How you could save money on your editor fees

saving you editing cash

What would you say if, right now, I could tell you how to save probably a few hundred quid off your editing fees?

At least.

Not bad eh?

And it’s dead easy.

And you’d look ultra professional.

And it would help YOU.

And your editor would love you for it.

 

heart-29328_1280

 

Still interested?

Now it may sound really nerdy, but if you’re prepared to put in an hour or two it really will save you money.

It’s called …

*drum roll*

An editorial style guide.

 

Boom, wow, comic

 

Ok, ok, I know. Style guide, blah, blah. Spell things the same, blah, blah.

But seriously … aren’t a couple of hours of your time worth it?

If I have to sort it out for you, I AM going to charge you. You know this. And I’m not cheap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily take your cash, but I would rather earn my money by doing my job and not being a human spell checker.

That’s not what editors do.

Well it is, but only because we have to sort it all out before we get down to the actual editing … and I KNOW there will be some folk out there who disagree with me … but I’m a nice person, I want to save you cash so you can spend it on your business, or your book, or someone else’s book, or your favourite beer or wine or gin.

 

lime and soda

 

If you’re interested in saving yourself some hard-earned cash read on – I’m going to show you what to do. If you don’t want to save your cash email me and we can talk about your project anyway.

Right, the nitty gritty …

Get the writing implement of choice and jot down a few things. Keep it simple, this isn’t a mighty tome, it’s intended to set out the basics to give you something to build on.

pad and pen

Who are you?

Yes really, you need to know who you are to be able to communicate effectively with your audience.

Are you a company, a group of authors coming together to write a book or a paper, or are you an author who wants to get your story out there?

If you’re a company do you have set logos that need to be used?

If you’re a group is there already a set of rules you need to adhere to?

 

The audience

It’s good to get an overview of the readership and your intentions.

Who are you writing for? Is it a general readership, or industry professionals or somewhere in between? Your writing will need to reflect this – too general for a professional readership and they might not take you seriously – too professional for a general readership and you may lose them along the way.

What is your tone of voice?  Are you going for formal or informal? Do you want to be seen as an educator or one of the gang?

 

who is your audience?

 

Now you have the two global questions answered it’s time to get down to it. This is the meat of your guide, it won’t take long but it means that everyone works together to write the same way. If you’re on your own, it means you won’t forget what you’re doing. Your style guide should be a simple document that you can easily refer to, and that you can add to if needed.

If you want a guide for reference Butcher’s Copy-editing or the Chicago Manual of Style is worth buying, but a simple, well thought-out style guide is really what you need, so unless you’re going to need to write a lot of style guides they probably aren’t worth forking out for.

fork

Back to the writing … use these headings to create consistency in your writing. Make your decisions and write them under each heading:

 

Language

British English or American English (or another language)?

Which dictionary will you use? Dictionaries vary in their treatment of spelling, so it’s best to pick one and stick with it. Good examples are Oxford dictionaries or Collins for British spelling and Merriam Webster for the US.

 

Spelling             

Will you use   -ise or –ize spellings? (e.g. standardise or standardize)

Will you co-operate or cooperate?

Are you being focused or focussed?

Also it’s good to note if you’re going to be informal or if you are going to formal

       

Abbreviations  

Are you going to have full stops, or not. And if you use full stops are you going to have spaces? For example – BBC, B.B.C or B. B. C. 

questions, questions 

Hyphenation

There are some words where hyphenation is a style choice. If you know you’re going to be up against some of these it’s wise to note down how you want to treat them all under this heading – then when you come across them you know what to do. Add to the list as you go along.

Then there are the ones that you always get wrong or have to look up – add them too. It’ll save you time, seriously!

 

Capitalisation                 

As with hyphenation, caps can be a minefield. Note down how you want them treated (and how they are supposed to be treated) so you can refer back to your style choices.

 

Quote marks    

In the UK we usually use single quotation marks, with double quotation marks if they fall within a quote, e.g.  ‘When he said “I don’t like Marvel films” I knew right then I had to leave.’

But in the US it’s convention to use double quotation marks, with single within, so: “When she said ‘Marvel films are the best’ I had to wonder what I saw in her.”

 

Dates

This will depend on whether you want British or American variations, but even then you have a choice:

British – 30th June 1930, 30th June 1930, 30 June 1930, 30/06/1930

American – June 30th 1930, June 30th 1930, June 30 1930, 06/30/1930

 

calendar

Time                   

You need to keep these consistent throughout your documents. How about 1 pm, 1pm, 1 p.m. or 13:00, or 13.00?

And remember no a.m. or p.m. when you are using the 24-hour time designation – its 13:00, not 13:00 p.m.

 

Numbers           

Are you going to spell out to nine then have numerals from 10 onwards, spell to ten then 11 onwards, or ninety-nine then 100?

How about commas for large numbers? Are you going to have 1,000, or 1000.

 

Currency and weights/measures

Will you have spaces, no spaces or non-breaking spaces,  e.g 1000 km, 1000km, 1000 km (you can’t see it, but there’s a non-breaking space there, so it’s best to spell it out!)

