Featured post

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.

Reflecting on 2021 as a self-employed academic editor

The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and a long lockdown in Sydney in the second half of 2021 has been a time of reflection for many on work and work–life balance (and whether working from home helps or not). Editors are used to working efficiently from home offices but there was still a change.

Work life continued in my home office with email inquiries and the occasional more desperate phone call, but without the usual breaks away from the computer. Universities have been affected by COVID and funding reforms, but academics seemed to be even more productive, or have more recognition of the need and value of editing. I edited student theses that were clearly affected by the COVID pandemic in various ways from data collection to challenges to wellbeing. Research continues to be important, and I am pleased to be able to contribute to the dissemination of high quality research.

My ongoing work in voluntary roles on IPEd’s Pay Rates Working Party and Standing Committee on Academic Editing highlighted some important issues in the profession this year. I analysed responses to IPEd’s survey of members which focused on income and working conditions, and wrote a report for members. The survey confirmed the low annual work hours and income of many self-employed editors. I will continue to work to improve the economic status of editors.

As a member of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing, it was pleasing to devise and release guidance on indicative costs of academic editing, and a range of other useful resources for academic editors.

We need to raise awareness amongst clients of good practices for an effective relationship and raise awareness amongst professional editors of business practices for a sustainable career.

As part of my professional development, I participated in the online IPEd conference. I renewed my status as an accredited editor, and am a mentor in IPEd’s mentoring program.

2022 brings continued focus on serving my own clients and improving the professional status of editors so we can continue to provide high quality editing for clear communication.

Here’s a recap of my blogs in 2021:

Please contact me for editing inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

The right scope for editing – the whole thesis or chapter by chapter?

Editors receive many inquiries about the timing and cost of editing. See my previous blog on the right time for editing. For thesis editing, one decision is whether to have the whole thesis edited at once or to have individual chapters edited one at a time.

Whole thesis editing

Whole thesis editing works well when the submission deadline is imminent, the research has been finalised and all the chapters have been assembled into one file. The editor starts at the beginning and edits to ensure consistency and clarity throughout the document. Usually only one round of editing is possible in the timeframe.

Chapter by chapter editing

Chapter by chapter editing works better in the earlier stages when a student may need more guidance on structure and formatting. An editor can provide a style sheet for the student to follow for the rest of the thesis and identify issues for the student to be aware of throughout the other chapters of the thesis. These issues may include document formatting, reference styles or table and figure formats, as well as consistency issues of spelling and references to key concepts. Chapter 1 is usually very short with a standard structure, so is not the most useful for standalone editing. A literature review chapter is a better guide for the rest of the thesis. Chapter editing allows the student to learn and incorporate changes in later chapters.

A thesis in the publication format may also require chapter by chapter editing, as chapters are written individually as articles. Even in this format, the preliminary pages and the overall assembly of chapters into a thesis usually need editing.

Chapter editing is also an option when submission is imminent but limited time or budget is not sufficient to cover whole thesis editing.


Whole thesis editing is usually more time and therefore cost efficient for a given word count because the editor focuses on the whole document, makes decisions and implements them. There is usually repetition of text and therefore of editing changes. Editing a chapter at a time is usually more expensive overall, due to the startup and familiarisation effort each time. IPEd’s indicative costs of academic editing here and discussed in my recent blog reflect this. The 5,000 words at the end of a 100,000 word thesis can be edited faster than the 5,000 words at the beginning. The further apart in time the chapters are edited, the less efficient the process is and more rounds of editing may be required. However, this may provide a better learning experience.

Students must decide based on their own circumstances and discussions with an editor what editing scope is right.

To work with an accredited editor for your academic editing work, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Cutting through spam and scam – Editing to ensure professional communications

My very first blog back in 2013 was on how to recognise a spam or fraudulent email from a bank or telecoms provider in your inbox. Often there are a few little things that are not quite right. The use of the corporate image may be slightly wrong. There may be slightly odd wording or minor errors in the text. It may be slightly inconsistent with previous emails. These are all clues to look more closely at the communication.

The ability to recognise spam, scam or fraudulent emails or texts highlights the importance of editing in professional communication. People don’t notice when it’s right, but they often notice when you get it wrong.

People now receive so many digital communications, both legitimate and not, they often don’t have the time or cognitive energy to consider them thoroughly. There’s even an Australian government website, Scamwatch, which is constantly updated with alerts to new scams.

With increasing cybersecurity concerns, professional communication is vital. Any call to action needs to be clear. Legitimate organisations do not want their communications to be dismissed or ignored by the intended audience.

Does this mean spammers should use professional editors? No, the message is that organisations that need to be taken seriously and influence people to take action have to ensure high quality digital communications.

Editors can help ensure:

  • appropriate headings to get attention
  • appropriate structure of a message and subheadings
  • appropriate images that match the content
  • consistent and appropriate tone
  • consistent use of the corporate image such as the logo, corporate colours or the font for the text
  • clear writing with no errors
  • clear calls to action, recognising privacy and security concerns.

To work with an accredited editor to cut through the spam and scam, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Dr Rhonda Daniels AE has renewed her Accredited Editor status

In September 2016, I was pleased to announce here that I was now an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors.

