Monthly Archives: April 2011

Using my Kindle

I wrote a post back in February about my Kindle and my initial thoughts on it. I’ve recently started using the Kindle more, and I thought people might be interested to see my further experiences with the device. This review is cross-posted from my LiveJournal book review blog.

E-book, read on Kindle. Downloaded Feb 2011 from (I think)

Usually, I have a “nice” book or two on the go at home and then a less special copy to pop in my handbag for reading on the bus. But I took a look at my TBR and realised that I’ve got up to the Christmas/Birthday acquisitions, which means lots of “nice” books and not many “handbag” books. So I thought I’d use my poor, dusty Kindle, so eagerly anticipated and so underused since I got it, for reading on the bus. After all, a) I have 44 books on it, and b), as Matthew pointed out, I happily wave my Blackberry around on the bus, which cost twice as much.

So – the reading experience was good. I felt hyper-vigilant at first, taking it into town and back including coming back on the No 50 bus after 8 pm. But it was fine; as far as I could see, noboldy turned a hair, or even looked at it. My commutes to work are quite quiet as I go in early and come back before rush hour, and again, I was fine. I have the Kindle in a case, so I just popped it out of my bag, propped it on my bag on my lap, and there I was. It’s comfortable to hold with the case folded back (I have one shaped like a traditional book) although I don’t yet use it one-handed like the people in the ads. The screen was easy to read in sunlight and duller conditions, the pages are easy to turn, and the procedure for putting it away – flicking the switch and closing the case – take the same amount of time as inserting the bookmark and shutting the book. I am careful of my handbag with it in, and make sure it’s stored vertically between my purse and a notebook, and I’m more careful not to slam my bag down or kick it out of the way (and I keep the Kindle out of the bag at home) and all seems fine.

As to this particular book. Well, it was a charming read, which I would not have been able to read without digging out a second hand copy in Hay on Wye or a similar place, but easily available through Project Gutenberg and other sites like manybooks. My only problem with the text was that a) illustrations were not included (I have read a book with illustrations on M’s e-reader, so assume this is an issue with the text and not the Kindle), and b) some of the accented letters came out oddly – and of course Icelandic has a lot of these. I presume that’s a glitch in the coding, and it was OK, if a little annoying. The narrative itself is the 2nd edition of the book, originally published in 1889 and again in 1894 with a ‘Preface to the Second Edition’ which I didn’t notice until I was checking the publication date. But I’m glad I read it after the main narrative. The book deals with a trip to and around Iceland, undertaken by the author, her brother, her female friend and two of her brother’s male friends. Intrepid as an Isabella Bird, she quickly takes to riding the Icelandic ponies in the “man’s” style, i.e. sitting astride the pony rather than side-saddle, finding it more comfortable and easier on both her and the pony. The consternation with which this report was received was the subject of her Preface, in which she admits that she hasn’t been able to make people change over to the new style. Apart from this controversial issue, it’s a lovely description of Iceland, its people and places, giving a vivid snapshot of the island at the beginning of its tourist age, when it took 5 days to get there by boat from Scotland. Many of the sights and sites are the same, which made it a good companion to my Rough Guide, read recently, and in fact I’m now on to another book about travelling in the country.

A good experiment with the Kindle, and a great book I wouldn’t have found without the device. I will definitely be continuing with both the Kindle and the collection of slightly obscure travel narratives I have loaded onto it.


Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Ebooks, Reading



Capital or lower case?

When do you use a capital letter to start a word, and when do you use lower case?

This is one of those things that has changed through the years. Think about Dr Samuel Johnson’s Twitter-feed for example – it’s partly effective because of its use of capitals. But nowadays, it’s “less is more”.

Of course, we always use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, and traditionally we use one after a colon, too (although this is no longer set in stone – the rule is: be consistent).

Proper names are still capitalized, so: Liz, the city of London (when referring to the place as a whole) but the City of London when referring to that specific region of the city.

