Royal Holloway update

There have been some changes to Royal Holloway’s proofreading scheme since I became an approved proofreader in 2015.

RHUL

Founder’s Building in spring

Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) is one of the UK’s leading universities and my alma mater. It is located in Egham, Surrey and is famous for the beautiful Founder’s Building. You might recognise Founder’s from its fleeting appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron (it was really weird to see Thor outside somewhere I know so well).

The proofreading scheme is open to postgraduates and only allows the identification of errors. Undergraduates looking to improve their writing are encouraged to attend workshops and meetings organised by the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills (CeDAS) and are not currently allowed to use the proofreading scheme.

The identification code and proofreading policy remain the same, but the method of arranging the proofreading work has changed. This is what happens:

  1. The student’s supervisor completes a proofreading consent form and the supervisor sends the completed form to CeDAS.
  2. The student uses CeDAS’s online booking form to request the service of a proofreader from the approved list.
  3. CeDAS send the booking request to the proofreader. The proofreader contacts the student with a fee and timeframe for the work.
  4. The student sends the proofreader the final draft and the style guide.
  5. The proofreader returns the work and receives payment. The student makes corrections and then submits the work, making sure to acknowledge the use of a proofreader.

I’m happy to discuss my availability with RHUL students before they complete the booking request, but I can’t make any guarantees until I receive the official form from CeDAS. It is also important that students familiarise themselves with the level of intervention they can expect. You can read more about the scheme here.

‘Carat’ and ‘carrot’

Carat and carrot are, of course, homophones. And this means that phrases such as ’24-carrot gold’ are commonplace. It’s an amusing mistake, but not when someone else finds it in your writing.

CarrotsCarat

  • (or karat) a measure of the purity of gold
  • a unit of weight of precious stones

Carrot

  • tapering root vegetable (often orange in colour)
  • the plant that produces carrots
  • something offered as an incentive or a means of persuasion

My tip: carrots are root vegetables (and they will rot).


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

 

Notes from a proofreader: check for these words

WARNING: This post contains language some readers may find offensive. But we’re all adults, right?

You learn a lot when you work in the editorial profession. I’ve proofread texts on subjects from self-hypnosis to the Industrial Revolution, and they’ve all taught me something new. Some of the things I have learnt are very specific in nature, but some are more general and it is those I am planning to share on my blog.

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A big clock. Image: Pixabay

This post is about words you should probably do a global search for before you declare your editing and proofreading process complete. I knew about some of these from my training, but they pop up in real life with alarming regularity. “What are you on about, Hannah?” I hear you say. Well, I’m talking about misspelling words such as public, count and shirt. Leave a letter out of one of those and the result is a tad embarrassing. And it happens. I’ve seen it in real proofs for real books.

This isn’t an exhaustive list,  but I’ll add to it as I discover more. I suggest adding a global search for these words to your list of editing and proofreading tasks:

  • Cock (when you meant clock)
  • Cunt (when you really, really meant count)
  • Fag (instead of flag)
  • Poof (when it should have been proof – particularly a danger if you write proofreader a lot)
  • Pubic (when you meant public)
  • Shit (instead of shirt)

Obviously, you will sometimes deliberately use those words, but coming across an unintended use of pubic is never ideal. They are hard to spot because they are so similar to the intended word and we often read what we expect to be there, not what is actually there. Our brains will just fill in the missing letter. Spellcheck is not going to flag these errors for your attention, so checking for them is something you need to do manually (unless you have specialist software to do it for you). And if you only check one (although I’m not sure why you would only do one) it should be pubic. That one likes to pop up quite often.

Are there any words with missing letters that have left you red-faced? Let me know in the comments!

I’m so busy

“I’m so busy” is something I have been saying a lot over the last few months. It’s not a complaint – I am delighted that I seem to be attracting lots of work. But it is my excuse for the lack of recent blog posts. I am still here, although I am usually to be found on Twitter. I’ve been taking part in #HampshireHour every Tuesday (apart from the one evening I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2), which is fabulous for local networking. I’ve met some lovely people. I also attend my local SfEP meetings and they have been a brilliant source of motivation and encouragement.

OscarMost of my recent work has been on books for publishers, but I’ve also worked with an independent author and on online content for a local business. I love the variety. The books have included memoirs, children’s fiction and a short story collection. I started out by specialising in non-fiction, but my fiction titles are adding up now (five at the time of writing). I didn’t expect to branch into fiction so quickly, but I’m enjoying it.

I was joined by a new editorial assistant in February. He isn’t very helpful: he tries to chew my pens, he likes to sit on my laptop, and he knocks everything off my desk. But he’s a sweetheart and his paws are usually clean before he sits on the proofs. (Don’t worry – he only sits on my printouts and not the publisher’s copies.)

I hope, now I am adjusting to being “in demand”, to be able to blog regularly again and to catch up on some of the wonderful blogs I follow.

All the best, and please feel free to say hi!

‘Hoarse’ and ‘horse’

I can’t remember ever seeing hoarse used when the writer actually meant horse (e.g. “I’m going to turn out my hoarse”) but it does seem common the other way round (e.g. “sorry, I’ve gone a bit horse”). That’s all the excuse I need to write a post that enables me to use a magnificent image of a magnificent animal.

Hoarse

  • (of a voice) rough, harsh and/or unclear
  • having a rough, harsh and/or unclear voiceHorse in water

Horse

  • a solid-hoofed, four-legged domesticated mammal with a mane and tail
  • a frame or structure used to support or mount something or someone
  • to provide someone or something with a horse (or horses)

My tip: hoarse is often harsh.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

Noctambulate

starry-nightDo you enjoy going for a stroll at night-time? I do; there’s nothing quite like taking a walk under a starry sky on a quiet evening.

