Wise owls: references and citations

References and citations play an important role in many publications, providing evidence to back up an argument or prove a hypothesis, or to encourage the reader to find out more.

This week, the CIEP’s wise owls reflect on references and citations they have known, and the common issues that they come across while working with them.

Hazel Bird

The most glaring issue I tend to come across when I’m editing references and citations is a complete lack of references and citations.

As issues with references go, it’s a pretty big one. But it’s understandable: not all authors have the academic background or training to know how to construct a reference list or even to know that referencing is necessary.

Editors can do a lot to help you work out what needs a reference and how to present your references, but here are a few basic tips that pretty much always apply:

  • If you’ve quoted somebody else’s words, you need a reference.
  • If you talk about a specific idea or concept originated by someone else, or if you discuss their ideas (even if you don’t quote them directly), you need a reference.
  • If you include statistics or results of analyses, you need a reference.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s exact words and present them as if they are your own, even if you provide a reference. You either need to quote them (and provide a reference) or paraphrase their ideas in your own words (and, in almost all cases, still provide a reference).
  • Make the reference as precise as possible – for example, include the page number or the exact URL where you found the quote.
  • If you want to include a quote you found on the internet, you need to check whether the person credited with the quote actually said it. Websites that host collections of quotes are notorious for their inaccuracy. Quote Investigator is a good place to start, but you might need to do some digging.
  • Referencing doesn’t have to be obtrusive: there are all sorts of minimal and even invisible referencing styles that editors can help you implement.

But above all, if in doubt, include a reference!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I don’t often edit books or papers that contain references or citations, but by far the commonest issue I come across is that they have not been properly formatted. Often, it’s a case of not having read the style guide for a journal, or someone has merged the Harvard and Vancouver styles of citation, not understanding that they are very different. The latter can take some untangling. I once had a client whose journal style guide required authors’ first names in the bibliography – there were a dozen pages of citations so I had to send that back with a note after fixing the formatting. There may be fewer rules for a bibliography in a book – here the most common problem I find is duplicate entries or incomplete entries. It can be quite time-consuming to hunt for information such as the publisher’s location or the relevant edition. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle and can be satisfying when you complete it.

Liz Jones

I’m not one of those editors who loves working on references and citations (apparently they do exist), but they are an essential part of our work. One of the best tips I was ever given was to work on the references before the rest of the text. For me, this has two benefits: first, I have an overview of what’s cited, can get a feel for the consistency of the references as a whole, and see what’s missing. Second, this can be a surprisingly time-consuming part of an editing job – so once it’s done, the editing part feels more relaxed (dare I say fun?).

These are some of the most common issues I encounter in references:

  • inconsistency of capitalisation
  • varying elision styles in number ranges
  • inconsistency of author names where they are mentioned more than once
  • problems with the punctuation between elements of a reference.

At copyediting stage, I find the numbering of references is less likely to go awry, as this is built into the working of the Word document, if it’s been done correctly (I realise this is a big if). Sometimes, though, note markers will exist in the text that are not linked to any reference, which can upset the numbering sequence and necessitate an author query. At proofreading stage, one of the main issues I encounter is text markers not matching the numbering of the references in endnotes, so I make sure to check this very carefully, and to double-check it if I need to suggest a change that results in renumbering.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I spend a lot of my time editing references. Here’s what I see too much of – and something I’ve only ever seen once:

  • Ignoring the house style – and, indeed, all issues of consistent style, including the use of et al.
  • Citing impossible page numbers.
  • Still having ‘forthcoming’ for something that was actually published in 2013.
  • Getting the author names out of sequence in the reference and/or citation (or spelling them four different ways within two paragraphs).
  • Missing out elements – I’ve had references that had the author name and an approximation of the chapter title, and nothing else.
  • Cutting or adding text, but not updating the references list accordingly.
  • Conflating references is another good one – easy for the author to do when there are several references by the same people, or similar-looking people, or similar-looking titles.
  • Using the reference list from an earlier version of the work (especially when theses are repurposed as books), as ‘that’ll be close enough’ (I’m quoting a client) despite the cuts and additions made to the original text. I had to polish up my crystal ball for that one.
  • Missing out a hard return at the end of the reference, so another one hides inside it (one of the many reasons I always edit the references first).
  • And in my last book, instead of using the hanging paragraph setting for the bibliography list – or even using hard returns and tabs, as too many authors do – the author used section breaks to change the margins, so each reference took two sections, one for the full-out line and another for the indented lines. Just imagine how much work that was for more than 500 references – only for me to hoick it all out without a second thought.

The CIEP’s References course helps you to:

  • learn how to deal with references
  • find out what you didn’t know about references and fill any gaps
  • explore unfamiliar reference systems
  • discover ways of referencing less typical sources.

Photo credits: Owl by Joe Green on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

How can I be more productive? Part 1

By Abi Saffrey

I looked up the dictionary definition for ‘productivity’ (on Lexico).

productivity      [mass noun] 1. The state or quality of being productive.

Oh.

productive        [adjective] 1. Producing or able to produce large amount of goods, crops or other commodities.

1.2. Achieving a significant amount or result.

Productivity is something that repeatedly comes up in online discussions and ‘build your business’ blog posts, and it’s seen as something that we all have to strive for. Certainly, as a business owner, if I can raise my productivity, I can raise my profits (without increasing my working hours).

As I started to think more about tools that can increase an editor’s or proofreader’s productivity, it dawned on me that there are two main areas where changes can be made:

  • the work itself – editing/proofreading more efficiently, and
  • the management of the work/your time.

Editing and proofreading productivity

In this category, we have tools like keyboard shortcuts, Find and Replace, Word styles and templates, PerfectIt, macros and predictive text/phrase expanders. These are covered in the CIEP’s fact sheet ‘Increase your editing efficiency in Word’, and its new course Word for Practical Editing (there are even rumours of Efficient Editing webinars in 2021). There’s a whole forum for CIEP members on macros too. Proofreaders can use stamps to add BSI symbols to PDFs (Louise Harnby’s blog – and the accompanying stamps – is a good place to start).

There’s plenty of stuff ‘out there’ on this topic, so that’s enough about that.

All the other stuff

There are huge potential gains to be made from making small changes to the ways we manage our work. In this category, productivity tools can be separated out into four elements:

  • increased focus
  • distraction reduction
  • time monitoring and management
  • work management.

(The latter two will be covered in Part 2 – coming soon.)

There are so many apps and tools that you could use to cover these four elements, some free, some with a small one-off cost, others with an annual subscription. There is of course some cross-over between these four elements, so you may decide to use something to track your time and find that it’s also a good way to keep on top of your to-do list. The tools and apps that I mention here are ones that either I’ve used myself or have been recommended by other editorial professionals – there are of course many more out there, and if you’ve got a gem that you think others may like to try, do let me know in the comments.