Some words are capitalized (or not) to distinguish between an abstract and a concrete use of the term. For example, the Methodist Church as an organisation, but a Methodist church as a building. In a similar way, State is capitalized when you’re talking about a particular state – New York State, or the State of New York as an entity, but when talking about the states of New York and Wisconsin, no capital. And when you’re referring to something you’ve mentioned before, such as the University of Birmingham, you call it “the university” thereafter. The same with people: Prince William, but “the prince said”, etc.

Although this isn’t strictly a “troublesome pair”, the rest of them are here.


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5 top tips for working from home

This month’s guest post is from Annabelle Beckwith of Yara Consulting and Coach Me Confident. I met Anna on our very first day at University (ahem) years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. Anna was always the dynamic, arty one, full of ideas and enthusiasm, whereas I was more of a plodder. I don’t think either of us would have thought that, (ahem) years on, we’d both be running our very different businesses! Anna’s company Yara offers innovative and exciting training methods that really work – she’s been doing it longer than me, and working full-time from home, so many of us could benefit from her tips for making a home office work well and smoothly. Over to you, Anna …

Working From Home – 5 top tips

Several years ago, I worked from a rather expensive city centre office, in the mistaken belief that it would impress my clients. Sitting on the crowded commuter train one morning, it occurred to me that working from home would be a far more sensible option, cutting down massively on costs and travel and, well … just making an awful lot more sense.

Working from home, of course, has massive advantages – the flexibility and the comfort factor among them. It does, though need a different mindset. Here are my top 5 tips for anyone thinking of working from home:

1. Get organised!

If, like me, you’re not the world’s tidiest person, you will need to exert some self discipline to keep your work in order. This will range from organising your work space (so you don’t scatter things around the house and end up losing half of it), to ensuring that you have some sort of filing system, to making sure that you keep track of your finances.

It might seem like a bit of a faff to spend time at the beginning setting up a few systems, but believe me, it will be time well invested, and you’ll feel the benefit of it later on!

2. Set your goals

Two big areas for me at the start of my working-from-home career were goal setting and prioritising. The freedom of working from home can be such that it’s easy to end up running round like a headless chicken, doing lots of ‘stuff’ but not actually achieving anything.

Make sure you have clear goals about what you want to achieve, and devise a plan or schedule that will enable you to keep track of it all, and get the work done.

3. Learn to prioritise

Prioritisation is another key area for the home-worker: with no-one else telling you what to do, it’s important that you prioritise the right tasks. Avoid the temptation to do the things you like doing, or can get out of the way quickly and prioritise on the basis of how urgent and/or important something is (Steven Covey). Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ is a good one on this subject.

4. Find your balance

When I first started working from home, people would say to me, “how do you deal with all the distractions?” as if the lure of daytime TV or endless cups of tea might overwhelm the necessity to actually do some work.

I’m sure that most home-workers will find that the reverse is true: it can actually be difficult to switch off. I often find myself writing blogs or e-mails later in the evening, when my kids are asking me to spend time with them.

Don’t lose sight of the reason for actually working from home in the first place (in my case, to be able to spend more time with my kids). Make sure you strike a healthy balance.

5. Join a network

One of the drawbacks of working from home – particularly if you’re working full time – is that you don’t have the advantage of being able to socialise with colleagues. Join some networks – online ones like LinkedIn are great, but find some that have local meetings and will enable you to make some new contacts and meet other people in the same boat.

Who knows – it may even lead to more business!

If you’ve enjoyed this guest post, you can find more like it, including a great recent series on goal-setting, on the Yara blog.


Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Blogging, Business, Guest posts, Organisation


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On the humble apostrophe

I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything on the apostrophe, as it seems such a basic thing that people like me who work with words tend to go on about (we don’t really roam the streets, Sharpie in hand, looking for hapless greengrocers … )

But then I noticed more and more confusions, and a friend or two mentioned that they still weren’t sure, so: the humble apostrophe.

Turning to the dictionary, an apostrophe is “an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem addressed to a person or personified thing.” Oh – not the one we want. OK, it’s “a punctuation mark (‘) used to indicate either possession or the omission of letters or numbers.” That’s better.