 

Possessives       

Will you use Hobbs’s or Hobbs’. There are ‘rules’ so it’s best to look these up before taking a hard stance on this.

The Rules

Dashes               

Will your dash be a spaced en rule (erm – what?) , an unspaced em rule (erm—what?) or something else, such as spaced double hyphens (erm – – what?)?

 

Headings and subheadings       

If you’re having headings and subheadings take a decision now to avoid confusion later.

Are all words going to be capitalised (The Ultimate Guide To My Life’s Work), or only nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs (The Ultimate Guide to my Life’s Work), or are you going to go for sentence case (The ultimate guide to my life’s work)? Or are you going to have all caps (and no lowercase letters) in one heading and something different for the others?

You can mix it up any way you like, as long as each type of heading is treated the same, but noting things here will help you remain consistent.

 

Formatting

Note here any formatting issues you want to remember, for example, do you want to set out long quotations in justified block form, in a smaller font or in italics, or in a mixture?

 

References

Do you use references or a bibliography? How about footnotes? Where do you want them to appear, at the end of the page, the chapter or at the end of the document?

If you have this figured out at the start it will make it easier later, but do think this through really carefully. Changing it later can be a pain in the posterior. Seriously.

 

thinking businessman

 

 

Still don’t know why you’re doing this?

A style guide:

  • creates consistency
  • makes sure everyone is doing, and remembers to do, the same thing
  • gives your company, group or yourself an individual voice
  • makes multi-authored texts easier to write
  • helps you remember what you decided to do
  • helps your editor or proofreader understand where you’re coming from

 

So, do you think it’s worth it?

saving you money

What I’ve set out above, in this quick style guide, isn’t a definitive list. Add to it. Leave things out. It’s your call.

Creating a style guide for your business, your authorial colleagues or yourself might not even take an hour – it doesn’t need to be complicated.

But it’s a powerful little thing.

Use it and it could save you cash, and your sanity.

 

Technology Hates Me

technology

 

I’ve been working with technology since I left school. That’s a LONG time ago.

I can turn my hand to pretty much anything.

Over the years I’ve learnt new computer systems, tested new computer systems and helped design computer systems. All in a very small way, but I still did it.

I taught myself to code (just the basics because the real stuff is still on my to-do list).

I’ve used a couple of pretty complicated fractal systems and a Processing system and learnt the theory behind the practice, just so I knew what was happening when I used my intuition to create art. You can see some of my fractal artwork here.

I can use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and love playing with new software.

I can pretty much pick up a piece of software and learn it. It may take a little while, but I can set my hand to most anything.

I’m not so good with the hardware, but software is usually ok.

As long as it isn’t bloody email!

rage, anger, frustration

I do swear that the email gods are out to get me.

Lately dear old AOL (I know, I really should change) has been less than satisfactory. Being blocked by other ISPs is a pain when you don’t even know it’s happening.

I first realised something was amiss when the old Tiscali account I use was not getting through to some people on my theatre group list. Some important emails weren’t getting through – I found out by accident at a committee meeting.

Then the AOL account I use for work was sending emails out into the ether. Luckily they weren’t important ones, but hell … work emails are important. I was receiving, but some sent emails were flying free and not hitting their target. Thank goodness for follow up emails from a different account.

So … yesterday I bit the bullet and decided to buy myself a nice, shiny, professional email account to go with my website.

And it didn’t bloody work. Aaaargh!

alien scream

This time the email gods were laughing at me – I could send emails from the account, but couldn’t receive. It was something to do with the fact that my domain has been bought through one company and linked up with WordPress, and I bought the email through that company rather than good old WordPress, whom I adore. OK, my domain provider had a sale on. I’d had wine. It was an impulse purchase.

On screen everything seemed correct … but it just wasn’t working. And I went to the support site TWO MINUTES after it had shut its live chat help thing (I sent an email instead … from my Tiscali account, dear gods it’s getting worse).

I know I now have it sorted, thanks to help from the lovely George, but hours faffing about with DNS, TMP, SMTP and all that jazz really wasn’t how I intended to spend my evening.

wine

I spent a few hours on Tuesday night changing over emails on accounts that use Tiscali, which included some website accounts I’d totally forgotten used that email address.

It made me realise that we spend our lives tied to stupid bits of software that allow us to talk to people, connect, spend money and do all kinds of online things. We get tied in and it becomes increasingly difficult the longer you stay loyal to one company.

caught, handcuffed, tied in

Why is it so damned difficult to manage our online lives?

I know I figured out my business email, but why are things so user unfriendly in these days of UX (that’s User Experience to you and me). One ‘help’ video was actually just telling you to figure out if it was the webmail or your third party email client that was at fault and redirected you to a useless page after that. It took me twenty minutes just to find the relevant help pages. And when I did get help from the lovely George after contacting support, it took me fifteen minutes on WordPress to find the relevant pages that explained what I needed to do.

happy email people

I’ll eventually migrate my ‘normal’ emails from Tiscali and AOL to … something else. But it may well suck the life out of me. In the meantime,  you can use my swanky new email address (which is also on my contact page) if you need to get in touch with me.

