Editing for everyone

When you’ve got something great – or important, or funny, or moving – to say, you want to say it to everyone you can, right? You don’t want to leave out anyone who might benefit from what you’ve got to say.

There’s a knack to making sure your writing speaks to everyone – no matter their age, gender, sexuality, race or ability.

Here’s a great piece about where to start. For more tips, drop me a line at jane@accessediting.com.au

Five ways to help your writing be sensitive and inclusive

Editing for PhD students

Here’s a link to some tops advice from La Trobe University, if you’re a PhD student thinking about having your thesis edited.

And it comes with a reminder: I’m an IPEd Accredited Editor. That means I subscribe to Australian universities’ editing policies, and my industry’s professional code of conduct. When you discuss editing with your  supervisor, that’s one of the things they’ll want to hear about!

To edit or not to edit…

Inclusive language – or political correctness gone mad?

When I worked as a Hansard editor, sometimes we’d have a week where the same phrase popped up over and over again – across the political spectrum, in both chambers, and sometimes even as I eavesdropped around the corridors.

In one particular week it was this: “It’s just political correctness gone mad!”

In the kind of over-exuberance induced by lack of sleep, real food and sunlight, as well as the knowledge that it wasn’t going to end anytime soon, my small team of editors discussed having t-shirts printed. They’d be black, with “PCGM!” blazoned across the chest in large white letters. We thought it would be a good conversation starter, in the right circles. We didn’t get around to making a market study to find where that circle might be, but I have a feeling it might have had a radius of about 20 metres.

But this is a digression from my topic, which is that fine line between inclusive language and political correctness that can sometimes get in the way of meaning.

The Commonwealth Style Manual has a great section about inclusive language and avoiding bias. (There’s no online version of the government style guide, but you can read about it here.) It discusses legal requirements, stereotyping, bias, prejudice and the importance of referring to people and social groups ‘in inclusive terms’.

To my mind, a good start to this kind of inclusive writing is to ask yourself ‘Am I leaving anyone out here?’ For example, it would be unfair and incorrect to call a woman who does not have a job a ‘housewife’. Would a man in the same position be called a ‘househusband’? Of course not. That would be silly. (I have seen ‘housewife’ listed as a career category in a research paper; it rankled.)

Bias in language is insidious, and it matters.

Writing a job ad that implies only females will apply for a childcare position can unwittingly discourage men from applying and affect the diversity of the professional workforce.

In a news story, the assumption that a person who made an arrest was a ‘policeman’ degrades the hard-won gains made by women in the police force.

Writing a brochure to market a superannuation fund? Referring to someone in their 50s as ‘elderly’ is sure to send potential clients straight into the arms of your competitor.

And using ‘Koori’ synonymously for ‘Aboriginal Australian’ is a striking show of ignorance.

But I recently wondered if a term was going a little too far.

I edited a report for an organisation that delivers community mental health services. The people they help are not ‘clients’ or ‘customers’. They’re not ‘people with a mental illness’; perhaps they’ve recovered from a mental illness, or perhaps they’re caring for someone with a mental illness. ‘Community members’ is too broad a term. ‘Patients’ is too narrow. The report was collaborative, which meant that about 20 people had a say in which term would be used. After months of deliberation, the team settled on ‘client’, with an explanatory introduction about the choice of term and reminders throughout.

At the 11th hour, they had a change of heart. The term they went for (which had been kicked about before) was ‘person with a lived experience of mental illness’ or, for short, ‘person with a lived experience’. It was clumsy. It was time-consuming to make the changes. It made me think “PCGM!”

But then I did the hard yards and I could see that it was fair and true. In the end, the sentences read well and we got to lose the apologetic explanation of terms. Most importantly, the client was happy because all the people the service helps had been included in the report’s language.

If you’d like help to ensure your text is inclusive and free from language bias, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at jane@accessediting.com.au

The freelance lifestyle

Here’s something I love about the freelance lifestyle: being able to help with community projects that tickle me.

My friend recently set up a community language school for children in our small, but growing, town in the Southern Highlands of NSW. My friend teaches Mandarin to two groups of children, twice a week, out of school hours at the local public school.