Let’s move on to Hart’s Rules, which, oddly enough, contains the rules of English. The following information is summarised from Hart’s. Please do pay attention to all but the ones I mark as terribly hard – they are the ones where you need to know there’s something funny about them and you’ll need to look them up. That’s what we all do, just to check …

The apostrophe is used in two ways – to show possession (ownership) and to mark where letters or numbers have been missed out.

– Use an apostrophe and an s with a normal single noun or indefinite pronoun to show possession – the girl’s job, the box’s contents, anyone’s guess.
A bit harder
– Use the apostrophe and s combination for plural nouns that don’t end in s – people’s opinions, children’s toys.
– Do NOT use an apostrophe in the possessive pronouns: hers, its, ours, yours, theirs – theirs is the kingdom of heaven, a friend of yours, give the dog its dinner (it’s easier to remember the “its” rule if you think of it belonging to this section).
A bit harder still
– Use the apostrophe alone (no s after it) after plural nouns that DO end in s – our neighbours’ gardens, other countries’ borders.
– In compound and “of” phrases, the apostrophe (and the plural, in fact) go after the last noun – my sister-in-law’s son, the King of Spain’s estates.
– Use an apostrophe and s with personal names ending with an s, x, or z sound – Charles’s, Dickens’s, Marx’s and Jesus’s.
Ever so hard (to be honest I sometimes have to look these up and I don’t often see them used correctly) …
– Use an apostrophe and no s when talking about time passing – in a few days’ time, a few weeks’ holiday. But if it’s in the name of a war, no apostrophe – The Hundred Years War.
– A double possessive (making use of both “of” and an apostrophe) may be used with nouns related to living beings or personal names – a speech of Churchill OR a speech of Churchill’s. But it’s not used with nouns referring to organisations, etc. – a friend of the National Gallery.
– A double set of nouns – apostrophe and s go after them if they are acting together – Broomfield and Dexter’s “The Rules of Grammar” – but not if they’re separate – Shakespeare’s and Jonson’s tragedies.
– Apostrophe and no s for a singular noun that ends in an s or z sound combined with “sake” – for goodness’ sake, for old times’ sake (times here is a plural so has the apostrophe after the s). This is the one I have to look up. Maybe you should save this blog post for those purposes.
Believe me, there are more obscure rules, for example those dealing with Greek names. If you need to know, ask me!

Just – don’t. If you really, really need to differentiate, you are just about allowed a small, occasional one, only in examples like – dot the i’s and cross the t’s, find all the number 5’s. But that’s it. And there’s not one with numbers any more, although this has changed in the last decade or so: the 1980s not the 1980’s.

Use an apostrophe when a letter or number has been missed out: won’t, we’ll, bo’sun, ’70s, it’s warm out today.
A bit harder
Don’t use an apostrophe before a word that’s been shortened but is now in general use – flu, cello and phone, not ‘flu, ‘cello and ‘phone.
If the apostrophe replaces the beginning or end of a word, it has a space before/after it to make the word stay separate – rock ‘n’ roll. If the apostrophe replaces a letter in the middle of the word, no space – ma’am, o’er.
Madly hard to remember
An apostrophe is used before the suffix when an abbreviation functions as a verb – KO’d, OD’ing.

Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th rev. ed.) Oxford: OUP, 2008.
New Hart’s Rules Oxford: OUP, 2005.


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Helping out at the Social Media Surgery

I usually post about words and editing-related things, but this time I wanted to share a great experience I had the other week. I was aware of the Birmingham Social Media Surgery but didn’t really know what it was and how it worked. Last Wednesday, I saw a few tweets asking for volunteers to help. But I didn’t really know what the parameters were and what constituted an “expert” who could help other people learn about using social media. So I waited until I was in town late that afternoon, and popped along to the Orange Studios on Cannon Street (Birmingham), which is where they are always held.

