Issue 71, 21 April 2003
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber
In this issue...
New book now out: Taming OpenOffice.org Writer
Escape from the grammar trap
Long or short web pages?
Follow-up: On the Web - screens, windows, pages?
Follow-up: Visual accessibility
International standard for telephone numbers?
The Editorium's article on editors and technology
Australian Publishers Association Training
Also for Australians - Freelance editing: running a business
My books: Taming Microsoft Word and others
This issue contains some correspondence. Please note that I do not publish correspondents' names or addresses without their permission. If you do write, and you don't want your letter published, even anonymously, then say so in the note.
I've mentioned in past newsletters my interest in the open source software called OpenOffice.org. In early April I published a book covering some aspects of the word processing component, Writer. For more about the program and the book, see
A revised and expanded version of my article titled Escape from the grammar trap is now available on the TECHWR-L site, http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/writing/grammartrap.html
The article covers some reasons why editors focus on details and not the bigger picture; how much attention technical communicators should pay to formal rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage; and how we can distinguish between essential and nonessential rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage.
This website won a Merit in Technical Communication award in the 2002 Technical Publications & Online Communication Competition conducted by the Australia Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication.
One of the benefits of entering the STC's competition is the chance to get constructive criticism from one's peers. Most of the negative comments on the site related to consistency problems within the navigation. I agreed with all the comments, most of which I had identified previously but not got around to doing anything about. After reading the judges' comments, I finally made a few changes; the most conspicuous is removing the subcategories from the left-hand navigation bar in the Books section, which previously had looked quite different from the navbar in all the other sections.
Another criticism was that many of the pages (articles) were quite long, and should be broken up into shorter pages. That is very much a matter of opinion, and I do not agree. Several years ago various "authorities" were recommending that web pages should be kept short (for the same reasons that help topics are thought to be best kept short), but even then this was a hotly debated point of view. Many articles published on the web are single entities, and are intended for quite a different purpose than help topics, so breaking them up does the reader no service.
I was interested to see a thread on the TECHWR-L list (under the subject line "The humbling reality of writing multi-page articles"), in which the original poster noted how the click- throughs to second and following pages of long articles dropped off significantly, and responders commented on the reasons why they dislike articles broken into chunks on separate pages. The thread starts here:
(I note that the TECHWR-L site's online magazine keeps articles all on one page; or if not, the articles are broken into "Part 1," "Part 2," etc and published as separate, but related articles rather than pages of one article.)
My personal favorite solution to this dilemma is to provide long articles in two versions (one long page or several shorter, linked pages), so readers can choose which they prefer. I might do that too, if I had the time, though I don't think most of the older material on my site would split up neatly into multiple pages, as it was originally written for a print medium and has not been rewritten for the website.
Another excellent solution, which is used by the TECHWR-L site, is to provide a "printer-friendly" version of a long page, either in HTML or in PDF, for those who wish to save the article. This solution is particularly useful for websites using two- or three-column layout; the printer version usually has only the article itself, not all the side navigation and advertising in the side columns. This is a service I would really like to provide, if I had the time.
Several people wrote to point out the entry under "Screen Terminology" in the Microsoft Manual of Style (Second Edition, 1998) that reads, "(Page:) Refers to one of a collection of Web documents that make up a Web site. Use page to refer to the page the user is on, that is, the particular document, or to a specific page such as the home page or start page."
Linda Wiesner, Senior Technical Editor at Sun Microsystems, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
"At Sun, we just updated our internal editorial style guide. Our new chapter on "Online Writing Style" uses the word "page" when referring to an online document page or web page.
"We are also updating the external version of our style guide, Read Me First. Read Me First is based on our internal Sun style guide, but we have edited it to make it relevant for all environments and added more content. It is scheduled for release at this year's STC International Conference in mid-May."
Gail Warman offers this Australian source: The chapter "On-screen production" in the 6th edition of the Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS) Style Manual refers to pages.
