Monthly Archives: April 2012

Advise or advice?

There are lots of other word pairs with an -s- and -c- (for example, practise/practice) that are differentiated by the fact that one is a verb (the -s- one) and one a noun (the -c- one). This one gets mixed up just as much, so it’s time to talk about it!

Advise is the verb. It means to offer advice to or to recommend. “‘I would not advise you to climb the steep face of the mountain: walk up the slope, instead,’ said John.”

Advice is the noun. It’s what’s advised: a recommendation or guidance offered with respect to future actions by the person being advised. “We took John’s advice, and took the easy way up the mountain.”

It should become easier to remember these once you have established that (in UK usage):

The word with the s is the verb, and involves doing something

The word with the c is the noun, and involves the thing itself.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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New ways to navigate the resources on the Libro blog

I’ve built up loads of information on all sorts of topics on this blog over the past few years, so I thought it was time to put together a resource to help you find what’s most useful for you. I ran a poll, people said yes, so I did it!

I put this new guide together about a week ago, and it’s proved popular so I thought I’d let you know about it quickly.

I’ve put together one simple resource guide with three main sections:

  • Resources for business – these include posts on how to set up a small business, things to do to grow your business, hints on networking, motivation, etc.; then some information about tax and finally an additional link to my small business interviews (note that business formation and tax posts are relevant to the UK although the rest of it will translate anywhere)
  • Resources for students – how to write an essay or dissertation, plagiarism and quoting sources, and lots more to come
  • Resources for Word users – all sorts of tips and hints to make your documents more consistent and easy to write, change and navigate, including tabs, margins, headings, contents pages and more obscure matters like how to put text in alphabetical order. Also includes a few notes on PowerPoint and other applications,

The whole resource guide offers a good way to find out what you need to know – do have a look and a play around, and let me know if you’ve found anything particularly useful!  I’ll be adding both resources and entries to the resource guide as I go along, of course. Watch this space …

And of course, we still have the index to the Troublesome Pairs and index to all the Saturday Small Business Chat posts.

I hope you enjoy the resource guide and indexes, and the resources they guide you to!


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How to count the words in a PowerPoint 2007 presentation

I recently needed to know the word count in a PowerPoint presentation. In my case, this was because I charge my clients by the word, in the main, and needed to know how much to charge someone for editing her PowerPoint text. But I’m sure it will be useful in other cases, too, for example if you’re a student with a word count target.

And it’s NOT obvious. Plus it’s different in Word 2007 and Word 2010, of course.

So, this is what you do …

How do I count the words in a PowerPoint 2007 presentation?

Open your document and click on the big Office button in the top left (1)

Click on Prepare (2) (like that’s obvious!) then Properties (3). This will give you some of the document properties in a bar along the top (these vary according to how you set up your document in the first place):

And because nothing ever shows you what you want immediately, you then need to click on Document Properties then choose Advanced Properties from the drop down. Then, finally, you get …

A lovely dialogue box with all the properties you could ever want, including the word count.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Powerpoint 2007, for PC. Mac compatible versions should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Related posts:

How do I count the number of words in a PowerPoint 2010 presentation?

How do I count the number of words in a PowerPoint 2013 presentation?

Find all the short cuts here


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Diffuse or defuse?

Two more words that look similar and sound similar but mean different things. Will there ever be an end to these?

To defuse means to reduce the tension or danger in something. This could be a physical something, like a bomb, or a less concrete thing, like an argument or a situation. “To defuse the fight situation that was building up, Tom jumped forward and kissed Dave on the nose.”

To diffuse means to spread out over a wide area. It’s what one of those room scenter things does, in the concrete form. Again, there’s an abstract – you can diffuse an idea and help it spread around the world. Diffuse, the noun, means spread out over, well, a wide area. The group of people from Kent was diffuse now, a few in each neighbourhood. The adjective can also mean lacking in clarity: “That was a bit of a diffuse argument you presented there” – the sense is carried over in the idea of it being all over the place, spread out, rather than precise and targeted.

If you defuse an idea, you render it harmless, eliminate it. Fewer people will hear about it. If you diffuse it, you spread it to more people.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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Why I do my tax return in April

Many people I know who are self-employed or run small businesses submit their tax returns – and find out what they owe – AND pay what they owe – at the end of January each year.

