Pass the crow. I’ll have seconds.

One could file the following post under “How should I have known?”

I was contacted by a graduate student from an unnamed institution this past week (because of the name and nationality, I could not tell the student’s gender, so I will refer to the student as “they.”) They had a master’s thesis that they wanted copyedited, and the topic (molecular biology) was right up my alley. They also said they were given my name by their advisor. Sounded great, right? Well…There were several things about the email request that concerned me.

First, the student did not address me by name.

Second, they did not name their educational institution or give their advisor’s name.

Third, the email originated from a live.com address, not an address from any kind of institution.

Fourth, the deadline was rather tight.

So, saying “Better safe than sorry,” I turned the job down, telling the student that I did not believe I was the ideal editor for their work and wishing them well. I also showed the email to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association Discussion List to get my colleagues’ opinion on whether this request was legit.

The good people at the EFA did some excellent detective work and found out which institution the student was from and their advisor’s name. So let us found out where I went wrong:

  1. They may have not addressed me by name because they could not tell my gender from my name.
  2. A live.com address is legitimate; the student may only be using their school email address for communication with faculty and other students.
  3. Many students who are unfamiliar with copyediting underestimate the time it will take to do so.

Therefore, I lost out on a gig. I am wiser for next time, and hoping my reputation has not been tarnished.

Onwards and upwards.

Torn about war

Hello, readers.

Let me first and foremost say that my blog is not and was never meant to be a political one. However, I do not wish to bury my head in the sand regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week.

I was horrified by some of the images of the invasion that the news showed me this week. I can recall the camera shot of the city square in Kyiv with the Motherland Monument in full view with its arms outstretched, the streets empty as the terrifying wail of the siren filled the air. And that of the Russian tanks marching across the Ukrainian border like hungry monsters.

I keep thinking, “Putin, what did the Ukrainian people ever do to you?”

What I am torn about is how much we in the US should get involved. I know we have some troops over there and my heart breaks for each of these brave soldiers and their families. I personally don’t want another Iraq or Afghanistan. Biden has put sanctions on Russia; will that stop them or make them angrier? The sanctions are already starting to (slightly) affect my life in the form of the cost of gas and the fact that Apple deleted a song from my iTunes which happens to be by a Russian rock band (a song which I downloaded four years ago and which has nothing to do with war). The song was grayed out in my library.

On the other hand, we cannot just sit on our duffs and watch this happen. The people of Ukraine are desperately leaving the country and becoming refugees. They are suffering. They are getting hurt and killed for an evil reason. We have to do something. This reminds me way too much of what history taught me about World War II.

Has World War III begun?

I will leave it here.

9 to 5? Nope. And it doesn’t bother me.

Let me say it right now. If you want to work typical “9 to 5” hours, then freelance editing (or editing of any kind, for that matter) is not for you.

I worked for a few hours last Saturday afternoon; I did that so I could meet a deadline. Back in November, I worked Black Friday, while many folks were at the stores (not that I wanted to be at the stores). And I plan to work tomorrow, which is Presidents Day. (I know that not everybody gets a long weekend the third week of February, but a lot of people do, and many [though not all] of them might grumble if they had to work on that Monday.)

Ah, but I’m not here to whine and moan. Freelancing has plenty of advantages with regards to time. For example, if you are a night owl by nature, you can work in the evening or at night and sleep late in the morning. If you charge by the hour, you are only paid for the hours during which you actually work. This means that you don’t have to feel guilty if you take a break to have a snack (as long as you remember to turn off your timer).

You can also give yourself a day off if you need it or even want it. Last summer, I did not go on a vacation per se, but I did give myself one day off so I could visit Hersheypark. (Yes, it really is spelled as one word.) Or you can give yourself a day off if you need it to attend to an elderly relative. (I should add that if you take one or more days off, your clients need to know that you will be unavailable those days.)

One interesting thing I have found about freelance editing is that the common adage, “Poor planning on your part does not make an emergency on my part,” does not apply. Poor planning on your client’s part does and will make an emergency on your part. That’s part of the business. But then there are days when there is no editing to do. On these days, you must plan your marketing, tidy up, read books on editing and/or business…you should be doing things that are constructive.

If you are a freelance editor, how do YOU plan your days? Please let me know in the comments.

Part Two: Conferences, Conferences, and More Conferences

About a month ago, my professional career was dealt a blow. Not the most severe one it has withstood, but still a blow.

A conference, given by one of my professional organizations and which was supposed to take place this August, was canceled. Not postponed. Canceled. With a capital C. Can we guess why?

This happened even before registration opened. I had been planning to go to this conference, which was supposed to be my first ever professional event as an editor, for a long time. The really awesome thing had been that it was supposed to take place in Alexandria, Virginia, which is in the same metropolitan area where I live, and so I could have commuted and not had to stay in a hotel. My mother, bless her heart, had even offered me the convenience of staying at my parents’ home, which is near a Metro subway station, during the three-day conference and taking the Metro to Alexandria every day.

