Author Archives: Rhonda Daniels

Hyphens – use or avoid?

Following up my February blog on editing being about making decisions, one difficult decision in achieving consistency is when to use hyphens or not. I spend a lot of editing time considering hyphens.

After finally reading bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss recently, it confirmed my ideas on hyphenation. Over time, my increasing personal preference is to avoid them and use either one combined word or two separate words, and only hyphenate where absolutely essential to clarify the meaning.

As always in editing, it is important to be consistent throughout a document. There are several approaches to consistency in decisisions about hyphens.

  • Choose one dictionary and follow its recommendations, although it may not contain every combination.
  • Aim for internal consistency within a document, with either a minimalist or maximalist approach.
  • Be aware of a writer’s preferences or an institutional style guide, if any, for hyphenation.

Writers and organisations often have their own preference, ranging from minimalists with no hyphens at all, to maximalists hyphenating all compound words and descriptive phrases. Editors should check carefully before making major changes to hyphenation throughout a long document such as adding or deleting hyphens. A style sheet can ensure consistency and make editing decisions easier.

My previous blog here outlines some helpful uses of hyphens:

  • Clarify meaning such as re-sign (sign again) versus resign (leave a job).
  • Clarify meaning in compound words such as disease-free.
  • Prevent misreading of words starting with prefixes such as anti, ex and re followed by vowels such as re-enter, but even this use is declining.

A traditional use of hyphens in descriptive phrases such as ‘in the long-term view’ or ‘in a 3-month period’ is not usually needed to clarify meaning and avoid confusion, but it can depend on the specific context.

For advice on editing, please contact me on

Structure tip: Move from the general to the specific

With complex material to present in a long research document, it can be difficult to get the structure right, particularly in the introduction.

A good technique to organise material is to move from the general to the specific. This tip works for the whole document and for the introduction and for other sections.

In the introduction or first section, write enough to introduce the broad topic and put your work in context. Then go into detail. Diving straight into the detail may lose some readers. Similarly, too much general background that is well known to readers may leave them wondering if there is anything new and whether it is worth reading on.

Establish the purpose of your writing, what you are contributing, and why it is worth readers continuing to read on. Be aware of technical terms or jargon in the introduction. Are these terms helpful or offputting? How well known are they?

Reverse this structure technique at the other end of the document. When discussing results or drawing conclusions, move from the specific back to the general. Summarise your work, then broaden it out to generalisations. There may be limitations and caveats to note when moving from the specific back to the general.

More tips for structure:

  • Consider the audience and their level of familiarity with the material when deciding where to start in the general context.
  • Use the title, headings and subheadings to set the scene and prepare the reader for the content in the whole work and each section, and the context.
  • Use a top-down approach to structure by developing the headings first, then the subheadings and use content in dot points under each heading as a guide for your writing.

See related blogs:

For advice on editing and writing, please contact me on

Editing as decision-making: making thousands of decisions quickly and accurately

Editing is about making thousands of decisions about text – at the level of the character, word, sentence, paragraph and document – often all at the same time.

Editing decisions can be about spelling, punctuation, grammar, tone, word choice, expression, accuracy, clarity, format and presentation, and much more. Editors don’t just look at the word in front of them, but also have to be aware of and remember the rest of the document.

Editing is also about making decisions about numbers, claims and facts – does that sound right or does it need checking by the editor or client?

Every one of an editor’s thousands of decisions must be translated into action. In some cases, the editor implements a decision with just one keystroke, perhaps adding or deleting a character. In other cases, the editor may highlight a choice for the writer to make, or simply draw attention to something that may need further checking or thought. Editors often type comments such as “Do you mean X or do you mean Y?”

Some editing decisions are about right and wrong, and some are about improvements. Accurate and quick decision-making takes skill, experience and judgement. Professional editors who edit all the time can make editing decisions efficiently.

This explains why professional editors will always want to see a piece of work before quoting to understand the level of decision-making involved, and therefore the effort and time required.

See related blogs:

For advice on editing and decision-making, please contact me on

Editing responses to reviewers of papers

It is very competitive to get research published in top journals, but publication is vital to academic careers. As well as ensuring papers meet the journal’s requirements for both content and format in the initial submission, the review process is also important for authors.

Journals send submissions to reviewers with expertise in the field, and the reviewers comment on how to improve the quality and publishability of the paper. The review process can take time, as journals receive many submissions and many reviewers work voluntarily. There may be several rounds of review over months and often years.