Give me a new piece of software over email any day – it’s so much easier to deal with.

 

Why Words Can Kill Your Business (And What To Do About It)

Words on a cafe wall

 

Your business thrives on words.

Ok, you might think I would say that, being an editor and all, but stop for a minute.

How do you get your message across to your clients and customers?

Fabulous, eye-catching images and words. Lots and lots of words.

Your words define you and your business.

Business words

Your brand identity is defined by the words you choose.

Your company culture is defined by the words you use.

Your customer focus is defined by the words you use too.

 

Words can entice, excite and entertain. Or they can confuse, alienate and drive away business.

confused-2681507_1920

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: bad writing can kill your business.

For example, how are your emails being received?

Email communication

The problem:

You don’t get to the point.

The point gets lost in jargon.

The point gets lost in meaningless drivel.

The emails are so long getting to the point that the reader loses the will to live.

The solution:

Don’t worry about getting straight to the point. Your recipient probably has a million and one things to do other than read your mailing. Lower the chances of them hitting the delete button by telling what you need to tell in a straightforward, professional manner.

Ditch the jargon, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your recipient is unsure what you mean they’ll delete. Use plain language. No one ever complained about easy to understand emails.

Stop the waffle. Seriously. Just stop it.

Avoid the tl;dr culture. If you have a special offer, let your recipients know sooner rather than later. If you have something to tell them that will benefit them, tell them at the beginning. If your emails are so long they aren’t going to be read, split them up.

contact us emails

Top tip: If you find that your business emails are taking up too much time, they’re being binned before they’re read and are not giving a return on your investment – simplify the process by spending time creating templates that you can reuse. A few hours of template writing will free up your time later on and will make things so much easier for you … just remember not to leave in dummy text!

But it’s the same for all your business writing.

Your website is your virtual shop window. It’s also a way to talk to your customers and make them feel valued. Common business writing mistakes that will lose you customers and cost you money are:

Spelling mistakes

Incorrect information

Broken links and bad navigation on your website

Complicated language, jargon and inconsistencies

Information overload

As well as all the points I noted above.

Brochures, flyers and advertising material, along with your website and business communication, need to be straightforward and to the point, without forgetting that your customer is your main focus.

Here’s how you fix it, and make your business words work for you:

  writing for business

  • Take your time and really read what you’ve written. Seek out spelling mistakes and fix them, and if you’re not good with words, hire someone who is. Spelling mistakes and sloppy writing will lose you business. Seriously.
  • Take time to write your business information. Research, draft, write, read, rewrite, read, rewrite again if you need to. Don’t just write something and stick it out there (unless you’re writing very quick, to the point, blog posts that don’t pretend to be anything else).
  • Focus on your customer, not yourself. Make things as easy as possible for them. Use words they will enjoy reading, and words that are not overly complicated. Using plain English is NOT dumbing down, it’s making your writing as easy as possible, for as many people as possible, to understand.
  • Don’t tell your customers too many things all at once. Let them digest each nugget of information before they move on. And give them the choice to know more – don’t force it down their throats. Use separate pages for each area of your business.

There’s a reason that copywriters and editors exist. You may be a whizz at your business, an engaging entrepreneur with fabulous ideas, or a nuts and bolts trader of essentials, but you may be rubbish at writing. Hey, not everyone is good with words. That’s why we train to be good editors and writers. I’d make a rubbish entrepreneur.

marketing-1320699_1280

While your business thrives on words, try not to make mistakes like these:

The online wine shop I happened upon in my search for a fizzy German wine made from strawberries (a favourite of mine back in the 1990s when Safeway stocked it for £1.99 a bottle!), where well-known varieties of wine were spelt incorrectly. I left without purchasing. I never did find that wine.

The local restaurant who advertised in our post office, on the little TV screen that blinks at you as you’re waiting to send off your parcels, and who couldn’t spell the name of the street they were situated on. Probably wouldn’t affect trade that much, unless someone who wasn’t local was trying to find the establishment, but it’s just sloppy.

The well-known department store that accidentally missed out a digit and sold an expensive necklace for only $47. Huge mistake, which was honoured before anyone twigged what had gone wrong.

The British bank that right now has a glaring typo on their home page. I won’t put up a link as hopefully it will have been rectified by the time this post is made live. Let’s just say there’s a Northern Santa who doesn’t like surprises, but a dictionary should be on his gift list. People, respect your business and we might respect yours.

So, if you want to make the most of your business, keep potential customers engaged and have them return for more here’s what to do:

Seek out, locate and destroy spelling errors.

Keep things simple and avoid jargon unless it’s needed and expected.

Use plain English wherever possible.

Respect your clients by investing in your businesses writing.

Write for your clients, not for yourself.

Take time over your content.

And if you need professional help find a copywriter to write your content, an editor to help you polish your content and a proofreader to give it that final check.

It’s not as expensive as you may think, and good content is key to a successful business.

Contact me if you think I can help your business to thrive.