She had the passion and the drive to help local kids discover the culture of her home country, China.

But before she could get started, she needed to get through the paperwork.

I was so glad to help.

Together, we wrote a constitution and some promotional material to use in local community newsletters and, later, for a website, an email list or grant applications.

I’ve also helped with promotional and administrative text for my children’s school’s parents and citizens association, a local fete and the community garden. Before I made the tree change from Canberra, I edited a services guide for a non-profit organisation, to help their clients find community groups and support services that were right for them. And I recently helped my brother write a procurement manual for his go-kart club!

Is there something I can help you with? I’d be happy to hear from you at jane@accessediting.com.au

Just starting to figure out how to get your work edited?

Here’s a tip: make sure you know what you’re getting.

When you wander into the shopping centre looking to buy a red cardigan (as I did on my lunch break from the IPEd conference last month!), you might know roughly – but not exactly – what you’re looking for.

You might have a budget in mind. Then again, you might not have a clue how much a new red cardigan is going to cost! You might have already heard some opinions about what’s going to suit your wardrobe and your body type. You might have checked out your fave brands or browsed through Pinterest.

Either way, when you find something that feels right, you know what you’re getting – while you’re holding it, you can make a judgement about its quality.

Even better, you can see the price – and you know that price isn’t going to change once you get to the cash register.

I considered all of those feelings when I designed my quoting process. I want potential clients to know what they’re getting when they contract Access Editing, and to know how much it’s going to cost.

When you send me your project to edit – whether it’s a thesis, journal article, research report, annual report, or promotional material for your business – I’ll make a thorough assessment and let you know exactly what kind of editorial intervention it needs. I’ll write you a helpful email to let you know the kinds of things I will and won’t change. And I’ll attach a formal editing brief and quote, so you know exactly what it’s going to cost.

In the same email, I’ll invite you to ask me any questions about editing – whether they’re particular to my brief, or about the editing process and industry in general.

To read more about how to make the quoting process as quick and easy as possible, see Let’s get started on my website, www.accessediting.com.au. Or email me on jane@accessediting.com.au

IPEd conference, part 2

I’ve been home from beautiful Brisbane for more than a week now, and in that time not once has anyone made me lunch. Nor have I have I had a single lunch dessert. Ah, all good things come to an end!

Of course there’s more to professional development than cute little pots of chocolate mousse…

My second focus at the IPEd conference was learning more about the business of editing. I’ve been freelancing for about three years now, and it seems I learn something new with every job I do.

I came away from the conference with a long list of practices to adopt, apps to download and resources to tap into. I’m slowly working my way through the list!

Here are some digital resources that have rocked my world:

  • Rounded – book-keeping software for freelancers
  • Trello – a list-making app that I use for keeping track of my editing schedule
  • PerfectIt – a proofreading plugin for word, which picks up style and spelling inconsistencies in long documents
  • Dropbox – secure, cloud-based file storage I use to back up my files

And here are some I’m looking forward to checking out:

  • AnyCount – a tool that can be used for a range of file formats to give an accurate, customisable word count
  • StyleWriter – gives statistical stores of a document’s readability, which some editors use to help predict how long it will take to edit a document
  • Toggl – for time tracking.

If StyleWriter and AnyCount work out, I’ll include the information in my quotes.

If you’d like to see how your document rates, email me! jane@accessediting.com.au

IPEd conference, part 1

In a major departure from my usual routine, I’ve just been to Brisbane for three days of professional development. Three days away from my desk, in the company of clever, passionate colleagues working hard to advance the profession of editing. It was invigorating, challenging and fabulous.

And, oh! I didn’t have to make my own lunch. And there was morning and afternoon tea! Heaven.

I attended the 8th biennial Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) conference.

My first priority was hearing about thesis editing, so I attended a half-day workshop and three presentations, including a panel discussion. A series of themes emerged, notably the need to update IPEd’s guidelines for editing research theses. The guidelines prohibit ‘substantive editing’ of theses, as outlined in the Australian standards for editing practice. But there are very fine lines between ‘copyediting’, ‘heavy editing’ and ‘substantive editing’ – for both professional editors and their clients!

