August 2020 – Top Tips

I’m hoping I won’t be putting myself out of business here but these are my five top tips when it comes to proofreading.

  1. Read it aloud – saying it out loud can really help. I find it helps focus on the words and the pace of the sentence, and provides you with a natural feel of the sentence. We often skim over words when reading in our head and the brain just fills in the gaps,  but when reading out loud we slow down. I have been reading my 8-year-old some of my favourite books and I’ve spotted typos that I haven’t before. The difference? I’m reading out loud.
  2. Read it tomorrow – take a break between writing it and reading it. Writing is a creative process. You put your thoughts down on paper. Proofreading is a different skill. In a previous blog, I discussed the differences between a copywriter and a proofreader. Many copywriters don’t like to proofread and vice versa so why would you want to jump from one to the other yourself, perhaps in the same sitting?
  3. Read it backwards – not like that… but start at the last page and work back. All too often we start at the first page, get tired working through it and so miss stuff at the end. If you always start checking at the start, you’ll always be tired when checking the last bit.
  4. Take breaks – proofread a few pages at a time. Do a bit, do something else and come back to it.
  5. Read it again. And then again. And perhaps, read it again.

Of course, you may not want to do all this. You may not have the time. So, that’s where I come in! I can be proofreading your document making use of these top tips while you are off getting other work done or doing whatever you’d rather be doing. Sounds good? Then contact me here.

 

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

 

May 2020 – why is proofreading important?

In previous blogs I have extolled the virtues in getting your work proofread. In February 2019 I outlined what proofreading was all about and common mistakes; in March 2019 I focused on some student pitfalls; in November 2019 I outlined style sheets; and in February I consolidated a lot of this into a blog as part of my preparations for a presentation to Southend Peers.

The value of proofreading is often overlooked by those outside publishing. When chatting to people about it, many say they proofread their own work or just rely on the spellchecker. As the blogs mentioned above outline, spellcheckers only go so far and it is harder to spot your own errors. Allowing a fresh pair of eyes to review your work could spot those errors that have crept in and remained undetected.

Also, consider how much of your time is taken up reviewing your own work? Are you rushing it? Do you have more pressing tasks to complete?

Engaging a professional proofreader frees up your time and could be cheaper for you in the long run. They can also keep your material up-to-date with modern styles. There’s been recent coverage of MS Word changing defaults regarding double spaces after a full stop (or period). Many years ago it was the norm to have a double space but the practice has died out in modern times. I have a friend who is a die-hard double-spacer, as his company’s website demonstrates.

I recently distributed the below leaflet on my social media. There’s a challenge to readers within. The interesting thing was those who highlighted what they believed to be mistakes but weren’t (at least, in my opinion, they weren’t and my opinion is final). It highlighted how styles change over time and how those who proofread themselves may be prone to “fall behind” (for example, once it was the norm to write the Duke of Clarence, now it is becoming the norm to write the duke of Clarence).

leaflet

So, proofreading is important and it is important to get a professional to help you. If you wanted someone to look at your finances, you’d go to an accountant. If you had a legal problem, a lawyer. If you want to market yourself, you’d go to a PR company or advertising agency. The same logic applies for your written material.

Any written material that may go public can be proofread: websites, blogs, reports, brochures… if you write it, I can read it.

As you look to market yourself and your business, as we start to get back to normal following Covid19, why not make sure you’re making a good impression?

If you want to have a chat about how I can help you then contact me! Think you don’t need a proofreader? Why not send me a sample of some recent text, say 500 to 1000 words, for me to review?

April 2020 – week 5 of lockdown

With the Easter school holiday over it was back to home schooling last week. Back to getting them to watch PE with Joe. Back in the day they joined in religiously; now it is a combination of watching and doing their own exercises… but it is something for them to wake up for and get them going before “school” opens.

Last week it became clear this was normality for a while. I spent some time considering what I did before lockdown: did I do it because I enjoyed it or was it habitual? What things will I be reluctant to pick up again? Some food for thought…

This week’s positives:

  1. I painted… it’s not finished but it is looking good.
  2. I’ve managed to break the email/SM habit a little.
  3. Home schooling is quite rewarding (mostly) and helps fill the time.
  4. I’ve considered reviving some interests I’ve let slip.
  5. I realised a lot of time “working” on the PC was just faffing and avoidance… (see (2)).

It seems the outbreak in the UK has peaked. We mustn’t be complacent but we are starting to come out the other end. Restrictions will have to remain in place but the seeds of seeing some normality may be starting to be sown.

I’ve decided that I’ve blogged enough about the lockdown. I’ve reflected sufficiently. Now I think it is best to look forward.

 

April 2020 – week 4 of lockdown

I felt the last week was when I started missing things.