I met the organisers and explained I was there to help; they took my details and said they’d match me up with a visitor so I could start helping. They even lent me a laptop for the occasion (this was a Mac, which caused me some consternation and could have been embarrassing – “Yes, I know all about the internet; unfortunately I’m unable to use a computer!”) By this time, I’d gathered that the point of a Social Media Surgery is that people who know about social media and how to use it help people involved with community and charitable organisations to learn about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I was paired up with a chap who’d come in just after me. We sat down and I found out his background (he helped community organisations promote themselves and their events), established where he was so far, then chatted about how he could use social media more effectively. For example, I showed him how to link his LinkedIn account to Twitter, we chatted about the (lack of) etiquette for posting on Twitter, and I think possibly the most useful thing – the fact that, in this world of New Media and Social Media, if you see someone doing something you think is good, they usually don’t mind if you contact them and ask them how they did it! As I’ve worked for a New Deal For Communities project in the past, and have organised and promoted events, using social media, hopefully I had some background knowledge which would help.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences and giving advice at Birmingham Social Media Cafe before now, but that’s more for other entrepreneurs. This is real grass-roots stuff, helping groups who may be digitally disadvantaged grasp the opportunities some of us take for granted or have been fortunate enough to have the time, education and resources to work out for ourselves. I came away feeling great about having been able to share some of my knowledge and help someone who can help people perhaps less fortunate, but definitely less digitally-literate, than myself. I didn’t set myself up as an “expert” but the team there were supportive and friendly.

I’d recommend any entrepreneurs and small business owners out there to “give something back” in this kind of way. It’s so rewarding, relationships can be forged which may well be beneficial to both parties, and I hope I’ll be back every month!


Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Business, New skills



March and April

So, it’s time for a new “What I’ve been up to” post, since my readers seem to like those, and that covers the “March” bit of my title, but I also want to look forwards into the new financial year and say thank you to my clients for the past financial year. That’s the April bit.

First of all, what I did in March …
– Continued working on my Taiwanese client’s essays – the English is really improving in these; I’m proud of both of us for that
– Continued working for my US agency client on their client’s web pages and publications
– Finished writing the content for the two websites I’ve been working on for a while
– Continued working for my translator client, including a wide range of interesting topics
– Transcribed an interview for my ongoing journalist client and read a couple of articles she’s created out of interviews I’ve transcribed (which I find *fascinating*)
– Worked on my physiotherapist client’s blog posts, including tidying up the posts themselves, adding categories to those that didn’t have them and creating a set of tags for the posts and applying those to them too, copyedited her website and turned two e-books into one
– Did a transcription of a radio show about music for a previous PhD client who’s now working on a new project
– Copyedited several third year and Master’s dissertations on economics, one on art, and one on sports science
– Copyedited a chapter of a thesis on international law

Now, here’s the April bit. It’s the start of a new tax year, and also my new financial year. I’ve run my accounts for the year and am pleased with and proud of what I’ve achieved this year. And, while obviously I’m grateful to Matthew for his support (including technical support); and my friends for their understanding as I guiltily check the Blackberry while I’m out and about with them, or dash home to finish a project; and my copyediting and small business peers for their help and advice, I want to say a big thank you to my clients.

Dear Libro clients: Thank you for taking me on in the first place, either because you’ve seen my adverts or I’ve tweeted to you or however else you found me. Thank you for trusting the person who recommended me and approaching me. Thank you for responding to my questions quickly, for making decisions if I’ve needed you to make them, and for keeping me informed of your plans and when you’re going to send me things. Thank you for understanding that I do need to work around my day job (and eat and sleep occasionally!). Thank you for your kind comments, your references for my website or on LinkedIn or Facebook. Thank you for either coming back to me for more work, recommending me to your friends and colleagues, or both! I really enjoy the work I do, I love learning about all the different things you all write about, I love creating new text for you or helping you hone what you’ve created yourselves.

Here’s to a happy, busy and successful 2011-2012 for all of us!


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A new poll

I’ve added a poll to find out which kinds of post you prefer. Please do fill in the poll

What are your favourite posts on this blog?

and comment on this post if you have any particular topic you’d like to see me cover.

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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Blogging