Monthly Archives: June 2011

Discreet or discrete?

I’ve noticed this particular pair getting mixed up a lot recently.  In a book I was reading on butterflies (a good book, well researched and well copyedited apart from this one point), in blog posts, in things I’ve been editing … all over the place.  I try not to get too annoyed by mistakes, especially common ones, but this one has been jumping out at me, so it’s obviously asking to be written about!

Something that’s discreet is careful and prudent.  It fades into the shadows and doesn’t make a show of itself; it doesn’t offend.

Something that’s discrete is something that’s separate and distinct.  It has specific uses in maths and science, and, although it is seen in everyday speech and writing, it might be better to just go ahead and use “distinct” instead.

Some examples: “She wore a discreet grey hat with a small feather.” “We can have an affair, but we’ll have to be discreet about it so no one finds out.” The  examination has several discrete, non-overlapping sections, all of which must be passed.”

Really, if you feel that you want to use this word, you probably want to use “discreet”.

For more troublesome pairs, choose the phrase in the category cloud to the right, or click here.


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On plagiarism

So … plagiarism.

We tend to think of plagiarism as “copying” – picking up chunks of text out of a book (then) or good old Wikipedia (now) and putting it in our essays and claiming it’s all written by us.

But plagiarism is really “passing other people’s work off as our own”, and this includes a lot of other things as well as copying out of books.

I’m going to talk about some examples and also about how I work with students to make sure I retain their authorship while helping them with any problems they might have with their writing.

Plagiarism includes:

  • Not citing your sources.  In example 1, below, the author has claimed something but not said where they got it from.  All sources need to be cited and you can have a look at my article on referencing to see how to do that.
  • Copying.  You need to either put other people’s words into your own words, or quote them directly (within the text for short quotations, as an inset block of text for longer ones) and then reference them.
  • Having another person write your work for you.  Very occasionally I get asked to rewrite an essay.  A lot of companies prey on students’ academic worries and fears and try to sell them essays.  If you buy and use someone else’s work like this, you are plagiarising and lying.  Any qualification you gain from this has not been gained legitimately or legally.

So, when I work with an essay, dissertation or thesis, I am very careful not to rewrite anything but only to tweak grammar, punctuation and spelling and suggest where things should be sorted out.  The following image shows a few examples of how I work, and one of how I DON’T work.

In Example 1, the author has not quoted their source and I’ve inserted a comment to remind them to do so.

In Example 2, there’s quite a lot wrong with spelling and grammar, but you can see that the author knows what they’re talking about.  I’ve amended their mistakes, but again that’s all tracked, so they a) can see what they’ve done wrong and b) have to choose whether to accept the change themselves.  By the way, the ‘s’ is changed in emphasized to make it consistent.  I’ll do a post about s and z another time.

In Example 3, a Very Bad ProofReader has seen something missing and decided to add it in.  In this case, rather than a few missing words, it’s a concept or part of the explanation of the actual results that’s missing.  This is a small example – but the author has not written that and the proofreader shouldn’t have.  I’ll suggest adding a word or two, but I wouldn’t complete something missing from the actual substance of the research or discussion.

Example 4 shows how I’d handle that same sentence.  No re-writing, no suggesting – I’ve just highlighted and told them something’s missing.  I’ll do the same if a sentence is mangled, incoherent and just doesn’t make sense.  But I don’t write my clients’ words for them, and students shouldn’t expect their proofreaders to do so (most don’t!).


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in proofreading, Students, Writing


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Who or whom?

This is quite a complicated one and, indeed, most reference sources do state that “who” is used most of the time now, and that that can be seen as being correct.  In other words, “whom” is dying out.  And it’s a slightly nerve-wracking one to do, as people get in such a fuss about it.

But I think I’ve found a way to differentiate quickly between the two, so here goes …

Who is used when referring to the subject of the sentence (the person who is doing, we might say), and whom to the object (the person who is being done to).

So – “The person who is going to the ball”; “The person who is speaking to me”, but “The person whom I am taking to the ball”, “The person to whom I am speaking”

I hope I’ve got that the right way round!

For more troublesome pairs, choose the phrase in the category cloud to the right, or click here.


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Saturday freelance chat – Carl Nixon

Welcome to my second interview with a fellow freelancer.  These are running every Saturday, and are aimed at sharing our experiences in setting up and running our own businesses.  This does gives people a chance to showcase their businesses, but the main aim is to share and encourage.  Each interview includes the same questions, and I’ll be revisiting my interviewees a year after their original interview is published, to see how things are going.

Today we’re going to meet Carl Nixon; I first came across Carl on the 4Networking forums and he’s also on Twitter.  Carl is based in Wales and his business, Excel Expert, has been going for 2 years, so it’s about the same age as Libro.