The County Championship was meant to start, friendly and League Cup cricket at Old Southendian & Southchurch CC was meant to start. The regular trips to be a navvy/signaller/driver at the BMR had stopped and the start to its 10th anniversary running season postponed. These were the things that helped me relax and spend time with friends and family.

The “newly-found-free-time” was starting to be less of a novelty. It was becoming permanent. A new normal, perhaps.

What is definitely a new normal is WFH with everyone around.

Some business techniques have been adopted: the evening meal consists of going through the next day. Who has a meeting and when, what needs doing, who needs a PC etc. The day gets planned so that we all get work done, all get some “me” time and we have family time too.

We have more of an evening now no one is commuting and dinner is at a civilised time. But the blurring of the lines between work/home seem blurrier and there’s no option to go and work in the library or a “well known” coffee shop; no option to break the day up with the crossword in Utopia.

But, I’m determined to focus on the positives:

  1. I have had some pleasant bike rides with the children, making use of the quieter(*) roads to start their cycling proficiency training.
  1. The family has become a bit jigsaw crazy, but it’s something we’re doing together.
  2. The kids’ trampoline has paid for itself over and over.
  3. My 7yo and I have had some guitar jam sessions. He says I can join his band on bass.
  4. I dug out my oils and have tentatively started painting again.

(*) quieter, yes… but the cars seem to be driven faster and drivers more impatient and I really notice the car fumes.

April 2020 – week 3 of lockdown

A few moons ago, I mentioned in a blog about stresses of modern life and being constantly connected. But, one of the joys of modern life is perhaps how easy it is to keep in touch without being present. Certainly, we’ve had letters and the like for centuries but it’s nothing like being able to see the person you’re speaking to.

This has really hit home in the last few weeks with not being able to see family outside my household. Despite the lockdown, we could still gather for my daughter’s birthday and she was able to socialise with her close friends.

Other positives from the last week:

Now Lent is over I can have restorative drink… or two.

A neighbour made, from scratch, some rather excellent choux buns.

My brother and I have had regular games of chess via the internet, of mixed results.

I’ve had a few overs in the garden with the kids.

And so another week begins…

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

April 2020 – week 2 of lockdown

Last week I blogged about the impact of COVID-19. I set myself a little target of selecting five positives each week. This week’s are:

1. The children arranged a sleepover: my 7yo ‘slept’ in my 10yo’s room with all the usual sleepover activities. They seem to be taking this in their stride.

2. I have moved a few books from my ‘read’ pile to my ‘read’ pile.

3. Rested up a bit.

4. I got some stuff sorted in the garden.

5. The admiration and community support for our public services who are particularly overworked at this time.

In the UK, the peak of the outbreak is expected around Easter break. It seems we are as prepared as possible for the next few weeks, and it may well get worse before it improves, but perhaps soon we will see the glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

April 2020 – it’s all gone viral

I had a number of things planned for my April blog. As spring started proper and various places/activities started up for the year, I was going to talk about some of my interests outside of work.

However, at the end of March, I spent a lot of my time crossing things out of my diary as that C-thing took hold. It all got a bit depressing. In addition, it seems I picked the wrong Lent to give up alcohol.

Luckily, I have some work that transferred from face-to-face to online and so have work to see me through the most likely lockdown period, however, the whole family has ended up at home and routines are shot to pieces. On top of everything else, I have become a part-time teacher. It has made for some interesting work periods…

However, I thought I would reflect weekly on the positives.

So, this week:

1. I’ve managed to get out on my bike once or twice.

2. The 10-year-old has learnt how to use the coffee maker.

3. We’ve had many family dinners, which wasn’t always possible when things were “normal”.

4. My bank balance is not going down.

5. The children are both very understanding of the situation and have been great in entertaining themselves when both parents have had to work.

And so we continue…

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

March 2020 – anyone for ghoti and tchoghs?

In my July blog, I did a potted history of English, describing some of the reasons why English can be troublesome. The influence of other languages has had a major impact on the modern language we know today, affecting things such as plurals and the breadth of its vocabulary.

Another change as English developed was that it stopped being phonetic. This is, in part, due to changes in pronunciation without a change in spelling: printing presses and the like cemented English spelling as it was in the 14th/15th centuries and there was the Great Vowel Shift.

A phonetic language is one in which the letters are always pronounced the same way. Finnish and Turkish are two examples of languages considered to be truly phonetic. The advantage with such languages is that when one comes across a word for the first time it can be straightforward to determine its pronunciation, thus learning the language is so much simpler.

But English isn’t phonetic. This means that the same letters can make different sounds depending where they are in the word. Native speakers don’t tend to notice this (*), it’s second nature, but it causes trouble for non-native speakers. To demonstrate this, consider the following:

ghoti and tchoghs

You may have figured out by the photo that this is fish and chips, but how can ghoti and tchoghs be pronounced the same way?

