Conscious language – words matter

Conscious language is a big talking point in editing circles.

As social justice movements rise and sweep across the world, writers and editors are being pushed to examine the language they use, and to re-examine their conscious and unconscious biases. The labels we use, the pronouns people would like to be known by – all these things are part of the debate which all editors should be following. (I recommend this newsletter as place to start to follow this debate.)
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Curation: How to find shareable content for your readers

This is an updated version of a post which was first published in November 2017.

I have a Safe Hands Facebook page on which I share my own writing. I also use it to share links about topics that interest me: editing, writing, journalism, business models for journalism, health and so on. I try to share often on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter as part of promoting my business.

All this takes some time so I was gratified when a friend thanked me for the links, calling them: “Curation at its best.”

Which made me think that it might be useful to write a little about curation, and to share where I find my links. Continue reading

What is editing anyway? A love letter…

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Editing is the flowers on the windowsill in a beautifully clean and tidy room.

Well, that’s how I think of it anyway.

Writing is creative, and therefore messy. It opens drawers, scatters papers, shakes things up. Gets involved, forgets to tidy up, leaves the coffee cups on the desk. And at the end there is a piece of text: a poem, a novel, a short story, a blog post, a scientific paper.

And then there is editing. Where the papers are gathered and organised, the coffee cups cleared away, the shelves dusted, the piles of books decluttered. And then a vase of flowers on the windowsill in the sun to mark a job well done, a poem or a novel or a thesis made to shine as it was always meant to.
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Everyone is a writer. Everyone is an editor

I know, I know. A writer is someone who writes books. An editor does something important at a newspaper. That’s not you, right?

But every time you write an email, or post something on Facebook, you are writing.

Every time you go to the local print shop and organise a card or a flyer for your business, you are writing.
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Why businesses need editors: it’s in the details

Editors like to say that their work is invisible. An editor should leave things better than they were before, and no one should know they were there. Because that is true, most people don’t really know what editors do, or where they work. I would guess that the general public thinks of an editor as someone who works at a publishing house, or at a news publication – and indeed you will find editors in those places.

But wherever there is the written word, there is the need for a second eye, an editor who checks what has been written and applies a particular set of skills. Don’t believe me? Dear reader, I will now demonstrate. Continue reading

A strategy for working with house style guides

Two style guide books

Two style guides with which I have grappled: the Cape Times Style Book is the 1974 edition, while Do It In Style dates from 1995.

The Associated Press has cast a very big stone among the editing pigeons: they have changed their style and now say that “more than” and “over” can both be used to indicate a greater numerical value. This probably passed most of the world by, but in the editing world it is a very big deal (read more on that from the inimitable Grammar Girl).
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Twitter’s 280-characters just too many? Here’s a way to cope…

Twitter logo

Twitter logo: Picture: Pixabay

I am in two minds about Twitter’s decision to allow 280-character tweets.
One the one hand, when only 140 characters were allowed, I often felt that I could do with just an extra few characters to get in an extra hashtag, or a telling phrase.

And I think that the imposed brevity meant people often substituted a short hashtag for actual meaning, as seen here:

Looking for inspiration during #NaNoWriMo2017? These classic authors have you covered.

What is #NaNoWriMo2017 anyway? Turns out it is National Novel Writing Month. That tweet would be better like this:

Looking for inspiration during National Novel Writing Month? These classic authors have you covered. #NaNoWriMo2017

The extra characters which Twitter now allows mean that it is now possible to put in just a little extra background, where needed, without resorting to mysterious and irritating hashtags.

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