It’s very easy to procrastinate by searching for the ‘right’ tool to stop you from procrastinating …

The Pomodoro Technique

I’m singling out the Pomodoro Technique because it can help with distraction reduction, increased focus, time monitoring and management, and work management if you take the time to learn the whole technique. Pomodoro is well known for its tomato timer, but there’s also a book to help you master using Pomodoros (25-minute sessions) to manage your daily schedule and predict the time that future projects will take. There are printable sheets to track what you’re doing, what you’re going to do and to log any distracting ‘oh, I need to do that’ thoughts that pop up while you’re in a Pomodoro. And the tomato timer looks cool.

Increased focus

The ticking of a timer (whether it’s a Pomodoro one or any simple kitchen one) can really focus the mind. And its buzzing can really startle you out of your zone!

Several CIEP forum discussions have mentioned apps or websites that provide sounds or music that focus the mind. You can adjust the sounds in Noisli to get your ideal combination of trees rustling in the wind, rain, waves or coffee shop background burble (free and paid plans available). [email protected] offers ‘personalized focus music to help you get stuff done’ (free trial, then paid plans). Spotify divides its playlists into genres and moods: Focus, Chill and Wellness are good places to start (free and paid plans available).

Sometimes what you need to get your focus back is to take a break. WorkRave monitors your keyboard and mouse usage, and gets you to take breaks – and it can enforce a daily computer time limit too (free). The Pomodoro Technique encourages a short break after every Pomodoro, and a longer break after every four Pomodoros. My fitness tracker watch likes me to take 250 steps every hour, and it’ll buzz at ten minutes to each hour if I haven’t managed that (I can tell I’m focused when I think about making up the steps and it’s already 20 past the next hour …) Or just drink a lot of water while you’re working to encourage ‘natural’ breaks.

Distraction reduction

Is this blog post distracting you from that thing that you said you absolutely must get done today? Sorry about that. Work out what drags your attention away from what you should be focused on. Is it social media, the news, your furry companion, the notifications on your phone? Once you know what your distractors are, you can find ways to get rid of, or at least lessen, them. Pretty much all the distraction-stopping apps ask you to list distracting websites that they will block or limit your time on.

StayFocusd is a Google Chrome add-in that blocks certain websites – add a site to your ‘blocked’ list, decide how long you’re allowed on those blocked sites each day, and get on with what you should be doing. It also has a Nuclear Option so if you absolutely must not look at anything at all on the internet for an hour (or three), hit that button and get focused (free).

If you fancy growing some trees (virtual AND real) while you work, try Forest. Tell Forest how long you want to focus for, and which tree you’d like to grow, and then it won’t let you touch your phone or browse certain websites (if you opt for the Google Chrome extension) for that time. If you try, it’ll give you a good telling-off and make you feel guilty about withering a tree (free and paid plans available).

Freedom is a mobile and desktop app – list distracting websites, set times when you don’t want to use those websites, and watch Freedom’s butterfly tell you that you are free to do other things (I like this positive emphasis). It also has ‘Focus sounds’ – a London coffee shop, a busy Californian office, a beach haven and many other soundscapes can fill your IRL working space (free trial, then paid-for plans).


Keep an eye out for Part 2, which will look at time and work management tools.


Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She’ll try any productivity gimmick or gadget but really didn’t get on with bullet journaling. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.

 


Photo credits: You got this by sydney Rae on Unsplash; Pomodoro Technique timer by Abi Saffrey.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

 

What can a picture researcher do for you?

By Lorraine Beck

What does a picture researcher do?

Many people express surprise when I tell them what I do for a living, perhaps because it’s now so easy for anyone to find a picture on the internet. Finding the picture is only part of my job: checking it can be used, negotiating a fee and licensing the image, checking proofs and writing captions and picture credits and keeping an accurate record of exactly what has been agreed are all equally important. Mostly I work for publishing companies (large and small), and I research audio and video clips too.

Why employ a picture researcher?

Working with image libraries so much, a picture researcher knows which libraries are best for images of faces/wildlife/food/scientific images – whatever is needed. We also know the specialist libraries where you can find historical maps, images of works of art, rare animals, vintage adverts – the list is endless. I have a network of contacts in image libraries and other organisations all over the country and they do not all necessarily have all their images online to search. Even for a fairly basic list of stock library images for a low-budget title, a professional picture researcher can find a selection of attractive images faster (and so probably more cheaply) than someone with little experience. Some libraries advertise rates online, but researchers know the going rates for image use and are in a strong negotiating position, not only to agree a low price, but to agree the best value price for any image or series of images (prices for image licensing will vary according to cover/inside usage, nature of the publication (academic/commercial), print run, licence term, territory, etc).

How to brief a picture researcher

As in-house staff are cut and training budgets eroded, freelance editors and project managers are being increasingly asked to take on additional roles. It may be you are asked to brief a picture researcher or even to do some picture research yourself. Here are a few pointers:

  • The basic brief is a list of images required. A page number, or artwork number, is helpful to identify images. Excel spreadsheets or Googlesheets are preferable to Word documents as they allow the researcher to easily add columns with their comments/queries and details of the images chosen.
  • If you have it, please send a copy of the typescript or, even better, a set of proofs. Often this will allow the researcher to resolve any queries as they come up without troubling you.
  • Details of the target market: is the book for a primary school/teenage/adult market? Will the book be published overseas – and if so, are there any cultural issues to be aware of?
  • Preferred suppliers: does the publisher have price deals in place with any image libraries? It’s worth checking this regularly as it’s a competitive market and rates change fairly quickly. Large publishers may also have their own online database of previously licensed images which are free to use – researchers will probably know their way around these already.
  • Design notes: will the book be printed in colour or black and white? Do you want images that are cutouts (on a white background) or not? If the budget is tight, or it’s a new textbook and you are looking for particularly fresh, modern images – let us know. Finally, if the image is to be used on the book cover, let the researcher know at the beginning so you only get images that are allowed to be licensed for this use.

The picture research process

  • The picture researcher will look through the brief to identify any potentially problematic images: certain images have particular restrictions on them or may need additional clearance. These include film or TV stills, photos of coins, banknotes, stamps, anything under Crown copyright, and brands and logos. An experienced researcher will be aware of these and also spot any other potentially tricky images (e.g. a photo of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night – the lighting design is under copyright and needs additional permission clearance) and raise any queries at this early stage.
  • Next, the picture researcher will usually supply a selection of low-res photos. Once you have made your selections, either add these to a folder or (preferably) note the image numbers on the brief.
  • The researcher will order the high-res images and once these have been checked on final proofs, prepare the caption and credits copy. (Credits may be supplied as a simple Word file, or for larger clients, details may be added to a spreadsheet that automatically generates the copy.) You already know how fiddly editing or making changes to picture credits can be – having an expert researcher who has supplied consistent copy will help.
  • Once final proofs are signed off, the researcher will license the images that were actually used. Larger publishing companies may have an automated system for doing this, or the researcher will email the image library with details of the image and how it is being used so that their invoice, which also usually forms the licence, can be raised for payment by the publisher.
  • At the end of the job, you should receive an updated version of the brief containing details of images used, credits, any special restrictions on usage, fees paid and licensing terms agreed.
  • Picture researchers may also just take on parts of this process; for example, if the author/designer has suggested images but you need someone to download high-res files, write credits and license the images, or for a new edition, to check which, if any, of the photos are still covered by the previous license and to relicense any that are not.
  • Fees for picture research may be on a fee per picture basis, an hourly/daily rate basis or a fee for the job basis. An allowance is usually made for researching cover photos, rebriefs and the extra clearances for works of art.