Well, let’s break it down.

Let’s start with ‘ghoti‘ – you’ve probably read it as ‘go-tee’, the ‘gh’ at the start perhaps being the same as in ‘ghost’. But…

  • GH – makes an ‘f’ sound, like in ‘rough’
  • O – makes an ‘i’ sound, like in ‘women’
  • TI – makes a ‘sh’ sound, like in ‘ration’.

And so, overall, ‘ghoti‘ (**) makes the same sounds as in ‘fish’. The key thing is that the letters make different sounds depending where they are in the word.

And tchoghs?

  • TCH – makes a ‘ch’ sound, like in ‘itch’
  • O – as above
  • GH – makes a ‘p’ sound like in ‘hiccough’ (this is often spelt as hiccup, these days).

So, it is all a bit of a mess. We soldier on though (***), with words such as Worcester, Leicester and lieutenant which are pronounced not as their spelling would suggest (wooster, lesster, left-tenant). Centuries of evolution of a language can be hard to overcome and whilst there are those who want to change spellings, many find the thought of doing so impractical. Indeed at the (then) SfEP conference last year, when such an idea was discussed, it seemed abhorrent.

It would seem most people will happily carry on, tolerating the inconsistencies of English. In many ways, the language reflects our history and so perhaps by removing those inconsistencies, we would be removing the history as well. In any event, it helps create work for us proofreaders… which keeps me well stocked with tchoghs.

(*) Have you ever noticed the letter ‘C’ is pronounced three ways in ‘Pacific Ocean’?

(**) ‘Ghoti‘ was used in a Batman (****) episode, combining it with the French for eggs: Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company.

(***) Here the ‘gh’ isn’t an ‘f’, unlike in rough. I have a headache…

(****) Adam West has always been my favourite Batman, possibly because of this.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

February 2020 – so, you think you don’t need a proofreader?

I recently gave a presentation to Southend Peers about my proofreading services, particularly around style sheets. My preparation for this made me consider again why organisations would want to make use of a proofreader.

Some industries, such as publishing, make use of a proofreader without thinking about it and, in previous blogs (February, March and Why is my blog proofread?), I have extolled the virtues of a proofreader to businesses. Indeed, I have a marketing campaign launching in Business Time in Essex along those lines this very month.

In today’s world there does seem to be an over-reliance on technology. Whilst technology is great, it can only do so much. At Christmas, I was given a book which I enjoyed and loathed in equal measure. This was because the author had self-published but had not engaged the use of a proofreader (at least I hope they hadn’t). There were typos throughout, inconsistencies in style and formatting issues. The most frustrating part was that the author was a professional writer and journalist.

The benefit of this was that it made good fodder for my presentation since a lot of the issues were around style – eg the book used both spellings of certain words, such as ‘recognize’ and ‘recognise’, even on the same page. It made me realise that while organisations may be very good at ensuring their written material is error-free, it may remain inconsistently presented, badly formatted or not in a format suitable for its audience. It is this area where a proofreader can really help an organisation.

A business, indeed anyone, only has one chance to make a first impression. So, let’s make that a good first impression.

If you want me to help, please get in touch.

Think you don’t need a proofreader? Why not send me a sample of some recent text, say 500 to 1000 words, for me to review?

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

September 2019 – conference!

With proofreading being a new venture, I took the decision last year to join the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I am currently an Entry Level Member, working towards Intermediate Member using their excellent training programme and on-the-job experience.

This year, I decided to attend their annual conference. I’m not great at conferences (actually I would go so far as to say I loathe them) and networking is not really my thing, but I felt it would be good to make more contacts within the Society. This blog is a bit of a whistle-stop tour of what I saw.

Beforehand, I did a bit of preparation. What did I want from this? Well, to make contact with other proofreaders, forge links with others in the industry, get my face known (for better or worse). But also, to force me out of my comfort zone: spend time doing something I would usually shy away from. I researched for advice (and found SfEP already had me in mind) but this article was pretty good too. I took note from both and came up with some plans.

Day One

Early (early enough to consider changing plans…) on the 14th Sept, I began my journey north. I’m no stranger to the West Coast Main Line and Birmingham but it was nice to do it in daylight and at the weekend. It was sunny and warm too, nice for mid-September.

I arrived quite early and got my conference lanyard, which was nicely marked up to show I was a first-timer (intimidating and welcoming at the same time). I had a few hours so went to find some of the famous canals (more canal miles than Venice, don’t you know?) and some lunch.

I returned ready for the speed networking, which I seemed determined to call speed dating whenever I had the opportunity. Just like speed dating (I’m told) you are paired up with another delegate and you have a set amount of time to chat before you are moved on. I met a range of proofreaders/editors from old hands to newbies like me, covering specialisms such as environmental issues, Welsh, fiction, legal, IT and chemistry. It really helped to make some connections for later in the conference and beyond. It took an hour and a half, but the time flew by.

