Tiny macros

Post by Stephen Cashmore

If I say the word ‘macro’, what effect does it have on you? Do you think, ‘Let’s change the subject and move on?’ Do you run screaming from the room? Do you perhaps think, ‘Yes, yes, they can be useful sometimes; I’ve downloaded a few. But let’s not get carried away by them.’?

If you are a serious editor and one of these descriptions fits you, I suggest you brace yourself and think again. Macros can be useful ALL THE TIME.

They don’t have to be gigantic, use once-in-an-edit affairs. They can be tiny little constructions that can save you time simply because they crop up time and time again. They can be devised specifically for the job at hand. If you find yourself doing the same thing – typing the same keystrokes – over and over and over again, the chances are that a simple macro will do the job for you.

Let me give you some examples.

In a novel I was editing recently, the author had a terrible habit of using comma splices.

The sun shone through the window, he decided to get up and do some editing.

Time and time again. Gah.

Some were best dealt with by inserting ’and’ or suchlike, but most needed a new sentence. Delete comma. Full point. Skip a space. Delete small letter. Replace with capital letter. Again and again. You can see what’s coming. I recorded a simple macro that did all this with one click. What a relief.

The same author continually muddled the punctuation at the end of dialogue.

‘I think this should be a comma.’ He said.

I imagine the author thought the dialogue needed a full stop as it’s a complete sentence, and Word did the rest. So, a simple macro to do the opposite of the previous one, only skipping an extra space (because of the quote mark). By the time I’d got about a quarter of the way through the edit, I had a little row of tiny macros that speeded up my working enormously.

How about this, from a maths book?

–9+16=7

Full marks, I hear you say. The trouble is, the publisher wanted thin spaces marked with red hashes around all operands such as minus sign, equals sign, plus sign and so forth. So I used the FRedit macro do to that for me and it save me hours and hours of work. But it also did this:

##9#+#16#=#7

Almost perfect, but those two initial hashes aren’t needed. So I recorded a tiny macro to do <delete><skip space><delete> and that speeded up all these problems for me, including some that I hadn’t thought of.  I also wrote a tiny macro that surrounded a character with red hashes, for instances that I hadn’t thought of when I made up my FRedit script. And I recorded a macro that changed the number of a question from

12. Question

to

12             Question

and I …

Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Write a tiny macro for keystrokes that you find yourself doing over and over again, and before you know it you’ll have a little group of them that will, believe me, save you both a lot of time and your sanity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen is an advanced member of the SfEP who lives in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland. He is an ex-teacher, ex-accountant, ex-bridge player and ex-auditor, but threw all that over to become an editor after taking early retirement. Check out cashmoreeditorial.com or follow Stephen on Twitter @sceditorial

My top takeaways from the 2017 SfEP Scottish mini-conference

Post by Jill Broom

As I sat on the 8.15 train from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh last Friday morning, I was feeling excited about what the day would bring. Some of that excitement may have had something to do with the promise of my bestie’s hen weekend beginning later that evening, but the rest of the day was shaping up to be good too … I was off to the SfEP Scottish mini-conference.

As someone who works from home, I look upon it as a rare treat to get caught up in the bustle of rush hour. (I know. I’m probably mad.) And to have an hour’s commute when I can get through my admin before the ‘real’ start of the day? Well, that is awesome.

Although that morning my admin mostly consisted of organising my kids’ social lives by text, my mind was ultimately focused on my profession. This was going to be a day about developing and reaffirming my skills.

Why did I go to this SfEP conference?

Freelancing can be a lonely business. Holed up in a home office for days on end without seeing many people doesn’t always a fun Jill make. So, these events are important to me. Meeting up with, learning from and chatting to other editorial professionals every so often makes me feel less isolated.

What did I get out of it?

Well, loads of course … but there were three key things for me.

1. Trust your instinct (& don’t fret about strict grammar conventions)

Did you know that most current grammar books are outdated? Some merely contain rehashed guidance written 100+ years ago. OK, so don’t panic! There’s no need to burn them all. But this fact does rather rain on the whole idea of the fluidity of language.

Well, while Professor of Linguistics Geoff Pullum didn’t urge us to ditch all grammar rules immediately, he did ask us to be sensible in our approach.

The issue at the heart of Pullum’s entertaining talk on Freedom and tyranny in English grammar was that we should be editing written work to sound like it belongs in 2017. He pointed out that usages people regard as grammatical errors are often just a less formal style. So, don’t over-correct. If it sounds OK, leave it alone.

