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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the next tech frontier for editing? Technology has affected all aspects of communication, including printing and publishing, and editing too.
Not so long ago, editors used a blue pencil to hand “mark up” changes on a paper document using proofreading symbols. With ubiquitous wordprocessing, editors now edit electronically using track changes in a Word file. This gives great flexibility to the editor and client to suggest, accept, reject or comment on changes. Pdf files can also be edited, but it takes more effort for poorer results.
Zoom for video conferencing
An emerging frontier is editing by Zoom. Zoom is cloud-based communications software for video conferencing and more. It’s free for 1 to 1 use and easy to download. Skype is similar.
Face to face communication appeals to many people, but editors are rarely co-located with clients. New tech can help.
I am now Zoom-ing to communicate with clients, and even edit documents using Zoom. By sharing screens, I can either see what my client is editing in real time, or I can edit and my client can watch what I do to a document as I work on it.
It can be slower, but overall more efficient, as the editor and client can see, discuss and agree on a change at the same time. It’s also a great way for clients to learn about features of Word or other software as the client can watch as I adjust styles or insert a table of contents.
Zoom editing is not ideal for all situations, but it may suit some. Keep it in mind.
To Zoom-edit your writing, please email me at email@example.com to learn more.
Apostrophes are important for meaning in writing. They show ownership or represent missing letters in contractions in informal writing like “isn’t” for “is not”. Correct use of apostrophes does trouble some writers.
If you are agonising over where to put the apostrophe, either before or after an “s” for a noun, consider whether you can rearrange your sentence.
You can avoid apostrophes and drop the s when you are using a word as an adjective, or descriptor, rather than a possessive use to show ownership.
Here are some examples where you can avoid an apostrophe:
- The leg of the chair means the chair’s leg, which can be simplified to the chair leg.
- The strategies of the government means the government’s strategies, which can be simplified to government strategies.
Minimising apostrophes is part of the trend to minimal punctuation – only using punctuation where required to clarify meaning.
For instance, apostrophes have not been used in Australian place names since 1966, and are disappearing from plurals in names of organisations and periods of time:
- Georges River
- Teachers Federation
- two months time.
Read a post with lots of apostrophe examples by Paul Doherty here .
(See what I did there: examples of apostrophes = apostrophe examples)
For help on apostrophes in your writing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Simplify your writing and make it easy for your readers by turning nouns into verbs. It works because a verb reduces the number of words, is a shorter word and is more active.
You may not even realise you are using nouns. Long nouns are often considered to be a more formal style of writing. But you won’t impress readers by using longer phrases – you just make it harder for them to fight through the words to follow your meaning.
Here are some examples. Turn:
- ‘the implementation of the program’ into implementing the program
- ‘the establishment of’ into establishing
- ‘the utilisation of’ into using
- ‘the evaluation of’ into evaluating
- ‘realisation’ into realising.
When you have several long nouns in a long sentence, the more you can turn into verbs the better. Or choose a shorter noun: use instead of utilisation, change instead of transformation or modification.
- ‘The evaluation of the program was a factor in the modification of the implementation of the program’ can become ‘Evaluating the program changed how it was implemented’.
- ‘The implementation of the program led to greater utilisation by the customers’ can become ‘Implementing the program increased customer use’.
There is, of course, still a place for a well-chosen noun. Even using the same word as a verb instead of a noun can help. Try ‘understanding’, not ‘the understanding of’.
It’s all part of making it easy for the reader, as covered in these related posts:
For help on turning nouns into verbs in your writing, please contact me at email@example.com
The Institute of Professional Editors’ national conference on 8–10 May 2019 was a whirlwind of ideas, tips and insights on many areas of editing and editor–client working relationships. Here are just some of my notes from the many speakers. What’s your favourite quote?
Valuing the role of editors
- The value of editors over online tools: “Don’t rely on spill chick”.
- The role of editors: “First do no harm”.
- Editing: “Where the very best work goes undetected”.
- “Editing is invisible work: the better it is, the more invisible”.
- When editors should care about changing language trends: Be aware of language appropriate to the context and care when it creates confusion or errors. Aim to maintain clarity and flow.
Editors and writers working together
- Feedback can identify a writing problem, but there may be different solutions: an editor can suggest, the author can decide.
- For authors: “Be liberated by how unlikely success is. A bestseller is sales more than expected in the print run”.
- For editors: “The client owns the document. Get over it if the client ignores the editor’s advice”.
- “Marketers are brand advocates, editors are reader advocates”.
- English is an international language: 75% of English interactions are between non-native speakers.
- Thesis editing: See the revised IPEd Guidelines for editing research theses, released in May 2019.
Improving accessibility and inclusion
- All aspects of the publishing industry need to recognise the diversity of readers and users of print and web material and how readers access material – by screen reader, mobile, desktop and more.
- Inclusive Publishing in Australia: An Introductory Guide, by the Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative, was launched at the conference.
- A simple tip like always providing useful alt text for images can improve accessibility. See the Introductory Guide for more on what we can all do.
For advice on writing and editing from an IPEd accredited editor, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org