Editing and Plain English Special Interest Group
October 2011 Newsletter
Great speakers and topics
Since the last newsletter (unfortunately a longer gap than I’d intended), a lot has happened.
We’ve had some wonderful speakers and topics at our two-monthly meetings:
Ruth Hamilton on ‘Information Mapping’ and quality assurance in business writing
Prue Scott on the perils of PowerPoint
Taruni Falconer on communicating (in written English) with people of different cultures
Sarah Gumbley on how to promote your own writing projects in the brave new world of e-publishing
Jo Patterson on producing winning proposals and tenders.
To access MP3 recordings, slides or handouts from any of these, go to the EPEG page on the TCANZ website. And then use the menu to navigate to the ‘Past Presentations’ area.
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Institute (PRINZ) has launched its own Auckland-based specialist-interest group, for ‘Independent Practitioners’. This meets three-monthly, has speakers as we do, and communicates via a LinkedIn group.
The cross-over potential between the two groups is huge: many of you EPEG types are independent practitioners, and many PRINZ members do editing or have a plain English focus. Steve Moss and I have been talking with the Independent Practitioners people about information sharing and mutual promotion of events. (This was especially after the two groups coincidentally hosted presentations on the exact same topic — winning proposals — about five days apart.)
And Sarah McLean, TCANZ’s Wellington organiser, has set up a network group similar to ours, though focussing more specifically on plain English. It kicks off next week, with Write Ltd plain English consultant Judy Knight giving a presentation on ‘The Transliterate Scribe’ (which she delivered at the recent Style Council Conference in Sydney — see below). Hopefully Sarah will report back on how this networking concept went down in the Capital. You can also access the Wellington SIG’s page.
I’m just back from Sydney, where I attended two important industry events: the three-day (Australian) National Editors Conference and the one-day Style Council Conference. The Style Council, which deals with matters of publishing style, had a segment devoted to ‘plain English benchmarks’, and I presented a paper on ‘Smart Sentences’. If you’re interested, you can read a transcription of it.
Very few New Zealanders attended either event, but I was amazed by the number of ‘Aussie’ practitioners I met who came from here originally. Everyone happily embraced us as a part of their wider community and empathised with our total lack of professional support for editors (outside of book publishing).
There was a fantastic range of topics and some inspirational speakers — too many to list. But here are some interesting and relevant snippets I picked up:
Ignore Word at your peril: Kevin O’Brien runs training courses for professional editors through the Australian Publishers Association. He reckons the single most important thing all editors can do is become highly proficient in MS Word, and particularly learn to use paragraph styles, templates and macros. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive set of resources on Word for editors, he recommends http://www.editorium.com/
‘Non-publisher’ problems: A major headache for corporate (non-book) editors is having to work with project managers who know nothing about publishing processes. (For example, those admin staff or HR middle managers or accountants who have responsibility for getting the annual report out — you’ll know what I mean.) The ubiquitous PDF has only complicated matters. According to O’Brien and other conference speakers, all text editing, up to proofreading, should still be driven through Word. And the editor can help educate such project managers about the necessary stages — how much time to allocate, what format works best, who should do what, etc.
E-xciting prospects: Several speakers prophesied that editors are perfectly positioned in the brave new world of e-publishing. We should be getting familiar with XML software in readiness. Sarah Hazleton, who spoke passionately on editing e-books, advised: Know your devices, know your formats, know your audience — and let go of all thinking about the traditional page. (Her paper is reproduced in full in the latest Blue Pencil newsletter). Also check out content editor Dave Gardiner’s intriguing white paper on the future of single-source digital publishing, at http://www.xmplar.biz/.
Niche market: Lachlan Colquhoun, contract editor of niche publications (i.e. industry or hobby magazines), believes this area of traditional publishing will not only survive the digital era but actually thrive.
Be business-savvy: The head of the Australian media union says three-quarters of editors and ‘creative’ workers generally are freelances or contractors. Very few are employed full-time, and that percentage is expected to shrink even further. He thinks successful freelancers need both craft and small-business skills, in equal amounts.
“Lingua franca: a language with an army and a navy.”
“Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”
“It’s all stoppy-starty” and “It’s not what I was taught” (comments from respondents of very different ages, to a survey on punctuation).
: From social networking comes ‘PEBCAK’ = ‘problem exists between chair and keyboard’ (you work it out!). And did you know that ‘LOL’ has been used by nurses for decades, as shorthand for ‘little old lady’? (Both examples reported by the celebrated linguist Kate Burridge, who’s also a very entertaining writer on word origins — see below.)
Range of booklets from the UK ‘Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ (sfep), including such titles as ‘Editor and Client’, ‘Developing a Marketing Strategy’ and ‘Editing into Plain Language’ [order through http://www.sfep.org.uk/]
‘Working Words’ by Elizabeth Manning Murphy, published by the Canberra Society of Editors and launched at the National Editors Conference — a wonderful read, especially for those interested in plain English practice.
‘Blooming English’, ‘Weeds in the Garden of Words’ and ‘Forbidden Words: Taboo and the censoring of language’, by Kate Burridge.
If you enjoyed this newsletter or found it useful, do let me know. Drop me a line at email@example.com. And if you’re a regular EPEG attendee and would like to help out with future issues, even better. There’s is so much good oil on editing and plain English that need sharing around — but only so much time.
If you are an EPEG regular but are not a member of TCANZ, maybe it’s time to consider joining. At $100 a year (+GST), it’s one of the better deals around for professional members. As well as subsidising our group, TCANZ offers many benefits of relevance to corporate editors and plain English practitioners. To find out more or join up, go to the membership page.
09 817-9717, 021 215-3962