Some tips to consider when resubmitting a paper and responding to reviewers:

  • Be polite and respectful. Politeness goes a long way, especially if disagreeing with a reviewer’s comment.
  • Make clear what has changed in the revised paper.
  • If you disagree with a comment, make clear what has NOT changed, and why not.
  • Paste in any revised text from the revised paper to the response to make it easy for the journal editor to see the changes.
  • Include references to page or line numbers of revised text in the revised paper.
  • Be clear whether referring to the original or a revised version of the paper.
  • Less is more: explain the reasons for your response succinctly.

It can be frustrating for authors to receive reviewer comments which suggest taking the paper in a different direction or with a different emphasis or which require extensive re-analysis or even new data. Reviewers may also not agree with each other and may make conflicting suggestions. Authors do not have to agree with all comments, but do need to justify and explain their decisions.

If a reviewer has commented on the language or the need for editing in a paper, authors should ensure the response to the reviewers is also well written and edited.

As well as editing papers for initial submission, academic editors can also edit response letters to the journal editor and reviewers. Editors can check whether all the comments have been appropriately addressed and check the response has an appropriate tone. This can save time in the review process and enhance the likelihood of publication.

See my related blogs on writing papers:

See my related blog on feedback:

For advice on editing, please contact me on

Celebrating 100 editing blogs and 7 years of Right with Rhonda

This blog is my 100th blog since I started my editing business Right with Rhonda and website in late 2013. My very first blog in November 2013 was on How to identify spam with all its unedited errors.

Many blogs are based on issues which arise in my day to day work as a self-employed academic editor and as a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors. Thanks to all my clients over the years for providing such interesting material to edit and making me think.

Blog topics have included:

I was pleased to announce in my blog in September 2016 that, having passed the Institute of Professional Editors’ accreditation exam, I am an Accredited Editor (AE).

My blog in August 2019 on editing by Zoom was ahead of the widespread use of Zoom in 2020 due to COVID-19. I am used to working efficiently in a home office, but my year also included editing papers on COVID, with the importance of clear communication explained here and here.

The value of professional editing is clear with a good return on investment, but writers can also learn how to write more efficiently and how to edit your own work with all my blog tips. Remember, it’s about making it easy for the reader.

Read all my 100 blogs on my website here.

Please contact me with your editing and writing inquiries at

New Style Manual now online

The Australian Government has launched its new digital style manual.

It is available for free at: There is no printed version.

It updates and replaces the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, sixth edition, published in 2002. The digital Style Manual describes itself as ‘for everyone who writes or approves Australian Government content’, but it can be used to guide other users. Use it to create clear and consistent content that meets the needs of users.

Any changes from the printed Style Manual are described as evidence-based. Release notes on each page give an idea of what has changed. There is a feature called Changelog which summarises what’s new, updated or changed.

Another handy feature is the opportunity to give feedback on each page for future releases.

Writers and editors familiar with the printed Style Manual may find it takes time to get used to the new digital version and find content.

It is an initiative of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency, and the many contributors are acknowledged on the site including members of the Institute of Professional Editors.

Here’s what I said about the previous Style Manual.

Editing for fabulous figures

Editors focus on achieving clear communication, whether it is text, tables or figures. Non-text elements such as tables and figures can supplement or summarise text and make your document easier to read and your message easier to follow. For figures, you may need to try a few different formats to see which one works best for your data and message.

Tips for designing figures

  • Use the right format, size and layout for the purpose of the figure.
  • Try to match the orientation of the main text, and avoid landscape figure orientation in a portrait layout.
  • Use a consistent style of fonts, sizes and colours across multiple figures.
  • Take care that colours, shadings and lines used in figures are distinct and legible, being aware of colour or black and white printing.
  • Check any significant symbols or arrow heads are large enough to be clearly visible.
  • Spell check all text.

Tips for labelling figures

  • Include a detailed title for the figure and place the figure title below the figure. Note that a table title is placed above the table.
  • Minimise the use of abbreviations, codes, item numbers or variable names. If these are unavoidable, include a note about the full meaning.
  • Include explanatory notes for the source and date of any data in the figure.
  • Ensure any units of measurement for data are clear.

Tips for placing figures

  • Place a figure after it is first mentioned in the text.
  • Use the auto-numbering and cross-reference functions in Word to refer to the right figure number.
  • Place a figure at the end of a paragraph, not in the middle of a paragraph.
  • Use the Format – Paragraph – Keep with next function in Word to keep a figure together with its title, and the title with any notes.

Similar tips also apply to tables. Read my earlier blog on tables here.

For advice on ensuring your figures are right, please contact me on

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

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