I have just done mine this morning. Not to be smug, I promise, although I am feeling a little smug about it right now, but because a) I have all the information ready, and b) I want to know what I owe the taxman, especially as this is the year I will have to start paying my tax on account (AKA “The double tax year”). You can read all about that in my guest post with Emily Coltman.

And, I am pleased to say, I had a nice surprise. I went a bit wrong and wildly overestimated when I worked out what I thought I was going to owe. But even if it had been a nasty surprise, I’d still rather know what was going on and what I owed: wouldn’t you?

What did I do wrong when working out my tax?

I really thought that, given the Payment on Account thing, I was going to give back around 65% of my income from Libro. This was based on the following fallacies:

  1. I thought I’d earned my personal allowance at my library job and that was that – actually I overpaid tax on that job, and I thought it would be refunded to me personally, whereas actually it just (sensibly)   came off the total tax amount I owed
  2. You know when you are employed and the general rule is that if you knock 25% off your gross pay you’ll pretty well come up with what you’ll end up with after tax? Well I was working on that assumption, forgetting that includes National Insurance payments that I don’t pay now (don’t worry: I do pay others!)
  3. I thought that NIC 4 National Insurance payments, which I have to pay now I’m earning a certain amount, a) were 12% and b) applied to my full profit. Actually they are a) 9% and b) apply to all profit over a certain threshold

Basically, I have ended up needing to give the tax man about 49% of my Libro income, rather than 65%. Which is quite a difference.

Why do my tax return in April?

So I can put aside my tax and know I’ve got it there when I need to pay it. As I said, the main reason is that I want to know what I owe and make sure I put it aside. I’m not going to PAY it until it’s due (in January 2012 and July 2013), but it’s put safely aside, as of this morning, in an account that pays interest.

To release funds to live on. I could also do with some more money to live on for the year. Now I know what the tax bill is, I can happily withdraw the rest of the money in my Libro account to my personal account (NOTE: this is because I’m a Sole Trader: it’s a bit different if you’re a Limited Company), and I now know what I’ve got to live on until next April. Sure, I could take money out as I go along, and lots of people do that, but personally I like to know exactly what I can take – especially in this slightly confusing double tax year.

Because I could. I’m lucky in that I have a simple business model and I do my accounts as I go along, and I’m not VAT registered. So I could finalise my end of year accounts quite easily, and just had to wait for my statements of interest from my banks to come through (you have to state all interest earned from bank accounts on your tax return, even though they are already taxed. The HMRC takes this into account when it tots it all up). Other years, I’ve had to wait for my P60 to come from the library, but this time I had a nice P45 from December and copied the numbers from that. Next year, I won’t even have to worry about that!

How the Payment on Account has worked out

I was really pleased and relieved to have a screen come up at the end of submitting the figures, which states very clearly:

  • my tax burden for 2011-12 and how much I have to pay by 31 Jan 2013
  • the half of my Payment On Account amount for 2012-13 that is also due by 31 Jan 2013
  • the half of my Payment On Account amount for 2012-13 that is due by 31 Jul 2013

It’s all very clearly set out, which was something I was wondering about.

So that’s it: done. Minimal fuss.

My suggestions for you

If you run your own business (and surely you won’t have read this far if you don’t??!!), I strongly suggest you …

  1. Register to complete your self-assessment online if you haven’t done so already
  2. Finalise your 2011-2012 accounts
  3. Order your Statements of Interest from your banks (some will print these off, some need to send one for each account through the post) and get together any other documentation you need
  4. When you’ve received your letter confirming your online registration, complete your self assessment online
  5. Set aside the amount of tax you now know you will need to pay
  6. Relax, knowing what you’ve earned and what you owe
  7. Avoid the frenzy in January 2013 because YOU’VE ALREADY DONE IT!

Note: I am not your tax advisor. I am not an accountant. This information is for personal illustrative purposes only. Please consult an accountant or tax advisor or the HMRC if you have any questions, worries, queries or complications. I am not responsible for anything you do with your tax return or tax affairs.


Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Business



Wander or wonder?

This Troublesome Pair was suggested by a reader of one of my previous posts. Do keep your suggestions coming if there’s one you are confused about yourself or notice other people mixing up!

Wonder and wander is probably another pair that gets mixed up because the two words sound (fairly) similar, or exactly the same in some accents.

To wander is to move around aimlessly, to walk or move in a leisurely manner through or over an area. You might “wander lonely as a cloud” across the Lake District, for example (thanks to Wordsworth). A wander (the noun) is an aimless walk.

To wonder is to feel curious or desire to know, or to feel wonder, as in surprise and admiration caused by something unfamiliar, unexpected or beautiful (wonder (noun) being that feeling). “The sunset caused a sense of wonder in the onlookers”; “Mary wondered where her lamb had got to”.

To distinguish the two: “Mary wandered all over the farm, wondering where she had left her lamb”.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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How to put text in alphabetical order in Word

I was inspired to write this post after having to put yet another student’s bibliography into alphabetical order. I know the quick and easy way to do this – but I don’t think a lot of people know that you can do this!

So, you’ve got your bibliography, and you’ve been very good and followed the rules for setting it out (I’ve used Harvard method here) but it’s not in alphabetical order by author surname, and, except in certain cases,* it really should be.

*A very few referencing systems ask for the bibliography to be in the order in which the references appear in the text. I’ve hardly ever had to deal with them. But I like completeness!

So, a lovely list of books but not in order by the authors’ surnames. How can we resolve this without swapping all the lines around?

First, highlight all the text you want to alphabetise. Then, make sure you’ve got the Home tab at the front. See that little button you’ve never even seen before, next to the paragraph mark?

Press the A-Z button and up pops a dialogue box.

There are all sorts of ways in which you can order the text, which are very similar to the ways you can order text and numbers in Excel. You can even specify whether what you’re sorting has a header row (I’m not sure why you’d want to do that, as you can just exclude the header row when you’re doing the highlighting, but I suppose it would be useful if you realise you’ve accidentally highlighted the headers too). I’ve sorted by Paragraph, Text, and in Ascending Order here, and to be honest, that’s what I always do. Click on OK, and look what you get:

Here’s our bibliography in order by author surname with just a highlight of the text and a few clicks – much quicker and with far less risk of human error than doing it manually.

Note: if your results come out a bit odd and have split your entries up into two halves, reverse your alphabetising by either hitting Control-Z or the Undo button, and check there aren’t any pesky hard returns hiding out in the middle of paragraphs (the best way to do this is to click the Paragraph button, to the right of the A-Z button and look out for bent arrows signifying carriage returns). Get rid of those and alphabetise again to your heart’s content!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


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ise or ize?

Having a Bank Holiday is no excuse for avoiding the big questions: so here we go with -ise and -ize. We’re talking here about whether you use organisation or organization; analyse or analyze.

Now, people assume that -ise is British and -ize is American, but that isn’t exactly the case. And – of course – it isn’t that simple, either. The one thing that is vitally important, however, is being consistent within a document or documentation.

In British English, either -ise or -ize is acceptable (most people don’t seem to know that. Oxford University Press, for example, use -ize in their house style. If you’re writing articles for journals, it’s important to check for house style on this). In American English, however, it’s -ize all the way. Well, nearly all the way.

Ise is obligatory in some words, and I have to thank New Hart’s Rules for putting this all in one place as an easy reference. So, -ise rather than -ize is obligatory when:

  • it forms part of a larger word element, such as -cise (cutting: excise), -vise (seeing: supervise), -mise (sending), or -prise (taking) [if you can think of any examples of the last two with that meaning, please let me know – I presume they are words coming from the French roots mener and prener but apart from that I’m stumped for examples that include the meaning sending or taking]
  • it corresponds to a noun that has an s in the stem: advertisement – advertise; television – televise

Common words that must use -ise in American and British English:

advertise, advise, apprise, arise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, (dis)enfranchise, disguise, enterprise, excise, exercise, improvise, incise, merchandise, premise, prise (open), revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise

When we move on to the -yse / -yze debate, it’s much more simple: -yse in British English, -yze in American, so analyse vs. analyze, etc.