Key terminology

I am not a legal expert and so only offer a general introduction to some of the issues around image use – if in doubt about using an image, consult your client or their legal team about what is acceptable. Note that not all photos that appear on an image library website can/should necessarily be used in publications.

  • Model Releases and Property Releases: on a picture library website you may see the initials MR or PR with the other photo details. Model and Property Releases are signed legal documents confirming that people or property appearing in an image or clip have given permission for it to be used. None of my publishing clients will accept a photo (even of a crowd scene) if it contains a child and does not have an accompanying Model Release. Similarly, photos of the interiors of stately homes/museums may need a Property Release for them to be usable, and if these also contain works of art, these may need further permission from the artist or their estate if the work of art is still in copyright. Even with a MR or PR in place, using a photo in a context that is controversial, sensitive or defamatory may not be allowed.
  • Royalty Free (RF) images are generally licensed for a fixed, one-off fee covering all usages. Once purchased, they can be used any number of times, in any medium, for an indefinite period.
  • Rights Managed (RM) images are licensed for specific terms of usage, so you need to specify how, where and for how long you will use the image and in what territories. This will determine the fee. Any new use of an image will require a further licence and the licence will need to be renewed/extended once its term has expired. You may be able to request exclusive usage (for an increased fee!).
  • Other terms you may come across include commercial use/editorial use. Editorial use photos that do not have a MR or PR can sometimes be used in textbooks (but in my experience still never photos of children without a MR), but check with your client first if you are not sure, and only usually inside the book (not on the cover) and alongside text which discusses the image.

Summary

Hopefully I’ve shown that there’s a bit more to picture research than just Googling an image, right-clicking and downloading it. Should you decide on some DIY picture research, however, and especially if you are not using an established image library, the first question I suggest you ask is not Can I use this picture? but Who owns the copyright for this picture? Once you know that, you can ask for permission from the copyright owner, but if the person you are dealing with is unsure as to whether they own the copyright, there’s a good chance they don’t, so best to proceed with caution or employ a friendly picture researcher!

Resources

Picture Research Association – the society for image media professionals (the picture research equivalent of the CIEP): www.picture-research.org.uk.

Intellectual Property Office summary of UK government copyright information for digital images, photographs and the internet (note if using photos from outside the UK, you may need to consider copyright law in that country): https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481194/c-notice-201401.pdf

Lorraine Beck is an experienced freelancer picture/clip researcher currently working on a variety of schools and ELT titles, but is happy to turn her hand to any subject. She’s a full member of the Picture Research Association and listed in the ELT Publishing Professionals Directory.

 


Photo credits: colourful rectangles by John Jennings,; photos on shelf by Annie Spratt, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Three things Carol Saller taught Cloud Club West

By Katherine Kirk

When Janet MacMillan, our Cloud Club coordinator, told us she had organised a virtual visit from the Subversive Copy Editor herself, I almost fell off my chair. As our excitement grew, my friends sent in questions for Carol Saller. I may have spent the entire Zoom call grinning mutely like a star-struck fangirl, but I also took notes; Carol had plenty of wisdom to share. I’ve whittled that wisdom down to three core ideas:

  1. Language is fluid and your editorial judgement needs to be flexible enough to evolve with it.
  2. Being part of an editing community is key to success.
  3. Embrace the tech!

Language is fluid and your editorial judgement needs to be flexible.

As a reformed stickler, Saller knows that being au fait with the rules is as important as knowing when to break them. Understanding the role of rules and how they evolve is a key skill that we editors need to develop. Some rules change with usage, especially thanks to the internet, while others change as society grows and develops. A recent example of this is CMOS and the AP’s recent affirmation of the capitalisation of ‘Black’ and ‘White’ when used as racial, ethnic or cultural identifiers, in line with efforts to make language more inclusive.

‘If you can’t justify your meddling, don’t meddle.’ Carol Saller

To subvert the rules without making a giant mess of things, you need to know them thoroughly. Do your research, continue training throughout your career, and read widely. Another way to stay abreast of developments in language and editing is to participate in the discussion.

Being part of an editing community is key to success.

Being part of the discourse around language and editing is one of the key benefits of joining professional organisations such as CIEP. Learning from others who have gone before you can both save you time and help you to discover questions you hadn’t known to ask. A recognised group of professionals, such as the international Cloud Clubs, the regional groups and the CIEP forums, gives you access to a wealth of knowledge that is far superior to the well-meaning but often inaccurate suggestions from guessers on social media. Not to mention the amazing CIEP annual conference, which took place online this year.

‘Beware of bad advice from very friendly and polite people.’ Carol Saller

Another way that Carol benefited from forming relationships with other editors was through her experience working with her mentor, Margaret Mahan. Margaret provided comments and feedback on her work, giving her insight into where she stood in her abilities and what she needed to do to get better.

‘Unless you recognise a significant result, there’s no progress.’ Carol Saller

Learning from more experienced editors means taking the shortcuts that others have discovered, and not reinventing the wheel. CIEP has its own mentorship programme that you can access as part of your training.

Embrace the tech!

Some brilliant minds have solved problems for us with technology, such as Paul Beverley with his macros. For established editors like Carol, it is hard to remember what editing used to be like before computers got involved. She recalled paging through hard copy to find a certain detail she remembered from somewhere near Chapter 3 that had been referred to in Chapter 11. As a millennial, I shudder at the thought of editing without the ‘Find’ function. Not to mention the idea of creating a style sheet without the aid of Paul’s DocAlyse macro! People easily forget the drudgery of unautomated tasks.

Why make your work slower and more difficult if you can remove the tedium with the push of a button? It may take a little learning, but once you’ve got the hang of the tech, it’s well worth it.

‘Those who fight the tech have a worse experience.’ Carol Saller

Carol has embraced the technological tools available to her, so she can save time on the grunt work and focus on the deeper (and more interesting) parts of editing.

Final thoughts

Carol Saller is an editing superstar. Being able to chat with her in the intimate setting of a small Cloud Club conference call revealed how approachable and humble she is. As we tittered over an anecdote about an invasion of ants, not only did I gain a deeper appreciation of Carol Saller and her book, The Subversive Copy Editor, but I also discovered the value of the Cloud Club I had joined. This warm, friendly community has helped me to get through the isolation of beginning to work from home during a global pandemic. Even though I was physically on my own, halfway up an Andean mountain, I felt immediately welcome in this group of people who were only too happy to share their experiences, the tech they use, the solutions they’ve found, and the socks they’re knitting. It’s a balance of water cooler conversation, friendship and professional development that hits just the right note. Janet has hinted at other guests to come, and I’ll have my notebook ready.

