Viscus or viscous?

Viscus or viscous?

I do like a -us or -ous distinction that’s not just talking about American versus British English, and, well, enjoyed wouldn’t be quite the right term, would it, did some writing about this when I covered mucus or mucous. So here’s another pair of words that sound and are spelled almost the same but don’t mean the same, and you wouldn’t really want to mix them up, would you!

Viscus, it turns out (I didn’t know this off the top of my head. One of the most important rules of being an editor is know when to look things up, and I always check even the ones I think I know in several resources before posting these articles) – is the singular form of the word viscera (which is the word for the internal organs, particularly those in the abdomen).

Viscous describes the state between being a liquid and being a solid: a thick stickiness. Ugh. When I did a search to make sure I hadn’t written about this before, the results came up with my mucus or mucous and unguent or ungulant articles. I think I’ll write about something sere and dry and non-sticky next …

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

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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in Errors, Language use



Possum or opossum?

DictionariesBecause possums are known for playing dead, I thought this would be a good post for April Fool’s Day. But I’m posting this after midday in the UK, so it’s only still appropriate in later timezones than ours. Ah, well.

So, what’s the difference between opossums and possums? Well … there is and there isn’t a difference.

An opossum is an North American marsupial which is from the family Didelphidae and is handily also sometimes known as a possum. The word opossum was borrowed from the Powhatan language in the 1600s.

When Americans or those who knew the opossum first went to Australia, they found there was a similar-looking BUT NOT THE SAME animal from the Phalangeriformes family, and promptly christened it the possum. Except that it’s sometimes called an opossum.

Here’s the North American type, the opossum (or possum) (both pictures used from Wikipedia  on creatives commons licences):

North American opossum

and here’s the Australasian variant, the possum (or opossum):

Australasian possum

You’re welcome!

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


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How do I access the Customize Ribbon menu in Word 2010, 2013 and 2016?

This article explains how to access the Customize Ribbon menu, from where you can customise your ribbon. This will link in to posts on customising the ribbon and assigning keyboard short-cuts.

This information applies to Word 2010, 2013 and 2016 for PC.

What is the ribbon in Word?

The ribbon is the set of menus found at the top of your screen in Word which allow you to do all sorts of things, from changing the font to merging documents and adding tables. You can use short-cut keys for some commands, and I’ll explain that in another article. You might call it a toolbar, too. Here it is:

word ribbon

Why would I want to customise the ribbon in Word?

The ribbon in Word is filled with things Microsoft thinks you will want to use, in places it thinks you will look for them. But you might well want to customise it to add your own favourite short-cuts and commands. Or you might want to remove a particular tab altogether, and Word allows you to do this.

How do I find the customize ribbon menu?

There are (of course) two ways to get to the dialogue box where you customise the ribbon.

The first way uses the File tab, the second uses a right-click.

Using the file tab:

use file tab to get to customise ribbon menu

Navigate to the Word Options menu:

word options to customise ribbon

And once in Options, select Customize Ribbon:

customize ribbon from file menu

The alternative way is to right-click anywhere on the tabs in the ribbon and then select Customize Ribbon:

right click to customise ribbon

How do I customise the Word ribbon?

Following either of the routes described above, you should come to this menu:

customise ribbon menu and dialogue box

On the left-hand side, you can see a list of commands, and on the right-hand side you can see a representation of the tabs you have in Word at the moment.

Here are some things you can do:

add an item to the word ribbon

  • Add an item to the Word ribbon (see above) – highlight the item you want to add, highlight where you want it to go, and click the Add button in the middle
  • Remove an item from the Word ribbon – find the item you want to remove by expanding all the menus on the left, highlight it and click the Remove button
  • Create a new tab – maybe you want to make a tab that only contains commands you use a lot – you can use the New Tab button on the left to create a new tab, then add items to it (an item can be in more than one tab)
  • Rename your tabs – rename them to whatever you want!

Don’t forget to click OK before you exit from this menu – or Cancel if you don’t want to change anything after all.

In practice, I wonder how many people do much customisation – do let me know in the comments if you’ve either customised your ribbon already or have followed these instructions to do so.

This article has shown you how to find the customize ribbon menu, why you might want to customise the ribbon in Word, and how to do it.

Related articles on this blog

How to customise the Quick Access Toolbar


Posted by on March 29, 2017 in New skills, Short cuts, Word


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Stentorious or stertorous (or stentorous)?

