Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bazaar or bizarre?

There have been a few odd things in the news recently, and seeing people’s comments on them has highlighted a common difficulty distinguishing between bizarre and bazaar. They’re odd words, and tricky to spell, with those difficult decisions on the double letters, so bookmark this blog post if you’re not sure about this pair!

Bizarre is the word you’re groping for when you want to describe something odd. It means something VERY odd or unusual, so a woman with a hat on her head might be less bizarre than a woman with three hats, or a parrot, on her head. How you remember the double r as opposed to the double z you might be tempted to include, is anybody’s guess. Maybe think of rolling your rrrrrrs in emphasis of the oddity of it all.

And here’s a lovely bonus word: A bizarrerie (plural: bizarreries) is a strange and unusual thing. Go on, work that into a sentence today.

Now we’ve got the odd one clear, a bazaar is a market in a Middle Eastern country (think souk, and the word comes from Persian, via Turkish and Italian) and also, more commonly, I suspect, a fund-raising sale of some kind, beloved of Church and charity fund-raising attempts. There’s a nice double a in this one, not a spelling you find often. If you watch Strictly Come Dancing, you can imagine Craig saying it in that voice of his: “I bought it at a bazaaaaaaar, dahling”.

Of course, you could find many bizarre items at a bazaar; in fact you’re pretty well certain to. Maybe that’s a good way to remember it.

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

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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Track changes – how to find it, how to use it

This is part of my series on how to use Word to the full to get what you need out of it.  Today we’re going to talk about why you might want to use Track Changes, how to find it and how to start using it. Next time, we’ll look at customising Track Changes, then working with the changes that have been tracked and ending up with a nice clean document.

Why use Track Changes?

Track changes helps you collaborate with someone else on your text – or mark it up for yourself. Reasons you might use it:

  1. Two or more people are collaborating on a document. You want to know who’s written what, and comment on the work
  2. You’re editing someone else’s work. I use Track Changes when working with students, so that they can see what I’m suggesting and make the decision as to whether to accept or reject my changes, thus retaining their control over the changes and the authorship of the text
  3. You’re editing your own work – you can see what you’ve deleted and added, or leave notes for yourself, just like working on the paper manuscript

How do I find Track Changes in Word 2003?

Like with most features, once you’ve found this in the menu system, it works the same in 2007 and 2010. This is how you find Track Changes in Word 2003: Go to the Tools menu, drop it down, and select Track Changes.

Finding Track Changes in Word 2003

How do I find Track Changes in Word 2007?

Go to the Review tab, and you will find the Track Changes options half way along the ribbon:

How do I find Track Changes in Word 2010?

This works the same as in Word 2007 – go to the Review tab and you’ll find the Track Changes options half way along the ribbon. The rest of the screen shots will be from Word 2007 but apply equally to Word 2010, as it works in the same way.

How do I turn Track Changes on and off?

You will see a big button marked Track Changes. Don’t worry about the little arrow in the corner for now, just press the button. It will go yellow, and this means Track Changes is turned on, and everything you do to the document from now on will be marked on the document.

If you want to turn Track Changes off, press the yellow button again and it will turn grey. From now on, anything you change will NOT be marked up.

What happens when I delete and add text with Track Changes turned on?

When you add text to the document (marked in blue) it will insert in a different colour, and underlined (note: the colour may not always be red. See the article on customising Track Changes for why and how to change it). When you delete text from the document (marked in red), it will either hook it out of the document and stick it in a balloon to the side of the text (as here, and how I like to do it), or cross it out in the document itself (see the Word 2003 example below). Again, you can choose which it does, and we’ll look at that next time.

How do I add a comment?

Sometimes you might want to add a comment to the document. This is helpful if you don’t understand what the other author is saying, or if something just needs to be commented on. You might want to leave a note for yourself in the margin.

When you want to do this, highlight the text you want to comment on and press the New Comment button in the ribbon. A comment balloon will appear in the right-hand margin, where you can type your comment.

Note, sometimes the text in this box comes out tiny or running right to left, especially if you are commenting on someone else’s document. See those links in the previous sentence? Click on those for how to solve both these problems.

