Tag Archives: writing

New Style Manual now online

The Australian Government has launched its new digital style manual.

It is available for free at: stylemanual.gov.au. 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.

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

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

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