Monthly Archives: February 2019

Transcription work for ghost writers – hints and tips

Ghost writers often use transcribers to turn their taped interviews into the basic material for their book. How can we transcribers help them best?

What is a ghost writer?

A ghost writer is someone who writes a book or other materials on behalf of someone else. Celebrity autobiographies are often written in this way – just take a look at the title page for a “with John Smith” note or in the acknowledgements (some don’t acknowledge using a ghost writer). People use ghost writers when they’re not confident of their own writing ability or don’t have time to write a book. A good ghost writer will capture the style and “voice” of the celebrity so it really does sound like it has been written by the celebrity themselves (this is where we can help).

How does the ghost writing process work?

Typically, the writer will spend a set amount of time interviewing the subject. This might be done in an office, in the subject’s home or out and about with them. Sometimes, the subject will submit their own tapes they’ve dictated themselves.

The writer will send the transcriber the tapes to transcribe. These are typically quite long, as they want to get the value out of each session. They might go through the subject’s life chronologically, they might not. Sometimes they will interview other people in the subject’s life, and sometimes there will be a two-person interview. Often there will be a few interviews after the initial rush where the writer seeks to clear up issues or confusions.

Timescales can sometimes lag a bit here, as you’re working with your client, the writer, and their client, the subject, so there’s lots of room for delays. Expect these, but also tight turnaround times when the tapes do come in.

Special features of ghost-written projects

Ghost-written projects have some interesting and unique features which it’s worth knowing. When in doubt, remember that you’re there to a) help the writer, b) help represent the subject in their own words. I’m assuming you will check what the writer needs in terms of time stamping, etc., at the outset.

  • Retain the voice of the subject. The book is going to be written in “their words”, therefore the writer needs you to take down exactly what they say and how they say it. Once you’ve checked whether they want you to include all ums and ers, make sure you copy the way the subject speaks as precisely as you can. Get known for this and you will be recommended on from writer to writer (this happened to me).
  • Don’t mock the subject. If they have a very Yorkshire accent, for example, don’t go overboard with taking down their accent, all oop t’mill this and that. It will look like mockery and the writer will have to undo it all.
  • Do your research and keep a glossary. If it’s a musician, look up their band member, album and song titles. A film star, have a list of their roles and co-stars handy. I take down notes in a glossary and ask my writer if there’s something that comes up a lot that I can’t make out. They will still fact-check but make it as easy for them as possible.
  • Admit when you don’t know. Use [unclear 01:45] for something you can’t hear at all, and [? 10.45] for something you’re not sure of. Then the writer knows they need to check the tape and clarify what their subject said. If you plough on regardless, guessing what they’ve said, the writer will assume that’s what they said and might not have time to check every word.
  • Set expectations – after a few tapes you know how long an hour of this person’s voice takes you to transcribe. Don’t be a hero or offer to work all night: set sensible expectations.
  • Be discreet. You might well have to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) – I have a standard one I send out anyway. Don’t tell everyone whose book you’re working on.

It’s fun working on ghost-written projects and seeing “your” book on the shelf in a few months’ time. Some ghost writers are given acknowledgements of their own and you might see your own name in there! But usually they are pretty hidden and so you’re completely hidden: no, that’s probably not fair, but that’s how it goes.

I hope you found these tips for working with ghost writers helpful.

Other transcription articles on this blog

I’ve written lots and lots of articles on transcription: here’s a list of all of them.


Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Transcription



Mandolin or Mandoline?

Thank you to my husband Matthew for suggesting this one (he’s quite the fount of troublesome pairs, so watch out for more of his ones as we go through this new set of them), after he discovered himself that these two are in fact two different things.

So what’s the difference between a mandolin and a mandoline?

A mandolin is a musical instrument which is like a lute, with pairs of metal strings that are played using a plectrum.

A mandoline (which can also be spelled mandolin, hooray!) is that vegetable slicer thing (a flat body with adjustable slicing blades) that always looks like it will take your finger off.

“She was playing the mandolin, being careful not to hurt her fingers on the metal strings, while he cut vegetables using the mandoline, bring careful not to slice his fingers on the metal blades.”

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


Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


Tags: , , ,

Track changes – how do I get rid of the text box that appears when I hover over words in a Word document?

How do you get rid of document tooltips? How do you stop the little text boxes appearing when you hover over deleted or added words in Word. I had a query about this in a comment and thought that it warranted some screen shots and instructions.

What’s the problem here? What do you mean by these text boxes?

When you’ve worked with Track Changes enabled in Word, as well as showing you what your editor or collaborator has deleted or inserted into the text in red and with bubbles in the margin, you also get text boxes when you hover over the change. Here’s what that looks like:

Some people get annoyed by this, so here’s how to turn it off.

How do I turn off document tooltips aka those little text boxes that show me what I’ve deleted?

This process works for Word 2010 and later versions:

Click File on the far left of the tabs and then Options:

Once in Options, choose Display:

The Display dialogue box has an option to Show document tooltips on hover. Untick this by clicking in the square, then choose OK.

Now you won’t see those boxes in the document.

However, it does NOT turn off the useful tooltips in the rest of Word – so if you hover over any of the items on the Ribbon, you will still see the usual tooltips there.

If you’re using Word 2007, click the round button in the top left corner, choose Word Options at the very bottom of the dialogue box, then as above, select Display and untick Show document tooptips on hover.

Please note: these tips work for Microsoft Word version 2007 and upwards. They are not guaranteed or tested for Word for Mac.

Other track changes articles on this website

Track changes 1 – why use it, where can you find it, what can you do with it?

Track changes 2 – customising Track Changes

Track changes 3 – working with a document with tracked changes

How do I accept one reviewer’s changes?

Why are my tracked changes changing colour?


Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Copyediting, proofreading, Skillset, Word


Tags: , , , , , ,

Arc or arch?

When is an arc an arch? Is an arc ever in fact an arch?

An arc is first of all a curve that is made up of part of the circumference of a circle. So it has a particular form which may well be like that of an arch, but it’s always part of that circumference in this case. It can also be the electrical discharge that jumps from one point to another (so lightning forms an arc: not in this case a nice tidy bit out of a circumference) and finally we have the metaphorical use in a “story arc” in a fiction book, film, TV series or play (often across several episodes of a TV series) which traces the development of a plot or side plot. The verb to arc means to move with a curving trajectory, which could include arching over something.

An arch is a physical thing rather than a mathematical concept or a plot device (though you can have over-arching ideas that act as a sort of umbrella across a narrative or other story). So it’s a symmetrical curved (though that curve can be quite pointy) structure that supports a bridge, a wall, etc. It’s also the inner side of the foot, which is the same thing but in nature rather than constructed. The verb means to form an arch.

So an arc has a specific shape unless it doesn’t, and an arch is a physical thing unless it’s a metaphor. But you don’t have a story arch and most arches couldn’t be said to form part of a circumference of a circle.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!


Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Troublesome pairs, Writing