The guidelines also advise editors to return edited theses in PDF or hard copy. Only a tiny portion of delegates did this. Like me, everyone else returned Word documents containing tracked changes.

IPEd is setting up a panel to look into the issue, and it’s my strong hope that they’ll include the views of people who contract editors, especially PhD advisers and heads of faculties at Australian universities.

More on the IPEd conference in later posts.

10 Signs You Should Invest in Editing

  1. Your supervisor says you should invest in editing.

I’m a thesis editor employed by the University of Canberra, and I’m an approved editor at several other Australian universities. Pick me!

  1. English is your second language – or your third, or fourth. You’re on solid ground with your ideas and your arguments. You don’t want writing errors to get in the way of your message.

I’ve worked with many ESL authors – students, researchers, members of remote Aboriginal communities giving evidence to parliamentary inquiries. It will be my joy and privilege to make your work shine.

  1. You try reading back your work, and you realise it’s full of words you’d never use in conversation – and some of them you can’t even pronounce.

Plain English editing is what you need, my friend!

  1. You’re out of time to triple-check your reference list, and you know your potential publisher will roll their eyes at any missing full-stop, comma, bracket or quote mark.

I’m a pro at APA. I’m a pro at author, date. I’ve used Chicago and MLA. I have a graduate diploma in library and information management, and my favourite unit was cataloguing. I’m all over it.

  1. You can’t decide whether to use ‘e-mail’ or ‘email’, so you’re using a bit of each just for good measure.

I can make your style decisions and apply them consistently!

  1. Problems with formatting are stressing you out. You can’t figure out how to generate a list of figures, your tables won’t stay on the same page, and the page numbers are mysteriously restarting midway through the document.

I’m an advanced Word user! Stop faffing about and let me sort it.

  1. You suspect you’ve repeated yourself, but the document is so long and you’ve looked at it for far too many hours. You just can’t face figuring out where the problem is – or if there is a problem at all.

To my fresh pair of eyes, your document is new and exciting – let me at it!

  1. You’ve loaded your post with keywords, and you suspect it sounds stilted.

I’m committed to finding and maintaining the author’s voice – I’ll weed out anything that doesn’t sound like you.

  1. You’ve spent so much time trawling Grammar Girl posts that her perky ponytail is starting to get on your nerves and you still can’t figure out if your writing is in the passive tense or whether your commas are from Oxford.

I’m an Accredited Editor. I sat an exam made up by Distinguished Editors of the Institute of Professional Editing. Grammar is my thing. I can fix your sentences. And if you like, I’ll stick around to explain how I did it.

  1. You’ve compiled a government report or annual report for your business, and lots of different people have contributed to it. You need the writing to have one voice with a consistent tone and style.

I’ve edited research papers and annual reports for large organisations, documents that are always written by numerous authors. And I’ve worked on transcripts with a team of editors who scrupulously stick to a style and commit to relaying the speakers’ different tones. It’s all about consistency.

Does any of this sound like you? Email me! jane@accessediting.com.au


I have a confliction about deconfliction

Funny how you hear a word for the first time and then it pops up everywhere.

Part of the report I’m editing is about deconfliction. This time it’s about police investigation.

That’s fine. I’m used to it. It’s jargon. Whatever.

But I’m drawing the line at ‘confliction’ (well, unless it’s part of the technical jargon used by the community I’m editing for).

Because according to Urban Dictionary:

Coined by Rachel, Christie & Gianna during Big Brother’s 2005 series in Australia; used instead of the word conflict to show that you are actually really intellect.

Oh boy.

The dull stuff…

As a sole trader, the time I spend on running my business is time spent away from editing or doing other things I love. I’ve been investigating Rounded and Xero to update my quoting and invoicing systems. It’s a hard slog to take time out to do this kind of professional development, but it’s so important!

Would  you like to check out one of my snazzy new quotes, along with an editing brief and time line? Send your document to jane@accessediting.com.au