Monthly Archives: August 2016

Did you know Word can check for gender-specific language? Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016

Following on from my discussion of “singular they” removing gender-specific / binary gender pronouns from your text, did you know that you can ask Word to keep an eye out for gender-specific terms in your document? Here’s how to do it.

We set up different things for the Grammar checker to check in the Options menu:

1 options

In Options, choose Proofing:

2 proofing

Scroll down to the section headed When correcting spelling and grammar in Word and click on the Settings button:

3 style settings

Make sure the writing style is set to Grammar Only:

4 style settings

Tick Gender-specific words (and notice there are all sorts of other grammar and style aspects you can ask Word to highlight for you):

5 gender-specific words

In order for Word to actually use this feature, make sure that Check grammar with spelling is ticked:

5.5 checkingClick OK until you are back at the original screen.

Back in your Word document, if you use a gender-specific term such as “chairman” or “actress”, when you run a spell (and grammar) check, Word will highlight those terms and offer alternatives:

6 checking

This article has described how to ask Word 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016 to highlight gender-specific terms in your documents.

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Related posts on this blog

Medalling, podiuming and singular they


Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Word


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Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

Welcome to another Small Business Chat update with Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, who started off, like me, as a proofreader and editor, but then added authorship, coaching and event organisation into the mix. We first met Alison in this series in July 2012, and  she updated us in July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015, when her plans for the year were these: “Who knows! I’m hoping the ADHD business will provide a regular, almost passive source of income, leaving me free to pick the most exciting projects to work on with my Proof Fairy hat on. I’ll have had an updated version of The Boy From Hell published and I’d like to have another couple of books under my belt too – a parents’ guide to ADHD and an erotic novel!” So, has she written that erotic novel?

Hello again, Alison! Are you where you thought you’d be a year ago? What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Everything and nothing! This time last year we’d moved house and it caused a lot of upheaval for the business. This year we moved house yet again, after a pretty horrendous experience with a dodgy landlord. The whole experience has been very unsettling and it’s had a huge effect on me personally, as well as the business. Couple that with losing several long-term, established clients because they just got too successful and no longer needed my services/were too busy to provide work/took on in-house staff to do what I’d been doing – and you can imagine the result! For a long time, I pretended everything was okay, stuck my head in the sand and slogged on, but last month I finally bit the bullet and took on a part time job to supplement the income. It means I don’t have to worry about paying the bills for a while, but still have time to work with my existing clients and hopefully pick up a few new ones. And strangely, since I started the job I’ve had three really good enquiries that could lead to interesting long-term projects, so the end is definitely not nigh for the Proof Fairy!

The ADHD side has also been interesting. In October I launched an online parenting course ( which has had great feedback but isn’t selling as well as I hoped – probably as much through my own poor marketing as much as anything. And my book was “properly” published earlier this year but apart from a couple of blogger reviews, it’s not really had the increased profile I was hoping for. But there’s room for improvement in both areas I think – it’s just a case of having the time and money to take action.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I wish I’d known a year ago that the house we were moving to was going to be a total nightmare! It’s caused (and is still causing) no end of problems that have affected every area of life, and I really could have done without the hassle! But these things are sent to try us … we’ve learned a few lessons from the experience, and now we are in a nice house with a good landlord, hopefully things will settle back down.

I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be more proactive when times are tough. Because of the problem with our house and various other personal issues, I lost focus on the business, and it took me a long time to realise what a devastating effect that had had. Fortunately, I came out of ostrich mode just in time to take action and pull things around, and the change in mindset has opened up a few interesting-looking doors! I know a lot of people in business think you should “play it big” and always give the impression that you are successful, but when you find yourself believing that when the opposite is true, it can only end in disaster!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Sometimes, being honest is the best way to go. I’ve been upfront about my situation with a few people and that has led to new opportunities that might not have come about had they believed the impression I was giving out – that I was frantically busy!