Katherine Kirk is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP. She proofreads and copyedits fiction, with a passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has lived in five countries and speaks five languages. Before editing, she taught English to children in South Korea, China and Ecuador, where she is currently based. When not travelling or editing, she can be found making art, volunteering at the local library or taking pretentious pictures of books for Instagram.


Photo credits: Clouds by giografiche on Pixabay; Laptop by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A Finer Point: Zombies Rule Grammar. OK? Alright?

By Riffat Yusuf

Part 1 of The Zombie That Ruled Grammar for Infinite Eternity – a trilogy no less spellbinding for having been authored anonymously – explores the short-lived collaboration between the protagonist, an aspiring writer, and their editor. The novel’s self-published author, who remains unidentified since taking their first Zoom call with CIEP in a Boris mask (or was it?), granted permission for us to reproduce excerpts of an early, edited draft.

Chapter 2

And then, after the deathly knock at my front door – tintinnabulum operatus est, as the plaque very clearly states, but bear with since this is a macabre Halloween tale – arose a mewl. An eerie whine, all the more unsettling for the inclusion of an adult voice, ‘Trick or treat?’

AQ1 Please don’t use and or any other coordinating conjunction at the start of a sentence. Since is a time adverb; use because instead.

There they stood, a pillowcase, net curtain and dustbin liner arrayed between them: a ghoul, a ghost and their undead parent.

AQ2 There are three characters here, among rather than between.

‘I’d like a treat, please,’ said I – for quipping is my plume de forte – ‘and then you’re welcome to move on.’

‘None of us,’ said the muffled voice of Number 54’s youngest resident, adjusting his plastic mask, ‘are going nowhere.’

AQ3 Double negative for authenticity is fine, but none is followed by is.

‘None of us,’ insisted the mask, ‘ain’t going nowhere until you pass a message on.’

AQ4 A preposition such as on at the end of a sentence is not a usage up with which English grammar should put.

‘On,’ entombed the voice, ‘to your copyeditor. Tell them to not impose rules predicated on the say-so of dead people who tried, over centuries past, to squish English grammar into a Latin-shaped syntax.’

AQ5. Abrupt character development here – see Chapter 1: ‘the gormless snivel, progeny of the Drydens next door’. Also: entombed or intoned?

I was beginning to wonder if sweet little Johnnie wasn’t, in fact, a descendant of England’s very first Poet Laureate. He, whose mission to save English grammar from decimation, has stood firm for over 300 years.

AQ6 What a spooky coincidence: I am a huge fan! To channel the spirit of John Dryden, use decimation if you mean reduce by one-tenth. Also, don’t use over with quantities; more than is correct here.

Hopefully, the sudden chill that was creeping vampirically through my veins was little more than the want of a cardigan.

AQ7 Only use hopefully as a sentence adverb if you wish to say that the chill was operating in a hopeful manner.

There was something untoward at hand.

To say the least.

A pus-oozing, gnarled hand.

A prop. Courtesy of Johnnie’s mum – she often lends a hand (!) at school plays.

Thrusting a bucket towards me.

A bucket bearing the label ‘read me’.

AQ8 Regarding sentence fragments: you haven’t replied to my email from last week, so I cannot rule out that ‘The Zombie That Ruled Grammar for Infinite Eternity’ isn’t earmarked for academic submission. I would, therefore, ask you to redraft to include any missing subjects or verbs.

Therein, among the five-pence pieces and donations of Poundland confectionery – too many spendthrifts and nary a dentist living on this street – I found a book. A 64-page booklet, to be more precise, entitled Bad Advice: The Most Unreliable Counsel Available on Grammar, Usage, and Writing.

Chapter 3

[Our narrator has finished reading John E McIntyre’s delightful take on prissy pedantry.]

I chuckled at ‘peevers gotta peeve’, intending to fully pass off McIntyre’s observation as my own in my next communiqué with my editor. Suddenly, I shuddered a morbid shiver of dreaded realisation. No, it wasn’t the guilty swell of imminent plagiarism. Was it …? Could it …? Surely not.

Surely my editor wasn’t one of those unquestioning souls cursed to forever observe what Arnold Zwicky called zombie rules?

I read over all the amendments my editor had suggested. And then it hit me like a Bloomsbury rejection letter: not a single one of the rules my editor had prescribed was a cast-iron canon of copyediting.

AQ9 In my defence, Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style’ says that split infinitives are …

I spurned my editor’s advice and googled like a banshee for editorial guidance that would drive a garlic-laced spike into the style and grammar cobweb enmeshing me. Where were the editors ready to pour distilled daylight on the corpus of zombie rules?

AQ10: Hyperbole?

A minute later, I found James Gallagher, a slayer of ‘rules that refuse to die’. His three reasons for our reluctance to let go of groundless grammar are unnerving. He says, ‘People’s use of grammar is also tied up in their self-perception and it’s used to broadcast their level of education. It’s also used as a barricade to prevent others from accessing their realm.’

I reflected on my own language snobbery and insecurities, searching for an editor who might release me from ‘an unnecessary and awkward straitjacket’. Why, Erin Brenner, of course! The clarity she dispatches in her adroitly reasoned blog posts would disperse all lingering zombie doubts. From hopefully to however and from since to split infinitives, Erin exposes the conflations of grammar and style that allow zombie rules to take root in the first place. But way less wordily than anything I have written. (And a CIEP fact sheet on zombie rules is now available too…)

Chapter 63

I leave you, dear reader, with a penny of wisdom gleaned from my cautionary tale. Half is for the apostrophe I very confidently leave out of Halloween. And the remaining ha’penny is for people like you (yes 100% like, not such as: thank you, McIntyre p18) without whose patience and solicited nomination for the Booker Prize, The Zombie That Ruled Grammar for Infinite Eternity might never have been written. Perish the thought.

 

Riffat Yusuf is a West London-based proofreader and copyeditor, and a content editor for a small structural engineering company. She has been editing since 2018, and before that she taught ESOL for 10 years and brought up her family. In the dim and distant past she was employed in journalism, radio and television. In the future, she’d like to work on ELT resources.

 


Photo credits: Beware of Zombies by Chris Hall; Hands by Daniel Jensen; Person behind fog glass by Stefano Pollio, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A week in the life of a virtual PA

By Sherona Treen-Coward of Treen Coward Associates

I began my self-employment journey in 2014; having spent 16 years in industry, I felt it was time for a new challenge. I had worked in the legal sector and the NHS, mainly in administrative and managerial roles. I wanted to put my skills to good use, and the concept of the virtual PA was emerging. I also wanted to futureproof my work, and I felt this was a business I could build upon.

In 2017, as the team grew and our services expanded, we decided to rebrand. I now have two employees and a specialist contractor on board, as we continue to grow and evolve the business to suit the ever-changing needs of the professional service industries. As such, we can offer a variety of services, such as virtual PA, virtual administrator, note-taking for meetings, social media management, bookkeeping and call answering.