This resonated with me and many other conference attendees – hence the ‘trust your instinct’ subhead. But it’s nice to have your working practices reaffirmed by a linguistics prof.

I particularly liked this example:

  • ‘Don’t worry about the passive voice; just don’t be dull.’ Hooray! This is something that’s bugged me for ages. Even Word and some Content Management Systems obsess over this. WordPress’s insistence on using instances of the passive voice to score readability drives me bonkers. If it reads well, surely that’s the most important thing?

Pullum highlighted that the same goes for a whole host of other grammar ‘rules’. For example, you don’t need to ‘un-split a split infinitive if it makes sense’ and you don’t need to remove all adjectives and adverbs if they lend meaning.

And, if you’re dithering over whether to change a word to something that ‘makes more grammatical sense’, look around to see what occurs elsewhere. Ask Google. You may well find enough relevant examples to give you the confidence to leave it be.

2. Investigate and use tools that can make you more efficient

One of the things I love about SfEP conferences is that members are always willing to share their experiences to help their colleagues. And Ashley Craig’s session on commercial super-macros didn’t disappoint.

Ashley gave us live demos of Wordsnsync EditTools v8.0 and Editorium Editor’s Toolkit PLUS 2014, proving that super-macros save a lot of time by automating some of the copy-editing process.

Wordsnsync EditTools’ journal checker, which checks and corrects journal names, looked particularly handy for those regularly dealing with references, and its Insert Query tool saves you having to copy and paste or rewrite the same types of queries over and over again. But take a look for yourself. There are a whole load of other useful things these super-macros can do for you.

I’m terrible for setting aside time to look into these things and then getting caught up in some other work … But I’ve given myself a talking to after Ashley’s session.

3. Remember to be confident in what you do

How many times have you used the words ‘only’ and ‘just’ when talking about what you do for a living? Well … stop it.

Laura Poole’s pep talk reminded us that we’re not ‘only’ editors who ‘just’ tidy up other people’s writing. We provide an extremely valuable service to many different businesses, and we should talk about it using less apologetic language.

Laura also spoke about networking – something many of us recoil from. She pointed out that you don’t need to be ‘salesy’. In fact, don’t be. It’ll put people off. Just be yourself and start a natural conversation. Be interested in who you’re talking to. And when they ask what you do … think about how to talk about it in a nutshell. Can you do this in a creative way? Can you make yourself stand out from the crowd?

A week later, I’m still working on the perfect ‘elevator pitch’.  But … I know which words I won’t be including in it; I know how to make myself the most efficient proofreader and copy-editor I can be; and I know that I’m making the right calls when it comes to rejecting outdated grammatical conventions.

All in all, #SfEPSco17 was a very good day ‘out of the office’.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability! Check out her LinkedIn page or follow her on Twitter @honeybroom.

My journey into editing (so far) – Alison’s story

Post by Alison Chand

Ever wondered how a person becomes ‘an editor’? This post is the second in our ‘How I got into editing’ series. These pieces are designed to give you some insight into the varied backgrounds of our members (we’ve come from all walks of life) and how we became embroiled in the wonderful world of editing.

Here is Alison’s story …

Careers and work identities are often arrived at by accident rather than by design, and that was certainly the case for me! I began studying for my PhD (an oral history-based project exploring masculinities in male civilian workers in Clydeside during the Second World War) at the University of Strathclyde in 2009, and had grand plans of becoming a full-time academic upon completion. However, in (what I thought was) the short term, I started doing some casual proof-editing of other postgraduates’ work to make a bit of extra cash.

This continued as I progressed with my PhD and, approximately nine months before I was due to submit, I discovered that I was pregnant with my daughter. After the initial euphoria/panic waves had passed, my thoughts strayed to my working life after my studies, and I decided to look into the idea of setting up as a sole trader in proofreading and copy-editing.

Getting trained and finding support  

After a bit of (not as much as I should have done) Google exploration, I signed up for Chapterhouse’s distance learning course in proofreading and copy-editing, confidently expecting that, because I saw myself as pretty good with all things written and grammatical, the course would be fairly straightforward. I was horrified by how much I missed in the first assessment, quickly realising that I’d need to apply myself a bit more to gain the skills I needed. After nine months, I passed the course, although not exactly with flying colours. I found the online experience fairly isolating, and lacking in support for learning about a world of symbols which, as it turned out, was entirely new to me.