Diversify – but not too much. I think part of the problem I’ve had was that I got so excited about the ADHD business that I lost focus on The Proof Fairy, which was, after all, my “bread and butter” job. If you’re starting a new enterprise, make sure you still allocate enough time, energy and enthusiasm to whatever it is that’s paying the bills, until the new project is successful enough to take over.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

How do you maintain focus on your business when issues in your personal life are draining all your energy?

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Whatever I say in this section, I never seem to get there! So I think I’m going to leave this really open and just say that in another year’s time I want to be financially comfortable and doing something I really enjoy. And I will DEFINITELY have written that erotic novel!

Wow – what a year. I think it is hard to concentrate on two very different things, and an editor friend of mine says, very wisely, that you should be marketing yourself while you’re busy as well as when you’re quiet, to close those gaps and fill in the lulls. The impression you give is very important, too – I found that having been posting on social media that I was working early, in the middle of the day and sometimes late, I gave the impression I was ALWAYS working, and driving myself into the ground, whereas actually I’m pretty sensible and take long lunch breaks for gymming or running etc. Anyway, we wish Alison all the best for a quieter but more work-filled year – and best of luck with that novel, of course!

Contact Alison by email or at – or call her on 01367 888229 Mob: 07927 330293.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat


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What I do when I’m not being Liz from Libro

IMG_20160823_174246954_HDRI’ve been away for a few days, running my first marathon, in Iceland (as you do). As I haven’t had time to write up a blog post on language or business for this week, I thought my readers might enjoy my report over on my personal (and usually book reviewing) blog. Do pop over to have a read!

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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Celebration


Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Welcome again to Lyndsey Michaels, who works as Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer. Lyndsey writes tender documentation for small businesses who want to increase their sales, usually in the public sector. It’s something I know from both sides, having written tenders to get business for a library supplier I used to work for and having worked editing tender documents, so I have great admiration for her as it’s a complicated business! We first met Lyndsey in July 2014 and had our first update in August 2015. At that point, this is where Lyndsey wanted to be: “Again, more of the same! Day to day, I certainly see my routine and clients remaining much the same. I’m excited about the training programme so will continue to work on that and refine it until it’s ‘market ready’. At some point though, I will have to take the leap and just get on with it, so I’ve given myself a few internal deadlines to stick to. The launch of that service will also coincide with a refresh of my website, which I’m really looking forward to. Other than that, while I’m committed to keeping my core business focused on bid writing and closely associated services, I’m also hoping that the extra time I can now give to random side projects might result in something marketable. It’s not a key objective but it would be nice to have another basket with a couple of eggs in!” So, let’s see how she’s doing now …

Hello again! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Sort of. In terms of the internal workings of my business, I have made the changes I planned to and feel my business is much stronger for it. The type of clients I’m attracting now are very much aligned to my own ideals and my success rate for the tenders I’ve completed this year has rocketed as a result.

In terms of actual cash coming in, that’s been a tricky one this year. A lot of my work involves public sector tenders and I work primarily with small businesses, so while my success rates for the work I’ve done has increased, the overall volume of work coming in has decreased. Not by a huge amount, but just enough to mean that those side projects I talked about last year will have to wait a little longer.

Peaks and troughs in the procurement world are a given and I always take these into account. However, a combination of ongoing budget cuts across the public sector over several years has led to at least one season – which would typically be a peak time – almost flat lining this year.

There’s also been a great deal of political uncertainty in 2016 with Brexit and – as is also the case with general elections and other political events – people tend to hold onto what budget they have until they’re more certain of the political landscape.

The end result is that I’ve seen fewer tenders for certain services, particularly those that appeal to small businesses and so, where I’d aimed for an increase in personal income, it’s really just stayed more or less the same. I also had a couple of non-payers at a particularly lean time so that hasn’t helped.

Alongside all of that, we had some major work done on the house and, while all of the contractors working here were great and the work is excellent, it was incredibly disruptive! I work from home so there was no escape. My office became our kitchen, dining and living room for the duration (four months!) and I also ended up doing a fair amount of day-to-day project managing which cut into my work days quite significantly.

