Tag Archives: editing

From Presentation Attendees…

AALNC

April 10, 2013 AALNC Pittsburgh Chapter Presentation

  • Rated  “Above Average” by 100% of presentation attendees.
  • Rated  “Excellent” by 87% of those attendees.
  • Did not receive a single rating below “above average.”

Comments from attendees:

“Stacey was informative and gave great advice on how to improve my report writing and how to make my report more interesting for my client.”

 

“Stacey was a very good speaker, who offered new information.  She spoke clearly and asked if we had questions throughout her presentation.  Her presentation was clear and concise.”

 

“The presentation powerpoint and graphics were great.  The information was so relevant and I really enjoyed learning these new techniques that are relevant to my field of work.”

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Word Recycling

By Stacey J. Haseleu

Recycling image

As writer’s, we’re not always fortunate enough to have a never-ending stream of ideas enter our minds consistently.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at my computer screen, the blank white page of a Word document staring me in the face, only to promptly close the window, shut down my computer, and turn on the T.V.

Sigh

The one thing I’ve found to be annoyingly true is that words come to me at the absolute least convenient of times.  Like when I’m finally getting to bed at 2 a.m. after working on multiple projects and course work for 12 hours straight. Without relucatance, hesitation, or remorse, the words immerse my mind — repeating themselves until I finally give up, get out of bed and write them down.

I’ve wised up to this and placed a little pink journal and my favorite pen next to my bed. When a word or phrase starts to heckle me, I simply open the journal and write it down. It’s like taking the phrase by it’s hair and throwing it out the door.

But it would be ashame if all these insights were somehow lost in the vacuum of space forever.  Some of my most creative thoughts come at these times. But how to remedy this?

Sage Cohen, author of The Productive Writer, suggests we start to collect all of these small, seemingly meaningless thoughts by writing them down in notebooks, on index cards, or sticky notes.  “Acorns” she calls them.  Then set up an “in-box” to deposit the “acorns” and when you have time pull one out and start writing around the thought or words.

A squirrel, I am not, but the idea really is genius — collecting your mis-fit ideas and repurposing them into their own, shiny pieces.

She even suggests in business writing to develop a “darling” page.  So when you go through the pain-staking process of editing a document, the words, phrases, sentences, even paragraphs that don’t make the cut don’t end up in a black hole.

A darling page, for me, is word heaven.

Although a particular idea doesn’t fit in with the core message I am trying to convey in that piece doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled in a later piece, perhaps even become the focus of a new idea.

I’ve found, as Cohen so aptly states, that “Darlings have liberated me to be a far more swift and spontaneous editor. I can take action without second-guessing myself too much, because nothing is ever really lost; it’s just relocated to the darlings file, where I can always grab it again if I need it” (The Productive Writer, pg 49).

Looking at content this way makes me feel like I’m not wasting time; like every idea, word and phrase is worth something. Not to mention when I’m out of original ideas, I need only to look into my “acorn” box or “darling” file and find an old, but no less special idea, shine it up, and take it for a ride.

 

 

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Which Comes First? Proofreading vs. Editing

http://www.siliconcloud.com/blog/bid/61717/Which-Comes-First-SEO-Website-Design-or-the-Egg

Much like the age-old chicken vs. egg mystery, writers continue to debate whether editing should occur before or after proofreading.  In fact, I’ve had many people ask me if there’s even a difference between the two, to which I reply, “Of course there is!”

Proofreading and editing have two completely different functions.

Think of proofreading as the smaller stuff: spelling, punctuation, word choice.  After you’ve “completed” the initial writing process (I put completed in quotation marks because I truly believe a piece of writing is never complete, it’s always evolving or at least has the potential for evolution), you take a general, first glance at what you’ve written.

This first glance is what some writers consider the “proofreading” phase.  It allows you to see if you’ve skipped any words, if you’ve spelled affect with an “e” instead of an “a,” or if you’ve created a run-on sentence, much like the one I wrote above.

Editing, on the other hand, allows you to completely manipulate your document.  It analyzes sentence structure, format, placement, and gives the author (or editor) power to evaluate the overall aesthetic, tone, and purpose of the document.  Editing is a much deeper exercise than proofreading, which seeks to affirm the strength of your topic, supporting evidence, and ideas.

