Sounds and Silence

Some people might ask, “Do you listen to music as you edit, Suzelle?”

The answer is a resounding NO.

Now, this is not to say that I don’t like music in general. I adore music of many kinds. When I am not working, I listen to classic rock, modern rock, metal, techno, classical, R&B, progressive, even rap when I am in the mood. If you didn’t know me and you looked at my iTunes library, you would be very puzzled as to what kind of person I am.

It’s only natural, then, that a person might ask me if I have music on while I edit.

I do not, because I love music so much that it would be distracting to me while I work. Picture yourself at your job. Your lover (or fantasy lover) comes into your workplace and sneaks up behind you and starts stroking your hair and hugging and kissing you while you are trying to get things done and meet deadlines. Sure, it feels wonderful, but it’s also stressful because you aren’t getting your work done. That is how I would feel if I had music on while I worked.

Editing is brain work, and if the part of my brain that should be editing is taken up instead by music, I can’t get anything done. Period.

Interestingly, some of the editors in my professional organizations listen to music while they edit–but it’s always instrumental music of some kind, such as classical or New Age. Nothing with lyrics. And I can understand that, because lyrics are words, and an editor’s work consists of words, and if the two are mixed together, the result is a jumbled mess of words. Make sense?

In college, I knew people who had to have music (with lyrics) on while they studied. I failed to see how they could do it, and even at my age, I could not do it now.

Do you listen to music while you work (whether you are an editor or not)? How does it work for you?

A Good Problem to Have

This past week, I was incredibly busy with work.

In fact, I was being pulled in three different directions by three different clients. Ack!

I was working on a project for a retail company, a program and brochure for my church, and a research manuscript bibliography for an author at my grad school alma mater, all in the same week.

Guess what…this is a good problem to have if you are a freelance editor! For me, it means that my name is getting out there. It also means money coming in (although money isn’t everything…right?).

So…if you were in this situation, how would you handle this? Follow the steps below, which I did:

  1. Don’t panic, and don’t pull your hair out. Think of the positives: as I stated above, your name is getting out there, and money will be coming in soon.
  2. Look at each project’s deadline. Let’s say one is due Wednesday by the end of the day, one is due Thursday morning, and one is due the following Monday by the end of the day. Keep those deadlines in mind, or write them down if that helps you remember.
  3. (This should be obvious.) Work first on the project that is due Wednesday. Make goals as to how far you will get Monday and Tuesday. When you meet each goal, give yourself a pat on the back. On Wednesday, finish the project and send it to the author.
  4. Repeat step 3 with the project that is due Thursday morning; that is, make goals as to how far you will get Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Then finish on Thursday morning.
  5. Finally, do the same with the project that is due the following Monday.

Does this make sense? In this way, you are working on part of each project every day and making progress on each project every day. If you need to burn the 10:00 pm oil, don’t be afraid to, but know when to stop for the night (i.e., when you are so tired that you cannot concentrate well).

Have you ever been pulled in several different directions by several different clients? What did you do?

The Art of the Password

Please let me blog today about an annoying subject that is very necessary to talk about: passwords.

Passwords are, as we all know, highly important, yet irritating. It seems that every day we must create an account with some website or other, and for each account we must make up a password.

A password should not be easy to guess. For example, you should not use your mother’s maiden name, your father’s first name, your middle name, your spouse’s name, or your pet’s name, just to name a few no-no’s. Another rule about passwords is that you should not use something blatantly obvious. For example, don’t make your password “123456,” “abcdef,” or the word “password.” (The last one is probably the number one worst choice.)

It’s best to use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters in your password, along with a few numbers and some “special characters.” Special characters are usually symbols, such as !, *, #, or $. The more jumbled around these letters, numbers, and symbols are, the better, because then your password is difficult for a hacker to guess.

I personally have a kind of system for choosing a password. I use songs, since I love music.

I often use song titles (or parts of them) and their respective artists (or parts of their name), with random (or special to me) numbers and symbols thrown into them. The songs are supplied to me by my iTunes on my phone.

How does this work?

