It’s a question of style — Virginia Wilton & Chris Pirie
14 May 2015
One of the bumper sessions of the conference was on style with Virginia Wilton and Chris Pirie presenting an overview of style guides — the tools of our trade.
This image graphically displays the relationship between style manuals, style guides and style sheets. So what is the difference between them?
A style manual should provide:
- guidance and recommendations
- detailed advice
- a focus on an audience’s needs
- advice on how to plan, undertake and evaluate a publishing project
- general practices in editing, design, electronic publishing, indexing and printing
What is a style guide?
‘A style guide is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organisation, or field. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication.’ – Source, Wikipedia
As co-director and managing editor of Wilton Hanford Hanover (WHH), a Canberra-based consultancy, Virginia shared with us what WHH seeks to include in a generic style sheet for clients. It should cover the following.
- General (miscellaneous)
- Edits we do with track changes OFF
- Abbreviations and acronyms
- Numbers, dates and symbols
- Figures and tables
… and of course an alphabetical word list tailored to each client.
The three principle of a style sheet are that it should aim for:
- keystroke reduction
- minimal capitalisation and punctuation
- plain English
The sessions included a presentation by David Whitbread which covered how the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) devised a 16-page A4 editorial style guide, which was later developed into a one-page guide as a statement of the main principles and rules.
Is the use of capitalisation an issue for you in your workplace or for a client?
Useful rule from David: ‘Use capital letters for titles when you can name who you are talking about.’
Digital first: making the transition from print to online publishing — Bobby Graham
13 May 2015
Bobby Graham’s conference presentation was about making digital content readable, findable and accessible online.
It was a reflection of her career beginnings as an apprentice bookmaker in South Africa, learning all there was to know about print publishing before developing a passion for digital. Bobby shared her experience of moving to Australia in 1998, and launching an ecommerce business selling ebooks.
Bobby joined the Australian National University (ANU) in 2003 as one of the founder members of ANU E Press. She then worked for the National Library of Australia as Web Content Manager and eventually as Director Web Publishing in the IT Division.
You can read the full transcript of Bobby’s presentation – It’s a digital world.
Bobby is a digital publisher and a director of Bobby Graham Publishers
You’re only as good as your briefs — John Linnegar
13 May 2015
Editors, writers and indexers who went into John Linnegar’s session were confronted by a projected image of briefs — yes, those of the underwear kind. Those who panicked for a split second worrying that they might have walked in on a session on lingerie needn’t have worried, John pointed out that it was just a ploy for attention. What a cheeky introduction to a very important topic! For some of us who freelance, there is nothing better when an editor gives us briefs that are concise and clear; some even throw in house style sheets. And for those of us who have dealt with editors who are new and/or inexperienced — we all know the dread of hearing these words ‘Do what you think is suitable …’ What we think is appropriate may not be what the editor has in mind. Just because you think a manuscript needs a good structural edit doesn’t necessarily mean the editor and/or author feels that way. How many times has an indexer been supplied next-to-nothing guidelines for a book? How many pages have been allocated? What is the level required? Who is the intended audience? We’re not mind readers and when we start to guess what our clients want – this is where we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble.
John’s session was informative both for in-house editors, authors and freelance indexers and editors. He laid out two of his Golden Rules for contracts and briefs: The First Golden Rule is to commit to writing what you have agreed upon. The Second Golden Rule is to file it. So what constitutes a contract? John ran through the types of contracts found in publishing environments.
- Standard contracts including checklists of necessary clauses
- Memorandum of Agreements as standard contracts
- Schedule of Freelance Editor’s Agreements
- Schedule of Indexer’s Agreements
- Editing contracts and briefs in letter form
John highlighted the importance of noting down dates and times of meetings and discussions irrespective of whether it is via telephone or Skype calls. He recommended face-to-face negotiations as the best way to conduct business, but we know this is not always possible. Always follow up calls and conversations with written confirmation of discussion points and issues. Back up or save emails and correspondence (it may well save us a lot of hassle in the future). Some of the things to remember when being asked to work on a job, or when commissioning work:
- Clarify who contracting parties are
- Sort out responsibilities and requirements of the supplier
- Is work to be submitted in hardcopy format, disk or via electronic means
- Deadlines and delivery times need to be confirmed
- Standard and quality of work are to be agreed upon
- Identify any confidentiality or conflict of interests
- Penalties for late or non-delivery
- Payment terms and amount
- Copyright/ownership issues
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to negotiations. Each situation and project is unique though good, clear communication skills, common sense and honesty go a long way if we wish to succeed in the publishing industry. If we’re not sure about the brief — or haven’t been given one, make sure we ask our contacts to supply us with one. There is no shame in asking and clarifying. In this case, to have clean briefs is better than having no briefs, and if we ever want to avoid getting our knickers in a knot — best to ask than not.