In general, when I proofread a document I am looking at each individual word first.  Is is spelled correctly?  Then I narrow in on each individual sentence.  Is the sentence a fragment?  Does it have proper punctuation?  Is it structured properly?  I’m not making any large changes to the overall substance of the piece, I’m just giving it a little cosmetic changes.

Editing v Proofreading 4

When I edit a document, my red pen runs out.  I cross out entire ideas and phrases, re-write an entire paragraph, insert bullet points and headings, and pretty much turn my masterpiece into a grade school student’s worst nightmare.

For me, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to which should come first, proofreading or editing.  In fact, I believe the best pieces of writing come from a combination of proofreading, then editing, then proofreading again.

What is important is to recognize that not all changes to a document should be made into one step.  That means you SHOULD NOT consolidate the proofreading and editing phases.  When you consolidate these two steps, you tend to lose perspective.

For example, if I’m reading a piece to check specifically for spelling errors, my brain becomes wired to look for mis-spelled words, but it can’t muti-task and also evaluate for content comprehension simultaneously.  Thus, while I may think I’m keenly picking out sentence fragments or missed letters in a word, I’m not able to also comprehend an entire paragraph’s importance to the central theme of my document.

Don’t overload your brain!  Making sure you separate proofreading and editing into two separate processes will allow you to look at your document from multiple perspectives.  If you don’t have anyone to help you with editing, the more times you step away and come back to the piece, the better.  It’s like a fresh set of eyes every time!Cryptic clothing label

If the writing process could have it’s own little clothing tag, it would read “Proofread, edit, proofread — repeat.”

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Editing Technical Documents

By Stacey J. Haseleu

As writers, we are inevitably intertwined with the editing process. Writing well is synonymous with an ability to dissect the English language. Like a surgeon, we meticulously cut words, sew together phrases, and sometimes perform complete facelifts to format in order to convey our thoughts.

Editing, to some writers, is a necessary evil – operative word being evil. But to other writers, like myself, editing can be just as enjoyable and rewarding as the actual creation process. Editing makes me feel powerful, closer to my audience, and more intimate with my own thoughts and feelings.

But what happens when we’re asked to edit a document with content foreign to our expertise?

My friend of nearly 20 years is a very dedicated and talented nurse. Since the first day of college our paths were different; I studied English and Psychology, while she was drawn to the medical field. Never, in a million years, did we think that one day her RN/BSN degree would cross with my BA in English and Psychology and Masters in Professional Writing! But that day has come…

As a Legal Nurse Consultant, my friend is able to provide attorneys involved in medical lawsuits with inside knowledge of the medical field. The attorneys retaining her provide medical records, depositions, and the opposing legal team’s medical standpoint. She reviews all of the documents and presents her findings and professional opinions in a report. The legal team uses the report to help substantiate their case.

Because her final report is vitally important to the attorney’s case, my friend is left with the overwhelming task of providing a comprehensive, easy to understand, and insightful review of her opinions. For many in the medical field, this can be a daunting task. Although I’ve insisted she’s actually a great writer, she, understandably, still likes me to edit her report prior to sending the finished product to her client.

Before I continue with my advice on editing documents with content you don’t know well, I have a confession to make; I am not totally ignorant to all medical terms. While I in no way claim vast knowledge in the medical field, I did work with disability claims for over 8 years from both the HR side as well as the physician/insured side. So, I have reviewed a few medical documents in my day, and I am, admittedly, generally familiar with medical terminology; however, I am NOT familiar with all medical terminology and I am clueless on what the “standard of care” for conditions should be and these are typically the insights provided in my friend’s reports.

Just today she sent me a report for editing. Although I don’t understand all of the medical standards of care and terminology, I will be able to provide her with a professional and cohesive edited product and here’s how:

1. Since I am not a specialist in the medical field, and neither is her audience, I’ll be able to provide her a significant connection to her audience’s point of view. My first step in the editing process is to read the document twice through, focusing only on comprehension of her message.

2. After reading for comprehension, I’ll make some general notes as to what information is unclear to me and why. Is it unclear because I don’t understand the medical aspects? Or, is it unclear because of the way it’s written?

3. Next, I close the document and go to sleep. No, I haven’t given up or gotten frustrated, I’m just giving my brain the opportunity to reset from a comprehensive point of view.