What is an Accredited Editor?

An Accredited Editor has demonstrated their professional competence and understanding of editing standards, skills and knowledge by passing the Institute of Professional Editors’ three-hour accreditation exam. The exam, administered by IPEd’s Accreditation Board, measures an editor’s competence against the benchmark of the Australian standards for editing practice.

Editors who pass the accreditation exam are certified by the IPEd Accreditation Board and can use the postnominal AE (for ‘accredited editor’).

The accreditation scheme offers Australian editors a mechanism to demonstrate their competence and provides potential employers with confidence in the skills of the editors they use.


Accredited editors must apply for renewal every five years. In August 2021, IPEd advised I had met the requirements to renew my status as an Accredited Editor. I demonstrated:

  • ongoing work as an editor
  • ongoing professional development including participation in IPEd meetings and conferences
  • support of the profession, through my membership of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing and Pay Rates Working Party and as a mentor in the mentoring program.

See my previous posts about IPEd conferences in 2017 here, in 2019 here and in 2021 here, fair hourly pay rates for editors here, and indicative costs for academic editing here.

To work with an accredited editor, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Indicative costs for editing a range of academic work

The Institute of Professional Editors, known as IPEd, has released guidance for potential clients on the costs of editing a range of academic work including journal articles, theses and grant applications. The indicative costs and notes on the range of factors which may affect costs are available here. Note the IPEd website is under review in August 2021 and the location may change.

The indicative costs complement the fair hourly pay rates for self-employed editors released by IPEd in June 2020. See more information here.

I am pleased to be a member of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing which developed this new information, and also a member of IPEd’s Pay Rates Working Party which developed the fair hourly pay rates in 2020.

Many clients who have not used a professional editor before may not be aware of the likely costs. These indicative costs for academic editing allow clients, particularly research students, to budget and prepare well ahead of time, regardless of which editor they use.

There are many sources of funding which can contribute to cover the costs of professional editing, and clients should be aware of all the sources available to them before approaching an editor. These sources can include funds within the school, Faculty or university, national and international scholarships and grants, supervisor research funds, project funds or external sources.

The IPEd costs are indicative only, and editors will always want to see the full work to be edited before providing a quote which is fair to both the client and the editor.

Please contact me about editing your academic work: rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Editing on the edges: the IPEd editors conference, June 2021

The 10th Institute of Professional Editors conference held online 29–30 June 2021 was an opportunity to reflect on editing practice, both as individual editors and collectively as a profession.

Editing edges and boundaries

In his presentation on editors as boundary umpires, IPEd patron Roly Sussex provided examples of editors’ role in deciding if language is in or out over the boundary, and what to do about it. He noted the boundary may be hard to discern and recognised there are intense disagreements about socio-cultural boundaries on race, gender, sex, ableism and ethnicity.

Several speakers provided guidance on being more inclusive in our editing practice, in many different dimensions, with powerful examples from lived experience. There is always more to learn, and all professional editors are striving to be more aware of and support:

  • inclusive and respectful language and editing
  • culturally safe practices
  • inclusive publishing for people with print disabilities
  • improved web accessibility and web design
  • plain English writing.

Academic editing

As a member of IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing, I presented an update on our work and discussed navigating academic editing in a COVID world. Editors must be aware of and respond to changing environments and opportunities. I was pleased to announce that indicative costs for a range of academic editing work developed by the committee are now available on the IPEd website here, to provide guidance to clients.

This was the third IPEd conference I have attended. I know from my previous reports on 2017 here and 2019 here that it takes time for me to absorb and reflect on all the information presented to improve my own editing practice for clients and contribute to the profession. There are many useful resources to follow up to be the agent of change I discussed here last blog.

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

Editors – agents of change

In another follow up to my blog on editing as decision making, editors make many decisions, meaning they can be powerful agents of change. Some decisions are about the big picture and some are about the detail, but the aim is to communicate more clearly and meet the needs of writers for the intended readers.

Editors edit a wide range of material for a wide range of clients, showing they can be agents for change in many different areas, but particularly in public communication.

For instance, as agents of change, editors can:

  • Edit health information and risk to communicate better, as in COVID times
  • Improve job and grant applications to help people access new opportunities and funding
  • Design surveys to help collect accurate information for policy and decision making
  • Write clear instructions and advice to help people do the right thing
  • Ensure well-designed government forms so people can apply for benefits and entitlements
  • Apply accurate tags and labels on website material to help users find the right information quickly and easily
  • Provide headings and structure in long documents so information is not overlooked
  • Ensure references are authoritative and have complete information so they can be followed up and checked.

Often clear communication is about simple language and writing. Sometimes being an agent of change is about ensuring inclusive language, recognising and respecting the diversity of communities.

Editing is also more than just the words. The overall presentation of material, including text and non-text elements, can also affect clear communication. A well-presented graphic may be more powerful than text, and editors can also advise on graphical material.

The Australian Standards for Editing Practice from the Institute of Professional Editors provide guidance on the wide range of skills of professional editors.

See my related blogs:

This blog was inspired by the presentation on plain English by Patricia Hoyle for Editors NSW in May 2021.

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

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 rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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 rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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 rhdaniels@bigpond.com