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

It is called Excel Expert and we are just coming up to our 2nd birthday.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Mainly being bored of my job. I worked for Admiral Insurance for 10 years setting up and maintain their systems and procedures for the brand. Once all the bugs were worked out there was very little challenge left so I found myself just turning up for work at 9, wasting my day and going home at 5.  I should have left years before but it was a genuinely good place to work and I was a part of a great team

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I’ve been a geek and a lover of all things maths all my life so it was almost a no-brainer. I could have equally gone down the database route rather than the spreadsheet route, but I chose spreadsheets because there was less competition. It’s really strange, because databases are becoming our main focus.

Had you run your own business before?

Prior to working for Admiral I ran businesses for other people but never my own.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I started out with the aim of starting part-time and going full-time when I hit a certain turnover. However I was never going to hit that threshold because I never had the time to produce that much turnover. So I just bit the bullet and went for it.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Expect to spend several times more money and time on marketing than you plan to.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Spend more time on marketing and concentrate earlier on eliminating the marketing, working,  marketing, working cycle.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Not left it until I was 40 to start up a business

What are you glad you did?

Making the leap from part-time to full-time. It is a big leap of faith but it just makes it so much easier to get your business really going.

What’s your top business tip?

Has to be fail fast – As soon as you see something not working or going wrong, get right on it. Either fix it or bin it.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

We tried to diversify but it was a nightmare. By offering more core services you dilute your marketing message and as a result it becomes weak and doesn’t have so much reach and impact.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Hopefully employing people so I can take on more work.

Carl’s website is here and you can call him on 029 2125 1450

Thank you for joining in with the interviews, Carl!  The information on going full-time from part-time was particularly interesting for me, and I’ll be interested to see how things are going in a year’s time, as we’re in fairly similar lines of business but with different expansion plans. Here’s how Carl is doing two years down the line

Click here for more freelancer chat.


Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Referencing for academic writing

It’s dissertation season, in the UK at least, and so I thought I’d talk a little bit about some topics that are important to students, whether you’re doing your undergraduate dissertation or a postgraduate Master’s dissertation or PhD.  I’ll cover referencing this time, and then something on planning, structuring and handy hints. If you’ve been through the process and have any hints and tips to share, do get in touch so I can weave them together into a useful document.

So: referencing.  We reference (or cite) what we’ve read when writing an essay or thesis in order to avoid plagiarism and demonstrate that we’ve read around the subject and know what we’re talking about.  There are two aspects to referencing:

  • recording what you’ve read and referred to
  • referring to it appropriately in the text and bibliography of your dissertation

Recording what you’ve read

Putting together your references and bibliography is so much simpler if you keep a note of what you’ve read and consulted as you go along.  In the days of my Library and Information Studies post-grad, it was all done on card index cards.  Now there are lots of different options, including software like EndNote and Reference Manager.  For my research project, I’m just keeping a list on a spreadsheet in Excel.

The information you need to note:

  • Author’s full name.  Editor(s) if appropriate
  • For books: full title of the book.  Full publisher information for the book (you can find this on the bottom of the title page, or the back of the title page), including publisher name, location and date published
  • For chapters in books: Full title of the chapter and a full citation for the book, too (see above)
  • For articles in journals: Full title of the article.  Full title of the journal.  Page numbers for the article
  • For everything: page numbers for any direct quotations or sections you are going to refer to heavily
  • For websites: full URL and date you accessed the web page

Obviously, this is easy to do at the time; just note down the details and off you go.  Much, much harder to reconstruct after the event.

Referring to what you’ve read / citing

Now we’re talking about how you refer to what you’ve read and quoted in the text of the document you’re writing. The most important thing to do here is …


This is hugely important.  Get it right first time, and you’ll pop all the references in easily.  Get it wrong, or don’t bother to check, and you’ll be going through and through the thing, fiddling around with the references, when you should be spending your time refining your arguments and putting your thoughts across.  Or you’ll be paying someone like me £x an hour to sort it out for you!

Referencing systems include Harvard Referencing, APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association).  They all differ in how they ask you to present the information you collected above within your text.

For example, you could be expected to add a footnote number to each quotation in the text, with either a full bibliographical citation in the footnote section or a shortened reference there and a full bibliographical citation in the bibliography.  Or you could be expected to put Smith (2001) in the text and supply a full reference in the bibliography.  Or you might be putting a number in the text, referring to a numbered list in the bibliography.

A full bibliographical citation looks something like this:

Smith, J.L. (2001) The correct way to do referencing.  Birmingham: Libro Publications.

Jones, A.B. (2001) “Me and my essay”, in Smith, J.L. The correct way to do referencing.  Birmingham: Libro Publications.

Robinson, X. (2009) The different forms of citation.  American Journal of Footnotes 33 (1): 202-204.

But it doesn’t always, and the citation method does affect how this looks.

Always, though: ALWAYS, the bibliography is in alphabetical order by author’s surname.  It can take ages to sort this out if it isn’t!

How to conform to each referencing system?  That’s a long, long post that no one would want to read! Your academic institution should provide you with links to reference materials about their preferred system, and, if not, the dreaded Wikipedia does do a good summary of most of the common ones.