Let’s say I create a new account somewhere and I need a password. I immediately grab my phone and open the music app. Then I tap the play button to start a random song playing. That song will be the basis for my password.

For example, let’s say my phone begins playing “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows. (In real life, I do not have this song on my phone, so don’t get any ideas, please.)

I start by writing the song title on paper: mrjones

Now, let’s throw in the artist’s name in part: CCmrjones (Note that I am now using uppercase and lowercase letters.)

We need some numbers. What was the month when I heard this song for the first time? January 1994. So let’s put that in somehow: CC194mrjones (Note how I threw it into the middle rather than sticking it at the end or beginning.)

Finally, we need a symbol. I am partial to the asterisk: CC194mrjones*

This could have been done a number of other ways as well.

Now, two very important rules:

  1. Be sure to write your passwords down in a little notebook and treat that notebook like gold.
  2. Change your passwords at least once a year. I typically change mine on January 1 or 2 of each year. New year, new passwords.

As I said before, the song “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows is not on my phone, so I will never, never use the password above that I just used as an example. Please don’t use it to try to hack me.

Happy password-making!

Ringing in 2022

I decided to take Christmas weekend (last weekend) off from blogging; I apologize for not giving you all a heads-up about that.

Now that we are officially in 2022, I wanted to share with you all some goals I made for myself for this year. I don’t make resolutions; I make goals. Goals are more attainable. Resolutions often involve changing one’s personality and that is difficult, if not impossible, to do.

So what are my goals for 2022?

  1. I want to add two more regular clients. By regular I mean clients who give me steady work. Don’t get me wrong; I value every single one of the clients I have ever had, whether they have given me one single assignment, a few here and there, or a steady flow. But I always feel guilty when I am in a dry spell and not making money. How am I going to add two more regular clients? Gasp…I don’t know yet! The ACES webinar that I am attending via Zoom on January 28 is supposed to shed some light on this issue. I’m also planning to research the best ways to win more clients.

2. I want to attend my first-ever editing conference. In the past, my finances have been a major roadblock to my doing so. However, at the end of August, one of the organizations to which I belong is having a conference in the same metropolitan area where I live, and I believe I can attend; no hotel to have to stay in. Now, if only the Metro will work well for a change…

3. A personal goal involving friendship.

That’s enough for this year, I believe.

I would like to add that, when I did the books for the end of 2021, I found that I turned a profit once again–and this time the profit was almost four times that of last year’s profit. Yay! Thank You, God!

Do you have goals for 2022 that you would like to share in the comments?

“Merry Holidays”?

And so the old argument rears its ugly head every year: Should we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

My answer: “It depends.”

Some may argue that “Merry Christmas” is insensitive to those who do not celebrate Christmas and/or who are not Christian. That may be so, although there are many people who celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas (tree-trimming, gift-giving, etc.) without celebrating the spiritual aspects (the birth of Christ) of it. I believe it’s perfectly fine to say “Merry Christmas” to these people, as well as to Christians who are commemorating the Savior’s birth.

Then there are other folks who claim that “Happy Holidays,” which is often used as a more inclusive alternative to “Merry Christmas,” is too liberal. In fact, I’ve heard of people wearing shirts that read “Happy Holidays” Is What Liberals Say. I can understand that they are concerned about Christ being removed from the holiday itself (and I personally am concerned about that myself), but I also think that “Happy Holidays” Is What Liberals Say is rather arrogant. Name-calling is never okay, folks.

So, to get back to my answer to the dilemma, “It depends.”

If you know for a fact that a person is of a faith that is not Christian, you should say “Happy Holidays.” If you say “Merry Christmas,” the person may think you are assuming that they are Christian–and it’s rather insensitive to assume that anyone is of a particular faith. It’s the same as seeing someone who appears to be from India and assuming that they are Hindu. (Not all people from India are Hindu, and not everyone who “looks” Indian is from there.) I personally have two good friends who are Jewish, and to them I say either “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hanukkah” (the latter during the eight days when the holiday is celebrated). They, however, say “Merry Christmas” to me, which is perfectly acceptable, since they know what faith I belong to.

What are your opinions on the “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” debate? Please, no bashing any particular faith.

