A scary “Window” to the future

Windows. It’s what all PC users (like me) call home when we work.

(If you are a Mac user, I have nothing against you at all, but I must warn you that this post will not be relevant to you, since I do not know the Mac operating system. However, I would like to learn it someday.)

I first became aware of Windows around 1990. I was on my high school’s newspaper (I was the copy editor) and the editors of each section often used software called PageMaker, which ran in Windows. Of all the computers in our school, the ones in the journalism room were the only ones with Windows. I’m not joking. The others had, among other software, WordPerfect. That’s how old I am, folks.

My husband and I have a couple of computers between us; one is the laptop on which I am typing this post. The other is a desktop that we got at the beginning of (gasp!) 2015. Yes, it is eight years old. It has done a good job for the last eight years, but it is now as slow as molasses. Still, my husband uses it every day and I use it for “fun stuff” like watching YouTube videos or listening to music. My laptop is pretty much reserved for my work.

Both of our computers are currently running Windows 10. Our now-ancient desktop ran Windows 7 when we bought it. It automatically upgraded to Windows 10 a few years later. At the time, I was quite anxious about this. I was on Facebook at the time and I posted, “Our computer automatically upgraded to Windows 10 last night. Should I be concerned?”

My cousin replied, “Go back to 7 right now! Windows 10 will spy on you!” Very reassuring. However, we decided to keep Windows 10. I have no idea whether it is spying on us.

These days, my laptop prompts me about once a week to upgrade to Windows 11. The idea of this scares me. I have seen posts written on the EFA Discussion List about people who have lost their macros and had PerfectIt crash when they upgraded to Windows 11. Therefore, I am skeptical and paranoid. I have a gut feeling that one day my laptop will automatically upgrade, and then I will be thrown to the wolves. I will have to reinstall my macros and write to PerfectIt’s parent company’s tech support. That day has not come yet, however.

Do you use Windows 11? What has been your experience with it so far?

Taxes…are so very…TAXING!

That’s why my husband and I went last weekend to a well-known tax preparation organization. The woman who did our taxes was highly professional and friendly and knew what she was doing. But I digress.

For a (too-long) time, we did our taxes on our own. Doing so would take about a day, lots of groaning, and the last of our patience. Gone were the days when we had only one W-2 for each of our jobs and could use the simple 1040EZ. Suddenly, we also had 1099s for my freelancing and had to fill out Schedule C, Schedule 1, and Schedule SE. And do lots of math. Did I mention that I never liked math?

Let’s talk about these forms for a minute, for those who may not be familiar with them.

Schedule C is for reporting income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor. (Source: IRS) This applies to yours truly, since I operate Fiedler Editorial as a sole proprietor. I must report my profit (or loss) for the year on this form. My business expenses are also listed; whether I use a professional or not, I must keep good records of what I spend money on, how much money, and when and where I spent it. (NOTE: Our tax preparer really liked the printout of the expenses spreadsheet that I kept throughout the year. It pays to be neat.)

Schedule 1 is, in a freelance editor’s case, income from self-employment. (Source: IRS) It is also for several kinds of other income not directly reported on the 1040, but I won’t get into all of those here and bore you to death.

Schedule SE, which stands for Self-Employment, is for figuring the tax due on net earnings from self-employment. The Social Security Administration uses the information from Schedule SE to figure your benefits under the Social Security program.(Source: IRS) Everybody (that I know of) wants Social Security benefits once they qualify, and if you don’t have an employer who is taking money out of your paycheck for Social Security (i.e., you are self-employed), then you had better be filling out the Schedule SE.

I wish you the best on your tax preparation this year, whether you use a tax expert or not, and I hope you get a nice refund.

What’s outside my window?

An editor who works from home must deal with many distractions, and from nowhere do most distractions come than outside her window. At least, such is the case with yours truly.

In our condo’s second bedroom, which my husband and I made into an office, there is one window, which happens to be located behind and to the right of my work desk. For the most part, I like that window, because it lets the light into the office and I thrive on sunlight (Give me some Vitamin D!). Also, when the weather is nice, I turn off the heat/AC and open the window, letting it bless me with fresh air.