Luckily for me, I also discovered the Society for Editors and Proofreaders on my foray into Google, and decided to go along to a meeting of my local group, in Glasgow, in June 2012. There, I found real, friendly people, offering real advice about work options and training courses. I joined the SfEP, first as an associate, later upgrading to intermediate member, and decided to sign up to the SfEP introductory day courses on proofreading and copy-editing.

At these courses, I enjoyed being able to ask questions in person and develop my skills among other interested professionals. I set up a basic website and LinkedIn page and, before and after having my daughter, Ailsa, in October 2012, I continued to pick up work proof-editing for students, from Strathclyde and elsewhere, also passing the editing test to work freelance for ProofreadMyEssay, a company offering proof-editing to students across the English-speaking world.

The variety of [freelancing] life

When I returned to more regular working when Ailsa was nine months’ old, I gradually started to work on material other than student dissertations and theses, receiving enquiries from authors of fiction, a CV writing company, and a variety of businesses.

I studied online for the SfEP’s Proofreading Progress course and was pleased to pass this, despite finding the return to marking a hard copy with symbols a bit of a challenge! Alongside editing, I taught freelance in the History department at the University of Strathclyde and spent two evenings per week as a children’s swimming instructor, making my working life varied to say the least!

In November 2015, I gave birth to my son, Euan, and another quiet working spell followed, before I returned to the fray in summer 2016, continuing to complete editing work for students and an assortment of others, and also returning to university teaching work and swimming instruction.

What’s next?

So, to 2017! Not knowing where the next byway may lead, I plan to keep pushing for improvement and thus to undertake further training. This year, I’d like to take the SfEP’s editing test and upgrade my membership status to professional member. With this in mind, I’m currently working online on the Copy-editing Headway course, with a view to following this up with Copy-editing Progress.

As my children grow up and the work I do sprouts arms and legs, only time will tell where my road as a sole trader will take me.

I feel that I’ve come a long way since 2012. I love the flexibility of my working life now, but I still have days where I feel woefully inadequate at addressing my different areas of work, as though I’m being pulled in too many directions at one time. Nonetheless, I want to be ready for whichever path I take next, and I certainly plan for proofreading and copy-editing to be part of that …

So, I’ll keep on appearing at the always-friendly and always-helpful meetings of the Glasgow SfEP group, the members of which helped draw me into the editing world to start with and now give me a great deal of motivation to stay there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alison Chand is a freelance proofreader, copy-editor and oral historian (and swimming teacher!). Her editing work is mostly in academic material, including student dissertations and theses, and academic books and journal articles. She is an Intermediate Member of the SfEP.

How to return a job to your client

Post by Jill Broom, based on meeting notes written by Lucy Metzger

While it’s true that there are lots of ways to go about returning a piece of work to a client – every editor has their own ‘style’, and every job is different – there are some things that we commonly include in our handover notes. For example, we’ll often compile a style sheet and word list; notes for the typesetter or designer; and a list of queries or issues that the client will need to resolve or be aware of. Clients also regularly ask for a list of running heads and/or a list or log of artwork, figures and tables. But is there a ‘best practice’ for returning a job?

Recently, members of the Glasgow Editors’ Network got together to explore this idea. We shared our approaches to producing comprehensive, clear explanatory notes to accompany our work. And it became clear that the following practices work well for many in the group.

3 tips for producing a stellar handover note

1. Produce a good style sheet with the job.

This may evolve into a style guide, particularly with an ongoing project involving multiple publications. Note: Could you get yourself commissioned to produce the style guide for an appropriate additional fee?

One of our colleagues uses an Excel workbook to send information to the client, with different tabs for general style principles, exceptions to these, a word list, and a list of outstanding issues needing the client’s attention. (This is handy as it collects all the info into one easily referenced file.)