You can pop back into the comment balloon at any time to edit what you’ve typed there.

And what does this all look like in Word 2003? Like this (note the crossed out deleted text):

In the next two posts, we will be looking at how to customise your Track Changes markup, and how to deal with a text containing tracked changes and comments.

Thanks to Kathy O’Moore Klopf for the Word 2003 screen shots!

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 … and do share or post a comment if you have found this useful!


Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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Mandrel or Mandrill?

This one was suggested by my friend, Sian, who does technical translation, which is how she came to know the meaning of these two rather lovely words. Or one of them, anyway. I’m not sure where mandrills come in to technical translations! I am kind of betting that I never get a search through for these … let’s see if I’m proved wrong!

This is a matter of knowing your spellings, in essence.

A mandrel (only one el, mind, and yes, I did have to look it up. But it is in my fairly standard Oxford Concise English dictionary, so it is a real word of some kind of common usage!) is a shaft or spindle in a lathe, which you use to fix wood (etc.) while it’s being turned. It’s also a rod, cylindrical, around which metal (etc.) is forged. And, it’s a word for a miner’s pick, too!

A mandrill (two ells), is a large type of baboon, found in West Africa, with a red and blue face and, if male, a blue bottom.

Um … “The mandrill, being a blue-bottomed monkey, was not hugely keen on using the mandrel to help it turn the wooden banisters, but it was a helpful sort of baboon, so did its best”.

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


Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Top Ten Tips for Working with Clients

As a freelancer, I’ve spent three years (so far) learning how to deal with lots of different clients. I hope that these tips will help you get the most out of the relationship. If you work with freelancers, you might find this article useful, too.

1. Communicate

This is the top tip, and comes into many of the other sections. Be clear about what you do, how much it costs, and when you can do it. Communicate the way in which you work to your client up front. Keep on top of the project and let them know how it’s going. Tell them what to expect, then fulfil that expectation and communicate that you have done so.

2. Manage expectations

It’s always best, in my opinion, to promise low and deliver high. I always add a little time when I’m offering a deadline, and almost always exceed expectations that way. If you are going to miss a deadline, let the client know – this only usually happens when it’s the client who sets the deadline. I’ve only missed one deadline, by half an hour – but there was good reason for it, and I let my client know in advance.

If you’re undertaking a project for someone and they’ve not used a freelancer before, explain the process and what they can expect from it. If you need to tell clients about your terms and conditions, send those along with your initial quotation. If an urgent job will cost more, tell the client in advance.

If you can’t offer the service you would want to offer, a “no” said honestly and in good faith is better than a “yes” that isn’t meant. Your client will respect you more for it.

3. Keep to deadlines

If you promise to return a piece of work to a client by a particular date and time, do your utmost to do this. Work all night if you have set an unrealistic deadline (and learn from that!). When I started freelancing, I found that freelancers have a very bad reputation around this issue. Ignoring deadlines makes you look arrogant at best, incompetent at worst. It’s not hard to plan ahead, and it’s not hard to say no (eventually).

This also applies to invoicing. If I’ve arranged to invoice the client directly after finishing the work, I do so. If they are on a monthly invoice in arrears, they are sent their invoice at the end of the month. If this is a bit much, it’s something you can easily automate or outsource.

4. Treat your client as a human being

Even if your client is a huge faceless entity, you will be dealing with a person at that client. Remember that they’re a human being, with other concerns than you and the project you’re both working on. They may be trapped between you and their own boss or client (I work for several freelance journalists and translation agencies, for example) and may have other pressures. If they’re a student or a new member of staff, they may be unsure as to how to work with you!

5. Inform your client about your availability

If you’ve got a holiday booked, you don’t work on weekends, or you stop at 9pm at latest, let your clients know. When I book a holiday, I send an email to my main regular clients a few months before, remind the biggest ones a month before, put a note in my signature then set up an auto reply on my email. Out of courtesy, I do communicate with them by email when I’m away, but only to remind them I am away!

6. Have backup

For my major clients, I have colleagues who do the same line of work as me and can pick up work if I’m unwell or on holiday, or very busy with a pre-booked job. I also have a list of people I can refer clients on to if I can’t book them in myself.