Like many self-employed individuals, I often cite the variety in my work as a huge benefit. I work with service-based professionals from a variety of industries; however, the principles of good business administration remain the same.

I work traditional office hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Typical daily work for me will include chasing documentation over the phone, appointment setting, diary and email management, CRM management, document formatting, invoicing, answering calls and dealing with queries, drafting content for various purposes, and audio typing. I will also note-take at board and other business meetings, and compile action lists and associated papers as well as ensuring they are circulated well in advance of the meeting.

I am also involved in a variety of projects where we agree a process, and I ensure this is adhered to as well as carrying out any tasks that may be assigned to me. I particularly enjoy project-related work, as evaluating or managing processes has always been part of my managerial administrative background.

Stay professional

Pre-pandemic I would often attend many meetings each week which involved travel. All my meetings have since moved online, and I always qualify the purpose of a meeting before agreeing to any requests. I think that has become more important than ever, as demands on our time have not necessarily decreased, but they have changed. One thing I am always conscious of is working productively and adding value rather than being busy. Like many, I am now working from home but have set up my home office to ensure I separate work from non-work. I do miss the travel associated with my work, but it is more important to be safe at this time.

Being a virtual PA and business manager is not just about getting appointments in the diary. We are often the first point of contact for many organisations and professionals, the face or voice of someone else’s business, and their professional reputation can start and end with us. Even though all our meetings have now moved online, I still observe office attire when facing clients or attending a business meeting.

When I first started out and was working from home, I had to deal with assumptions that I wasn’t doing much all day and had lots of free time, but that is not the case. Our clients work traditional office hours and we support them during that time and deadlines are there to be met. While a benefit of self-employment is managing one’s own diary, discipline is essential if you want to stay in business.

Aside from working in the business, I also set time aside to work on the business. Like every business, we need to undertake accounting and marketing activities among other things. I block time out each week to plan our social media, write blogs, and check over our accounting system. I also check in with my colleagues, our clients, and meet with my business mentor, whose support has been invaluable to me and my business.

Stay connected

Part of our marketing strategy involves networking, which I do regularly, and I am a member of a weekly networking event that now meets online. It is also part of a larger network where I can attend other meetings and catch up with other members. Networking is a really important part of my work, and one of the most enjoyable bits too. Meeting with like-minded business owners helps develop a business mindset, and it’s a great way to keep up to date with news from various industries. I always recommend networking to other business owners, regardless of their line of work: it is a great way to meet other professionals, build your professional relationships and create opportunities for potential work. I always enjoyed running the SfEP [now the CIEP] annual conference speed networking events and getting to know the members.

Similarly, I have been able to source professional suppliers based on reputation and trust by asking my network. But it’s not all work, work, work – there are social aspects to networking, which are equally important to us as human beings. When I first started, it was easy to get through almost the whole day without speaking to anyone, as I was so focused on building my business, but through networking, I realised that to build my business I needed to build relationships too.

Plan your courses

Another important part of my working life is CPD [Continuing Professional Development]. As an employee, I was required to attend training courses, and often delivered training too, but being self-employed meant I now had complete control over my CPD plan. I have taken various courses over the years, from introductory to post-grad level; they may relate specifically to my work, but also general business-ownership matters such as marketing or leadership. I am currently completing the ILM Level 5 in Leadership and Management as I want to undertake more project management and process improvement work, and this is taking up quite a bit of my working week as the course comes to an end.

Some courses have been free, others require a financial investment. I have a CPD plan that I review regularly to ensure the courses I attend add value to my work and ultimately my clients. CPD comes in many forms, such as general reading, listening to podcasts, or undertaking self-directed research. That said, I also recently attended a short online art course, which forced me to slow down and make time to observe – traits which I’m sure will benefit all aspects of my life.

Allow time for yourself

It may not seem that there’s much time left after all that, but as my grandparents often reminded me, all work and no play … As difficult as it can be, I always try to do one thing for myself each day. It can be something really small like walking the dog, a five-minute exercise while waiting for the kettle to boil, or calling a family member or friend. I try to do it before I start work so I feel energised for the day ahead; sometimes it’s not possible, and there may be days when it doesn’t happen, but it’s important to factor in some time for yourself to keep a healthy mind and body, and to maintain your relationships in and out of work.

At the end of the week, I always take a moment to look at what I have achieved and celebrate those wins! Again, they may be big or small, but ending the working week positively with a glass of something sparkly is important to me. I’m fortunate to live within reach of two cities and several beaches, and at the weekend I like to spend lots of time outdoors, walking or kayaking. The contrast to my working life really helps me to achieve some kind of work-life balance.

Sherona Treen-Coward is a Virtual PA and business manager with over 20 years’ experience working with lawyers, doctors and service-based professionals within the UK. After starting her own business in 2014, one of Sherona’s first self-employed contracts was supporting the SfEP conference director, drafting and sending correspondence on behalf of the SfEP. Five SfEP conferences later (and imposter syndrome very rarely permitting) she thought perhaps she wasn’t that bad a writer after all, and finally started writing her own stuff.


Check out the other posts in our ‘Week in the life’ series: discover what a picture researcher, senior editorial project manager and a book indexer do.


Photo credits: Desk by Nathan Riley on Unsplash; video conference by Alexandra_Koch on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

 

What’s e-new?

By Andy Coulson

Free and easy accounting

Accounts are a fundamental part of your business, but like many people, I loathe doing them. For a long time, I’ve used Excel and an accountant to deal with mine, but have been exploring accounting packages for some time. I experimented with FreeAgent, which offers a discount to CIEP members, and found it clear and easy to use, but eventually gave up on it because I found it really fiddly to pay myself. My accountant sorts my payroll, but FreeAgent seems to insist I run payroll, or else have to go through a real rubbing my tummy while patting my head process to record it. I suspect that if you are a sole trader or happy to run the integrated payroll this would be easy (ie you are not trying to bend things to your will!).

This led to me discovering QuickFile, a largely free, UK-based accounting package. QuickFile doesn’t include payroll, so I can simply add the salary and categorise it as a PAYE salary payment, which I find simpler. I can leave payroll to the accountant. I say largely free because you won’t pay anything if you have fewer than 1,000 ledger transactions per accounting year. There are also some optional chargeable items, like open banking links that enable you to auto-update your accounts from your bank. This costs a very reasonable £15 per year.

The initial setup of QuickFile is very straightforward. You add details of yourself (and your company if you need to), set up your bank accounts and the opening balance for when you want to start using QuickFile, and you can get started. You can then manually import bank transactions and set up open banking feeds if you wish.

Like most other accounting packages, QuickFile is built around a dashboard. This gives you a quick, clear overview of what is coming into and out of your business and quick access to your bank accounts.

