November 2019 – style sheets

Autumn is certainly taking root and, having gone back to GMT at the end of October(*), the nights are really drawing in. It always seems a surprise despite it happening every year.

November usually starts with a bit of a buzz with my charity firework display but alas, this year, the weather got the better of us and we had to cancel. A bit of a downer for all involved at Southend Round Table but I’m sure we’ll be back and bigger in 2020.

Anyway… Style sheets: what are those you say?

Well, anyone publishing written material, particularly if more than one person is writing it, should seriously consider putting together a style sheet. This outlines how your organisation wants to treat those grey areas of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

For example, do you organise or organize? Do you prefer Thomas’ books rather than Thomas’s books? How do you like your headings? Do you prefer ten or 10? 1000, 1,000 or 1 000? Do you need to use US or UK English? When do you hyphenate? How do you present your dates? Oxford comma, anyone?

All these things require a moment’s thought.

If a multitude of people are creating your content then you can end up with inconsistencies across your website. This is how a style sheet helps: it sets out how you want to present certain things and prevents your writers having to make the decision again and again. Give them a style sheet and they know how they should do it.

Not only does it set out how you wish to deal with variable spellings it also sets out your voice, eg passive, for your writing. Some like to write in the first person (I or we) others not. You may even have industry-specific spellings to point out. For example, in psychological circles phantasy is perfectly acceptable – because it is something different to fantasy.

As a proofreader, a style sheet is essential. It helps me to know what you wanted for your written material so I can check against it. However, not everyone is confident in producing one and so I can help. This could be a one-off project, looking at your audience(s) and giving recommendations on style, or as a fluid or living document – evolving as we work together on particular projects such as blogs or reports or other regular documents.

So, if you want help to ensure that your website doesn’t organize when your reports organise, why not get in touch?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert, WordperfectVA.

(*) thus making the last Sunday of October the longest day of the year at 25 hours.



October 2019 – fireworks and other distractions


One advantage of being freelance is that one can manage one’s time to fit around other commitments, such as family, and to volunteer for charitable and other good causes.

For many years I have been a member of Southend Round Table, a charitable organisation that seeks to raise funds for local good causes whilst having fun and forming friendships. Our main fundraiser is the Big Beach Bang, a fireworks display at East Beach, Shoeburyness. Not only has this raised tens of thousands of pounds every year, it also brings together families and the wider community and is a highly anticipated annual event. People and organisations come together to put it on, to which people travel from far and wide to watch.

Of course, all this cannot happen without months of planning and preparation throughout the year, culminating in one of the most tiring weekends I have ever known.

Up to 5,000 people have to be marshalled and looked after; £10,000 worth of fireworks set off safely; hundreds of fence panels, for crowd control and marking off danger zones, have to be put up and taken down on the day; fairground attractions and catering vans have to be marshalled in and out. If we’re out by midnight, we consider ourselves lucky. Then the day after is inspecting the park for litter and getting everything put away for another year. Then we sleep…

Yes, it is tiring; but the camaraderie amongst those who organise it and the smiles on people’s faces as they leave is just reward. And it raises cash for local good causes as well.

So, if you have nothing planned on the 2nd November, why not come along? If you do have something on, then cancel it and come along. Tickets can be bought here.

And, it isn’t too late to get involved. If you can spare a few hours on the day extra hands are always welcome. If you fancy it, contact me.

Kindly proofread by Annie Deakins at Proofnow.