None of that is going to happen now.

The icing on the cake (sarcasm) is that this particular professional organization has a conference only once every three years or so–not annually. So there goes my chance for a long time. *sigh*

Another professional organization of which I am a member is having a conference in the early spring in San Antonio, Texas. I have known about this one since before registration opened last fall, and let’s just say I would love to go. I also give kudos to the organization for not canceling due to you-know-what. There’s just one problem…

M-O-N-E-Y.

In order to pay the conference fee, the hotel, the plane tickets, the ground transportation fees, and for meals, I would have to make a huge dent in my business account–one that I cannot afford to make. *sigh*

I would have loved to see San Antonio as well; I have never been to Texas.

So what’s an editor trying to learn, grow and network to do?

I’m going to keep saving money until the next conference that I know of comes up. It will be in the spring of 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. Hey, I can drive there in less than a day!

Dear readers, have any of you been to Columbus? What is it like? Please let me know in the comments.

Practicing What I Preach

My mother told me not too long ago that ever since I became an editor, I have been speaking better English.

The funny things about her compliment are (1) I didn’t even notice that my spoken English was better, and (2) I was not even consciously trying to speak better English.

I guess it goes with the profession. Don’t tell writers to use grammatically correct language when you don’t even do so yourself. In other words, practice what you preach.

I’ve found, however, that there are times when I do make a conscious effort to improve my grammar, both in speaking and in writing. For example, even though The Chicago Manual of Style says this is acceptable, I personally don’t like the use of “that” when referring to people. “That,” in my opinion, is for objects and animals. It is for this reason that I say, “The man who is married to Penny,” instead of “The man that is married to Penny.” The former just sounds so much better to me.

Or the use of the subjective vs. objective pronouns. At this point, I would not say, “Julie and me went to the arcade.” It’s easy to remember how to measure the correctness of such a sentence; cover up “Julie and” and read the rest of the sentence. “Me went to the arcade.” You wouldn’t say that, would you? That’s how I know I should say, “Julie and I went to the arcade.”

It works the same with reflexive pronouns. “Ronny, Johnny, Donny, and myself went to see the CEO.” Cover up everything to left of “myself” and read the sentence. See how incorrect it sounds? It should be “Ronny, Johnny, Donny, and I…”

My informal writing (mostly writing emails to friends) has improved as well, although I’m still occasionally guilty of writing to imitate speech, such as “I been trying…” Ohhhh…shame on me.

One word of caution: I’m not going to get into the who vs. whom argument in this post. Although “whom” is correct whenever an objective pronoun is called for, I (and several other editors) believe it is often too formal, especially in speech. “With whom did you go to the Sex Pistols concert?” Can you see a punk rock fan saying that? (Okay, maybe I’m stereotyping.)

Do you have any strong opinions on grammatical issues?

A Different Kind of Soundtrack

Last week, I blogged about working in silence versus working with music on, and I stated that I preferred silence for my editing. This week, however, I have not been working in silence. I’ve been working with a much different kind of soundtrack than what I am used to:

BANG! BANG! POUND! POUND! BZZZZZZZZ! GRRRROWWW!

That’s right. My husband and I are getting our tub converted into a walk-in shower, and so we’ve had contractors in our condo most of the week. They began demolition last Wednesday, installed the shower Thursday, and are now working on drywall and painting. The shower doors will be installed two weeks or so from now; for the time being, there is a curtain so that we can use the shower. More drywall will be put up this coming week.

But I digress. I love our new shower and I am incredibly thankful that we were able to replace our tub with it. However, the noise of the project has made for some interesting workdays.

Believe it or not, although unpleasant, the frequent banging, pounding, and drilling is bearable because the contractors have been polite enough to keep the bathroom door (which is right across from the door to our office room) closed and speak to each other softly. I’ve also been keeping the office room door closed. I still sometimes wince when I hear a drill or saw whining loudly, but the contractors can only do so much to keep the noise level down.

And surprisingly enough, having contractors in the condo during the weekday has an advantage.

Normally, during the workday, I sometimes stop my Toggl timer (which tracks how much time I spend working) and go out into the living room and take a break for fifteen or twenty minutes. With the contractors around, however, I’m less likely to do so. This is because they often go in and out of the condo, taking a path through the living room. I don’t want them to see me in there and think that I am goofing off or that I don’t really work. Hence, I’m more likely to stay in the office room and get more work done. If my brain is really fried, I can get up out of my chair and lie on the wall-to-wall carpet in the office room for ten minutes while I recharge. (Not the most comfortable thing, I know, but it does help my mind.)

Have you ever had workers in your home while you were working at home? How did it affect you?

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?