Invoicing and purchasing

Invoicing within the system is straightforward. You can customise your invoices around a number of templates, allowing you to add your own branding to invoices. The system allows you to create your invoices or estimates and have a nice clear ‘Draft’ stamp on them until they are ready to send. The system also includes client management, so you can build a database of the people and organisations you invoice, making repeat invoicing simple. There is an option to import clients from a spreadsheet, and the program has guidance on how to do this, but you will need to have a bit of skill with .csv files in spreadsheets to use it. Once your invoice is ready, you can send it from within the system using a customisable email. Your invoice list then gives you access to all your invoices with clear amber (sent), green (paid) and red (late) status flags. An outstanding invoices report allows you to keep track of these, and you can also set up automatic reminders for when an invoice goes over its due date.

Purchases are similarly easy to manage. You can enter these as one-offs or as recurring – for example, my hosting costs are paid monthly, so I set up a recurring payment each month for these. You can also enter them retrospectively (I’m sure I heard my accountant tut there) via the bank account screen, so that you enter the details when the purchase is paid for. While this is perhaps not good practice, it is simpler when you have a small number of outgoings. Like many other packages, it allows you to scan receipts straight into the system or import them, and the freely available app enables you to scan these on the go. As with invoices, you can build a list of suppliers.

Reports and support

Reconciling everything with your bank account is a chore that I don’t think anyone likes, but QuickFile keeps the pain to a minimum. Clicking through to your bank account gives you a list of transactions with money in, money out, a running balance, status, space to add notes, and a search tool to find similar transactions. The status shows in red until a transaction is tagged. Clicking on this gives you a short menu with the main types of transaction. Clicking through on, say, ‘Payment to a supplier’ or ‘Payment to a customer’ will attempt to find a matching purchase order or invoice, allowing you to reconcile quickly and flag these as paid.

QuickFile also has a comprehensive set of reports, allowing you to produce everything you need for year end, tax and VAT (should you need it).

The system has comprehensive community-based support that provides quick, helpful answers to most problems. This works something like the CIEP forums, with users and support staff from the company involved. There is also a good online knowledge base that covers a lot of common items and has some ‘get you started’ guides. These are really well-written and have been helpful to get me into using the system.

QuickFile provides a professional, easy-to-use accounting system for small businesses. The fact that it is largely free is astounding. Looking into the pricing structure for more than 1,000 transactions annually, the £45 + VAT per year cost looks remarkably good value. If the system isn’t right for you, you can export your data to import into another system, so I would recommend you look at QuickFile as an alternative to other online accounting systems.

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 


‘What’s e-new?’ was a regular column in the SfEP’s magazine for members, Editing Matters. The column has moved onto the blog until its new home on the CIEP website is ready.

Members can browse the Editing Matters back catalogue through the Members’ Area.


Photo credits: Accounting calculator by StellrWeb; paying online by rupixen.com, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Forum matters: Setting up your own business

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

With so many new members signing up to the forums, now is a good time to discuss the many things you have to consider when setting up your editorial business.

The practicalities

If you’re based in the UK, take a look at www.gov.uk/set-up-business for information on all the financial and practical aspects of setting up a business. You will have to register it, decide on a name, keep records of the money you make and your expenses, and complete self-assessment tax returns. Many editors are sole traders, and information on this is at www.gov.uk/set-up-sole-trader. Business expenses for sole traders and other freelancers were discussed on the forums in the spring.

If you get stuck, then contact the government helpline.

As also discussed on the forums recently, HMRC runs helpful webinars on a range of relevant topics. CIEP members testified to their usefulness and the value of seeing the human faces behind the tax system.

Your local council may hold seminars on how to run your own business and may offer business grants for new starters, so check out their website.

If you’re in another tax jurisdiction, ask about equivalents on the forums.

Editorial training

It’s not enough to be good at spelling and eagle-eyed at spotting typos. If you want to work as an editor or proofreader, there’s much more you need to know about, from style sheets and house styles to grammar, consistency, layout and presentation. Good-quality editorial training will: (a) reassure you that you know what you’re doing; (b) fill in gaps in your knowledge and help you review learned habits; (c) help to set you apart from the thousands of other copyeditors and proofreaders, and (d) assure clients that you are a professional who knows what you’re doing.

The CIEP runs core skills training courses and courses on other editorial skills, from medical editing to working on fiction.

So the first answer to the question ‘Why train?’ is the obvious ‘To gain and then improve core editorial skills’. If you have never been taught, systematically, how to edit or proofread, you should start [training] now. Nobody would wake up one morning with a desire to be an accountant and set to work without help. Professional editing and proofreading are no different.[1]

There have been recent forum discussions on proofreading web content and proofreading training for American editors.

What equipment will you need?

  • Somewhere you can work without being disturbed by your household (including pets). A big enough desk and a comfortable, supportive office chair.
  • A computer, preferably with a screen that is large enough to view one or more whole pages.
  • A professional email address (charlotte-edit@host.com or charlotte@businessname.org rather than chaz-lol-xx@host.com).
  • Style guides – so you can answer the many questions that will come up, such as ‘should an ellipsis have a space before and after, or be closed up?’ New Hart’s Rules is a commonly used guide for British English editing and Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for US English, but which style guide(s) you buy will depend on which language you are using, the type of client you work with, and the subjects you work on.
  • A dictionary – there are plenty of free online ones and a popular one is Lexico.

CIEP members get a discount on many dictionaries and reference books: see the members’ area. For general recommendations on reference works, see www.ciep.uk/resources/recommended-reference-books/general-editing-publishing-style.

CIEP members discussed their favourite work-related purchases on the forums in July.

Marketing yourself and finding clients

Now that you’re all set up and raring to go, where are you going to find your clients? This question comes up regularly on the forums, especially the Newbies forum, so do have a look. Recently there have been threads on next steps in starting a business and business networking.

Also, check out Louise Harnby’s great resources: www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/marketing-your-editing–proofreading-business.html

Working from home

If you’re used to working in an office with other people, the transition to working on your own can be tricky. It’s not for everyone; some people need the buzz of a busy office and don’t cope well with looking at the same four walls each day.

You need to be self-disciplined and stick to working hours – however you define them! – or you could find the days drifting past in a fog of Twitter, daytime TV and housework: ‘I’ll just pop a wash on … oooh, the floor needs sweeping. Where did that hour go?’ If this is you, you might find a recent discussion on time-tracking tools helpful.

Make a list of the things you need to accomplish each day, so you can tick them off and feel a sense of achievement.

CPD

This has been more difficult during lockdown, but there are still plenty of ways to keep your editorial knowledge up to date. Many local CIEP groups are meeting via Zoom and there are always the forums. See www.ciep.uk/standards/continuing-professional-development for more CPD ideas.

Anything else?

This is only an overview. If you have a question on anything not covered here – who to choose as a website host? What social media platforms are best for networking and finding new clients? – then ask on the forums! Many CIEP members are happy to share their experiences of setting up their own businesses. In August there was a lovely forum thread entitled ‘How did you get started?’ in which many members, experienced and not-so-experienced, shared stories of their first steps into editing and proofreading.

You’ll find a list of recommended resources to help you set up a business on the CIEP website: see www.ciep.uk/resources/recommended-reference-books/running-freelance-editorial-business.