2. Include author queries and the author’s answers with the returned job.

And here’s some food for thought when it comes to framing and formatting those queries:

  • Prepare three columns: the first with a pasted-in chunk of text, the next with the associated query, and the third with space for the author to answer.
  • Remember that brief, succinct queries are more likely to get useful answers.
  • If it’s a sizeable job, you could send author queries in batches, e.g. a list for each chapter or group of chapters.
  • Do a preliminary read-through or skim to assess what kinds of issues, and therefore queries, are likely to come up.
  • Send a document to the author with Track Changes, allowing him/her to reply to particular comments on the spot. (But watch out, some authors may be tempted to tinker with other parts of the document while they’re doing this.)
  • If more than one person is working on your document, take care! For example, a shared document in Dropbox can cause difficulties. Avoid problems by taking the document out of Dropbox, working on it, and then putting it back with a different version name. This also avoids the problem of thousands of notifications being sent to all sharers of the document while you edit it.
  • Use Google Docs? Ever had the creepy experience of working on a document at the same time that another person is observing what you are doing and commenting on it? Ask them to stop (politely).


3. ALWAYS return a job well.

Ok, so some clients appreciate a good handover note more than others. Some, perhaps in particular non-publishers, may not be interested in (or just don’t have time to go through) word lists and style decisions. They simply want the job done well. However, others WILL be grateful and perhaps surprised to know about what kinds of issues have come up and what decisions have had to be made.

A good handover note can help the client to see what value you have added to their project, and – importantly – how you could help them in the future.

Need an editor or proofreader with great communication skills? Search our Directory now.

Want more tips from Glasgow’s best editors? Come along to the next local SfEP meeting. Contact Denise Cowle for more info.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Broom is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing/editing skills – adaptability! Check out her LinkedIn page or follow her on Twitter @honeybroom
Jill based this post on group meeting notes written by Lucy Metzger. Lucy is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader, working mostly in teaching materials and academic and reference books, and a member of the Glasgow SfEP group. She is also the vice-chair of the SfEP.

How to market yourself (& where to find other great tips for freelance editors)

Post by Jill Broom

Despite being chained to our desks, dealing with looming deadlines most of the time, every so often Glasgow’s freelance editors like to get out to catch up with other like-minded beings. Consequently, many of us belong to the local Society for Editors and Proofreaders group which meets once a month at The Singl End café in Garnethill – where, by the way, the cakes are delicious.

But we’re not just there to guzzle great food and bemoan the misuse of apostrophes (there’s another dedicated society for that). We’re there to get support from our freelance colleagues and gather useful tips that will help us in our quest to become editorial ninjas.

Often, one of us will share our expertise on a particular topic – for example, using Word Styles or PerfectIt – or lead a discussion about how to improve or update our methodology. As freelancers, these meetings are an invaluable part of our ongoing professional development.

In March, it was time to find out more about how to market our services. And our resident expert, Chris Bryce, was there to help. Chris holds a Masters in Business Administration and has spent the best part of a year refreshing her marketing mojo in preparation for ramping up her editorial business. Here are her eight top tips …

8 steps to marketing magic

1. Get a marketing plan

The very nature of freelancing means that marketing yourself often ends up being bumped down the to-do list in favour of getting actual paid work done. But it should really be treated with the respect it deserves – especially if you want to ensure your quieter times are no longer quiet.

Good information about building a marketing plan specific to our kind of business can be found in the SfEP guide by Sara Hulse, Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, and Louise Harnby’s Marketing your Editing and Proofreading Business.

2. Prepare a CV

You need something written down that tells people about your experience and what you can do for them. This could be in the form of a CV that’s informative but concise and easily adaptable to each target client. Or, if a traditional CV seems a bit stuffy, change it into a smart, compelling flyer instead – sell your skills! And, when you know exactly what services you’re going to provide, get yourself listed on as many free online directories as possible.

3. Nail your direct marketing

Even though you’re just a little-ol’ sole trader, you should be thinking of yourself as a brand. And to help ‘build your brand’, you must have a consistent style across your communication formats. Your website, flyers, social media profiles and business cards must all look, sound and ‘feel’ the same. This makes you more memorable, and ­– hey ­– you’re an editor, so consistency’s kind of important anyway.

But when it comes to targeting the right people, you’re also going to have to be prepared to engage with them for the long haul. And this means gathering and storing knowledge about them. Build a database detailing conversations you’ve had with individuals in organisations you’d like to work for … Remembering someone’s birthday or asking about their holiday in Greece might just swing a job in your favour.

4. Network, network, network

I know, I know … I give an involuntary shudder at the thought of this, too. But, as Chris points out, networking is really just making the most of human connections.

In Glasgow there are loads of networking opportunities, for example, Jobs and Business Glasgow and Business Gateway hold regular events. And (the one we all can’t wait to try) Weegie Wednesdays is a regular meeting of people interested in all aspects of publishing. So, why not give it a whirl? You never know what might turn up as a result of simply getting to know more people.

