A small but enthusiastic group of language professionals gathered by Zoom to participate in this SENSE summer workshop. Speaking to us from South Africa, John opened with a quote from George Orwell: ‘The message is important, not the fancy language wrapped around it.’ And this set the tone for the workshop.
The group quickly established that we were all faced with similar problems. Even in this day and age, many writers continue to think that the more complex their writing is the better it is. Unfortunately in the process they often lose their natural (aka plain) voice completely. It is up to editors to render the authors’ messages readily understood at first reading by dispensing with obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence constructions.
Over the course of three interactive 50-minute sessions John led us through the application of Plain Language principles to real-life examples of poorly written English. We looked at adopting a reader focus, sentence length and complexity, noun strings, jargon, the use of the active and passive voice, and much, much more. John’s practical plain English approach included tips on ideal sentence and paragraph length, where and how to shorten sentences (a particularly useful section), and the value of vertical lists.
Whatever stage you are at in your editing career, I can thoroughly recommend taking part in this workshop. It not only provides concrete and useful tips for tackling text that at first sight seems impenetrable, but also gently encourages you to take an objective look at your own editing style. Although I like to think I keep up to date with modern English usage, I was somewhat surprised to realize how many archaic words I continue to use, but I am happy to adopt the suggested plain English alternatives.
Following the workshop, John sent us his PowerPoint presentation. Every single slide contains one or more useful nuggets of plain language advice. I will be keeping it easily accessible on my desktop to consult on those days when second language interference threatens to take the upper hand, or when dealing with a client who insists on using unnecessarily complex language. After all, as John reminded us, part of our job as editors is to educate the client by emphasizing that plain language gets the message across more effectively.
For more CPD opportunities, check out the SENSE Professional Development Days, on 18 and 25 September. This year's programme is all about horizontal knowledge-sharing and learning from your peers throughout your career. Topics include digital nomadism, the linguistics of wine, branding to money management, balancing multiple niches, collaborative translation, intercultural communication, the SENSE mentoring programme, and battling imposter’s syndrome. Tickets are €25 for members (non-members pay €40) and grant access to both days. Not a SENSE member? Click here to read about the benefits of joining the Society!
Even at this late stage in my translating and editing career, the chance to learn more about Excel was one I didn’t want to miss. Another 12 SENSE members apparently felt the same way and we all dutifully installed ourselves at our two screens, started Zoom up and settled down for the Sizzling Summer Series workshop led by Maya Berger. Maya had sent round a set of spreadsheets prior to the workshop and had asked us to have two screens available, so that we could work on our own copies of the sheets on one screen and see what she was doing in the original sheets on the other.
We started with a quick introductory round and I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only novice. Maya had split the workshop into three parts: the basics and formatting a project timesheet; using a spreadsheet for expenses, CPD and income; and some tips for coping with multiple currencies and drawing up summaries and charts. Some of the participants had much more experience than I did, but even Maya’s explanation of the basics provided them with new tips. For me, it was a revelation to learn how to widen columns by double clicking on the dividing line between them. This also solves the problem of ‘###’ appearing instead of the value you want: the column is too narrow. How to copy a previously used formula to a new column was another useful tip. Apart from the familiar Ctrl C and Ctrl V, it’s possible to place your cursor at the bottom right corner of the cell containing the total and then drag it across to the new column, or up/down to a new row.
Locking cells can be a useful feature if you need to send your spreadsheet to someone else and you want to make sure certain parts are not tampered with. In my version of Excel, that feature is under the Review tab: Protect Sheet. You can add a password, but that is not mandatory.
Once we got on to multiple currencies, it was handy to learn how to convert one into the other and have that repeated across a range of rows. It became a bit more complicated (for me!) when we got onto summaries and charts. Here Maya explained how to include information on other tabs in the sheet to create a summary of income over time, for example, or to see which percentage of your income comes from each client. All this information can be converted into various charts, but I must confess that I got a bit lost at that point. My linguist genes are definitely stronger than my mathematical ones!
Maya remained very patient throughout and was happy to go back over things if anyone (not just me) had missed something. All in all, a very useful workshop, well explained. Now I just need some practice.
For more CPD opportunities, check out the SENSE Professional Development Days, on 18 and 25 September. This year's programme is all about horizontal knowledge-sharing and learning from your peers throughout your career. Topics include digital nomadism, the linguistics of wine, branding to money management, balancing multiple niches, collaborative translation, intercultural communication, the SENSE mentoring programme, and battling imposter’s syndrome. Tickets are €25 for members and €40 for non-members, and grant access to both days. Not a SENSE member? Click here to read about the benefits of joining the Society!
Paul Beverley at the 2019 SfEP conference, photo courtesy of CIEP.
On 9 July, Word macro man Paul Beverley initiated a handful of participants into the magic of macros, those nifty automated operations tools in Word that are created using the Visual Basic programming language. Paul has developed over 800 of these over the years, and has generously shared them with the editing community. Macros can automate a number of actions that editors need to perform on a regular basis, and they can save you hours of time and free up brainpower that can then be used to focus on the content of the text itself, instead of on technicalities and consistency issues.
Paul’s workshop, titled ‘Macros by the tourist route’, was aimed at absolute beginners and was intended to teach us how to essentially copy and paste Paul’s code into Word’s Visual Basic editor. The beauty of this is that no programming skills or very advanced technical skills are required; anyone can benefit from the power of macros if they learn how to copy and paste Paul’s code into Word.
We began by discussing our various operating systems, Word versions and experiences with macros. Once Paul had obtained an idea of our capabilities and experience and explained the basics of macros to us, he asked us to open a Word document he had sent us a download link to in advance.The documents contain step-by-step instructions with screenshots. I found them to be incredibly clear and helpful.
By following the steps in these documents, which are freely available to everyone in both a Windows and a Mac version, we learned how to record a basic macro and how to open Word’s Visual Basic editor. We then copied and pasted macro code into the editor, and tested our new macro. We also learned how to assign a keystroke to it, so we could execute the macro quickly.
Next, Paul explained where we could find the text of other macros (on his website) and let us carry out the rest of the steps in the instruction document. I learned how to install a macro that fetches Paul’s macros in one click by just typing their name into Word, which was pretty cool. We also learned how to install some of Paul’s popular macros, DocAlyse, ProperNounAlyse, and other information-based tools. These analyse a document without making any changes.
Paul then briefly introduced macros that belong to the ‘global change’ tools category, including his powerful FRedit macro. This is a global, advanced find-and-replace macro that is incredibly useful but also a bit trickier to learn how to use. However, the information-based macros are already incredibly useful, and I’ve really benefited from using a number of them already. A client of mine, for example, wanted to provide a glossary of Arabic terms at the end of her manuscript. We had italicized Arabic terms throughout the document, so I used a macro called ‘ItalicWordList’ to provide her with a list of all italic terms in the document. While I had also kept a style sheet of these terms, the macro took only a few seconds to provide a list of all italic terms against which the style sheet could be checked for completeness.
If anyone is interested in learning more about macros, Paul’s website and YouTube channel are good places to start.
For more CPD opportunities, check out the SENSE Professional Development Days, on 18 and 25 September. This year's programme is all about horizontal knowledge-sharing and learning from your peers throughout your career. Topics include digital nomadism, the linguistics of wine, branding to money management, balancing multiple niches, collaborative translation, intercultural communication, the SENSE mentoring programme, and battling imposter’s syndrome. TTickets are €25 for members and €40 for non-members, and grant access to both days. Click here to read about the benefits of joining the Society!
Although I’ve been using PerfectIt for many years and can’t imagine editing without it, I’ve tended just to use it as a final check before texts are ‘good to go’. Consulting a style manual has been something I’ve done before using PerfectIt, to check consistency and generally tidy things up. But this can be time-consuming, and so having a style manual incorporated into PerfectIt is attractive. That way, the issue presents itself automatically instead of you first having to search for the grammatical or stylistic point in the manual and then making a decision.
The latest version of PerfectIt was easy to install, as was the link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). You log in to the Intelligent Editing website to link the two accounts. Then you open PerfectIt in Word, click on the CMOS option in the list of styles (all in the usual place) and you’re up and running.
On the versions of English spoken on either side of the pond there are things we know we know, and things we know we don’t know. That’s when style guides come in handy. But then there are the ‘unknown unknowns’, when it wouldn’t have occurred to me to question some things the CMOS flagged up as ‘Britishisms’ or non-standard. When testing the new feature, I therefore selected some articles previously edited in UK English to see:
In addition to highlighting inconsistencies and non-preferred spellings in the usual way, the main benefit of the new CMOS add-on is that it automatically provides a more detailed explanation and some context, including the reference to CMOS in case you want to know even more. I like the way PerfectIt presents the CMOS explanation in a bite-size block, as this protects against language-geeky tendencies to get waylaid by other information long after you’ve resolved the point at issue.
A useful tip for non-US users wanting the CMOS to check their style without applying US spelling is to run PerfectIt twice (it goes really quickly): firstly using CMOS and secondly using, say, the UK spelling option, but then only the ‘Spelling Consistency’ check (deactivate all the other checks in ‘Choose Checks’).
If you already use PerfectIt and have a CMOS subscription, using CMOS within PerfectIt simply saves time at no extra cost. A no-brainer. But if you don’t yet have a CMOS subscription, whether you want to pay the annual fee (about USD 40) on top of your PerfectIt subscription will depend on how often you use that style.
As nearly all my clients want UK spelling and style, I didn’t previously have a CMOS subscription. But although I normally try to steer clients towards (or toward, if I follow the CMOS suggestion) British English and spelling, I was really glad to have to use CMOS this week – a client suddenly wanted US English for one assignment. And I’m rather hoping there’ll be more requests for US style in the next few weeks. That’ll make it much easier to decide whether to opt for a subscription when the free trial ends. And if those requests don’t materialize, I can just enjoy some easier decision-making within rather than outside PerfectIt.
The Utrecht SIG held its first in-person meeting for more than 18 months on Wednesday 14 July. Besides being a corona-proof socially-distanced affair, it was gezellig and convivial, and ‘voor herhaling vatbaar’. We met in the car park at Theehuis Rhijnauwen, where we chatted and swapped notes as well as books. Some had a whole car boot full and others, who had come by bike, had brought just a few. Many books found new owners and everyone took something new to read home with them.
We then proceeded to the restaurant, where we could all sit together at a large table outside. After delicious pancakes and scrumptious desserts...
...some of us walked around the park, recording our daily Ommetje. (If you'd like to join the SENSE walking team challenge, simply download the app and join using the team code LAEFG.)
The next Utrecht SIG meeting is planned for 8 September. Keep an eye on the event calendar for details.
Day 1: Saturday 18 September 2021, from 10:00 to 15:00
Day 2: Saturday 25 September 2021, from 13:00 to 17:15
With all-day networking available in the online networking platform Wonder and end-of-day networking in Zoom.
Come join us for our Professional Development Days, the biennial event in which SENSE members learn from (and with) other members. This year's programme is all about horizontal knowledge-sharing and learning from your peers throughout your career.
Topics include digital nomadism, the linguistics of wine, branding to money management, balancing multiple niches, collaborative translation, intercultural communication, the SENSE mentoring programme, and battling imposter’s syndrome.
We open with a plenary session called "Peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing" on day 1 and close with a plenary session called "CPD: Changing professional development" on day 2. Choose up to nine out of 18 possible elective sessions that match your interests. And if none of the sessions interest you at any time, head on over a virtual watercooler to network with other members while you wait.
There are three panel discussions:
Six electives are available on both days:
And nine other electives to choose from:
Of course, we haven’t forgotten about the social aspect. An unmoderated Wonder room will be available throughout the two days to allow for networking and mingling with old colleagues and new faces on the SENSE scene. At the end of each day, we’ll have a moderated networking session.
Tickets are available to members and non-members alike, and grant access to both days.
You can sign up on the event page by clicking on the Register button. Members, remember to log in first, in order to be eligible for the reduced member rate!
Not a SENSE member? Consider joining! You can find more information about joining SENSE here.
On 25 June, 23 UniSIG members gathered online to listen to SENSE member Jacqueline Evans (Jae) talk about how she provides writing support to PhD students at the University of Twente (UT). Naturally, as academic editors who work a lot with PhD students, we were all very interested to hear what Jae had to say.
The UT Language Centre (UTLC) offers a range of support to its students, including language lessons, writing courses, writing support and academic skills support. Jae offers support with and gives feedback on conference presentations, scientific posters, PhD theses, journal articles, cover letters, rebuttal letters, grant proposals and CV writing. Sounds like she has her hands full!
When a student approaches Jae with a text, she first encourages them to analyse their own writing and to define what they need help with. Most people are looking for a language check with feedback on structure, flow and coherence (ie, whatever it takes to make the text fit for purpose!). Jae emphasized that her interventions are more educational edits rather than full scientific edits. What does that mean? It means that Jae offers suggestions to help the author address any important gaps or illogical structures in their writing. Jae will correct language issues wherever possible, but the student will usually not receive a fully edited paper – the result will be a mixture of edits with suggestions on how they can improve their text. In short, they still have to do much of the work themselves, rather than receiving a ready-to-submit text.
However, Jae emphasized that the definition of providing editing for ‘educational’ purposes is often blurred, especially when a student is preparing a research paper for submission to a journal. Jae also edits research papers for her own research clients and knowing where to draw the line when working with students can be tricky!
Jae observed that, interestingly, requests to the UTLC for writing support have increased tenfold since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This may be because, instead of meeting face to face, students now reach out by email and receive their support online. Some students may feel more comfortable asking for help in this way. It will be interesting to see what happens to Jae’s workload as the university opens up and face to face meetings are allowed again: will she continue to offer her services online or will the students be keen to meet in person again?
Requests for writing support may also have increased during the pandemic because students have had a lot more time to work on their writing, since lab access was restricted. This mirrors the dramatic increase in workload that many academic editors have seen in the last year: their clients were no longer allowed in the lab and suddenly had plenty of time to write up their research. What will happen now that scientists are being allowed back in the lab; will we now see a lull in editing requests as our clients return to the lab to collect new data?
Jae concluded her talk by outlining what the future looks like for the UTLC. As more and more users are asking for a full editorial service, the UTLC may decide to offer this in the future. Indeed, the UTLC has already gathered a team of editors to work on Veni and ERC grant proposals for the university (funded by the Twente Graduate School). Jae has promised to keep us updated: keep your eye on the SENSE blog for new developments!
On 28 June, 11 participants gathered online to learn more about how to use Word Styles from language practitioner and Professional Editors Guild member, Monica Bosman.
The workshop kicked off with an introduction to Word Styles. Monica explained what styles are and how they can be used. She showed us where to find styles in the Word workspace, explained the different types of style, discussed the advantages of styles and explained how they can make us more efficient editors. After the break, Monica gave a practical demonstration of Word Styles, using a document she had sent to us before the workshop started. This was useful, because it meant we could try out for ourselves everything Monica was showing us.
I knew a bit about Word Styles before the workshop. For example, I had used the navigation pane to skip easily between sections when writing larger documents. But I usually work with shorter texts (journal articles mainly) and was not using styles regularly in my editing work. Monica’s clear step-by-step introduction to using styles showed me how I can make my daily work more efficient. For example, styles allow you to make many changes at once, ensuring consistent formatting of headings, paragraphs and numbered lists. You can also automatically generate a table of contents based on the heading styles and outline levels in your document.
Monica also talked us through how we can use styles to diagnose problems in a text that we have received for editing. Opening the Styles panel and seeing which styles the author has used in the document can give you an idea of what formatting changes you may need to make: simply click the ‘Options’ button in the bottom right corner of the Styles menu and choose what to show in the Styles panel. She also showed us some useful tips and shortcuts, such as how to use the Format Painter function to copy formatting from one section and apply it to another, how to use Advanced Find to find and replace a style, as well as how to use Manage Styles to import styles from another document.
All in all, this was a full and interactive workshop, packed with useful tips on how to work more efficiently with Word. Well worth the investment of time and money! Thank you to SENSE for organizing the workshop and a big thank you to Monica for sharing her expertise so generously!
With temperatures heading towards 33oC, the theme of the June Southern SIG meeting was the summer season.
We started by discussing ways to keep cool in the office on hot summer days. One member recommended using an air humidifier – which adds moisture to the air – rather than a fan. By keeping the office cooler, he immediately added five working hours to his week, quickly recouping the investment. Another handy tip was the budget option of hanging a wet towel in front of a fan, also very effective!
Workflow over the summer seems to be somewhat unpredictable for most of us. While we may know our direct clients’ plans, workflow from agencies seems to vary from year to year. During some summers, agencies have a surplus of work – perhaps because many of their other freelancers are away on holiday – so we may find ourselves in demand, whereas in other years there could be a lull as the agencies’ clients also take a break. Summer peaks and troughs are not exclusive to freelancers; in-house editors and translators may also find themselves surprisingly busy over the summer period.
All this makes deciding when to go on holiday tricky. Do you book your holiday for the summer, after the summer, or even in January? The consensus was that there is no best time. Just like the summer months, January may be quiet one year, but crammed full the next. The discussion then moved on to the problem of clearing your desk before going away – why does it always take so long? And what can we do about it? Suggestions included trying to set ourselves false deadlines or even scheduling a day off before going away to ensure that we arrive at our holiday destination ready to enjoy our break.
Regardless of the timing, we all agreed on the importance of taking a break – whether it be a two-week holiday or a few long weekends – and not working too many weekends or late nights in a row. The months can fly by and you can suddenly find that it is halfway through the year and you have only had a couple of days off.
Other items discussed included how to keep up your English when living abroad – listen to Radio 4 and do the quick crossword in the Guardian – and the relatively new problem of how to politely stop someone from talking too long on a Zoom call!
Last, but certainly not least, the new Southern SIG member of the month (the attendee located farthest south) was appointed and this time it was none other than our convener himself! Congratulations, Jasper!
This summer, SENSE is offering a brand-new series of online workshops to hone your skills as an English-language professional. David Garcia Ruiz had the honour of starting off the series on 10 June with his interesting workshop on search engine optimization (SEO).
David could tell us everything we wanted to know about SEO, as he has been working on it since 2015 and even teaches an SEO course at a Spanish training centre for translators (AulaSIC). He explained the basics of SEO and where the SEO translator comes in. Moreover, he put theory into practice right away with hands-on exercises for the attendees. Throughout the workshop, attendees asked good questions and received expert answers from David, making it a truly interactive and engaging workshop.
The purpose of SEO is to end up high in the search results when potential customers look online for the products or services you offer. Search engines want to provide their users with the most relevant webpages as quickly as possible; an SEO specialist aims to convince the search engine’s algorithm that their webpages are the place to be. Unfortunately, experts estimate over 200 factors are taken into account by these constantly evolving algorithms. Surprisingly, SEO is not hard science – what works today may be outdated next week. Experts also don’t always agree on what works best.
From these 200 SEO factors, SEO translators and copywriters alike work on on-page SEO, which involves optimizing the actual content on the webpage. Thankfully, the days when this involved stuffing the text with the same keywords over and over are long past, and can even backfire today. Successful SEO is about knowing what a search engine looks for, where it looks and within which character limits. Typical services SEO translators offer are keyword research, keyword localization, SEO translation, meta data generation and content optimization. Each of these comes with their own challenges and requirements.
On-page SEO is not rocket science and doesn’t require high-level coding or other technical skills. Instead, it’s about knowing the rules of the game and applying them while using your common sense. For example, there is no use in adding highly popular keywords that have nothing to do with your products, just to boost site traffic. However, you will need to invest time and money in getting the right tools, developing skills and keeping your knowledge up to date.
To sum up, the workshop was interesting, informative and contained plenty of practical value. I feel much more knowledgeable about what SEO is – and what it isn’t. David’s enthusiasm about the subject has surely inspired me to try my hand at it!
This article is not SEO-optimized, in case you were wondering.