7. Respect your clients

Professionally and personally. You’re the expert in what you do, but they’re the expert in what they do. Treat them as you would expect them to treat you. Be as robust as you need to be, but always be courteous.

If you feel the need to let off steam about a tricky client or project, please do it privately! I have a private group of fellow editors who I can ask questions and share good and bad days – and sometimes people do make us a bit cross, but just don’t broadcast this in public. It’s not very professional, and it can reflect on you very badly.

You may have specific points with this according to the industry you’re in. I personally avoid pointing out horrible grammar and spelling mistakes on signs and menus in public. Amusing as I find these, a lot of my clients are using English as a second or third language, have issues with their English skills, or are just not very confident, and the last thing I would want to do would be to be seen to be mocking less-than-perfect English.

8. Work with your client’s working methods

You have to be flexible if you’re going to be good at freelancing for different clients. They all have different requirements and ways of working, and my reaction to this can go from noting which transcription clients need a time stamp every 5 minutes and which need it every 10 minutes, to communicating via email, the phone or a face-to-face meeting, whatever the client prefers.

I do impose my own working methods on them to an extent, for example encouraging them to use comments and Track Changes to comment on texts I’ve produced for them. But if they choose not to do that, I’ll work with how they want to work.

9. Share the joy

I have a list of people who do what I do who I will recommend to any clients I can’t fit in. I don’t consider them as competitors – yes, we’re in the same line of business, but everyone gets work they can’t do for whatever reason, and I’d rather have a known person I can send them to, knowing they are likely to do a decent job. This saves clients (particularly students) from getting ripped off, and I think it presents a professional attitude to the prospective client, too.

10. Say thank you

I try to say thank you whenever a client pays me. I also thank them for being particularly good clients – the student who doesn’t automatically “accept all changes” but asks me questions about their English, the writer who’s produced an interesting book … and if a client has a product or service I think is particularly good, I’ll pop a link on my links page here and tell people about their book, service or product. It doesn’t cost anything to say thank you, after all, and it gives your client a great final impression of you!

I hope you’ve found these top ten tips for working as a freelancer helpful. If one has struck you as particularly useful, or you have others to suggest, please comment. And you might be interested in my top ten tips for clients working with freelancers!

Why not have a look at my other tips for freelancers, small businesses, etc. – roam around the right-hand sidebar or click on the links!


Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Business, Organisation


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Judgement or judgment?

This is a tricky one to do with spellings, and even raises the spectre of the US English / British English divide.

Judgement is a person’s or organisation’s ability to form sensible opinions or make considered decisions, and a judgement is that opinion or decision. In the UK.

And judgment or a judgment is the same thing in US English.

But here’s where the confusion comes in. In the UK, we use judgment solely for a decision made by a judge or a court of law. No e in the courtroom!

“She married him against her better judgement, and it was a mistake she soon regretted.”

*The court made its judgment and he was accompanied to the prison cells.”

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


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Top Ten Tips for Working with Freelancers

As a freelancer, I come across all sorts of clients and all sorts of behaviour. If you want to get the best out of the freelancers you use, whether you’re a tiny company outsourcing to an accountant and a copywriter or part of a huge tech company with hundreds of freelance programmers on your books, these tips will help you get the most out of the relationship.

1. Communicate

This is tip number one, and feeds into so many others of the top ten. Be clear in your initial communications. Express your requirements clearly. If anything changes: the project, the deadline, the date you can deliver the project to them, your expectations – tell your freelancer. They’re not a mind reader: you need to tell them.

2. Manage expectations

If you commission a chatty, friendly blog post and you get a piece of corporate spin, did you really express what it was that you wanted? Again, freelancers are not mind-readers. A good writer can write in whatever style you want – but they do need guidance. Like a computer, a freelancer will absorb your instructions and produce output to the brief given.

A good freelancer will check what you want, and in some cases will send you over a questionnaire to fill in or have a chat with you over the phone. Use this opportunity.

3. Keep to deadlines

If you promise to deliver a project specification, a document, a set of keys, whatever, to your freelancer, on a particular day at a particular time, then either keep to that agreement or, if you can’t, let them know as far in advance as you possibly can. Everyone has sudden last-minute issues and no one minds that, but freelancers do mind booking in a job, possibly turning away other clients because that time is booked, then no work arriving.

