Tag Archives: writing

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

Don’t agonise over apostrophes – drop the s

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 rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Beyond the page – words from the IPEd national conference May 2019

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.

Cover of Inclusive Publishing in Australia: An Introductory GuideFor advice on writing and editing from an IPEd accredited editor, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Treat your writing like driving – better without distractions

In short, notifications = distractions. Here’s a great writing and editing tip from software entrepreneur Paul Jarvis in one of his regular Sunday Dispatches: “Nowadays I treat my work time as if I’m driving.”

He says: “If we aren’t paying attention to our work, we’re not going to be able to do it properly. We may not cause a crash, but we won’t be able to get things done effectively or efficiently either.”

Paul focuses on electronic notifications, but distractions can be from a range of sources:

  • notifications from digital devices about new emails or social media messages
  • ringing phones
  • noise from within or outside the workspace
  • blinking or flashing lights
  • other people and interruptions
  • an environment which is too hot or cold
  • clocks ticking over to a deadline.

Everyone has different distractions. Listening to music is a distraction for me, but it may work for you.

To focus on your writing and editing, minimise distractions.

  • Turn off notifications on computers and other technology devices.
  • Minimise software and apps open.
  • Wear headphones or ear muffs to block out noise, choosing the highest quality that works.
  • Reply to contacts when it suits you, not instantly.
  • Schedule regular breaks so you know when you can be distracted.

In early 2019, Paul published Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, the outcome of writing without distractions.

If you have distractions while writing and need an undistracted, fully focused editor, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Wise up to Word features to make a writer’s life easier

Writing usually means typing, which usually means using Microsoft Word software. Word has many powerful features which can make life easier for a writer. The longer the document, the more important it is to know about and use features in Word wisely.

Many of the features make it easy for a writer to make changes, update a document after changes, ensure consistency and format a document for effortless reading. The exact commands can vary with the version of the software, but be aware of what is possible.

Here are some ideas for easier formatting:

  • Insert a page break to start a new page, not multiple hits of the Return button.
  • Insert a section break to switch the page orientation between portrait and landscape.
  • Use Styles to ensure consistency in formatting of headings and text throughout.
  • Use auto-numbering for headings, lists and tables.
  • Use cross-references to refer to chapters, sections, tables and figures.
  • Create a table of contents – the easy way.
  • Set paragraph formatting to avoid widow and orphan lines.
  • Explore the use of macros to simplify common, repetitive tasks.

Word can be very complex, so how can you learn about using Word efficiently?

  • Ask someone more experienced in Word and long documents to show you.
  • Explore all the features of your software, by clicking on all the menus and options.
  • Use the inbuilt Help function in Word – the new way to read the manual.
  • Search online for tips and help.
  • Go to a workshop for practical hands-on experience, with or without your own computer.

There’s always more to learn about writing and Word. Please contact me for editing, writing or communication inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Avoid the former and the latter, respectively

The former and the latter, and respectively, are often used to avoid repetition and save words. But thinking of the reader, it is better to write more clearly so there is no doubt about the intended meaning and what refers to what.

Readers might be reading quickly, skimming and scanning the text, and not familiar with the content. It can be hard to track words in very long and complex sentences. Not all readers know the former refers to the first of two things (remember f and f), and the latter refers to the second or last of two things (remember l and l). Don’t risk a confused reader.

The use of respectively might appear to save words, but it is better to rearrange a sentence and be absolutely clear. The example below shows how the former, the latter and respectively can be avoided without wordiness.

Compare these three options:

  1. Two surveys of employees and employers were undertaken. The former is discussed in Chapter 6 and the latter in Chapter 7.
  2. The surveys of employees and employers are discussed in Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 respectively.
  3. The survey of employees is discussed in Chapter 6 and the survey of employers in Chapter 7.

It’s all part of the make it easy for the reader mantra.

Please contact me for editing, writing or communication inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

NaNoWriMo or why targets and deadlines work

Is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) relevant for non-fiction writers and thesis writers? Yes, indeed. The month shows the power of a target and a deadline.

The concept of NaNoWriMo is based on writing 50,000 words of your novel between 1 November and 30 November. There’s no limit on how many people can win! Everyone can be a winner.

Targets of words per day, week or month can work for writing tasks when you know roughly what your target word count is, and can divide the total by the time available.

While both the word count and the deadline in NaNoWriMo are arbitrary, the targets do seem to work for many people and can help achieve a first draft.

It is easier to edit and improve work once the words are on the page. Knowing something is a just a first draft to be refined later also helps overcome writer’s block or the need for perfection the first time.

NaNoWriMo also answers the question: what do I do after the month is over? If nothing else, congratulate yourself on your hard work.

For more, see my previous related blogs on:

Please contact me for editing, writing or communication inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com