The grapevine

Every editor should have their own grapevine.

What do I mean by this?

A “grapevine,” as I call it, is a network of referrals. If I do great work for a client, I want that client to refer me to others who might be in need of editing. Of course, the client is under no obligation to refer me, but I do like to encourage clients to do so.

If a client refers me to another person who is in need of editing and I do a great job for that person as well, then that person will (I hope) refer me to other people. It is in this way that an editor’s grapevine grows.

In the summer of 2020, a colleague of mine whom I know through a professional organization referred me to an editor friend of hers who had been asked to edit a scientific manuscript. The friend specialized in editing fiction, but asked me if I would work on the manuscript. I accepted, and after I had finished editing, the manuscript was accepted for publication in a scientific journal.

Just last week, my colleague’s friend mentioned me on her blog and linked my name to my website. That was so wonderful of her!

Sometimes referrals can come from the most unlikely sources. When I was in grad school, there was a professor in my department whom I’d had no contact with in some twenty years. When I launched my editing business, I contacted her and told her that I would love to edit scientific manuscripts and grant proposals for the department. The professor referred me to a part of the university that was looking to build a pool of editors to do such work. A few interviews and signed paperwork later, I became one of the university’s contractor editors who edits for various scientific faculty. God bless that professor.

My grapevine is growing.

Taking yet another plunge

Some of you may recall that I successfully completed the Editorial Freelancers Association’s series of online copyediting classes last April (specifically, I completed Advanced Copyediting at that time). Although the classes were fun, they did take up a significant amount of my time (Advanced especially so) and at the end of April, I said to myself, “It will be a long time before I take another class!”

You know what they say: Never say never.

This past week, I registered for another online class offered by the EFA: Macros from A to Z.

“What is a macro, what does it have to do with editing, and why do you want to learn about macros, Suzelle?” you ask.

It’s very difficult to explain what macros are without plagiarizing the words that I have read that were written by others. So I will attempt to explain them on my own. Bear with me.

Macros are, in my feeble understanding, keyboard shortcuts that editors install on their computers and that make editing more efficient.

I’ve read in Carol Fisher Saller’s The Subversive Copy Editor that if you aren’t using macros, you’re not making an honest living (paraphrased).

I’m all for efficiency and I’m definitely all for making an honest living, so off to “macros class” I go, come April 18, 2022.

Fortunately, the class is for macro beginners, and comes with a discussion forum and three Zoom sessions in which students can help each other and get help from the instructor. I’m looking forward to it, although it is most likely not going to be easy, as it deals with material with which I am unfamiliar. With the copyediting classes, I could say, “Oh, I’ve seen this kind of thing before.” With macros…uh-uh.

I blogged a while ago about how one should never stop improving, and what I’m writing about here goes right back to that point. If I use macros in my editing and they make me more efficient and save my clients money, then that is a strong improvement. (And yes, I will be doing my editing work as usual during the period of time in which the class will be, which means that my Saturdays will be for macros.)

Dear readers, if you know any information about macros, kindly share it with us in the comments.

Out with the old? Nope!

Editors know that well-known style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style and APA, are revised every several years and a new edition is released.

An editor should, of course, make every effort to obtain the latest edition of every style guide they use. But what to do with the previous edition they were using before?

Should they toss it into the recycling bin? Sell it on eBay? Donate it to a library?


If you are an editor, you should keep the previous edition of your style guides for “the time being” (I’ll explain what that means in a minute). Why?

Some authors or publishers may require that an older edition be used.

I found this out (almost the hard way) last week, when I edited a scientific review that was to be published in a certain journal. When I looked up the journal publisher’s style guide, I found that the publisher required APA 6th edition style.

APA is up to the 7th edition at the time that I type this. I ordered the 7th edition of the APA almost as soon as I heard that it had come out. I had already possessed the 6th edition for a few years…and thank Heaven I still had it, or I would have been in big trouble.

You know what? I almost didn’t have the 6th edition last week.

A year ago, I wondered what the 6th edition could do for me now that I had the 7th edition. So I asked my husband to sell it on eBay.

