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Author Archives: Liz Dexter

About Liz Dexter

Writer, proofreader, editor, transcriber. Also runner, gym-goer, endurance and athletics official and BookCrosser! My married name is Liz Dexter but my maiden name and the name on my books is Liz Broomfield.

Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Although I issued my first invoice in August 2009 (and so will be celebrating in August, too), when I set up as self-employed, I matched my financial years to the UK’s financial years, to make everything easier, and so Libro officially started in April 2009. I cannot believe I’ve been going ten years, though – that astounds me.

Originally, after a lot of experience working on various types of texts through my working life (see About Me for more information), I was approached by one of my colleagues at the university library where I worked to see if I could edit their student’s Master’s dissertation. I said yes, did it, and instigated a string of lovely referrals. For the rest of that year, I mainly worked on dissertations for people whose English wasn’t their first language (I still do that today, although I work on more PhDs now).

I was lucky enough to have a fairly routine job and flexitime, so with a lot of time management and hard work, no holidays and an understanding then-boyfriend (now-husband), I worked part time editing and full time in the library through 2010. Then in 2011 I made the decision to go part time at the day job, after making sure I was replacing my wages with my self-employed income. I came off the Certificate of Low Earnings (which lets people who don’t earn much from their self-employment not pay national insurance: something I only did because I was paying NI through my PAYE in the job). Later that year I dropped a second day of the day job and in November 2011 I resigned, starting full-time self-employment in January 2012 (at which point I got jury service for the first two weeks of January!).

It’s been a lovely part of my working life and one I hope never to leave. I have a reasonable amount of flexibility, working alone at home (but with lots of friends a Facebook messenger message or “meet me at the cafe!” request away). My earnings went up and then stabilised, I had a good year last year and I’m aiming to work a bit less this year to retain my flexibility. I’m grateful to my lovely clients, some of whom have been with me almost from the very beginning, and I now edit, proofread, localise and transcribe, so I have a lovely variety of work, from helping academics record the voices of their interviewees to sorting out philosophers’ words and making sure British people understand American companies. Here’s to the next ten years!

And to celebrate, I added two chunks to my Kiva portfolio and, with the repayments I had sitting in my account, made three loans to three entrepreneurial women around the globe:

  • loan Rosa
    Honiara, Solomon Islands

    A loan helps to buy bags of rice, biscuits, soft drinks, and noodles for her canteen (general store) business.

    $25.00

  • loan Jivtiben
    Kutch, India

    A loan helps to purchase kurtas, sarees, leggings, etc., to expand her clothing business.

    $25.00

  • loan Mwanaisha
    Makumbusho-Dar es salaam, Tanzania

    A loan helps to add stock of braids, weaves, earrings, necklaces, hair food, hair pegs, and hair treatments.

    $25.00

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Business, Celebration

 

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Words I have looked up – conspectus

No one knows ALL the words, not editors, not professors of English, not writers. But I do pride myself on having a wide vocabulary, as befits an editor and wide reader with an honours degree in English language and literature.

As an aside, English vocabulary, with its pairs of words for so many things (bloom/flower, beef/cow, food/comestibles) makes learning other languages form the same broad family much easier. Learning Dutch, German or Icelandic? Reach for those Germanic terms to help find pairs of friends. Learning Spanish, as I am at the moment, and find Yo como means “I eat”? Aha – comestibles!

All this is working towards saying that I don’t hugely often encounter a word I don’t know, aside from technical terms I come across in texts I’m editing. When I meet on in my everyday reading, I’ve been noting it down, looking it up (of course) and then putting it aside to share.

On holiday recently, I was reading Alan Hollinghurst’s rather excellent “The Sparsholt Affair” (my review of it on my book review blog is here), which is a work of literary fiction about people studying and knowing about things, but is in the main clearly written without jargon, and I came across the following passage (the narrator is visiting the “facilities” at the back of an Oxford pub):

the foul-smelling gutter at the back, with its one light bulb and conspectus of venerable graffiti.

… and obviously the word I didn’t know there was “conspectus”.