This week’s interesting word is an easier way of saying ‘to walk at night’: noctambulate. It hasn’t fallen completely out of use in the English language but it is fairly rare.

Noctambulate can also be used to refer to sleep walking. Nocti- means ‘of, at or relating to night’ and ambulate means ‘to walk’ or ‘to move about’.

The OED records the first usage as in 1955. However, the words noctambulation and noctambulist are much older (both early 18th century). Noctambulation means the action of walking at night, while a noctambulist is a person who walks at night.

“I rarely did this, but now and then I would noctambulate through the city, where the lights were going off, or had long since gone…”

– Howard Spring, These Lovers Fled Away, 1955


Sources:

‘Principal’ and ‘principle’

Principal and principle are homophones. I’ve come across principal misused more often than principle, but it’s common to get them both confused. Principle is usually a noun but principal can be an adjective or a noun.

Principal

  • first in order of importance or value
  • lady-justicethe most important or senior person in an organisation

Principle

  • a fundamental truth, proposition, rule or law
  • a moral rule or set of such morals
  • a general scientific theorem or law
  • a fundamental source or basis of something

My tip: principal is spelled with an a, which is the first letter in the alphabet – and a principle is often a rule.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary (2009)
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

Mubblefubbles

Have you ever felt in low spirits and struggled to find an appropriate word to describe how you feel? I would like to suggest mubblefubbles as an option. It is considered to be obsolete but I think it’s a suitably expressive word for a difficult to verbalise feeling.

Mubblefubbledark-cloudss means a state of depression, melancholy or despondency. It’s quite often used in the form of to be in (or out of) one’s mubblefubbles.

The OED’s first recorded usage is from 1589 but the word’s origins are unclear. It could be imitative and I suspect the alternative form mumblefubbles may support this idea.

“‘I never used to be so full of the mubblefubbles,’ he told me wryly. ‘So fearful, so bitter—but the days when I was—when I was myself—seem so long ago that I can hardly remember them.'”

– Nancy Springer, The Golden Swan, 2014


Sources:

‘Descent’ and ‘dissent’

Descent and dissent are homophones that may just be a tad topical. It’s definitely worth knowing the difference.

descentDescent

  • the act of moving downwards, falling or dropping; a decline
  • the origin or background of a person (in terms of family or nationality)
  • a sudden attack or unexpected visit (descent on)

Dissent

  • the holding or expression of opinions that differ from those commonly or officially held
  • to hold or express opinions that differ from those commonly or officially held

My tip: to dissent is usually to disagree.


Sources:

Overmorrow

Have you ever wished there was a simpler way to say ‘the day after tomorrow’? Well, I’m here to provide you with the ideal word: overmorrow.

morning-sunrise-in-the-alpsIt is probably modelled on the German word übermorgen (über meaning ‘over’ and morgen meaning ‘morning’ or ‘tomorrow’). The German language has retained the use of übermorgen, but sadly overmorrow has become obsolete in English. I think that’s a shame – overmorrow expresses a useful concept concisely and without confusion.

The OED gives the first recorded use of overmorrow as in 1535, but I’m disappointed to report that I haven’t been able to find many examples. I’m slightly surprised as I had thought it might be popular in contemporary fantasy or historical fiction; it would certainly fit in nicely.

“‘Eh, no good. We’ll change that,’ she said. ‘You’ll start overmorrow.'”

– Greer Macallister, The Magician’s Lie, 2015


Sources:

 

Reasons I provide a sign-off form

This post expands on something I wrote on the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) forum a while ago. It was in response to a fellow member’s query about how to get feedback from clients, and I’m sure anyone who works as a freelance or on a project-by-project basis will know how difficult this can be.

A sign-off form is a relatively new addition to my documentation process, but it has proved to be an effective tool for gaining feedback. Previously, I was worried about asking for my client’s opinion of my work. (My thought stream sounded something like this: what if they hate my work? What if they hate me? What if they tell everyone I’m useless and I never get any work again and I starve to death and am eaten by my cats? Or worse, I have to go back to working in admin. Or retail.) But over time I have realised that isn’t very conducive to personal and professional progression. And, actually, most people are nice and want to say nice things. The client sign-off form has facilitated a significant boost to my confidence.

feedbackI first started using the sign-off form as a condition of my professional indemnity insurance (my insurer prefers that there is a documented sign-off where the client accepts the work I have done). The form simply asks the client to confirm that they have received the project and that it has been completed according to the brief and any terms and conditions. I have then added space (a comment box) for the client to use to leave any feedback they might want to give. There are two main reasons I added that box:

  1. It’s an easy way to get a testimonial. I find it awkward to ask directly, and it doesn’t put any pressure on the client to provide one. They simply can if they wish. (But I make it clear on the form that I might use their feedback for promotional purposes unless they tell me they would prefer otherwise.)
  2. I want to know if the way I have the approached the project is the best way for them. This is particularly important for clients I hope to develop a long-lasting relationship with. Some publishers like things done slightly differently to others, which might not have been mentioned in the brief. If I know what the client likes, I can do it. The form signals to the client that I want, and am prepared for, constructive feedback.

Nearly every client I have sent a sign-off form to has returned it, and returned it with positive feedback. I’ve had positive comments about the use of the form itself, so I’m reassured that it comes across as a thoughtful and professional document. This has led me to consider, so far, that the sign-off form has been a success. Once you have the template ready to go, it takes hardly any time at all to produce, and it is quick for the client to complete while still allowing for more specific detail than tick-boxes or similar.

Any fellow freelancers have suggestions for effective ways to get useful feedback? I’d love to know.