Similarly, if your end deadline changes, keep your freelancer informed, give them the chance to adjust their schedule, and understand if they can’t. Perhaps you’re a journalist and your editor changes when they need that interview write-up – let your transcriber know as soon as possible and show willing to pay an urgent fee or make the deadline as flexible as possible.

This applies to payments, too. Make your company’s payment schedule clear in advance (no – “oh, yes, it’s a 60 day payment schedule; didn’t I tell you?” please) and make sure you pay on time or let the freelancer know if you can’t.

4. Treat your freelancer as a human being

This seems to apply especially in office-type services, such as editing and virtual secretarial services. Several colleagues have commented privately that they feel like some of their clients think of them as a piece of office machinery, like a printer or network cable, and are then scandalised when real life – an emergency, a holiday – intervenes. Just because you can’t see your freelancer doesn’t mean they don’t have a face and a life! (I’m lucky, pretty well all of my clients treat me well and even let me go on holiday occasionally!)

5. Inform your freelancer about your availability

If you’re going on holiday, or you don’t work Mondays, let the person you’ve commissioned know. They might have a question and not be able to get in touch with you. Leading on to …

6. Have backup

Is there someone else in your organisation who could pick up the reins with your freelancer(s) if you were to go off sick or go on holiday? I’ve had situations where my contact at a client’s office has gone out sick, and no one’s been told about the projects I’m working on or when I should be paid.

7. Respect your freelancer

Professionally and personally. They’re the expert in what they do, just like you’re the expert in what you do. You’ve hired them to do a job, so let them do that job. If you feel you know how to do whatever you’re asking them to do, remember that it might be a part of your job, but it’s their speciality. Of course it’s fine to ask questions, but if you’ve chosen right, from a recommendation or by checking out the freelancer’s references and experience, let them get on with their job.

Having said that, I’m pretty sure I’ve typed some terrible mis-hearings into transcriptions I’ve done for clients, but I’ve never (thankfully) seen them laughing about it in public. Don’t make assumptions about their private life – it’s polite to ask if they mind working through the weekend on your project, even if they’ve done so before. I don’t mind working odd hours for my clients, as I make up for it with long lunch breaks with gym sessions and a sit in the garden, but I appreciate it when they realise that I have a life, too!

8. Work with your freelancer’s working methods

Although a good freelancer will adapt the way they work to suit you to a certain extent, there are times when you need to fit in with how they work. For example, if a client needs to comment on a text I’ve produced for them, I request them to do so in Track Changes, rather than colouring in bits of text and writing comments in the text. It’s easier for me to work my way through the comments, saving the client time and money if they are on an hourly rate, and I will always take a moment to explain how to do it.

9. Share the joy

If someone does a good job for you, offer them a reference or testimonial. Tell other people about their services. I get most of my work through recommendations, and it’s a great way for clients to get freelancers they know will be good, and freelancers to get clients who are likely to go with them because their friend or colleague has recommended them.

A freelancer who knows you’ve recommended them on to your friends and colleagues will be more loyal to you. They’ll want to do a good job for you, so you recommend them again!

10. Say thank you

On the day I wrote this post, I’d been up since 5.30 am to turn around a very urgent project for a client. What really did make that worthwhile? The client coming back to me to say a big thank you. It really does matter; it doesn’t take a moment, and it cheers everyone up.

I hope you’ve found these top ten tips for working with freelancers helpful. If one has struck you as particularly useful, or you have others to suggest, please comment. And you might be interested in my top ten tips for freelancers, too!

Why not have a look at my other tips for freelancers, small businesses, etc. – roam around the right-hand sidebar or click on the links!


Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Business, Organisation


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Excoriating or coruscating

I saw the word coruscating and its misuse being discussed on a forum to which I belong, and I suddenly realised that the word people had been confusing it with was excoriating. Cue a Troublesome Pair!  Two quite difficult words, but we’re up for them, aren’t we!