Stentorious or stertorous (or stentorous)?

This troublesome pair originated from the common misconception that there is such a word as stentorous, which is something to do with loud speaking or breathing. I’ve seen and heard this used, but in fact, it’s not a word at all! The word people are looking for there is stentorious, and the word they are probably being affected by when they think about it is stertorous.

Let’s sort out these two words that do actually exist, then.

Stentorious (or, indeed stentorian, which is listed in the Oxford Concise Dictionary at the expense of stentorious, but I reckon I’ve never come across) is used to describe a person’s voice, or the sound they emit, as being loud and powerful. Stentorious and stentorian are both listed in the Oxford Dictionaries online resource (which you can find here). I suppose stentorian might be marginally easier to spell, but in this case it seems a bit odd to have two words meaning exactly the same, even though I usually like that kind of thing.

Stertorous sounds pretty similar AND means a pretty similar (though not exactly matching) thing – it describes laboured and noisy breathing. I do like this distinction and think it’s important.

So stentorious or stentorian for vocal expression, stertorous for breathing, and stentorous for neither of them, because it doesn’t exist (but I bet a lot of people look it up!.

Do comment if you found this article because you looked up stentorous! Thank you!

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


Posted by on March 25, 2017 in Errors, Language use



What are the types of transcription?

What are the types of transcription?

There are many different types of transcription, and when you work as a transcriber, you might be asked to do any or all of them. Later in your transcription career, you may choose to specialise in one, and this can be useful for your career. It’s important to know about the kinds of transcription so that you can provide the best possible transcript for your client – if it’s important to them to include everything everyone says and you do an intelligent transcription, your transcription might not even be any use to them!

The different kinds of transcription

These are the main types of transcription. Be careful, however: some clients might describe these different types in different ways, using different language or explaining what they want rather than using a particular term.

Phonetic / linguistic transcription 

Phonetic or linguistic transcription is a highly specialised form of transcription which records not only the words used but the tone taken by the speakers and the exact overlap when two people speak. It is used when the client need to record what is said and how it’s said, because they need to analyse speech acts by a speaker or the exact nature of the interaction between two or more people.

I have encountered this kind of transcription being requested by linguists or clinical psychologists. In fact, I’ve also seen it in books and academic works about speech and interaction.

In phonetic transcription, you record the pronunciation of the words and the rise and fall of the sentence, overlapping utterances, etc., using specialised notation. Linguistic transcription does everything except the phonetic aspect.

For both kinds of highly specialised transcription (which is so highly specialised that I don’t offer it), you will be expected to use a range of symbols and probably a special template.

Time and pricing This is the most time-consuming type of transcription by far – expect to take twice as long as your normal speed, if not more. However, as a highly specialised type of work, the rate per audio minute is higher.

Video / descriptive transcription / captioning

If you’re doing video transcription of a film which is not simply of one or two people speaking, you may be asked to provide descriptive information or take down the text that appears on the screen. The purpose can be either to provide captions on the film in the same language, or to provide a script for translators to translate into another language.

This can involve two different aspects:

  1. Recording the wording in any information that appears on the screen: this could be marketing information, information about the speaker’s job and company, wording on diagrams, etc. This is usually requested when you’re producing text that will be translated.
  2. Recording the movements of people and other noises than speech, e.g. slamming doors, a car pulling up outside. This will usually be requested when your client is captioning the film.

Captioning itself is a specialised art and I refer any true captioning jobs over to a friend and colleague who is experienced with it.

Time and pricing: This again is specialised work and takes extra time to do; for example, the words on the screen might appear at the same time a voiceover is saying something else, so you might need to go over the same tape twice. Therefore there’s an argument that you can charge a little more. Captioning is a specialised art and commands higher rates, but you really need to know what you’re doing.

Verbatim transcription

When we do a verbatim transcription, we record every single the speakers say, but using standard typing and symbols.

This is used by, for example, legal clients, researchers and marketing companies and anyone who wants to get the full flavour of how the person was speaking. Many of my ghost-writing clients also want verbatim transcription so that they can catch the exact way the subject speaks and capture that to write their book to sound as if it’s written by the subject.

Time and pricing: I use standard pricing for these three kinds of transcription from here onwards, as they actually take around the same length of time to do: the time typing errs and ums and repetitions can be used up by thinking about how to rewrite someone’s words!