So, what is a conspectus? Well, actually it’s an overview or summary of a topic, an overall view, an outline or a synopsis so I’m not sure that he had completely and exactly the right word here. What could he have meant? Palimpsest (layers of text, etc., overwritten again and again) seems a good bet. I’d have queried it were I his editor.

But anyway, I learned a new word and now maybe you have, too.

(Sources: OED Concise, Merriam-Webster online, Collins)

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Errors, Language use

 

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When you see businesses being criticised for not being prepared for Brexit, this is why some of us are not prepared for Brexit

So having had lots of emails telling me how to export goods to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, I tried once again to find out what happens to tax arrangements for people who export services. I’m by no means the only UK person in this situation. Please note I do not expect them to have all the answers, however it would be nice to know if this issue has been discussed, what to do if there’s no deal, etc. I think I am right to want to know how to conduct my business after Brexit, especially given the government, etc. reports detailing the horror of companies NOT being prepared! (Financial Times reports, for example)

Here is my somewhat Kafkaesque conversation over live chat with a representative of HMRC (I checked and it is OK to share this, see below).

[Note, I seem rude to start without saying hello but you’re told to enter your question first!]

LIZ DEXTER: Are the reciprocal tax arrangements between the EU and UK going to continue?
Additional detail: I provide services to EU clients. Currently, I only need state I pay self-assessment taxes to HMRC in the UK, or occasionally need to provide my UTR to prove this, in order for companies to pay me my full invoice and not tax me at source. However, some countries insist on further
paperwork (e.g. a client in Lithuania asked me to get an HMRC employee to sign a letter for them stating I paid tax in the UK). Is this situation being
monitored over the time of Brexit and how can I find out what’s happening?

HMRC: Good afternoon

LIZ DEXTER: Note: I have signed up for all the email alerts, but they are solely about companies that export and import goods, not services. There’s nothing I can find having read the WTO rules which we revert to with a no-deal Brexit. And hello.

HMRC: There is no further information I can give you regarding leaving the EU other than what’s available on gov.uk

LIZ DEXTER: There’s no information on gov.uk about this specific situation that I can find. Can you point me towards any information for exporters of services, not goods, please?
The reason I ask this is that the Ease of Doing Business if I have to get an HMRC employee to sign a paper for every client I had will badly adversely affect my business (and the tax I’ll pay in the UK!).

HMRC: Give me a moment whilst a check my guidance.

LIZ DEXTER: OK thank you.

HMRC: I don’t have any guidance I can give you. It just tells me to direct you to guidance published on gov.uk

LIZ DEXTER: Which doesn’t have anything to do with exporting services at all. OK it’s not your fault but can you please feed back that there are so many people in my position, I have EU customers asking me how they’re going to deal with me post-Brexit, whether they can continue to use my services. It’s embarrassing and very stressful. Or HOW they can continue to use my services.

LIZ DEXTER: Is it permissible to share my download of this chat with other self-employed people or my clients?

HMRC: I will feed that back. Sorry but at this time we don’t have the information you require.

HMRC: Yes that’s fine.

LIZ DEXTER:  Thank you. And I appreciate your help and that
you’ve done all you can.

REFERENCE: Record of your HMRC webchat [url redacted, can be provided upon request]

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Brexit, Business

 

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How to customise your contents page in Word

It’s Word Tips time again and today we’re going to talk about customising your contents page.

Why do people customise their contents page?

Sometimes you have lots and lots of sub-headings in a document but you only want to show the main or main and sub-headings on the contents page, not every tiny sub-sub-heading.

In addition, you might want to change the style of your contents page or its individual font and layout. Here’s how to do it, with a worked example of changing the levels that are shown.

Reminder: how do I insert a contents page?

Here’s our document, with headings at H1, H2 and H3 level. I’ve marked these up with their heading levels already (see here for how to assign heading levels).

If we just follow the usual process for inserting a table of contents, we will create a blank page before this one, then go to the References tab and choose Table of Contents, then click on one of the automatic options that come up.

This is the result: a table of contents that includes all the headings in our original text:

How do I select which heading levels appear in my Table of Contents?