4. Waking up, hopefully refreshed, I’ll go back and re-read the document from a English major’s point of view. What words are spelled wrong? Is the grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure correct? I’ll make these changes in Microsoft Word using the change tracking tool.

5. I’ll re-read the document for format. Does the format work? Is there a better way to organize the information, if so, I’ll make these changes now (again using Word).

6. Only after all of the English major edits are complete will I go back to my notes from the night before. If anything wasn’t working the night before because of formatting or structure issues this would have been fixed already. At this point I’ll send the document back to my friend asking her to read the edits thus far and call me.

7. This is the MOST CRUCIAL part of the editing process. When she calls, I’ll focus on the initial notes. What information is unclear to a lay audience? How can this content be changed without losing important information to the report? This part gets sticky because there is no guide as to how you do what. You have to collaborate with the creator; you take the viewpoint of the audience while she takes the viewpoint of the professional. I make the edits and/or notes as we discuss each aspect of the document.

8. Next, I send her a copy of the revisions we made together and ask her to read a copy. I read a copy as well and make any additional changes.

9. Last but not least, I have one more phone conversation asking if any new edits are needed on her side. If not, I let some time pass, then go over the document one last time. This time I read the document as one of the lawyers AND as an English major. If all seems well, I send the finished product to my friend.

The important part is never to close the door on editing. Don’t rush it, but don’t over think it. Make decisions and stick with them, but don’t stick to them if it is to the detriment of the rest of the document. Always, always, always, keep the audience in the back of your mind. How will they use this document? What will make it easier for them to use?

You CAN edit documents even if they are technical in nature, you are, after all, a writer; a master of words, a surgeon of thoughts and ideas. Collaborate with the professional on the technical parts and leave the rest to your editing wizardry skills!

Rhetorically Urs,
Stacey

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Editing for Digital Media: A Metadiscourse of my Own Writing

By Stacey J. Haseleu

The Importance of Editing

The shift from old media (such as printed materials in newspapers and magazines) to new media (like posts on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and privately run blogs) specifically impacts the way writers not only need to write, but how they edit as well.  In old media, writers were faced with the challenge of editing a piece of work down to the bare bones and essentials of a story line in order for it to fit in the allocated space designated by the newspaper or magazine editor, but with the shift to new media outlets, writers are now forced to self edit without the instruction of editors looking for a specific word count.

If editing is not a pre-requisite from an editor, why is it still imperative, perhaps even more important, for writers to edit their pieces?  The answer to this question is rooted more in audience than space constrictions.  Studies show that with the new media age, readers are looking for information in a quick, easy-to-read format allowing them to get the news and quickly move on to the next portion of information or to check their emails or to spread the word in a quick snippet on their own form of social media.  Brevity is power in the digital media age.

If writers can hook a reader’s attention and then maintain the attention of the reader until all of the important information is read, then the writing is acceptable by new media standards.  So in an age of Twitter “tweets” that are 150 words or less, professional writers aren’t competing with one another to edit their pieces down for the sake of fitting into a newspaper column print, but they are competing to grab and keep the attention of online readers.

The piece I chose to edit is actually one of my blog posts.  During the first term of this semester, I was enrolled in a Political Writing course.  We wrote weekly “fact check” articles regarding the current political campaigns.  One of the most difficult concepts of these articles was keeping them at a length that provided three major components: what the candidate or campaign was claiming, what the opposing candidate said about the issue, and what was actually true.  This was difficult to achieve while also creating a piece that would hold the attention of an audience reading a personal blog.  It is for this reason that I chose one of these weekly blogs as my editing piece for this assignment.

Anecdote Removal

I first took out the anecdote I used in the article.  This was the part of the article where I made a comparison.  When writing the piece, I thought it added substance by providing the reader with a real-life example.  After I took this part out, though, I realized that the audience that was reading my political blog was, for the most part, intelligent and informed voters that already had somewhat of an understanding of the basics of Medicare.  Using the anecdote to allow the audience to relate was actually condescending to the reader and didn’t speak to the overall theme of the article.

Converting Citations

The second change I worked on was converting my parenthetical citations to actual links to the websites where I obtained my information.  In the age of writing for digital media I believe it is absolutely imperative to provide readers with in-text links to the actual sites where you get information.  No one reading on a digital media site will take the time to scroll down to the end of the article, copy down the link, and re-type it into their browser to see your source.