5. Get any financial help going!

Setting up as a sole trader and new business? There IS funding out there! You may be able to apply for a New Enterprise Allowance (approx. £1200), which will give you access to advice and support as well as money. Or try Jobs and Business Glasgow for help with your plans and access to a £200 start-up grant. This funding can help cover the costs of training, equipment and professional development as well as marketing.

6. Take advantage of free marketing courses

Did you know that you don’t even have to pay a fortune to learn the basics of marketing? Scotland’s Local Authorities run free training courses in things like Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. You don’t even have to live in a specific authority to access its events!

7. Head to your local library

If you can trust yourself not to get distracted by all those fabulous books you’ve been meaning to read, Glasgow’s libraries provide resources that can help you target your direct marketing. For example, you can search for the contact details of up to 1000 businesses each year. And, the good news is, you don’t have to pay a penny.

8. Always ask for client feedback

This is for three reasons. One, you can find out where a new client got your details from (i.e. ‘Yes! That flyer was a winner’) and use this information to inform your marketing plan. Two, you can address any concerns that may not lead to repeat business. And, three, if your client is delighted with your work, you can ask them for a testimonial – one of the best marketing tools out there.

To find out more about Chris Bryce, head to her website at www.spotlighteditorial.com

Like to learn more about how to run your freelance editorial business, or how to improve your editing/proofreading skills? Come along to the next Glasgow SfEP meeting on Wednesday 18th May. For more information, contact Group Coordinator Denise Cowle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability! Check out her LinkedIn page or follow her on Twitter @honeybroom.

To e-read or not to e-read?

Post by Jill Broom

… That is the question. Well, at least, it’s a question that’s come up a lot recently during my conversations with fellow book lovers.

A few years back, there was a flurry of excitement when it seemed everybody I knew, including me, got their first e-reader. Wasn’t it great how we could take it anywhere? It was cheaper (not great news for my chosen profession). It might be better for the environment (jury’s still out on this one). And – hooray – when we all eventually get arthritis, we’ll still be able to read without having to negotiate a cumbersome tome …

Yes, this did actually cross my mind. And, yes, I’m only in my 30s.

However, after all that initial gushing, we seem to have got over our devotion and more and more of us are delving back into a paperback or – shock-horror (and even more devil-may-care) a hardback. There are actually only a few folk that I know nowadays who rely completely on their e-readers. We all tend to move happily between the two forms.

Why do we still like print?

Well, there are a whole load of reasons for this. And good ones for your health too …

In an era when our online usage has skyrocketed, a good old-fashioned book gives us the opportunity to disconnect and switch off from the white noise, and it allows us to rest our eyes properly. There’s even some evidence to suggest that reading in print supports better comprehension and retention of the subject matter. And this brings me on to something else I noticed.

For me, there will never be anything like the smell of a new book … Secret shame: I don’t always go into a bookshop to buy; sometimes I just pop in for the aroma.

The scent of all those books is an instant comfort to me, and it’s this sensory impact that got me thinking about the other ways I use my senses when reading.

A ‘sense’-ible assessment?

I recently proofread a textbook written for teenagers that contained helpful tips about HOW to learn. Everyone is, of course, different – some are auditory learners, some visual learners and some simply learn from doing – kinaesthetic learners. Having never really thought about it before, it was while working on this book that I realised that I am, primarily, a visual learner.

This means that I’m good at visualising where on a page I might have seen a particular name, reference, fact, or part of the story. And this helps me remember it. Not exactly a photographic memory, but handy all the same.

Coupled with the ability to recall where roughly in the book I saw something by the thickness of the pages already read and those still to go (i.e. by touch) – I find e-readers are not my particular friend if I want to go back and check something.

The personal preference factor

So it seems I’m better off reading a hard copy, particularly if I’m reading something big and meaty. Or when I’m having a tired spell and reread the same three pages over and over again each night before falling asleep onto my e-reader, inadvertently pressing the touch screen, flying forward hundreds of pages and losing my ‘location’.

Just me? Maybe.

But that’s the point. I think it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks. And what suits them one day might not the next. So, it would be reasonable to conclude that both options are very much here to stay … and that we editorial types should always keep our options open.

If you need an editor to look over your e- OR print book, take a look at our Directory now.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability!