An American Editor

March 25, 2020

On the Basics — What should be on your website?

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:43 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Many of us have time on our hands at the moment, so this might be a good time to focus on creating, updating or revamping a website. That’s the kind of thing we tend to let slide when we’re focused on current deadlines; we might do updates or new content for our clients, but our own sites get left in the dust for “someday.” Well, friends, someday is today. Working on our websites is a good distraction from the chaos around us and a great investment in our professional futures.

What to include in an artist’s, designer’s or photographer’s website seems fairly self-evident, so this post focuses on tips for websites of writers, editors and proofreaders, and indexers.

General guidelines

As I’ve said in my presentations about websites, there are a few things we should all include in our websites, regardless of what kind(s) of editorial work we do.

Check for current contact information and make it easy for people to reach you. A simple contact form is often the best bet. You don’t have to publish a phone number or street address, and you don’t even have to have a link to your e-mail address, although that is my preference. If you don’t have a contact form now, consider creating one.

Make sure you have a copyright line on every page. If you haven’t updated yours with the current year, this is the time to do so.

You can include a photo of yourself if you want to, but don’t feel obligated — a photo might make you and the site seem more human and approachable, but visitors want to know about your work and usually don’t care what you look like. If you do use a photo, use one that does you proud. A headshot is all you need, or maybe one of you at your desk. Informal shots are fine; you don’t have to spend a fortune on a professional portrait. Just make sure it’s something that looks professional.

Don’t list hobbies unless they relate to the work you do.

An editor’s or proofreader’s site

Editors and proofreaders face a special challenge when creating websites for themselves, because it’s a lot harder for us to “show our work” than it is for writers, artists, designers, photographers, book layout and design professionals, indexers — most editing and proofreading clients would rather the world not see the “before” versions of their projects.

That said, there are plenty of effective editor/proofreader websites out there. Yours could include:

Information about your training and experience

List of skills

List of services

Definitions of levels of editing, especially the difference between substantive and copy- editing, and the difference between editing and proofreading

Descriptions of what you do (and don’t do)

Genres you work with

Style manual(s) you’re familiar with

Explanation of your process

Statement about providing samples, referring to a professional organization such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA; https://www.the-efa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/EFA-Recommendations-for-Editorial-Testing-final.pdf)

Samples you’ve created

Testimonials from clients about your work

Information about payment options (deposits, methods — checks vs. PayPal vs. direct deposit, etc.) and deposit policy

Refund policy, if you have one

Organizations you belong to and what you do in them

Resources for more information (organization sites, for instance)

An author’s site

As a reader, what I look for in an author’s website are cover images, book synopses, reviews or links to the book(s), and buying info, along with a detailed author bio.

Let visitors and prospective clients know about:

The genre(s) you write in

Your training and experience, if relevant — usually more important for journalists and writers who work with publications and organizations than for authors of published books

If you write for clients rather than write your own books, include links to your published work — as long as the client says it’s OK to do so. I also put images of the first pages of some of the articles I’ve had published, but not entire articles, at my website; mostly to create visual or graphic interest, but also to “prove” that I’ve been published.

Your publishing history

Your writing process

The inspiration for your writing work

Organizations you belong to and your roles in them

Compliments about your writing voice and published work

Information about payment options (deposits, methods — checks vs. PayPal vs. direct deposit, etc.) and deposit policy

Refund policy, if you have one

Resources for aspiring authors (agents, books, self-publishing tips, courses, etc.)

Authors you admire

An indexer’s site

If you’re an indexer, you might have an easier time setting up your website than editing and proofreading colleagues. Consider including:

Software program(s) you use

Training and experience

Types/Genres of projects you work on

Covers of books and reports you’ve indexed (with client permission)

Client testimonials

Your pay model or rate

Information about payment options (deposits, methods — checks vs. PayPal vs. direct deposit, etc.) and deposit policy

Refund policy, if you have one

Organizations you belong to and what you do in them (especially if you belong to the American Society for Indexing; http://www.asi.org)

What are the challenges of setting up and maintaining your website? How often do you do updates or revisions? What are some of the sites you’ve found helpful or inspiring?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

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March 23, 2020

On the Basics — Passing the time in quarantine

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:02 am
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By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

The coronavirus crisis is forcing change on every aspect of society that I can see, and will have long-lasting effects on all of our lives, both professional and personal. I hope all of our subscribers here will be safe.

Among concerns is that scammers and spammers are ramping up their schemes to take advantage of this scary time, so be extra-vigilant. While situations like this bring out the best in most people, it also brings out the worst in others. I’ve already seen warnings about people going door-to-door peddling phony cures (although that’s likely to stop as more stay-at-home orders go into effect), and inaccurate suggestions are going the rounds in places like Facebook, especially its messenger service. Warn family and friends (especially older people and those who live alone) that the longer this lasts, the more fake “cures,” treatments and tips will circulate. Tell them not to take “advice” or buy anything from unfamiliar sources, and ask them not to “forward to everyone in your address book.”

We also have to be aware that being stuck at home for unknown lengths of time can create tension among family members, in addition to boredom. Domestic violence is expected to increase. I don’t know how to counteract that trend, but being aware of the possibility might help some of us hold it at bay.

It also could get dangerous to venture out if stay-at-home orders last for longer than we hope and people feel increasingly desperate or angry about the situation. If you have to leave home for groceries, medications and other essentials, try to have someone with you, be extra-alert, don’t forget your cellphone and don’t dawdle.

Between crisis anxiety and being stuck at home due to work closings and stay-in orders, we’re all likely to eat more than usual, and more stuff that isn’t healthy. Comfort food is one thing; junk food is something else entirely. Two suggestions: (1) If you’re doing a store run, don’t be tempted to stock up on junk food, even if the kids are demanding it; if you have some at home, stash it somewhere inaccessible. (2) Up your activity level – do calisthenics and hallway walking indoors, go for walks around the block every couple hours, take the kids or the dog on longer walks than usual, go to a park for a hike or stroll. You’ll feel better mentally and physically.

We’re also likely to spend more than usual on online shopping as a distraction, so be careful not to go overboard because you or your family members need something to do. Start looking around the house for projects to tackle that can be done without spending more money; make such projects into games and challenges for family and neighbors.

Don’t give up on professional development opportunities. While major conferences have been cancelled, most host organizations are finding ways to keep the learning and networking aspects going through Skype, Zoom, GoToWebinar and similar resources.

I came up with a few more ideas for passing the time as more and more of us are seeing restrictions on activity and in-person interaction with family and friends (not to mention clients, colleagues, employers and places we’re used to going to – stores, banks, museums, sports settings, concerts, meetings and more), as well as issues with work and income.

Find ways to help – family members, neighbors, colleagues, total strangers. Whether it’s running essential errands or communicating through GrandPads, videoconferencing and physical windows, the more we do to help each other, the better we’ll feel.

Sort, file and pitch – business and personal records, checkbook registers, credit card statements, clothes, unpacked boxes, souvenirs, photos, outgrown or never-used toys, expired canned goods and other staples or medications, collections, books, etc.

Plan to give away – any of the above that you realize you don’t need

Garden – mulch, weed, clear, soil-test, start planting; it’s good for your mental and physical health, and the results could help cheer you up

Catch up – on reading (book piles, magazines, newspapers in real life; online; in Kindle and other phone apps), laundry, redecorating, mending, repurposing

Write – that book you’ve been meaning to start or finish, poetry, letters to friends for mailing on paper or electronically, blog posts for later publication

Update – your résumé, will and health directives, savings and investment plans, marketing projects

Resurrect an old or start a new hobby

Learn a new skill or program — the Internet is awash with YouTube and other resources for learning on your own or at home with family members

Clean – the house, home office, car, garage, etc.

Assemble – puzzles, dollhouses, workshop/building projects, knick-knacks into art

Get out – walk around the neighborhood or drive and then walk/hike at a park

Communicate – with family and friends by phone, e-mail and Internet, both to reassure each other and to counter false information. You might even learn interesting things about family and personal histories that never came up before.

Invent games – for kids both at home and around your neighborhood. One of my friends posted about a game for kids that started in his Chicago neighborhood: putting teddy bears in your windows and coming together online to identify where they are – like an Easter egg or treasure hunt that can be done virtually as well as physically. Coming up with creative outlets and activities will, again, be good for our emotional and mental health.

How are you coping? How is your work life going so far?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

 

March 13, 2020

On the Basics: Tips for coping with the current health crisis

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Many AAE subscribers have been working from home for years, so the current movement to that model as a response to the coronavirus crisis (yes, it is at crisis level in many ways) is no big deal. Others work in outside offices and are faced with transforming their own or their colleagues’ work styles into being home-based.

Based on my many years of working from home, here are some suggestions.

At home

  • If you live with family members, let them know that you need peace and quiet, with minimal interruptions or intrusions, when you’re trying to work. Both spouses/partners and younger kids will think it’s great to have you at home with them, but might have to be tactfully educated about why you’re there, what you have to get done for work and when (or if) you can take a break to hang out with them.
    • Ask everyone to let you answer the home phone if you have one, so clients and colleagues don’t get your adorable five-year-old on the line or someone who forgets to take important messages.
    • Set aside a dedicated workspace and make sure everyone knows not to mess with your computer and paper files. If you have a room that becomes your office, consider putting a Do not disturb! sign on the door.
    • Have a laptop for work that no one else in the house is allowed to use, or invest in an inexpensive desktop setup that is also hands-off to everyone but you.
    • Get dressed in something more business-like than jeans and T-shirts so you feel like you’re working — and your family treats you accordingly.
    • Get out of the house every day, for a walk around the block, lunch with family or friends, trips to the store or library as needed or appropriate, etc.
    • Keep a schedule similar to your usual workday so going back to the office won’t be as big of a jolt when you get the all-clear.
    • If your company doesn’t have a template to log your projects and time, create one — even if you aren’t asked to provide it.
  • If you have children of about grades 5 to 9 (U.S. system) who might have to stay home because local schools close down, a Facebook colleague suggested using www.mensaforkids.org (there’s even a PDF of lesson plans for “Teaching Literary Elements Through Song Lyrics”) and the site Every-Day Edits to keep them busy.
  • Splurge on some new books, toys and games for kids, partners, parents, pets, etc., and consider subscriptions to online movies, e-books and other sources of information and entertainment that you might not have needed until now. If you have to stay home for any unusual amount of time, the usual entertainments could get old pretty quickly.

For the office

  • Set up regular phone or Internet meetings to track project status and employee health or needs — not necessarily daily, but certainly weekly.
  • Create a template for individual employee project activity.
  • Expand sick day guidelines/benefits.
  • Provide laptops for anyone who needs them.
  • Set up special passwords and login access so people working from home don’t expose company materials to access by family members and visitors.
  • Triple-check health-related warnings and recommendations before sharing them with employees.
  • Stock up on sanitizers, gloves and face masks for employees.
  • Adopt a heightened routine for cleaning surfaces throughout the office, including door knobs, stairwell railings, elevator buttons, desks, keyboard, phones, etc.
  • Remind employees that any and all communications, quotes and comments about how the company is handling this issue must come from authorized spokespeople, and ask (or tell) employees not to post about it to Facebook and other social media.

In general

Whether you work in-house or freelance from home, you might feel the urge to stock up on household supplies and find that your usual grocery or big-box store is running low. Remember that drugstores and department chains (Target, Dollar Stores, etc.) carry things like toilet paper, dry goods, pet food and supplies, beverages, over-the-counter medications and other healthcare products, etc. Many also have refrigerated sections with perishable or frozen foods. There should be a variety of options for keeping your home stocked with whatever you might need in the next few weeks.

Best of luck to all!

How are you coping with and preparing for this situation? What other suggestions do you have for colleagues, whether in-house or freelance?

March 2, 2020

On the Basics: Enhancing diversity and inclusion in your writing (and workplace)

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 6:04 pm

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

Being inclusive and diverse may seem as challenging as switching from two spaces between sentences to one, but really isn’t that hard to do — in many ways, both can be done easily, even though they continue to be a matter of discussion (in the case of spaces between sentences, contention!). Since the publishing world is publicizing, if not championing, the use of new pronouns and options for colleagues to self-identify by ones they prefer, our field can also lead the way in making written works — and the people or businesses producing them — reflect a wide range of variety in ethnic, religious, national/international and gender identities.

I’ve been surprised to notice that TV commercials have become far more inclusive and diverse than many of the programs they support. We editorial professionals can follow their lead in presenting or including a variety of faces and voices.

As writers, most (if not all) of us owe it to our readers to include, and accurately represent, people of all backgrounds, or at least enough to make it clear that we understand there is a world of variety that we live in, work in, and write/edit/proofread about.

As editors (and maybe even as proofreaders, although this should be managed before that stage), we owe it to our authors and other clients to say something when an opportunity to be inclusive is missed.

As anyone who hires writers, editors, proofreaders, etc., we owe it to our employees and the people they serve to widen the scope of where we look for new people.

As organizers of events, we owe it to participants to go beyond the usual group of presenters to find new and varied voices and faces to make those events more interesting and representative of an industry, profession and cause. It’s also smart to use new channels to reach participants who bring variety and diversity to the events.

That doesn’t mean every story or event has to include everyone, but that it’s worth making the effort to go beyond a standard, and somewhat limited, range of people to illustrate the topics we work on. It makes sense to create stories and publications that reflect the real world, and the reality is that world is one of variety, difference and diversity.

One of the best ways to be more inclusive and diverse is to look for versions of the professional associations we turn to first for advice, colleagiality, new hires, trends, projects, etc. In the USA, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) might be the lead organization of and for journalists, but there’s also the National Association of Black Journalists and groups for and of journalists who are Pacific Asian, Hispanic, etc. If your company needs to bring in more women, look to the Association of Women in Communications. There are organizations for photographers and artists of color, and probably for other communications professionals as well; if not independent entities, there might be subgroups of standard associations that include people of color, various nationalities, different genders, etc.

This perspective isn’t limited only to organizations in communications to consult when hiring. If you’re a journalist, you need to look beyond the big, standard organizations to find people to interview who represent various voices and culture. Associations are a great source of, well, sources — experts in or members of almost any profession or field you can imagine. You might usually contact the American Medical Association for people in that profession to feature in profiles or include in interviews, but there’s a National Medical Association whose members are black. You might know about the American Bar Association, but there’s also the National Bar Association for and of attorneys of color, and the National Association of Women Lawyers or the Women’s Bar Association, just as starting points. Most national trade or membership associations have groups or committees for members of various backgrounds as well.

The not-for-profit sector is also a rich source of diverse sources, situations and experiences. No matter what you’re writing about, or what your authors/clients are writing about, there’s a nonprofit for that — and a lot of them are smaller than a Red Cross, AARP, United Way, etc., but doing important, productive work that includes and/or affects people of varied ethnic, religious, economic and other backgrounds. Some of the larger nonprofits partner with smaller organizations that can add diversity to an article or other project.

The Internet is full of sources of images, many copyright-free, that can be added to various projects when you want to include people of color, different genders, people with disabilities, nontraditional family units, etc.

An easy first step from the grammar perspective is to stop using he, him and his as the default pronoun, and even to avoid the somewhat-clunky s/he, her/him and hers/his or switching back and forth within a piece of writing. The easiest way is to use plural pronouns wherever possible, especially when you don’t know or need to identify the gender or preferred pronoun of someone being written about. To make this even easier, they/their as a singular has been adopted by the major style guides, but I’ve found that plurals usually keep the flow going more smoothly and don’t make readers stop to wonder about meaning.

In the aftermath of recent reactions to the novel American Dirt, where the author has been pilloried for writing about experiences of people from a culture she doesn’t belong to, this might seem risky. I’m not talking about presenting oneself as something one isn’t (although I don’t think that’s really what that author did, and canceling her readings seemed cowardly on the part of bookstores and other venues, even given the insane threats she and they received). I’m talking about realistically presenting the world as it is: full of variety in backgrounds, perspectives, opinions, experiences and more.

Whether you’re writing, editing, proofreading, illustrating, publishing, hiring or more, take time to look beyond the easy sources to find people who represent a wider world of reality. The results — more interest, more readers, more sales, more respect — will be worth the effort.

Have you encountered a lack of diversity in the editorial work you do? Have you succeeded in increasing diversity and inclusion in your projects?

Ruth E. “I can write about anything”® Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com). She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

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