The AGM was held and it was great to hear that the SfEP’s petition to become a chartered institute had been approved – now the work begins to transform into the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders.

I then attended the drinks reception for fellow first-timers and found myself talking to a few strangers, before sitting down for dinner and a catch-up with Annie from Proofnow.

The day ended with a quiz, which our team (Kevin – I believe this is an in-joke amongst some members…) managed to win by one point. The two lyrics rounds were hard but there was a pleasing lack of questions about grammar.

I finished off the day reviewing some Tweets and making a note of who liked mine so I could try and find them the next day! A modern ice-breaker, wouldn’t you say?

Day Two

Always joyous to see bacon at breakfast. I managed to get full value for money from the buffet but also sat down with strangers and made conversation.

We had a morning address (9.30 on a Sunday…) from the author Chris Brookmyre. He regaled us with tales from his writing career, publishing over twenty books in crime fiction. There was no swearing, whatsoever. This helped wake everyone up in preparation for the day’s activities.

I’d signed up for some sessions that I thought would be useful for me.

The first of the day was “Creating Effective Style Sheets” by Ian Howe. This outlined what a style sheet is (and isn’t) and gave some handy hints on what to include. This is certainly something I will be exploring and expanding further in a future blog. But, ultimately, it is how you (a publisher, author or organisation) decide on certain variables and preferences over spelling, punctuation, presentation and so on.

The second was “Starting Out: A Guide for Newbies” by Claire Handy. Lots of advice on what not to do when starting out, some of which I could have done with 18 months ago! It was during this session that I met some people I only knew via emails, so it was nice to see them in the flesh.

During lunch, I had a chat with another delegate about some potential work – and so it seems attending the conference was paying dividends already.

After lunch, a chance to look at the Historical Thesaurus which contains almost every single word of English ever used, helping authors to use the right word for the era. I imagine I’ll be perusing it at my leisure to find archaic words to use in the future.

The day ended with the Gala Dinner and speech by Rob Drummond, about pedantry and language. A most non-standard after-dinner speech! A toast to the newly-created Institute rounded off the evening.

Day Three

What better way is there to spend a Monday morning than learning about mark-ups in PDFs?

This was presented by Newgen Publishing and ran through what can be done within Adobe Reader, bringing the principles of hard copy proofreading to PDFs. Once you know how, you can apply the same approaches to PDFs as you would hard copy. The demonstration helped bring it all alive. Possibly the most interesting aspect is that for hard copy we have the BSI symbols, setting a standard for marking proofs, but there is not, as yet, any standards for marking electronic copy. This means that different clients will expect different approaches. Perhaps a standard approach is something for the SfEP to look at in the future?

My second session of the day was “Building Better Relationships” by Ruth Thaler-Carter. She went through lots of hints and tips, in a relaxed delivery with no notes at all! We learnt from some of her experiences and she gave plenty to think about for the future. The key is to communicate with your client and the only assumption you should make is that people make assumptions.

After lunch (and I must admit I was expecting buffets with unidentifiable sandwiches for the lunches, but these were worthy of dinners!), I attended a session on Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary business. This was out of genuine interest rather than to help my business. It was fascinating to hear how they get the spoken word in the House of Lords transcribed and published online within three hours. The team works in five-minute shifts in the Chamber, and then spend an hour typing it up before it is edited and collated. This is a monumental task in itself before you think about how to describe the non-verbal events, what can be omitted to make the written record readable (eg errs, ums etc) and how to deal with a dispute over what a member said. They showed videos of events in the Assemblée nationale, US Congress, the Parliament of Australia, the New Zealand Parliament, the Oireachtas and the Cortes Generales and how each Hansard (or equivalent) dealt with the situation. In a perverse way, it was pleasing to see that elected representatives in other countries behave just the same as our own ‘honourable’ members.

The day ended with an address from David Crystal. He has just published the third edition of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language and described some of the developments in the English language and its use since the second edition was published. With over 2 billion speakers, it is bound to change and evolve differently in different parts of the world, but the impact of social media and text messaging is also covered. Of particular interest was the impact of a full stop in WhatsApp messages. Rather than denoting the end of the sentence (since it isn’t usually used) it portrays emotion.

And to the cap the day off, a little win on the raffle!

Now I’m on the train home, reflecting, with another delegate opposite me (but we’re both too tired to engage in more ‘peopling’).

Did I achieve my goals?

Well, I met lots of new people in the industry, met people I knew only by email and have ideas and leads for the future. I also went up to complete strangers and started chatting to them. That in itself was a biggy for me.

So, overall, bit of a win, methinks.

Here’s to #SFEP2020.

 

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert, WordperfectVA.