Issue 34, 2 April 2000
In this issue...
Readability and usability
Copyright in Canada
Question Time: Do editors need a desktop publishing program?
Freelance editing rates in Australia
Order of descriptive elements
Need an older version of a web browser for testing purposes?
Praise for technical editors
Correction to information on university courses in Australia
Resources: InFrame magazine
Resources: The Economist Style Guide online
Advertisement: Electronic editing book
This is a catch-up issue, containing a mixed bag of news items and other information that's been collecting in my inbox. Life here in the Eyrie is *interesting* at the moment, with a cyclone looming offshore and me recovering from cataract surgery (successful, but my close vision is taking its time settling down).
In issue 29 of this newsletter (7 January) I reprinted some notes from one of the readability threads on the Techwriters' list, TECHWR-L. That thread was mainly discussing readability indexes such as the Flesch Index and Gunning's Fog Index, and I think its focus was a bit narrow. As Geoff Hart noted in that debate, I define readability as the ease with which the text communicates the author's desired meaning.
John S. Rhodes firstname.lastname@example.org made some comments on the Online-Writing list that expand the discussion into issues of usability as related to readability, and he has given me permission to reprint them here.
Here is some usability information to digest:
- Here's a usful link to the "Readability Of Websites With Various Foreground/Background
Color Combinations, Font Types and Word Styles".
- Also, here's a pointer to Alyson Hill's report on the readability of various
text/background color combinations.
- I'm sure most people here have seen it, but I'll point to Jakob Nielsen's
article on how people "read" on the web.
- I conducted an interview with optometrist Dr. Gary J. Williams a while
ago call "Vision, Reading and Computer Users". He covers all kinds of things
about computer use (and reading). If you're curious about glare filters,
discomfort, reading problems, interventions, and so forth, in relation to
computer use, this is a great resource.
- Finally, here is a link to an interview I conducted with Jared Spool. He discusses many things, but most importantly, he explains why collecitng data on users is the key. We can't simply design and write without knowing what our readers want. The only way to *really* know is via data gathering. http://webword.com/interviews/spool.html
Here's my quick take on the readability and page scanning issue:
- People don't have time, so they scan.
- Reading off of a computer screen is not pleasant. Your eyes get dry faster
since you stare and you aren't usually looking down (i.e., your eyelids
aren't covering your eye as much).
- The effective use of whitespace, links, colors, bullets, and boldface, for example, are often just as important as the content itself. I'm not talking about design per se, but usability and comfort for readers.
In January, Rebecca Downey email@example.com contributed this information the Technical Writers' list (TECHWR-L), and she has given me permission to reprint it here.
In Canada the rules [on copyright] differ from those in the US. Fortunately both countries have a lot of information on the Web. Some important sites on copyright in Canada are:
- The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is responsible for the administration
and processing of the greater part of intellectual property in Canada.
- The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, a reproduction rights organisation,
provides legal access to copyright-protected works for millions of Canadian
- The Canadian Publishers' Council represents the Canadian publishing community on the international level in the International Publishers Association and is a member of the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organizations. This site has a great bunch of links in regards to intellectual property in Cananda.
If you are interested in copyrighting something in Canada, I'd recommend you visit the above mentioned sites to see how it's done. In Canada copyright usually lasts for the lifespan of the author +50 years (there are exceptions).
Technical Writer, Matrox Electronics System (Networks Division)
Chuck Brandstater firstname.lastname@example.org wrote,
"I recently saw it asserted on a list that anyone wishing to edit books (implicitly at any stage, none being identified in the thread) on screen must get a DTP app -- one in particular -- or plan on having to scrounge for publishers willing to give them work. Of course, it was a flawed assertion; it has inspired me, though, to seek some informed assessments of the circumstances under which an editor (who may or may not work with typeset copy) ought to consider obtaining one of which DTP apps for which purposes, or even to refrain entirely from using any DTP app."
In my (limited) experience, when dealing with book publishers, most editing is done using a word processor such as Word or WordPerfect, well before the text gets to the DTP stage -- except for final proofing.
It's different with computer manuals published by development companies (not commercial publishers), and a lot of other "technical writing" projects; there the writing and layout are typically done by the same person, at the same time, and the editor either works on paper or needs to know enough about the DTP package to edit without making a mess of the files..)
Which DTP package? Depends entirely on your target audience. For computer manuals, in North America, the preferred package seems to be FrameMaker. For commercial publishing, it's more likely to be PageMaker or something else; I'm not sufficiently familiar with the industry to know what's commonly used in North America. In Australia, a friend who does a lot of commercial editing works in PageMaker, but most of my editing friends use Word, before the layout stage. My suggestion to an editor would be find out what your target client market wants you to use, and buy that.
I'd be very interested to hear from readers about their experiences.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (which includes the former Australian Journalists' Association) recommend the following freelance rates for book editors and proofreaders:
per day $421
per half day $281
per hour $84
Note: I never heard of anyone who gets this much from a publisher (though probably someone does), but I've come close on technical editing jobs in the IT industry.
This list came from an unknown source:
determiner (a, the, that)
ordinal number (first, last)
cardinal number (two, one, six)
general impression (elegant, pretty, pathetic)
size (big, large, little)
other physical features (curved, round)
color (gold, red)
nationality (French, Chinese)
material (brocade, plastic)
subcategory (antique, circus)
The Evolt.org Browser Archive has just about any browser/ version you could want. http://browsers.evolt.org/
Sandra Charker email@example.com writes,
This editorial, titled "Ode to Technical Editors", appeared in PalmPower Magazine... This article is about their senior technical editors, who sound to me like a cross between journalists, diplomats, and saints, which is not *exactly* the way I'd describe the editors I've known <gdr> There's a copy editor's solecisim in there, but I'll leave that for you to find.
Issue 33 gave an out-of-date Web
address for the
Canberra Institute of Technology
Graduate Certificate in Technical and Scientific Communication
E-mail contact is still firstname.lastname@example.org
A free on-line magazine started in October for those of us who use FrameMaker. You can see it at http://www.InFrame-Mag.com
Some tidbits, such as the review section, may be of interest to the non-FrameMaker user, technical writing and editing community.
The Economist Style Guide is now online: http://www.economist.com/editorial/freeforall/library/index_styleguide.html
(Editor's note October 2000: this link no longer works, and I could not find the style guide in a search of the site.)
I'm looking for people to contribute some articles, or tips, or short notes about almost anything related to editing, to this newsletter. If you have something relevant to share, please send it to me! I'm sure the readers would appreciate some contributions about different working styles, materials and clients.
Electronic editing: Editing in the computer age
by Jean Hollis Weber
Published by WeberWoman's Wrevenge
A quick start guide for editing students, experienced editors making the switch from paper to online, and anyone who needs to write or edit electronically.
Available in both downloadable electronic (PDF) and printed forms. For details
on ordering a copy, see
or send e-mail to email@example.com
If you have a product or service of interest to editors, I'll be happy to consider including a short advertisement, for a modest fee. Contact me for details.
© Copyright 2000, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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