Alas, not all that comes from the window is good for editing. Despite the fact that I live on a fairly quiet, suburban street, many distractions come from the window and threaten my concentration while I am working. I have to make an effort to keep my brain focused on my editing and not on the following potential interrupters:

Cars. Ninety percent of cars I don’t even notice, but if one with a missing muffler or a blaring stereo goes down the street, it can threaten to break my focus.

Kids playing. This is usually only an issue around three o’clock in the afternoon, when the neighborhood kids get off the school bus. Now, don’t get me wrong—kids need to play outside every day. But I just might have to close the window while they are doing so.

The city street-cleaning vehicle. I’m not sure what else to call this weird-looking, cube-shaped thing. All I know is that on Thursdays, it travels slowly and noisily along the curb with its brushes spinning as it keeps our street clean.

And last, but not least, there is the occasional emergency vehicle going by with its siren screaming. God bless the first responders who rush to the scene of an emergency. But it’s just that…well…the wail of the siren can be quite anxiety-provoking for me.

So what do I do to stay focused? I have to catch myself when I sense my mind starting to wander. This takes discipline and a strong will. After all, I am not in the office to look out the window. I am in the office to work.

What distracts you the most when you are working?

What’s on the board?

When one is running a small editing business, a bulletin board can be an ideal thing to have. Mine hangs directly above my work desk (and below my nemesis—the heat/AC vent that makes loud white noise when it is blowing air—but that’s another post for another time). I wrote a post a long time ago about my bulletin board, but it has changed some over time, so I thought it was time for an update.

My bulletin board helps keep me organized and makes sure that I do not lose important information. One thing I that I always keep pinned to it is my collection of time records for the month—that is, the records of the time I spent working on each task that was on my plate during the month. When the last day of the month comes, I look at the time records and invoice accordingly, after which time they are filed. Can you imagine what would happen if I lost one of these time records? Perish the thought.

A bulletin board item which has made its home on my board since last summer is my list of macros. This lists each macro that I have installed on Word and the keyboard shortcut that I assigned to it. Most of them I have memorized (which is the goal when using macros), but it’s always good to have a “cheat sheet” in this case.

There’s also the email printout showing that I registered for the EFA Conference, which is taking place in Alexandria, Virginia in August. Yes, I registered for it and I am officially going! Yay!

My favorite residents of my bulletin board are the things I pinned there that bring me encouragement. There are two small printouts of compliments I received from my first “long distance” clients, as well as a certificate of completion from an advanced copyediting course that I took some years ago. My most cherished items, however, are the Bible verses I wrote on sticky notes and the postcard sent to me by a good friend showing a picture of a rainbow with the words “BETTER DAYS AHEAD.”


If you have a bulletin board, what kinds of things do you like to keep on it?


Since MS Word pretty much dominates the writing world, all editors must know and be skilled in it. Everybody knows this. Of course, there are other software programs designed for writing—Google Docs, for example—that every editor would do well to learn.

In this post, I’m going to discuss one of the many programs not directly related to writing that editors should learn. I’m going to talk about MS Excel.

“Yawn!” you might say. “What does a spreadsheet program have to do with words? Just let me do my editing and leave the numbers to the accountants.”

Well…if you have an editing business and do your own books, Excel is highly useful, especially if you are not skilled in software designed specifically for accounting (such as QuickBooks).

For example, I use Excel to keep track of my earnings and expenses by month, by quarter, and by year. I have to admit that I am not good at arithmetic, so it is easier and more accurate to let Excel add up the monetary figures than to try to make sure I am entering the correct digits into a calculator. Besides, with Excel I can organize figures neatly into rows and columns and use color to make a sheet easier to decipher (not to mention make it look pretty).

Another task that I like to have Excel do is organize my client list. I keep a list of all of my editing clients, their affiliations, who introduced me to each one, and the date on which I last completed a job for them. Can you imagine what a mess such a record would be on paper? I make the list easier to read by adding subtle shading to every other row. I also highlight in color entries regarding clients for whom I am no longer editing.