Edited transcription

An edited transcription is a slightly tidied up version of a verbatim transcription. It is usually requested by general interviewers and journalists, and also some academic researchers and writers. Ghost-writers might ask for a small amount of editing just to limit the number of ums they have to remove before they can write up their book.

So the editing can have various levels, but usually means removing ums, ers, and repetitions, as well as any “speech tics” such as repeatedly adding “you know” or “d’you know what I mean”.

You do the editing as you type, as it would be far too time-consuming to type out a verbatim transcription and then go back and edit it. Once you’re used to it, it’s quite quick and easy to do.

Intelligent / smoothed transcription

In this type of transcription, you will typically turn non-standard or non-native English into standard English. You are likely to be altering grammar and even wording, as well as doing the activities involved in an edited transcription.

I have two types of client who ask for this kind of transcription:

  1. Companies that produce conference or meeting reports – they want standard English throughout, and any speaker who is a non-native English speaker or even one that is a native English speaker but has a very idiosyncratic way of speaking will be smoothed out and standardised.
  2. Marketing companies that are doing research on a client’s product with its customers, for example. All they want is what the client thinks, straight and simple, to report back to their client, and may well ask me for an intelligent transcription.

Time and pricing: This is quite a specialised variety of transcription, as you need to be very confident in your own ability to write a good, grammatical sentence, to understand what someone has said and rephrase it. As a by-product of the kind of speaker whose words you are smoothing out, you need to be good at understanding non-native English accents. Not everyone is skilled at this, but if you are, it’s really fun to do, as it involves more thought than the other standard varieties of transcription. It does take a little longer than verbatim and edited transcription if the speaker is hard to understand, and I may charge a little more on that basis.

How do I find out what type of transcription my client wants?

If a client wants captioning or linguistic transcription, they will usually know this and provide templates and instructions: they will also check you know how to do this (don’t try to guess if you don’t have any training in this: it won’t work and it will end in tears!) and might give you a test.

To find out whether my client wants verbatim, edited or intelligent transcription, I include this question in my initial questions to the client:

“Do you want the transcription to have a complete record of all ums and ers / to be tidied up of ums and ers and repetitions / to be tidied into standard English and complete sentences where possible?”

This will usually get them to confirm what they want, even if they don’t use the specific terminology.

This article has explained what the types of transcription are and when they might be used, as well as examples of what they look like and some information on their particular challenges. You now know about linguistic transcription, film transcription and captioning, verbatim, edited and intelligent transcription.

If you’ve found this article useful, please do comment below – I always love to hear from my readers! There are sharing buttons there, too, so you can share this on whatever social media platforms you use. Thank you!

Other useful articles on this blog

How do you start a career in transcription? – are you suited for it?

The professional transcriber – the technology you need

10 top tips for transcribers – what every new transcriber needs to know

Why do you need human transcribers, anyway? – I explain why!

Keyboards, ergonomics and RSI – the risks and keeping safe

Transcribing multiple voices – hints to make it easier

Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute? – explains it all

How long does transcription take?

My book, Quick Guide to your Career in Transcription is available in print and online

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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Business, Transcription, Word


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Small business chat update – Sophie Playle

Small business chat update – Sophie Playle

Welcome to an update with  Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages,  We first met Sophie in December 2013, at which point she’d only been going for eight months, Sophie updated us on how she was getting on in January 2015 and again in March 2016, where this was her plan: “I’ve decided that I’d like to expand the Liminal Pages team. Ideally, I’d love to work with a few excellent editors who share a similar work ethic. And while others take on more of the editorial work, I’ll be able to fully immerse myself in marketing and growing my business while also developing and running more courses. For the first time ever, I feel very clear about the direction I want to take my business. Knowing me, though, this time next year I’ll have done something completely different!” So, did she do what she hoped to do, or change her mind as she thought she’d do? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Sophie! So, the big question: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

As I predicted in last year’s chat, I changed my mind about where I wanted to take my business – which was to build a team of editors so I could take on fewer projects myself. I don’t feel bad about this, though. Having the flexibility to change my mind is one of the best things about running my own business.

I thought long and hard about whether I really wanted to start building a team, and it was an idea I kept at the forefront of my mind while I attended the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ conference in September – I chose sessions that were all about expanding and developing your business.