Running your own editorial business can be a hugely rewarding, worthwhile and satisfying way to earn a living. Enjoy the journey!

[1] ‘Why train?’ Rosemary Roberts MBE. This article first appeared in the SfEP’s then newsletter, Copyright, in June 2000 and was updated in May 2004. See www.ciep.uk/training/why-train


Photo credits: Come in we’re open by Álvaro Serrano; Home office by Mikey Harris; Office space by Annie Spratt, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

 

CIEP social media round-up: August and September 2020

In August we celebrated freelancing month by teaming up with BookMachine for combined social media posts, tips, interviews and resources about life as a freelancer, including useful blogs by CIEP member Julia Sandford-Cooke, ‘Six ways to be the freelance editor you want to be’, and Sam Kelly, ‘Getting started as a freelance proofreader’. BookMachine offered a CIEP discount on their membership fee and we offered free CIEP membership through the BookMachine website. Welcome to all the new members who joined us during this time!

Across all our social media platforms, we shared our collection of free fact sheets and focus papers, including Professor Lynne Murphy’s recent focus paper on Global English. On Facebook, we experimented with a chatbot engagement tool that delivered the paper directly via Messenger. If you’re a devotee of our other platforms, don’t worry – we’ll be trying new things on Twitter and LinkedIn soon! We reminded our new and not-so-new members about the content they could access as part of their membership, such as fact sheets about academic editing, editing efficiency in Word and getting your first clients, plus a handy editing jobs log. In August and September, too, we gave everyone the opportunity to take (or retake) our just-for-fun, often topical, CIEP quizzes 12, 3 and 4.

For those who became interested in the origins of the word ‘freelance’ in August, with all the talk of it, a handy history, supplied by Ye Olde Merriam-Webster, came a-riding to our rescue.

Text old, new and newer

Talking of history, there is always a proportion of our curated content that looks to texts past, from Thomas Cromwell’s cut-and-paste job, which added his image to the Bible of Henry VIII, to Agatha Christie’s best first lines, and from the world’s first novel to the debate about whether the work of female writers from the past, written under male pseudonyms, should now bear their real names (we posted articles that argued both for and against this idea).

Meanwhile, history was being made with the anticipation of, then the reporting on, the best first week of September for booksellers since records began. A delay to the publication of some titles due to lockdown, plus pre-Christmas releases, meant that on 3 September, ‘Super Thursday’, 600 titles hit the bookshops. Quite a few for the TBR (to be read) pile, although our social media audiences are well used to our discussion of this ever-growing fixture on most of our bedside tables.

We learned about some up-to-the-minute, freshly coined phrases such as ‘space marshal’ (someone whose job it is to enforce physical distancing), ‘crisis beard’ and ‘lockdown tache’ (well, you can guess the meaning of those). And thence to the most immediate type of text – actual texting, on a phone – with Macmillan Dictionary’s new listings of emojis and a report that young people can be intimidated by full stops in text messages, as they see them as a sign of anger. No doubt this discovery will send many older texters hurriedly back to Macmillan’s emojis to find appropriate graphics to use instead. (For, really, we can’t have *nothing* at the end of a text, can we?)

Even newer than all this was the idea of robots writing the text we read in the future. For a little shiver down your spine, read ‘A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?’

Useful tips

As ever, we scoured the internet for useful advice and tips for editors and proofreaders, from keyboard shortcuts for Word to how to write fight scenes, from editing recipes to using reference materials effectively. The winner, however, in terms of sheer, unmitigated first aid for anyone who edits or proofreads, was Adrienne Montgomerie’s blog, ‘Edit Faster! Triage for the Eight-minute Editor’, which linked to even more incredibly useful content. A treasure trove.

Tenuous links to animals

Our social media pages would not be ours if they didn’t have a generous sprinkling of animal references (real or, frankly, tenuous). We offered our readers variations on the famous Buffalo sentence (in case you’re wondering, it’s Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo), we brought them a history of the term ‘a load of old codswallop’ and Merriam-Webster’s readers’ pet peeves (OK, those two links *are* tenuous), but to crown the lot we posted a puppy, yes, a puppy, quiz. And then kicked ourselves for not having written one ourselves.

Down time

Not that you could ever be bored while following us on social media, but we posted a brief history of boredom, just in case our followers needed a reminder of what it felt like. Other lighter content included a selection of photos that illustrated the word ‘irony’, and, one of the most popular postings of August and September, an article in which an artist revealed the fonts used in some of the most recognisable logos (a surprising number of which were Helvetica). Finally, we shared the story of the anonymous New York Times typo-spotter (@nyttypos on Twitter), who is gaining a cult following, and in fact, proving quite helpful to the editors at the US newspaper. Not that we encourage typo-shaming of any sort, but on the other hand we love a mystery. After all, we’ve taken Penguin’s ‘Which famous detective are you?’ quiz, so we know we’re Miss Marple/John Rebus/Sherlock Holmes/Philip Marlowe/DCI John Luther/Hercule Poirot/Harry Hole/Jessica Fletcher …

Don’t miss a thing in editing and proofreading. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Photo credits:  Library by Giammarco Boscaro; Puppies by Jametlene Reskp, both on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

26 tips for planning, writing and editing a glossary

By Hazel Bird

Glossaries are commonly found in a huge variety of publications, from textbooks to technical reports and from encyclopedias to essays. A good glossary can serve a number of purposes that benefit both writers and readers:

  • provide a quick reference to key concepts
  • avoid the need to duplicate definitions of key concepts in multiple locations
  • increase the accessibility of a text and thereby avoid alienating less knowledgeable readers
  • enhance the experience of more knowledgeable readers by avoiding cluttering a text with what may (to them) be basic definitions
  • help groups of co-authors to write consistently on a topic.

But a good glossary is too often an afterthought – thrown together at the end of the writing process with little consideration of how it can help to underpin a text and amplify its authority.

This post looks at how to plan, write and edit a glossary that will enhance a text and be helpful to readers. But first, a post on glossaries would be remiss if it didn’t include its own glossary:

DefinitionThe part of a glossary that tells readers what a term means.
EntryOften used to refer to a term and its associated definition as a whole.
GlossThe verb form of glossary. If you gloss a term, you provide a definition of it.
GlossaryA list of definitions of technical terms used in a text.
TermA word deemed to be of sufficient importance or complexity to require an entry in the glossary.
TextThe larger body of words of which the glossary is a part (eg a book).

It’s worth saying that although the stages below can be a helpful way of dividing up work on a glossary, it makes sense to keep all the stages in mind at all times. For example, it doesn’t hurt to decide your preference on capitalisation during the planning stage. And, equally, there’s no point developing a comprehensive plan if the writer(s) and editor(s) then ignore it!

Planning your glossary

A good glossary is based on a well-planned strategy. Questions to consider when planning a glossary include the following:

1. Why are you considering providing a glossary? Would the text genuinely benefit from a glossary as an added help to the reader? Or would the glossary primarily serve to cover up uneven, unclear or incomplete writing that would be better amended before seriously considering how a glossary would fit in?