Good luck – and happy referencing!


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What is transcription? What does a transcriber do?

One of the jobs I really enjoy – and which can really free up your time if you outsource it – is transcription.

Basically, transcription involves listening to a recording of something and typing the contents up into a document, which is then returned to the client, giving them a written record of what’s on the recording. Typically, this will be an interview – which might be something a journalist has undertaken with someone they’re writing about, or part of a study, where a researcher has interviewed subjects and needs to record their responses.  It can take absolutely ages to type out a recording like this – much longer than you think it will, particularly if you don’t type very fast!

When I learnt to audio-type, it was all done with tapes and a special pedal you pressed to play and rewind the recording.  These days, although you can still get the pedals, it can all be done with MP3s, some special software (I use some provided free by NCH) and the function keys on the keyboard take the place of the pedals.  You can even speed up or slow down the playback.

The time it takes to transcribe a recording depends on several factors:
– the speed at which the people are talking
– the number of people talking
– the clarity of the recording (background noise, phone interview … )
– the clarity of the speaking voices (accents, speaking English as a second language, mumbling … )

If you’ve got lots of interviews to transcribe or need to have a dictation, a lecture, a radio programme or a presentation turned into text, it’s worth contacting a professional transcriber like me to do it for you.

Pricing for transcription is here.

Related posts on the Libro blog: Learn why humans are better at transcription than machines, find out how to develop a career in transcription, and learn about the tools of the trade.

Want to learn more? Read my book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.


Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Skillset, Transcription, What Do I Do?


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Lineage or linage?

I’m going through the replies to my original post asking for troublesome pairs people want me to explain.  I’ll try to cover them all in the fullness of time, so watch this space!

This feels like quite an obscure one, but I’ve been asked, so I’ll answer!

Your lineage is your ancestry or pedigree.

Linage is the number of written or printed lines.

In the spirit of trying to write at least one example that uses both of the words discussed in the post: “How much linage do you need to write out the Earl’s lineage?”

For more troublesome pairs, look at the category cloud to the right, or click here.


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Client or customer?

This is a bit of a funny one, to be honest, but someone asked me to do a post on it, and I do try to help!  So what is the difference between a customer and a client – or, indeed, is there one?

Again, thanks to my Oxford resources for helping me work this through – examples are my own.

According to the Concise Oxford English dictionary …

A “client” is a person who uses the services of a professional organisation or person.

A “customer” is a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

So, really, a customer buys things and a client buys services …  I suppose a good way to differentiate it is: a client is NOT someone who buys an apple from a greengrocer, and you could buy an accounting software package from an accountant as a customer, but most people would say you’d still be their client for their services (even though the dictionary suggests otherwise); if you were just buying the package, you’d be a customer of their re-selling arm.  As clear as mud?

Maybe we should just stick with: customers for goods; clients for services.  Using the dictionary selectively but not going against it. I call the people I work for clients, by the way.

And an added bonus: “clientele” is the collective set of clients!

For more troublesome pairs, have a look at the category cloud to your lower right, or click here!


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I need your feedback!

I’ve been updating this blog more frequently for almost six months now, so I think it’s time to seek some feedback! Please be honest, as I want to know how to improve it in the future!

The survey is here and should only take a few minutes to fill in.  Please note, I CANNOT see who has filled in what, so it’s completely anonymous and you can feel free to be as honest as you need to be!

Thank you for your help!

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Blogging, Business


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Libro update for May

I’m a bit late publishing this May update, but feedback says that people like these, so here goes!

May was a good month, with a nice mix of regular customers and new ones.  I’ve been doing lots of new blog posts, too, starting off my “troublesome pairs” series where I help differentiate between words that people often confuse, and doing a series of posts explaining exactly what the different parts of my job entail, which I’m giving the category “what do I do?“.

As regards paid work, I’ve got up to all sorts of things …

Copy-edited blog posts for an artist, a physiotherapist and a training specialist.

Written up short pieces and longer articles for a website featuring local businesses.

Proofread one ongoing academic client’s essays, gone over a successful PhD candidate’s changes, and worked on some shorter essays for undergraduates and dissertations for postgraduates.

Copy-edited a biography for a local small press.

Proofread a business document for a regular client.

Completed various projects for my regular physiotherapist, translator and magazine designer clients.

I’ve booked in a few students for their dissertations – that work will start to hot up in the next month or so.

I’ve also helped out at another Social Media Surgery, which is always fun and worthwhile, and been on a course to learn how to publish on Kindle and sell the resulting book via Amazon.

Coming up – things are getting lovely and busy in June – I’ve got some new customers, including another translator, more transcriptions coming in; I’ve started putting together a series of interviews with other freelancers, which I’ll be publishing weekly from next Saturday, and I’ve already had a couple of very busy days and hit all my targets!

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Business, Jobs, What Do I Do?


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