In the spirit of being open with other freelancers and small business owners, I will admit that earlier this year I seriously considered packing it all in. I’ve been working hard at this business specifically for five years now, with another five years before that offering more generalist services and by June this year I was about ready to quit.

In the end I took a break, went somewhere sunny and different and let my mind wander. When I came back I felt reinvigorated and ready to throw myself at it again. I can’t pinpoint any specific ‘aha!’ moment, I think it was just a process of letting my subconscious shuffle a few fears, expectations, priorities and disappointments around until the important things floated to the top and everything became a bit clearer. Funnily, one of the things that helped me figure out whether to quit or not was asking myself how I would respond to your Small Business Chat Update questions this year!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

My new website is up and running and gives a much clearer idea of what I do and the type of clients I work with. I’m really happy with it, particularly the ‘Ask me anything’ mini message facility which seems to have hit the right note with potential clients.

My attitude has changed significantly since my break, so that’s positive! I’m now even more determined than ever to meet my professional and personal goals.

Day to day, not much has changed. I’m still keeping on top of time management. I’m trying to make sure I eat properly and not resort to the ‘freelancer’s three square meals’ (toast). I’m also trying to make myself take advantage of any slow days by doing something more interesting than refreshing my emails constantly!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Sadly, I’ve learned – yet again – not to rely on someone’s word or charm when it comes to payment. Maybe this time that lesson will stick!

I’ve learned not to give up even when it seems like the ‘most appropriate’ thing to do. Taking time out to listen to and address my own fears while – crucially – giving others’ opinions less weight has helped me get through this wobbly patch.

I wish I’d known a year ago just how disruptive the building work on the house would be, I think I was a little over optimistic on that count!

Any more hints and tips for people?

It’s OK to think about quitting.

Small businesses like ours aren’t just a job, they’re a fundamental part of who we are as a person – it’s impossible to separate the two.

If something’s not working, it’s important to hash it out, even if that’s just on your own. Recognising which concerns are genuine and which are just fear and anxiety is a good first step to being able to work out what you want to do next.

In fact, it’s probably useful to think about quitting from time to time even when you don’t actually feel like it! It’s a good litmus test of how happy you are with where you’re at right now and helps you see where you could make improvements.

Also, develop targets for your business that are more specific than ‘make money’. Figuring out the absolute baseline activities you need to be doing to meet your hoped for income not only gives you something concrete to work to but it takes away a lot of those nebulous worries.

I’d been tracking a lot of information on potential and actual clients over the last couple of years but had never really been that sure what to do with it. After a day or two of analysis, my focus now is on getting initial enquiries because my stats tell me that for every x enquiries, I generally send x quotes which then turn into x contracted jobs.

It is definitely better to know how near or far away from my goals I am at any given time. While it can be terrifying, it is also extremely motivational!

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

Have you ever thought about quitting? If so, how did you get to your ultimate decision (whether you carried on or did indeed quit) and do you feel like it was the right thing to do?

Sorry, that’s three questions!

Do you have an answer to anyone else’s bonus question?

I’d like to answer Andrew Donnelly’s question: ‘If you could plan the perfect week at your business what would it be like?’

On Monday I’d start a new project, with an exciting new client. By Wednesday, we’d have developed a good rapport and would both be working hard on their tender but feeling good that we were properly representing the best bits of their business and were putting together something special.

By Friday, we’d have wrapped up what we needed to do for the week and have a clear objective for the next week, so we could both enjoy the weekend without panicking!

In my personal time, I’d spend an hour or so in the park every day, walking my dog. Maybe on Thursday afternoon I’d meet a friend for a coffee and a catch up. Somewhere along the way I’d have planned and shopped for an epic cooking session for Saturday afternoon – that’s really how I get creative when I’m not working.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Right now, I’m working hard on making better content for my site, to draw in more visitors and increase my visibility as an expert in my field.