Excel can do a ton more than I am currently using it for, so I really should snap up an Excel for Dummies book and learn more. Hmmm. Mastering Excel can be added to my list of goals for 2023.

If you are an editor, do you use Excel and for what do you use it?

Books vs. distractions

“Remember books? Remember reading?”

A book would say that to some people.

What would cause someone to stop reading in their leisure time? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Their phone, of course.

You see it all the time in, for example, a doctor’s waiting room. People used to read magazines in waiting rooms (although I have to question the quality of some of those periodicals). Nowadays, waiting rooms don’t even have magazines anymore. People entertain themselves on their phones.

You can even see it while waiting in a long line for the restroom at a service area on the New Jersey Turnpike. People are scrolling on their phones, texting, checking email, or watching a video as they wait.

Such entertainment, while fun, has sadly taken the place of leisure reading for a lot of people.

Sometimes, when I sit on my couch scrolling on my phone, I imagine a novel jumping up to me and grabbing the electronic device, yelling, “Give me that! You two have been spending way too much time together! Remember me? Remember reading? Remember what joy it used to give you?”

It’s very humbling.

Here’s an embarrassing but true story: On a trip to Myrtle Beach one Memorial Day weekend, my husband decided to take a nap in the hotel room before dinner. I went out on our picturesque balcony with my phone and a novel that I had only just started to read. I intended to enjoy the novel, but then I decided to take pictures with my phone and text on my phone and check email on my phone and watch some cool videos on my phone and…sigh.

Yes, I know…the phone should have stayed inside the room. “But what if someone calls?” The classic excuse.

No more excuses. The late afternoon was when I used to immerse myself in novels. Lent is starting on February 22 and I have resolved that during Lent, the late afternoon and early evenings will be spent with a book. And my phone will stay on the table behind the couch. (I am no longer Catholic and I don’t observe Lent every year, but I think it’s still a good time to discipline oneself.)

How about you? What times of the day do you like to read? What do you do about distractions such as your phone?

Transporting conference attendees

As I have said before, I have yet to attend an editing conference (although I am planning on attending EFACON in August, by hook or by crook). There have been times, however, when I heard about a conference I could not attend and fantasized about attending—and even researched the host city and hotel to find out what they were like.

There was one thing I always looked for in my research, though—how easily I could get around. How would I get from the airport to the hotel? How would I get from the hotel to various points in the city during free time?

The most ideal mode of transportation in a large city is a subway or similar train (such as Baltimore’s Light Rail or Chicago’s El). The conference venue should be within a reasonable walking distance from a stop or station, and ideally, the airport should also have a stop or station right next to it. This certainly is less expensive than renting a car—and less stressful, too. Cars have to be parked at or near the venue, usually at a pricey daily rate.

Buses going from the airport to reasonably near the venue are also good, although the trip will tend to take quite a bit longer. Again, however, it’s less expensive than renting a car.

As for taxis and rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft, I have only taken a taxi a few times in my life, and I have never used Uber or Lyft, so I don’t know much about the cost. I suppose that accuracy is a huge plus in that one goes directly from Point A to Point B without having to walk part of the way.

Conference attendees spend a lot of money in the form of attendance fees, hotel accommodations, and meals, so organizations would do well to select host cities that make travel at least a bit easier.

By the way…the Westin Old Town Alexandria, where EFACON is slated to be, is near a Metro station. Woohoo!

If you have been to a conference in a large city, what has the transportation been like there?

Want to add your portfolio? Not so fast.

Newbie editors, as I myself once was, often want to put their portfolio on their website. It seems logical to show everyone what they have worked on and how well they edited it.

Ah, but an editor must be careful. I have read from what some of my more experienced colleagues have written that many authors, simply put, do not appreciate this practice.

Think about it. Let’s say you are an author of a scientific manuscript and you give the paper to a copyeditor to edit for grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and to generally make the writing smoother and make sure the figures and tables prove what they are supposed to prove. The copyeditor does all of these things superbly and hands you a perfect manuscript. You are grateful and pleased.