Less than a week later, I almost took a gig where the 6th edition was required, and I asked my husband to take the listing off eBay, which he promptly did.

Thus, I kept my APA 6th edition…and I am incredibly glad that I did!

I believe that if, for example, you have the 1st edition of a style guide and the 2nd edition comes out, you should obtain the 2nd edition but keep the 1st edition until the 3rd edition is released. Then, and only then, is it safe to get rid of the 1st edition.

Do you believe differently? If so, please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Holiday in or out?

The Thanksgiving holiday is later this week and Christmas comes just a month later. Good grief! Where does all the time go?

Some editors might take holidays off from working. They might tell clients who approach them that they are not available during that time, or advise their long-term clients that they will not be available from this date to that date.

Do I work during the holidays?

Oh yes I do.

However, when possible, I plan my work time around the date of an actual holiday. For example, right now I have a project due on November 30 (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) which was handed to me on November 19 (the Friday before Thanksgiving). I have planned my work time so that I work on the project during Thanksgiving week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and (Black) Friday (I don’t join the shopping frenzy anyway), and then Monday, and put the finishing touches on it on Tuesday before sending it in that day.

Note that Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) is not in the plans. I will be with my family that day and I need that day to be with them. It’s called work-life balance.

Two years ago, I was handed a project shortly after Christmas, and it was due two days before New Year’s Day. I worked on it, including over a weekend, and completed it on time. A lot of people take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Not I.

Getting back to the work-life balance issue…Had the project been handed to me before Christmas, I would have planned the work around the holiday (not during it!) as I am doing now.

When I worked in biological labs, I once worked in a lab where the manager had no concept of work-life balance. You were expected to work long hours and basically be married to the lab. If you had a spouse or children, they were to play second violin. Needless to say, this lab had a high turnover rate, and I only lasted five months there. (Thank Heaven I didn’t have to stay longer!)

So tomorrow I begin editing the new project. Bring it on! Just be respectful of my work-life balance, please.

Reflections on turning 48

As my birthday is next Sunday, November 14, I will be taking that day off from blogging. This week, I am writing a post about my reflections on this past year.

What did I accomplish, business- and editing-wise, at age 47?

I began by continuing to edit a series of catalogs for the company for which a friend of mine works. This consisted of combing through many PDF pages and listing the required corrections in a Word document. It reminded me how much I need to learn how to edit PDFs directly (hello, Denise Cowle? I want to take your class on this.). However, I got to look at a lot of beautiful pictures of the company’s furniture in gorgeous settings, which was fun. The catalogs were finished in mid-December.

At the time, the church which I attend had just begun meeting in person again, but many attenders (my husband and me included) still opted to watch church online out of fear of COVID. The pastor was also wary of the disease, so he delivered his messages on video which was projected to the big screens in the church auditorium. That was where I came in. The captions and Bible verses and such that came on the video at specific times were checked and edited…by yours truly. The pastor returned in person on Easter Sunday (April 4) and that task vanished.

But…then the church began producing programs again, complete with Scripture outlines, so there was still work to be done. (Yay!) (I’m not being sarcastic here.) There were also Bible study materials to edit.

Alas, in late December, I learned a painful lesson, as my business suffered a blow due to a grave mistake I made. A sincere apology was made and the matter was buried, but it really put a damper on the holiday season. Also, in January, I did work for a researcher who then said he could not afford my fee, and I ended up giving him a huge discount, which did not feel good on my part.

However, in general, 2021 started with a cheerful bang. I began an assignment to edit the entire website of my friend’s company–a project which took me until the end of August (eight months!) and netted me a nice sum of money, which was paid monthly. Between pages of furniture, I managed to edit a scientific manuscript in March (and I would love to do more) and keep going with the church materials.

As for my pro bono work on the website of a local nonprofit, I handed the reins to a colleague from one of my organizations who was looking for pro bono work for herself. That felt good, as I was not leaving the organization high and dry.

I turned a profit in 2020 (Yay!) and will probably do so again in 2021 (Double yay!).

Age 47 was a difficult year for me personally, so I am ready to jump into 48, hoping the year will be kind.