I’ve nailed down several formal targets and simplified those into The One Thing – in my case, number of enquiries – that meeting all the other targets relies on.

I’m also hoping to do more public speaking (argh!).

Hopefully this time next year I’ll be feeling positive and confident and may even be a few steps nearer to my goals!

I really appreciate Lyndsey’s honesty here, and this comes in a group of interviews that have all shown responses to bad as well as good times and challenges. I love that people feel they can share this stuff, because this is what REALLY helps other people decide what to do and how to do it, and means we can all see we’re in the same boat sometimes. I’ve certainly had low points, not so much when business has dipped but when it’s become too much to cope with, or I’ve had difficult or demanding customers (which doesn’t happen often, I have to say). I look forward to hearing what the year brings for Lyndsey!

Lyndsey Michaels

Bid Writer
07813 606033

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 20, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Medalling, podiuming and singular they

Of course this isn't exactly what "medalling" means

Of course this isn’t exactly what “medalling” means

Languages change. If languages didn’t change, we’d be speaking like Chaucer, British and American English would be identical, or we’d still be using words like “chairman”, “crippled”, “omnibus” and all sorts. We also wouldn’t have a way to describe “selfies”, “Brexit” or “omnishambles”.

The verbs formed from nouns, “medalling” and “podiuming” have been heard again recently, as they are every four years in an event whose name is controlled so closely you’re not supposed to go around mentioning it in blog posts. Lots of people have been complaining about these, saying it’s an erosion of the English language, etc., etc.

Now, I’m one for making sure we retain two words with a close but not identical meaning in order to be able to distinguish between different concepts or things. But in this case, it’s not taking away the distinction between two different things, it’s just adding another word to say the same thing. And we form words in all sorts of ways – by blending, shortening, lengthening them and shifting the part of speech they belong to. Once, we weren’t even allowed to start sentences with and or but …

The other wordy thing I wanted to mention briefly was singular they. This is something editors and other wordy people are still arguing – quite bitterly – about. “They” used to be used just as a plural. But, just as we’ve removed words like chairman and dustman from the language to cover the fact that different genders of people do different jobs, over recent years there’s been an acceptance that binary genders – the idea that everyone is either “he” or “she”, has joined up with a common dislike of the clumsiness of using “he” and “she” in alternate chapters or “he/she”, “s/he”, etc. to promote the use of singular “they”, i.e. the use of “they” to refer to one person in the singular. An example would be, “When someone gets to the front of the queue, they should go to the first available window”.

Now, some people rail against this change, but I think that it can be made to work grammatically, it gets rid of clumsiness and it doesn’t exclude people to whom, for whatever reason, it’s not appropriate to refer using binary gender wording. This is standard in my editing, although I’d never make this kind of change without consultation if it appeared more than very sporadically.

I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind here; I’m just setting out my stall. These are my personal opinions, but these are interesting topics to think about and they’ve been at the front of my mind recently. Thank you for reading!

I generally talk about word stuff in my Troublesome Pairs posts which do distinguish meanings between pairs or triplets of words. Have a look at the index here!


Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Be careful, Errors, Ethics, Writing



Small business chat update – Karen White

Small business chat update – Karen White

Welcome to another Small Business Update – today I pop back into a business area close to mine, chatting to Karen White, ELT editorial project manager from White Ink Limited. Karen’s a relatively new member of the interview club, first featured in March 2014, and then again in June 2015she’s actually been going a year longer than me, though, and is in what I’d call a mature business position, although, as we’ll see, her business area has been changing recently. When I spoke to her last year, where did Karen want to be by now? “I hope that by this time next year, the third ELT Freelancers’ Awayday will have been a huge success, and that the fourth one is in the pipeline. I hope the industry will have settled down a bit, with plenty of work for everyone who needs/wants it. I hope I’m still remembering to put my desk into the stand position!” Let’s see how she’s getting on … 