Format: Justifying Paragraphs

The other style change that I made was justifying the paragraphs.  In old media, such as newspapers and magazines, articles were justified so that the words could fit appropriately into the allotted column spaces.  In the age of new media, I also believe that format plays a large role in the audiences’ readability of information.  The justification of paragraphs allows the eye to continue to flow from one sentence to another.  When the paragraphs aren’t justified, they look rugged and make the eye stop at the end of the line instead of continuing throughout the document.

Eliminating Redundancy

The next edit I made to the piece was to cut out phrases that were redundant.  In political rhetoric, I find it a given that candidates use redundancy in their campaigns.  They can speak about one subject for twenty minutes and basically say the same sentence using different words.  So, when writing about politics, I found that my article did much of the same redundancy that the candidates and their campaigns are guilty of also doing; I was stating the same idea over again using different words and phrases, so I edited or changed these parts of my piece.

Cutting “Flowery” Wording

The final cut I made to the piece was adjectives.  When writing a news article, “flowery” adjectives aren’t necessary.  The point of a news article is to provide information to a reader, not to provide a Charles Dickens-like (I use his name when describing excessive imagery) account of events.  Taking away adjectives and adverbs doesn’t change the substance of the point you are making, it just gets to the point in a more reasonable and timely manner.

The Results

After achieving all of the edits, my piece dropped from 750 words to 511 words; a 30% decrease in words, but no loss of facts relevant to the central theme of the article.  The surgical cuts to the piece make it easier to read, quicker to read, and more likely to be read in its entirety.  It also looks much better on my blog!

The original article can be viewed by clicking here.

The Edited Article:

The Truth About Medicare

By Stacey J. Haseleu

Throughout the course of Wednesday’s Presidential debate, Mitt Romney made it clear that his talking point for Medicare was a broken-record account of Obama’s $716 billion dollar cut.

In fact, the transcripts of the debate show that Romney mentioned “$716 billion” and “Medicare” in the same sentence 10 times throughout the course of the 90-minute debate. He said, “What I support is no change for current retirees and near-retirees to Medicare and the president supports taking $716 billion out of that program.”

While it’s true that President Obama will cut $716 billion of spending from Medicare over the next 10 years, this figure is misleading.

Mitt Romney insinuated that the $716 billion dollar cut would negatively impact Medicare recipients; however, Factcheck.org’s article entitled “Medicare’s Piggy Bank,” states, “…the opposite is true. These cuts in the future growth of spending prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund, stretching the program’s finances out longer than they would last otherwise.”

Medicare has four parts: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare advantage plans), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). Part A is at no cost to retirees and is what people pay for through their FICA payroll tax. These payments are placed into a treasury fund.

While some voters believe the money they contribute through each paycheck is kept in a “piggy bank” somewhere for when they retire, they are mistaken. The Medicare trust fund works on a “pay-as-you-go” system where funding is taken out on an as-needed basis. Individuals presently in the workforce are actually paying for those currently retired and on Medicare.

With the number of individuals in the workforce disproportionate to the amount of baby boomers on Medicare, the system is financially burdened.  There isn’t enough funding in the trust to cover benefits.

In fact, the current Medicare Part A trust fund only has around $244.2 billion. Factcheck.org says, “the Part A trust fund was expected to be exhausted in 2016.”

To make up for the rapid depletion of funding in Medicare, President Obama implemented cuts to spending.  If the spending of Medicare continues, it will be bankrupt by 2016. Obama had a choice; he could continue to spend and let the funds run out in 2016, or he could reduce the amount of spending and keep Medicare running through 2024. He chose to cut spending to increase the longevity of the Medicare treasury.

What type of “spending” did Obama cut to extend the life expectancy of Medicare? Romney would have you believe the cuts were directly taken from Medicare recipients, but the Congressional Budget Office’s report to Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner indicates that The Affordable Healthcare Act, aka “Obamacare”, diminishes the spending of Medicare Part A through major reductions in payments to hospitals in the amount of $415 billion.

With the cuts, the CBO estimates that Medicare will not exhaust in 2016. In fact, if the reduction in payments to hospitals continues, Medicare will not exhaust until the year 2024. This means “Obamacare” actually extended the life expectancy of Medicare by 8 years.

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