If you want to ignore all headings below level 2 (1.1, 1.2) then you need to customise the table of contents.

As before, select the References tab and the Table of Contents button. However, now click on Custom Table of Contents

This will give you this dialogue box:

There are lots of different things you can do here. For example, you can choose to show or not show the page numbers in the table of contents, and whether or not to align them. The preview panes at the top will show you the results before you click OK.

Options allows you to choose the style for the table of contents from a set of heading styles, and Modify then Modify again allows you to completely customise the appearance of the table of contents text permanently, with underlining, different fonts, etc.

At the moment, we’re concerned with eliminating the level 3 headings from the table of contents.Click on the arrows by Show levels to adjust how many levels are displayed:

And click OK. Here we have changed the number of levels to 2, and the result is this:

Even though the text still has the same headings and levels it had before, the table of contents now just includes those headings down to Level 2

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 … Please note that these tips are for Word 2010 and later for Microsoft. I can’t guarantee or check they will work in Mac versions of Word.

Do let me know if this has helped you – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.

Related articles on this website

How to use headings styles – make your headings clear and consistent

How to set up numbered headings – ones that automatically update themselves!

How to create a Table of Contents – read the posts on Headings first

Table of Figures and Table of Tables – how to create these tricky ones

How do I add or remove auto-captions?

Two-line caption, one-line entry in the Table of Figures: how?

How to update Tables of Contents, Figures and Tables

Tables of Contents for editors – helping the editing process run smoothly

 
 

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What is the process once I’ve accepted your quotation?

We’ve looked in previous posts about the process of requesting a quotation from an editor in Working with an editor 1: requesting a quotation and going through the negotiation process in Working with an editor 2: negotiating and booking in. Now it’s time to look at the last part of the process – what happens once the job is confirmed and live.

All the details should have been covered off now …

  • We have agreed the price per 1,000 words or project price.
  • We have agreed the turnaround and/or deadline (if you don’t have the full project ready, I will give you a turnaround quotation, so I will complete the work within 14 days of receipt, etc. We have usually agreed a vague delivery date if not a fixed one by now.
  • If you wanted a sample edit done, I’ve done that and you’ve agreed that’s how you want to work.
  • You’ve read and accepted my terms and conditions.

What happens next?

1. You let me know about when you’ll have the full text ready for me and I’ll book you a slot. There are no obligations even then, although I do hope you will let me know if there’s any delay or you need to cancel. Lots of people have difficulty with their time scales, whether students, independent writers or journalists, so I understand and be flexible up to a point.

3. When it’s time, send me your manuscript and have a rest from it while I work on it (but be around in case I need to ask any questions).

4. I will do your edit and return the text and a style sheet detailing decisions I’ve made on anything that has different options (e.g. hyphenation, capitalisation, etc.) (see more on style sheets: What is a style sheet?)

5. You will confirm receipt and look through my changes, address those and any comments I’ve given. If you have questions or rewrites, I accept one batch of queries and 10% of the total word count in rewrites as part of the service with no additional charge.

6. I will send you my invoice and you will pay it within 30 days.

And that’s it! It all looks simple but I’m aware that if you’ve not used an editor before, this is an unknown process, and I hope I’ve made it easier for you.

Other useful articles on this website

Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?

Working with an editor 2: negotiating and booking in

Do I need editing or proofreading?

Working with Tracked Changes

What is a style sheet?

On completion of your edit, will my manuscript be ready for publication?

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Copyediting

 

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Words I have looked up – deuteragonist

Even editors (especially editors, who need to know what they don’t know more than most people) need to look things up sometimes. It could be a spelling you can never remember or the way a word is hyphenated in x style guide. Sometimes you just come across a word you don’t know at all, and this happened to me while working on a literary article.

So, what is a deuteragonist in a plot or play?

We know what a protagonist is – the main, central character. And an antagonist is the one who is against them. But the deuteragonist is the second most important person in a narrative – second to the protagonist. This could be the antagonist, but is more likely to be a secondary character, a sidekick, a faithful friend.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Errors, Language use

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Transcription

 

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