John Linnegar, an Accredited Professional Text Editor, has been active in the publishing industry for more than 30 years, as author, text editor, proofreader and indexer. He has been training text editors, proofreaders, subeditors, indexers and project managers since 1999; in 2013, his index for Text editing: a handbook for students and practitioners (UPA, 2012) was a runner-up in the ASAIB Awards. His PhD research at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, is focused on developing an effective blended learning model for mentoring language practitioners online.
Post by Mei Yen Chua, ANZSI
Sack that client — Jenny Mosher
12 May 2015
One of the more difficult aspects of our business to control is the people we work for — our clients. “The customer is always right” is utter rubbish. A bad client can make us lose sleep, dread phone calls and email, take up thinking time and energy, distract us from our businesses, and more.
Jenny encouraged us to list our Top Ten “Ideal Client” qualities — these might include such things as the client valuing our work, paying on time, being respectful, emailling rather than phoning us, being nice people, having a sense of humour, providing interesting work — and so on.
Come up with your own list of ‘Top Ten Qualities’, depending on what’s important to you. Then classify your clients according to how many of these Top Ten qualities they have.
An A list client will have 8–9 of the 10 qualities. They’re your dream clients, fabulous to work with. Most of our clients tend to be B or C clients — a B client will tick 6–7 of the boxes, and a C client may only have 4–5 of the 10 ideal qualities. It is possible to train B and C clients to push them up a level — emailling instead of phoning, or paying on time, can often be achieved with some tactful guidance.
The problems arise when we get D and E list clients. D stands for “Don’t touch this”. D list clients may only have a few of your Top Ten qualities. They’re the tyre kickers, and shop on price alone. They want your work for $2.50/hour, and they expect top quality work for this price. They ask heaps of questions that Google could answer. Luckily, these type can be easier to spot, because of their price haggling and profligate questions.
E list clients are the worst of all. Most don’t act professionally. They are self-centred, have no empathy, set unrealistic deadlines, think they are never wrong, and complain about other service providers. They cross the line between business and personal life all the time. They ask inappropriately personal questions, and communicate with you at inappropriate times. They tend to unduly press us, checking up on the progress of their work constantly, as their work is more important than anything else. They argue about the invoice, and either pay late, or not at all. They often pressure you to do tasks that are outside of your usual area of expertise.
Jenny’s tactic for spotting your E list clients, and their “qualities” is to draw up your list of ideal, dreamy A list clients — what qualities do they have? And then write a list of the opposite of this. These are the qualities of your E list clients, and the warning signs to look for. A few of Jenny’s tactics are:
- Be clear with clients about what you’re delivering on their project, and when.
- Be firm about what you’ve agreed upon.
- Be clear about your opening hours. Put them on your website, and on your email signature line. If a client calls on the weekend, say something like “I’m not in the office now” or “Is there any particular reason you’re calling me on the weekend?”, and be clear about when you’re available.
- To stop people chatting on the phone endlessly, you can saying something like “Calling me is interrupting my work on other projects, can you put your question into an email instead, please?”
- Don’t fall into the trap of responding to their demands for sudden urgent work. Stick to the deadlines you’ve agreed upon.
- Have clear terms and conditions for payment on your website, and on invoices. For new clients, give them 7 days to pay, to see how they go. If they’re reliable, then you can extend this time on later jobs.
- If you’ve made a mistake during a project, or upset the client, apologise, don’t explain, and move on.
- Make sure you have the client’s mobile number, landline phone number, and residential address on record.
- Remind clients of overdue invoices by email and/or SMS. If they are really late, with no sign of paying, Jenny recommends using a debt collection agency. You may lose half of the fee to the debt collectors, but half of the fee is better than none of it.
- Prioritise your promptly paying clients ahead of slow payers.
- If things go pear-shaped and the project can’t be finished, ask them to pay up to the amount of work done to date. Tell them that as soon as they’ve paid, you’ll release their job to them and they’re free to take it elsewhere. You want them out of your hair as soon as you can.