This issue comes up a lot for me, because I work with many students who, although studying in the UK, have American English as their standard language in Word and use American spellings throughout. Except when they don’t. If they mix them up, as they invariably do, well, I used to ask which they preferred but now I just pick the most common version they use and tell them that I’ve done that.

But the most important things are to

  1. Obey house style, if there is one (particularly important if you’re writing journal articles)
  2. Be consistent.
  3. If you are quoting from a source which uses a different spelling from your required one (e.g. you are working with -ise and it uses -ize), leave the word in the original form in which it was printed in a direct quotation. See more in my posts on quoting sources [coming soon].

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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Income tax payment on account

Special guest Emily Coltman

Business is booming for me and Libro – and my friends and family are probably expecting me to start splashing around some of that hard-earned cash now I’m full time and earning well, after those lean start-up years. But wait! No – just when you’d think I’ll be booking that round-the-world cruise (we can only dream), in fact I’ll be giving the tax man over half of my income from Libro over the coming year. Edited to add: this is what actually happened when I submitted this year’s tax return.

It’s something called “Payment on Account”. I’m lucky: I already knew about it and so I have been saving up so I have enough money to live on. But if your business is doing well (and you only have to have a tax bill of £1000 to get into this situation, so not even THAT well), you need to be aware of this issue and make sure you have the money to hand.

I thought I’d better get someone official to explain all this, and the lovely Emily Coltman has obliged. Emily is Chief Accountant to award-winning software provider Read on to find out all about tax payment on account.

Payments on account

Did you know that if you’re a sole trader, or in partnership, you sometimes have to pay one and a half year’s worth of income tax and class 4 National Insurance all at once?

This is because if your tax and NI bill is more than £1,000, and less than 80% of your income is taxed at source (like employment income, where tax is taken off before the money is paid to you), you have to make “payments on account” to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Calculating payments on account

Maria is a self-employed beauty therapist.  Her tax and NI bill for the year to 5th April 2012 (the tax year 2011/12) is £1,200.  This was her first year in business.

That £1,200 will be payable to HMRC by 31st January 2013.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Because Maria’s tax and NI bill is over £1,000 and none of her income was taxed at source, she must make payments on account for the tax year 2012/13.  These each amount to half of her bill for 2011/12, and will be payable by 31st January 2013 and 31st July 2013.

So by 31st January 2013, Maria must pay £1,200 for her 2011/12 tax bill, and £600 on account for 2012/13.  That means she has a whopping £1,800 to pay in total – one and a half times her tax bill for 2011/12.

Maria must also pay another £600 by 31st July 2013.

When the actual tax and NI due is known

What happens when Maria works out her actual tax bill for 2012/13?

If she’s overpaid, HMRC will give her a refund, but if she’s not paid enough yet, she must make a balancing payment.

Let’s look at that.


If Maria’s tax and NI bill for 2012/13 was actually £1,100, she’s already paid £1,200 on account towards that, £600 in January 2013 and £600 in July 2013.  That means she’s overpaid £100 which HMRC will refund her.

She must then make her payments on account for 2013/14, which will be £550 each (half of £1,100) and will be due by 31st January 2014 and 31st July 2014.

Balancing payment

But if Maria’s tax and NI bill for 2012/13 turned out to be £1,500, she’s already paid £1,200 towards that but still has another £300 to pay.  This is called the balancing payment and is due by 31st January 2014.

That means that on 31st January 2014 she must pay £1,050 (£300 balancing payment, plus her first payment on account for 2013/14, which is £1,500 / 2 = £750).

Can payments on account be reduced?

If you’re reasonably certain that your tax and NI bill for the following year will be less than the payments on account you’d make, you can apply to HMRC to reduce your payments on account.

Be warned, though, that if you reduce them too far, HMRC can charge you interest for late payment of tax.

HMRC should send you a statement of account explaining what you have to pay and when, but if you’re not sure whether this is correct, always check with them or with your accountant.