A reader wrote,
"Regarding the article [in issue 70] on the unusable usability site: my IE has a View option on the toolbar that includes a Text Size option. When I can't read a web page because the font is too small, I just change the size with this tool."
"That doesn't always work, if the site is coded in certain ways. In the case of the site I mentioned, it didn't work. (I can't recall if the font enlarged at all, but if it did, it was a trivial amount, unlike the behavior of the text on a properly coded website.) When it does work, it's great. With IE, I can also use the mousewheel to increase font size -- but only if the website isn't coded to effectively prevent this."
A reader asked,
"What's the international standard for phone numbers? hyphen-separated or period-separated?
"I don't know whether there is an international standard. I've seen both hyphen-separated and period-separated, and I've also seen space-separated...
Later I found http://www.numberingplans.com/ which mentions ITU (International Telecommunications Union) Recommendation E.123, which recommends the following formats (when dialing the area code is optional for local calling):
National notation (042) 123 4567
International notation +31 42 123 4567
E.123 also recommends that a hyphen (-), space ( ), or period (.) be used to visually separate groups of numbers. Parentheses are used to indicate digits that are sometimes not dialed. A slash (/) is used to indicate alternate numbers.
So it looks like my feeling that there is no one "standard" for the punctuation is correct. If any readers have a more definitive reference, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
Jack M. Lyon's excellent Editorium Update had an article in the 5 March 2003 issue on editors and technology: http://www.topica.com/lists/editorium/read/message.html?mid=1712142735
Jack says several things that I've been nagging editors about for years, but he says them more succinctly than I usually do, and puts them into a different context. The article is short.
Flyers and registration forms available online or To register, or for more information, please contact Libby O'Donnell Libby.Odonnell@publishers.asn.au Ph: 02 9281 9788
Onscreen Editing for Publication
This 2-day workshop is focused on editing for publication using Microsoft Word. Extensive experience in Word is not required. The course is suitable for new or experienced editors and writers, and numbers are limited to allow for individual tuition and questions.
Presenter: Brett Lockwood
Sydney: Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 May
Melbourne: Monday 26 May and Tuesday 27 May
More information and registration form available online: http://www.publishers.asn.au/training.cfm?doc_id=130
Rights & Distribution Workshop
Please Note: The dates for this workshop have changed. This workshop was originally to be held in March but is now scheduled for 8 May 2003 in both Sydney and Melbourne.
- Assessment of projects - suitability for overseas markets; establishing what rights you have to sell; where and how a product will sell
- Distribution versus rights sales
- Attending book fairs
- Using rights and distribution agents
- How to negotiate rights and distribution deals
Sydney: Angela Namoi, Rights & Export Manager, Allen & Unwin: Nerrilee Weir, Rights Manager, Random House Australia.
Melbourne: Sandy Grant, CEO, Hardie Grant Books: Tamara Silver, Thomson Learning.
More information and registration form available online: http://www.publishers.asn.au/training.cfm?doc_id=133
The Society of Editors (NSW) presents the next workshop in its Professional Development program.
Freelance Editing: running a business
The program is in four parts: project management, costing and quoting, focusing on business and becoming a freelance editor.
Presenters: Kate Robinson, Ruth Green, Pamela Hewitt, Cathy Gray
Saturday, 17 May, 9am to 5pm
The Station, Jacksons Landing, Pyrmont (Sydney)
Enquiries only (not bookings) to Pauline Waugh, email@example.com
Taming OpenOffice.org Writer
Table of contents is here: http://www.taming-openoffice-org.com/writer/towtoc.htm
Taming Microsoft Word (3 editions, for Word 2002,
2000, and 97) http://www.jeanweber.com/books/tmw
Editing Online Help http://www.jeanweber.com/books/olhbk.htm
Electronic Editing http://www.jeanweber.com/books/e-edit.htm
© Copyright 2003, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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