But then, let’s say that the copyeditor lists your manuscript on their “works edited” portfolio. What does this say?

“This manuscript was written poorly enough that it needed an editor.”

“This manuscript needed help.”

“This author didn’t know how to write, so he/she needed an editor.”

Oh my. Are you angry yet?

This is why I personally asked my webmaster to remove the “Works Edited” page and link from my website this week. I’m not about to alienate my clients and former clients. That would be a very dumb move, to say the least.

I now prefer to rely on testimonials in order to say how talented I am as an editor. Those remain on my site and speak volumes to the excellence of my editing. Some of my colleagues insist on using a person’s full name and affiliation, for they say they it gives more credibility than simply using the name “Suzelle F.,” for example. I respectfully disagree. Having learned my lesson regarding the portfolio, I believe privacy is key. That’s why I prefer “George J.” to “George Jones, Professor of Biochemistry, Duke University.”

If you are an author who appeared on my now-defunct “Works Edited” page, my profound apologies go out to you. I had no ill intent, but I was wrong.

Pobody’s nerfect

Let’s face it—even we editors have our spelling nemeses. I’m talking about the words and names we always have to look up because we are always misspelling them otherwise. Here are some of my personal bugaboos:

Cincinnati. I always want to write “CInncinnati.” It seems as if having a double N in every place for which an N is called would make more sense than using one N and then using two.

Millennium. I used to write “Milennium,” In order to remember the correct spelling, I now think of the French word “mille,” meaning “one thousand,” and note that this word has two L’s, just like the English word “millennium.”

Fulfill. This is a hard one because my mind always thinks that when you fulfill an order, you make it “full.” So why shouldn’t it be spelled “fullfill”? Don’t ask.

Conscientious. This one is so bad that I had to look it up as I was typing this post. I always think of a conscience, which has a C near the end but no T anywhere in it. So why should we stick a T in this adjective?

Massachusetts. Oh, this is my worst one. I tend to write “Massachussetts.” Why use two S’s the first time and two T’s near the end, but only one S the second time? It makes absolutely no sense.

This is why every editor needs access to the Merriam-Webster website, as well as the latest print edition of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. And remember—never, ever be too lazy to look up a word or name if you have any doubts as to the spelling. You don’t want to end up with egg on your face and/or make your client look foolish.

If you have any words or names that continually give you grief, feel free to share them.  

Biting the bullet

As an editor, there have come times in my career when I have had to edit while my body is sick or in pain. The last couple of weeks have been such times.

I currently have bronchitis (although it’s not as bad now, thanks to the antibiotics) and bronchitis can last for months. Hence, I have been doing an awful lot of coughing lately. So how can an editor focus when she is coughing up a storm every half hour or so?

First, I need to remember that the world does not grind to a halt because I am sick (unless my illness has me bedridden, which is another whole ball game).

Second, I assess what over-the-counter remedies I need to keep me functioning, purchase them if needed, and take them according to the directions on the container. They keep me focused and functioning—as long as the container does not say “May cause drowsiness.” If I see those words, I run!

With bronchitis, I have to figure out how bad my cough is at the moment. If I cough for just five seconds or so, I brush it off and keep working. If, however, it’s one of those can’t–breathe, ten–second–long, red–in–the–face coughing fits, it is worth it to stop my timer and get up from the computer to catch my breath (and make a doctor’s appointment). By the way, the latter kind of cough is extremely distressing, but despite this, I can continue to work soon afterwards as long as I do not also have a fever (as I did two weeks ago).

If you are about to ask me what I would do if I had COVID, the answer is, “I’ve never had it, so I don’t know how bad my symptoms would be. If I could get up and walk around without feeling horrific, I would continue to work. If I had a high fever or could not get out of bed, however, I would rest and send my husband to buy some meds for my symptoms. And in either case, I would keep testing myself and waiting for only one line to appear on the test strip.”

It’s all basically a judgment call.