- Set limits on what’s acceptable behaviour — if a client gets too intrusive, or is making sexual innuendos etc, have a signal that they’ve overstepped the mark, for instance not responding to emails or texts for a day.
- Document conversations and events if things turn nasty.
- Don’t refer D or E list clients on to anyone else.
- Handle E list clients with care.
- Always be polite.
- Don’t bitch about bad clients on social media. It’s not a good look.
- You can say things like “I don’t feel I’m the best person for this job”, or “I’m too busy to take on your job”.
The bottom line is — we don’t have to tolerate bad clients, late payers or bullies. Look for A and B list clients, who judge on value, not price — don’t base your business marketing on price. And set boundaries on what’s acceptable behaviour, in a dignified and respectful way. Prevention is better than cure. Communicate consistently and clearly. There are always more fish in the sea — don’t take on the client from hell, just to have some paying work. Thank you, Jenny, for a fascinating, empowering, and valuable session.
Jenny Mosher, AE, is a self publishing facilitator, author and business operator. Located in the Blue Mountains, NSW. She makes the most of the internet to run her business and enjoys employing new technologies to make life easier. Under her MoshPit Publishing umbrella, she helps people publish their works via narratorINTERNATIONAL and IndieMosh, and helps them market their books via One Thousand Words Plus.
Post by Denise Sutherland, ANZSI
What did David say to make Roly laugh?
11 May 2015
David Astle asked conference delegates to find a collective term for editors and indexers.
The examples were clever, creative and in some cases, hilarious.
David’s pick was a ‘cardigan’ of editors.
IPEd accreditation exam onscreen soon — try it here!
8 May 2015
The IPEd Accreditation Board has been researching the viability of running the next accreditation exam onscreen. The first steps are in place for this
and you can test the onscreen prototype at the conference. Come and have a go and give us your comments and feedback.
The plan is to have the onscreen exam ready for next year’s exam tentatively scheduled for the end of April 2016. It is still undecided as to whether the exam will be delivered onscreen only or include a written option.
Communication at CEO/board level with Dr Ann-Maree Moodie
7 May 2015
Dr Ann-Maree Moodie is a governance professional who began her working life as a journalist and started her career typing news stories on a typewriter! The training she experienced working at The Herald in Melbourne was invaluable and she still draws on it today.
Ann-Maree’s presentation is looking at why board papers are an essential part of good governance and the problems encountered by those that write them.
Governance is just a group of people sitting around a table trying to make the right decision.
So why do boards make bad decisions?
Writing and editing skills are not always the forte of senior executives that produce the ‘board pack’, which contains the information which boards use for decision making.
“Board packs are often backward looking, but need to be forward looking and link to strategy.”
“Boards of all kinds face the dilemma of ensuring the information they receive from the management team is accurate, timely, clear and concise.”
A board paper is not the same as a paper written for management – it’s a different audience. Board and management are a team with different but complementary roles.
Ann-Maree admits she is yet to find an executive who likes to write a board paper! So what makes a good board paper? Key attributes are that it should be concise, logical, clear, timely, relevant, well-structured, consistent in style, anticipate questions and a pleasure to read.
Summary and conclusion:
“A perfect board paper is one that a board member can use to understand an issue or a proposal and bring it to a resolution.”
Dr Ann-Maree Moodie, FAICD FGIA, is managing director of The Boardroom Consulting Group where she conducts board performance reviews and runs communication workshops with boards and senior executive teams.
IPEd patron, Roly Sussex launches conference
7 May 2015
Roly Sussex is a research professor at the University of Queensland and is opening the conference.
Do editors right the wrongs of writers? Roly works as both a writer and an editor and says writers need editors and indexers. Writers can’t write without thinking about the editing, and you can’t do either without thinking about indexing.
Social media has turned people everywhere into writers. There are people who are writers now who before social media, would not have written more than a Christmas card or a shopping list. The amount of text we are producing today is phenomenal.
Roly does not see write, edit, index as a linear process, but a circle or triangle of shared skills and expertise with organised meaning.
Way to go!
Let’s get started …
6 May 2015
The 2015 conference for indexers, editors, and publishing professionals kicked off in style tonight at Lucky’s Speakeasy at QT Canberra.
It was great for editors from around Australia to come together , meet old friends, make some news ones, relax and unwind ahead of tomorrow’s conference.
Alan Cummine and Malini Devadas welcomed delegates to the event.
Nick gave an entertaining description of the plural of the word ‘index’ before signing copies of his latest book.