To coruscate means to flash or sparkle, so coruscating wit is sparkling wit. Because people only have a vague idea that it has something to do with wit, they seem to have changed its meaning to be something harsher, almost a flaying kind of idea, and I’ve heard this a few times myself, but, for example, criticism can’t be coruscating – it means sparkling, nothing to do with harshness, ripping to shreds, etc.

To excoriate, however, does mean to criticise severely, so although it’s a bit of a tautology (saying the same thing twice in one phrase), you can have excoriating criticism. And, excitingly for my half-remembered meaning of difficult words, it has a medical sense meaning to damage or remove part of the skin!

So, now you know. Go on: use one of them in your conversation today!

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

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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Whether or weather?

I have seen several instances of weather being used for whether recently, so it’s worth setting these down just in case.

Weather as a noun is the state of the atmosphere at a certain time and place – sunny, windy, snowing, hot, cold, etc. To weather (the verb) is to change in appearance or form through long exposure to the weather (more commonly: to be weathered).

Under the weather means unwell or depressed – you’re metaphorically under a cloud of unwellness, I suppose!

Whether is a conjunction expressing …

  • a choice between two alternatives – “I can’t decide whether to go to the cinema or the park”
  • a doubt, either expressing a question or investigation – “I don’t know whether keeping this hat I’ve found is the right thing to do” / “He will check whether she lost a hat”
  • an indication that a statement is true, whichever of the alternatives mentioned is the case “I will go to the cinema whether they’re showing a western or a thriller”

Of course, the two can always be found together: “I’ll go out, whether the weather is sunny or wet”, but hopefully you know the difference now!

Edited to add – my friend, Ian Braisby, just reminded me that a wether is a castrated sheep! So now you know …

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


Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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My short cuts: full dialogue boxes for fonts, paragraphs etc.

This post was inspired by my partner, Matthew, suddenly asking me about this. Once again, I realised it was something that I and other people who work with Word know about as second nature, and assumed everyone else did, too. Apparently not!

Ever wondered what the little arrow in the bottom right corner of your Word 2007 and 2010 ribbon areas was? Wonder no more – today you will find out what they do, and how to access the font, paragraph, headings (etc!) dialogue boxes with the click of a mouse button.

Expansion arrows in the Word Ribbon

In the Home, Page Layout and References tabs on the standard Word 2007 and Word 2010 ribbons, you may notice little arrows in the bottom right-hand corner of some of the sections, for example, Home – Paragraph, Page Layout – Page Setup or References – Footnotes. Some of them are indicated by the red arrows in the image above. What do they do? Click and find out!

Basically, there is not enough room on that pesky ribbon for all of the functionality and options that Word 2003 used to show you in nice, sensible menus (one of these days I’ll share with you how to get the classic menu view in Word 2007 and 2010).

So, if you see a little arrow in the corner, try clicking it and see what different options you have. The one you’ve always wanted to be able to do might be languishing there, waiting for your click!

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!

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. Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on September 5, 2012 in New skills, Short cuts, Word


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Cite, sight or site?

I come across site and sight being mixed up quite a lot, and citing is on my mind as it’s dissertation editing season at the moment … so here goes with this troublesome trio!

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. To cite is to refer to – you might cite a reference in a document, or use the word to refer to something that has come before, usually a precedent: “to cite precedent, we have let a man into our women’s tennis club before, and so we will have to do so again”.

A site is the place where something is located, whether that’s the piece of land where something is built or the location where something happens. To site something is to place it in the location where it is going to stay or take place.

Sight is the power or faculty of seeing, as well as the more metaphorical extensions like foresight, where you are not physically seeing something, but perceiving something in the future. A sight is something that you see.

When you see the sights, you are, literally, seeing them with your sight. Therefore they are sights, not sites.

But sites can also be sights that a sightseer would view! “The main sights of the trip are the sites of the Pyramids and army encampments”. We see the touristic sights, but they are all sited somewhere.

If it’s a feature, phenomenon or building, etc.,  that you see, it’s a sight. If it’s the place where that thing is situated, it’s the site of that thing. And if you refer to an essay about the phenomenon, you might cite it!

“Jeremy cited the newspaper article about the argument over the site for the new ‘see the sights of the world’ exhibition in his report on the controversy”.

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


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