After the conference, I felt I better understood the logistics of managing an editorial team – but then I crunched the numbers. And I realised that I wasn’t currently getting the volume of enquiries I would need to make it work for me financially. I would need at least ten times the number of clients for my percentage to add up to a reasonable salary, and that just wasn’t going to happen. I was getting too ahead of myself.

Not only that, but I realised I relish the personal connection I make with my clients. If I were going to have editors representing my brand, they would need to provide the highest quality work and match my values. I’m not going to rush into this. I need to be patient and let this branch of my business grow organically.

Other than expanding my team, my other goal was to create and run more courses – and this is something I’ve achieved. Back when we last spoke, I had one available course – Conquer Your Novel, which is all about novel writing, funnily enough. That’s been on the back burner for a while, though – it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I’ve been letting it lie while I focus on other projects. I plan to revive it soon, though, now I have a better idea of what it should look like.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Last year, I created a new course in collaboration with my good friend and talented business owner Karen Marston. It’s called Start Fiction Editing and teaches editors how to set up and run a fiction editing business. I ran it twice last year and both times it sold out.

The idea for the course came about when I was talking to Karen about adding editors to my team. I complained that though there were lots of copy-editing training courses out there, there wasn’t a single one that taught all the specific lessons I wanted a new editor to learn – such as how to edit fiction while respecting the author’s voice, how to use Track Changes and query using comments in Word, how to use time tracking to set rates that work for the individual … Karen suggested I create the course, and so I did. Together, we expanded the premise so it would help new editors set up their businesses (rather than just teach editors how to work for me!), making it useful to a wider audience.

Aaaand I’m currently in the middle of creating a new course called Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory. I’ve realised that I love talking about the mechanics and business of editing perhaps more than I like editing itself – so I’m dipping my toes in editorial training, and I’m enjoying it.

In terms of what’s stayed the same, I’m still editing novels, though slightly fewer than before since I’ve started building and running online courses.

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

This is an interesting question to ponder because one thing I’ve learned over the years is that we have to go through our own experiences to learn our own lessons. I’m not sure if present-me could travel back in time and give past-me a piece of advice that would be helpful – because I wouldn’t have gone through the process of learning the value of that advice. And that’s what matters most.

Perhaps, then, what I’ve learned is that I can read business books and blog posts and listen to others give me advice until my ears fall off, but that can only take me so far. Advice can be incredibly valuable, but it can also become overwhelming, which is something I touched on in last year’s post. However, it’s only through experiencing the particular challenges of our own businesses – through the prism of our own personalities – that we can learn the most valuable lessons.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. I’ve found myself looking at other people’s businesses and then creating an amalgamation of them in my mind that becomes this grand idea of what a successful editorial business ‘should’ look like – then I measure my business against it and either feel like a failure or feel anxious about branching out in a way that doesn’t fit the mould.

Obviously, this is absurd. It leads back to what I was saying at the start of this post: as business owners, we have the power to be flexible. Just like a blank page can seem paralysing to a writer, this idea – that we can build our businesses however we want – can be scary, and so we play it safe and follow convention. But we don’t have to. It’s not even about taking risks – it’s just about thinking outside the box a little, and not comparing our businesses to others that aren’t directly comparable anyway.

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

This time around, I’m not going to make any grand statements or plans. I’m going to get my head down and continue doing what I’m doing – providing editorial services to authors and online training to editors – and see where it gets me. I share my most personal thoughts on being an editorial business owner in my Liminal Letters, which I send out roughly every fortnight, so if anyone wants to keep up with my journey, feel free to subscribe!

Sophie’s a good and generous colleague to have – she contributed a guest post to this blog back in January, sharing her experience and support on how to move into fiction editing if you want to do it and she’s one of my recommended editors for fiction work. I love how she really thinks about what she’s doing and, indeed, the answers to my questions, and can’t wait to see what she gets up to this year!

Visit Sophie at her Liminal Pages website: or find her on Twitter or Facebook!

Sophie’s rebranded website is at and that novel-writing course can be found here: Conquer Your Novel

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. 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 March 18, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Undulate or ungulate?

My husband, Mr Libro, likes these words, he suggested last week’s too. I have to say I agree with him, too, even if any confusion between them in likely to be more of a typo than an error in meaning.

To undulate means to move smoothly in a wave-like manner.

An ungulate is a hoofed mammal, such as a cow. I thought it only meant hoofed animals that chew the cud, so you really do learn a new thing every day!

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

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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