Hello again, Karen, and welcome back! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, I’m standing up to write this! I did buy an adjustable desk (an IKEA Bekant), and I love it. The second awayday went really well, and my colleague Helen and I have had a meeting this week to plan the third one for January 2017. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same, but …

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In the last 12 months there have been quite a number of redundancies from ELT (English Language Teaching) publishers, so the pool of freelancers has grown. I’m finding that there is definitely less work about – either because there are more freelancers for it to be spread around, or because there is less publishing being done. I’m not sure which it is. Fortunately, I’m working on a big, interesting new project, which will keep me going for some time, but I’m used to having a couple of small jobs on the go alongside a big one. At the moment the small jobs are few and far between, and I’m aware that others in my industry are experiencing the same thing. I recently carried out a survey of ELT editorial freelance rates, which showed up some interesting results. Hourly rates have barely increased in the three years since I did the last survey, even though the level of experience of the freelancers has increased, and I haven’t put my rates up for a couple of years. All of these factors are worrying, and are issues we’re hoping to discuss at the 2017 awayday.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve learned that a sit/stand desk is a good investment. I’ve learned how to use WordPress, and have set up a blog. This is something I had been thinking about for some time, but finally got round to doing it. (Although I wish I’d know the difference between a and before I started!) I’ve also learned how time-consuming blogging is! I’m publishing one post a month at the moment, and can’t see that changing in the near future. I’ve also learned how useful Evernote is for storing blog ideas and links to useful articles.

Any more hints and tips for people? 

I still think networking is the best thing small business owners can do. As well as organising the awaydays for freelances in my field, I’ve joined a local networking group this year, which is full of like-minded people working from home and running small businesses near me. I may not meet my next big client at a meeting, but I’ve picked up lots of tips, heard some inspirational speakers, and joined some really great netwalking sessions. (No, that’s not a typo – we live in a rural area and have stunning walks on our doorstep. Some of our meetings take the form of a morning walk with some business-related chat and it’s a great way to start the day.)

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

How do you go about finding work if you’re having a quiet period?

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I hope that by this time next year, the third ELT Freelancers’ Awayday will have been a huge success, and that the fourth one is in the pipeline. I hope the industry will have settled down a bit, with plenty of work for everyone who needs/wants it. I hope I’m still remembering to put my desk into the stand position!

Scary times indeed. Fear of work from one source drying up is what drove me to diversify in terms of the types of customers I have, their locations and the actual work I do – but that’s not for everyone and does mean it’s more difficult to get known as a specialist in a particular field. I’m sure Karen’s resourcefulness and great contacts will help her ride out this tricky time.

You can visit Karen’s new blog and her Facebook page for White Ink Limited. She has a new database for ELT freelancers and runs ELT Teacher 2 Writer with colleagues.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 13, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat


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How do I add a dot or line above a number in Word to indicate a repeating decimal?

This is something that is used when working with maths texts – a friend who is studying maths asked me about it a while ago. This article will show you how to add a dot or line over a number in a Word document to indicate a repeating decimal.

Type your number first, then go to the Insert tab and look for the Symbol section to the right:

1 insert symbol

Click on the little down arrow below Symbol

 2 insert symbol

Choose More symbols

 3 more symbols

Drop down Subset and find Combining Diacritical Marks

 4 subsets

Scroll down a little and you will find the dot and various lengths of line:

5 combining diacritics

Highlight the symbol you want to use and click Insert to insert the dot:

6 combining diacritics

Note that this will look different according to which font you’re using.

When you want to do this again, you only need to click on the down arrow under Symbol and you will find recently used symbols showing in the first drop-down:

7 combining diacritics

This article has explained how to add a dot or line over a numeral to indicate a repeating decimal.

If you’ve found this article useful, please share, comment or like. Thank you!

Other useful posts on this blog

Inserting non-standard symbols in Word



Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Word


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