to share profiles for book settings or characters. Twitter requires greater discipline by writers to keep it short.

To get started, be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the options, choose one, have a clear purpose, and post content to a schedule you can stick to. Once that’s working, consider adding another option. Don’t try to do everything at once.

For advice on editing or writing for your social media, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

How long does it take to edit…?

Potential clients often ask editors how long does it take to edit something, closely related to how much does it cost.

Try to answer these questions:

  • How long does it take to read a book or newspaper?
  • How long does it take to write a book?
  • How long does it take to do a PhD?
  • How long does it take to design a house or a website?
  • How long does it take a garden to grow?

The answers to all these questions include a variation of “it depends”. It depends on many factors, so more information is needed and the answer will always be qualified. An average may be known, based on the experiences of many, but an average can hide a very wide range.

See my website here with more information on all the factors that affect editing time and cost. It includes information which helps ensure fair quotes for editing work for both editor and client.

“How long” can be expressed in hours, days, weeks or even months. A question about “how long” may not be related to cost, but more about meeting deadlines. With a specific submission deadline, clients want to know how much time to allow for the editing process. Editors usually allow a buffer when estimating editing time and return times to ensure that deadlines can be met.

An estimate of “how long” may need to allow for more than one round of editing. But if the time available for editing is shorter than ideal, the editing services can be adjusted to fit the time available.

The clearer you can be about an editing job and the nature of any deadlines, the more accurate the answers to the “how long”  and “how much” questions.

For advice on editing, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Choosing your spelling – Australian, British or US

Can a writer or editor choose their spelling? Is there only one right way to spell a word or not?

Words can have variants, but dictionaries may not have all variants or agree on the most common or preferred variant. There are different versions of English, with Australian spelling, British spelling and US spelling. Australian spelling is considered somewhat in between US and British. While the meaning of words is clear, for consistency, choose one style and use it throughout the document. Inconsistent spelling can be a sign of copying and pasting from multiple sources.

Writing for an Australian audience should generally use Australian spelling. For instance, a thesis for a degree at an Australian university should be in Australian English. There may an exception if it contains chapters which have been submitted to or published in an academic journal which requires US spelling. Some international journals will accept either US or British, or edit to their preferred style after acceptance.

Here are some common differences between Australian and US spelling:

  • Australian: analyse, organise, organisation vs US: analyze, organize, organization
  • Australian: labour, colour, behaviour vs US: labor, color, behavior
  • Australian: centre, centred, metre vs US: center, centered, meter
  • Australian: modelled vs US: modeled.

The Australian Style manual for authors, editors and printers (pages 83–84) discusses some more word groups with variable spellings. Date formats can also vary in Australian and US English.

Tip: choose a spelling style and be consistent.

See my related blogs:

For advice on choosing your spelling, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Energise your exhausted conclusion

As an editor, I read too many exhausted conclusions which need a burst of energy. At the end of writing a long article, report or book, it is easy to feel exhausted and dash off something short, anything, just to finish.

Your conclusion is worth more effort. It may be the last thing the reader reads, so it should leave readers in the right state of mind. You want readers to remember your key messages and feel positive about your work, even if there is more to do.

When discussing results, drawing conclusions or highlighting implications, move from the specifics of your work back to the general and broader implications. To avoid misinterpretations of your work and to increase its dissemination include clear statements that readers can easily cite in other work.

Avoid concluding with a quote or reference from someone else’s work. Your work should be the last thing in the reader’s mind.

Abstracts and executive summaries are similar to conclusions, so make sure your abstract is awesome too.

See my related blogs:

For advice on writing or editing your conclusion, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

When to edit translated quotes in qualitative research

Qualitative research often includes interviews, with quotes from interviewees usually included as part of the analysis. However, transcribing quotes, and editing them, can be difficult because interviewees rarely speak in complete, fully grammatical sentences. Interviewees do not want to appear unfairly inarticulate, poorly educated or illiterate when their quotes are transcribed.

It is particularly difficult when quotes are translated from another language, as the translation depends on the language skills of several people: the interviewer-researcher, interviewee and transcriber.

Just as decisions are made in quantitative research about statistical analysis and how to report it, careful decisions are also needed about quotes in qualitative research.

Editing decisions include whether and how to:

  • edit filler words and phrases such as ahs and ums, which can show an interviewee’s thought processes or confidence
  • edit casual language
  • edit pauses and interruptions
  • punctuate long, rambling sentence fragments
  • indicate deleted or edited text.

Decisions on how and what to edit can be guided by:

  • Purpose: Why has a specific quote been chosen to be highlighted? What is it intended to illustrate?
  • Context: What is the context around the quote? What was said before and after? Quotes extracted from a long transcript without context can be misleading and extra information may be required.
  • Length: How long is the section of quote?

Purpose, context and length can all guide editing decisions, but if a translated quote appears in different places, it should be consistent.

Text books on qualitative and cross-cultural research methods can provide guidance on interviews, translation, transcription and using quotes.

For advice on editing quotes, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com