2. What level(s) of knowledge do you expect your readers to have? Do you need to gloss basic terms or only the more advanced?

3. What level of detail do you want your definitions to have? It can help to set a nominal word or line limit.

4. If your text has multiple chapters, will you have one central glossary or chapter-specific glossaries? If you prefer a central glossary, do the chapters use the same terminology or will any revisions be required to standardise terms that will appear in the glossary?

5. If your text has multiple authors or topics, how will you ensure consistency between their glossaries? Would it be helpful to provide a few sample glossary entries (taking account of the suggestions for writing and editing below)?

6. Will the glossary be allowed to define abbreviations or will these appear in a separate list? For example, if your text talks about JSON, do you want to have (a) a glossary entry that provides the full form (JavaScript Object Notation) and then talks a bit about its use in software development, (b) an entry in a separate list of abbreviations that simply provides the full form or (c) both?

7. Will cross-referencing between glossary terms be allowed (or required)? For example, the glossary of glossaries at the start of this post uses italics to cross-reference to other entries. This lets readers know a term is explained elsewhere in the glossary (and often means you can be more economical in your definitions).

8. Where will the glossary appear and how will readers access it? Common schemes include: (a) simple standalone glossary with no links to the text, (b) standalone glossary with hyperlinks and/or special formatting (e.g. colour or bold) on glossary terms in the text and (c) glossary entries on the same pages as their associated terms (common in textbooks). Which would be most suitable for your text?

9. How will readers know your glossary exists? Will you put a note at the start of the text (or even at the start of each chapter or section, if your text has subdivisions)? What will be the best balance between making information easily accessible and avoiding clutter? You can’t assume that readers will understand that bold (for example) means that there is a glossary and that the bold word is glossed within it – you have to tell them what the bold means.

Writing your glossary

Once you have a solid plan to work from, you can actually start writing your glossary (or ask your contributors to submit entries to you). Following are some do’s and don’ts of glossary writing:

10. Do consider how your terms are actually used in the text. There’s no point having a glossary term for ‘information architecture’ if the text only ever refers to ‘architecture’.

11. Do use parallel structure. For example, will you start definitions with ‘X is an …’ or just ‘An …’? This issue is connected with presentation too: usually, the longer form is only necessary if you plan to run the glossary terms into the definitions. For example:

Agile  A method of software development that occurs in stages, with the product evolving as the project progresses. (Separated style)

Agile is a method of software development that occurs in stages, with the product evolving as the project progresses. (Run-on style)

12. Do think about the grammatical forms of words. For example, it might look inconsistent to have a definition for ‘coder’ (noun) alongside one for ‘developing’ (verb). Unless there’s a good reason, it might read better to choose either ‘coder’ and ‘developer’ or ‘coding’ and ‘developing’.

13. Don’t use the word in the definition – usually. Sometimes it works, where you decide to explicitly re-state the term in the definition for grammatical reasons (as I did above in my definition of ‘gloss’). But usually it’s bad practice as it assumes knowledge on the part of your readers that they might not have. For example, you might include the following definition:

software development  Using computer code to develop digital applications and infrastructure.

Here, you’d only really have glossed ‘software’ and you’d be assuming your readers know what ‘develop(ment)’ means in the context of computing.

14. Don’t make the definition so complicated that the reader has to look it up to understand it. (Or, if you need to use technical terms, consider defining them elsewhere within the glossary and including cross-references – see point 7 above.)

15. Don’t include Wikipedia content (or similar) – anyone can do an internet search for a generic Wikipedia definition. Glossaries add value for the reader by framing each term in a way that is nuanced to reflect the content of your text.

16. Don’t quote other sources in your definitions, unless they offer uniquely relevant perspectives or you have a special reason for doing so. This can reduce the sense of authoritativeness of your text.

17. Don’t repeat definitions from the text. Readers will be frustrated if they go to the glossary in search of further explanation and just find what they’ve already read.

Editing your glossary

Glossary editing often takes place over multiple stages. First, the person who wrote the glossary (or who is collating it from multiple contributors) checks that the content is suitable and that there are no glaring holes or inconsistencies of approach. Then, another person (often a copyeditor or proofreader) conducts a more zoomed-in check to sculpt the glossary into its final form. Each will likely need to look at the following points to some degree:

18. Does the glossary adhere to each point of the plan? If not, is the divergence acceptable (perhaps something has changed since you created the plan) or do you need to adjust the entries?

19. Is the coverage logical, consistent and comprehensive? For example, have all terms of the same type been included? (So, if you’ve glossed XML, you’ll probably want to gloss HTML too if your text uses both terms.) Are there any often-used terms that are not glossed but should be? If one of the glossary’s functions is to gloss little-used terms to avoid cluttering the text with explanations, have all of these been identified?

20. Will your alphabetisation be intuitive to readers? For example, will your readers expect to find a general explanation of the syntax used in computer coding under ‘language’ or ‘programming language’?

21. Do you need any ‘see’ entries? If readers might look for the same term under two different phrases, you could choose to include both. For example, you could have a definition of the term ‘language’ but also cross-reference to it further down as follows:

language  Words and other notation used according to a pre-defined structure to create computer programs.

programming language  see language

22. Is every term in the glossary actually used in the text? See also points 10 and 12.

23. Have the glossary terms been indicated in the text where applicable (see point 8)? And are you doing this on every occurrence of each term or only (for example) at first use in the text or chapter?

24. Is the punctuation consistent? For example, will your definitions end with a full stop? This may depend on the length of the definitions. Single-sentence glossaries can end with nothing, but multiple-sentence glossaries usually look best with full stops. If you have a mixture, it’s best to be consistent and include full stops for all of them.

25. Is the capitalisation consistent? Will you capitalise all of your glossary terms (eg ‘Debugging’ and ‘Python’) or only proper nouns (eg ‘debugging’, but ‘Python’)?

26. Does each definition read well and follow whatever spelling and other stylistic conventions have been used in the main text? When they think about what goes into editing a glossary, many people jump straight to this point. But, in reality, it’s just the last item in a long list of other considerations.

Planning, writing and editing a good glossary is a complex and time-consuming process. Throwing together a glossary at the last moment is a wasted opportunity and may even detract from the reader’s experience – for example, by raising expectations that are not met (eg because the glossary is of poor quality and isn’t tailored to the text) or creating frustration (eg if the glossary is difficult to access or navigate, or equivalent terms are not glossed).

Thinking about your glossary from the start of the creation process will make it an integrated and cohesive part of your text, and enhance the text’s value and authority for your readers.

Hazel Bird is a project manager, copyeditor and proofreader who has happily edited glossaries that followed all of these tips and others that followed none. She regularly works on computing books (hence the examples above) but also edits widely across business, public sector and academic publishing.

 


Have you seen our recent focus paper by David Crystal on why it’s worth using a professional editor? It’s one of CIEP’s many fact sheets and focus papers for editorial and publishing professionals.


Photo credits: Open book by by Jonas Jacobsson; Software development by Hack Capital, both on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.