Emily Coltman, Chief Accountant to award-winning online accounting software provider FreeAgent, is a very unusual Chartered Accountant – she is fluent in plain English! Emily has been working with small business owners for twelve years and is passionate about helping them to escape their fear of “the numbers”.  She believes that equipped with the right tools anyone can learn to look after the finances of a small business. She is also a keen advocate of tax simplification, especially in the case of VAT.
Emily is author of two e-books, Finance for Small Business and Micro Multinationals. Web:
Twitter: @dialm4accounts
Mobile: 07857 162104
Office: 0131 447 0011

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What I got up to in March

Welcome to my March round-up of what I’ve been getting up to. Do you find it useful/interesting/inspiring reading these posts about the life of an editor / writer / transcriber / small business person? Do leave a comment, click on the share buttons or share my notifications on various social media locations if you do!

Being self-employed full time

Libro continues to go from strength to strength and I’ve settled into a nice routine of enough work to keep me nicely busy (and to keep the wolf from the door) while having the flexibility to pop to a networking event or just a walk in the park with a friend.

Editing, writing, transcribing, proofreading

So, work-wise I have had a busy and interesting time.

I edited a really interesting set of EU documents for a French company that was new to me, and apart from that it was pretty well all regular customers all month.

I am working with some Master’s students through their courses, giving them feedback about their English and offering ways to improve it, as well as proofreading their essays. This is really rewarding, as I see them taking on board what I suggest and their English improving. It’s also interesting to see how their ideas for their dissertations start to take shape.

I did the usual writing for some commercial clients, including finishing off writing a library of 50 x 500 word articles for one particular client who wanted to build up a library of information on their website that would also boost their SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It’s a challenge to build up that many words on a network of inter-related subjects, including making sure there was room for plenty of linkage to help the visitor navigate through the information on offer, but I enjoyed being able to make it genuinely informative for the reader as well as useful for the client in terms of driving people to their website and keeping them there for as long as possible

I proofread a few PhDs or parts of PhDs, including some really interesting ones in the social sciences. I always tend to learn about what I’m editing, so it’s nice when it’s something I genuinely find interesting (luckily, I can find something of interest in pretty well everything I work on … otherwise I think I would probably be in the wrong job!)

I picked up a new localisation client or two and will be working with at least one of them long term: localisation is a nice intellectual challenge, as it’s not just about turning color into colour but really thinking about how British and American English work and getting right into the guts of the text.

I’ve worked with the usual translators, too, including on some interesting annual reports of companies (yes, I sign a lot of Non Disclosure Agreements) and at the end of the month I went into hermit mode as I had another big project from my main transcription clients, so typing away like a demon with headphones jammed into my ears (and then going to the gym to row out my stiff shoulders) has been the order of the day.

Networking, videos, blogging

In non-billable hours news, I featured in this video by Enterprise Nation extolling the virtues of networking and, in particular, the Twitter event #watercoolermoment, which is a gathering of home workers at 11 am on weekdays to have a chat about this and that – just like you might do in a “real” office. I also redesigned this website and blog – I really love the new look, what do you think?’

I’ve added some new posts to my series of articles about using Word, which are hopefully useful to students, writers and administrators alike, and my series of interviews with fellow small businesses is building nicely – there’s space in May if you’d like to take part!

Oh, and for a while now, my monthly newsletter has been only five sentences long so do sign up here for a quick read!

In more sociable news, I helped at the city centre and local Social Media Surgery sessions, and attended Social Media Cafe as usual (I wouldn’t miss that for the world). My local “notworking” group Kings Heath Home Workers group has a few more members and I’ve been meeting up in a cafe with a local friend once a week. I have also resolved some pressing issues around time management which I’ve talked about over on the Libro full-time blog.

Coming up – taxes and a new financial year

It’s the end of the financial year this week, and the end of mine, too. I am looking forward to getting my tax return done so I know how much of my earnings I can keep and how much is going to the taxman – although this year I will start Paying On Account, so will have to give him a lot more than usual – in fact double! Watch this space for a great guest post explaining all that later on this week. I have more transcription to do, more students to work with, more of the same – and I bet I love it as much as I did this month!

Libro offers copyediting, copy writing, proofreading, transcription, typing and localisation services to other small businesses, individuals and corporations. Click on the links to find out more!


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