The editor’s guide to cheese

Blog, On editing

You read that correctly. This is indeed a post about cheese. I thought it would be useful to capture in one place the correct spellings of 10 of the cheeses most commonly used  in recipe books. Why? Because when editing a recipe book, it’s good to know exactly how each cheese is spelt and whether it takes a capital letter or not. Here’s my by no means definitive list:

Cheeses named by regions take a capital letter

1. Brie (from Brie, a region of northern France)

2. Cheddar (from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset)

3. Camembert (from Camembert, Normandy in northern France)

4. Gouda (named after the Dutch city of Gouda)

5. Gruyère (named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland)

6. Parmagiano-Reggiano or Parmesan (from the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and  Bologna in Italy.  Parmagiano-Reggiano refers to Parmesan produced in Italy. The generic term Parmesan is used for cheeses produced elsewhere which are similar in flavour and production method.)

Cheeses named for their ingredients or production method take lower case

1. feta (from the Greek word, meaning ‘slice’)

2. mascarpone cheese (thought to have got its name from mascarpa, a milk product which is made from the whey of stracchino or short aged cheese. )

3. mozzarella (from a Neapolitan dialect,  it is the diminutive form of mozza meaning to ‘cut’)

4. pecorino (an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk; the word derives from the Italian pecora, which means sheep.)

It’s worth noting though, that the Guardian and Observer Style Guide suggests spelling all cheeses using lower case even if they’re named after a place.

As always, whatever you choose, make sure to be consistent throughout the text.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

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If you liked this post (or even if you found it cheesy) and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry.

 

 

 

 

I made a Creative Commons kids book in 12 hours. Here’s why…

Blog, On reading

Illustrations by Karlien de Villiers

As an editor, one thing I know for sure about writing is that it takes time. So when I found myself writing a story for children at my first Book Dash event, I was taken completely out of my comfort zone.

Book Dash gathers writers, illustrators, book designers and editors in one room to produce print-ready children’s books in just 12 hours. Why? Because kids in South Africa desperately need books – good quality storybooks – and there’s no time to waste.

Literacy stats in South Africa are bleak – only 5% of parents in South Africa read to their children and 51% of households don’t own a single book!

Graça’s dream

My team’s book back then was about Graça Machel. From humble beginnings in Mozambique she went on to help her country gain independence and significantly raised its early childhood literacy levels in her first two years as Minister of Education and Culture. She was passionate about sharing her love of books and learning with her people and realised so many seemingly impossible dreams.

This story speaks to me on such a personal level – it’s the reason I volunteered to be part of Book Dash in the first place. South Africa’s own reading culture and literacy stats need to change; our children deserve to know the power of story and the pleasure of reading. It’s a worthy dream to have.

The challenge

So there I found myself in a room full of talented and committed strangers – people all working towards the same goal of getting quality storybooks into children’s hands.

Here’s what I learnt 12 (very short) hours later:

1. Making kids books is a collaborative process

In kids books, the visual elements need to have a fluid conversation with the words. Neither can be created in isolation. Producing a kids book is all about teamwork.

2. A time limit is a good way to keep focused 

There’s something about an almost impossible time limit for a task to motivate action. Write, illustrate and design a print-ready book in 12 hours – it sounds difficult, right? It was actually easy. It really was. There was no time for checking Facebook, email or smartphones or even engaging in small talk. The task at hand was our primary focus and there wasn’t a minute to spare.

3. Books connect us

I connected with some amazing people that day – this is the beauty of books. When we are in that intimate space with a book in our hands and we relate to the story being told and the voice that tells it, we get taken to a magical place, a place that can teach us something, that can inspire us. All of us in that room knew that space well and it’s what brought us together in the first place. We did what we did because children deserve to know this place too. We wanted to offer it to them, just like Graça did when she asked at the end of our story:

Here’s a book, my child, what will it inspire you to do?

 

This is what Book Dash is all about.

We all did something extraordinary there that day. We put aside our egos, our doubts and our own personal agendas and we gave everything else we had, to bring the joy of reading to our small people.

I’ve since participated in two other Book Dash Events and there are now a whopping 85 unique open source books available to hungry readers. It was worth it!

Read Graça’s Dream for free here.



Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your networks.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below. 

 

Successful freelancing: all you need to know

Blog, On freelancing

Photo by Markus Spiske and used via Creative Commons.

Ask any freelancer and they’ll tell you the same thing: business can often be uncertain. There are times when we don’t know where our next client is coming from or what projects we’ll be working on a month from now. Regardless, there are good reasons why we choose this way of working and we can always take inspiration from others who have walked this path before and have wisdom to share with us.

Like author and comic book writer, Neil Gaiman, who celebrated his 57th birthday this month.

I love this advice from his 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He says:

“People keep working in a freelance world (and more and more of today’s world is freelance), because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it is good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

Watch the full video here.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you’re a freelancer like me, and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry.

Why I hate Grammar Nazis

Blog, On language

The other day someone tagged me in one of those awful Grammar Nazi posts on Facebook. You know the kind I mean – a meme about the stupidity of people who don’t know their there’s from their theirs or some such.

I was highly offended. Because contrary to popular belief, an editor or a proofreader does not a Grammar Nazi make.

These pedants come in many guises – there’s the person who gleefully (and self-righteously) spots a typo in the restaurant menu or those who respond to your messages and Facebook posts by pointing out your incorrect use of who versus whom or too versus to.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the English language with all its nuances and exceptions to the rules and I get great satisfaction from helping publishers polish their copy, but that is precisely why I can’t bear Grammar Nazis.

So why as an editor do I not count myself among them? Because English is alive and always changing. What was supposedly an incorrect use of the language two decades ago may be perfectly passable now. As Harvard linguist Steven Pinker wrote in his book, The Sense of Style: “The rules of Standard English are not legislated by a tribunal of lexicographers but emerge as an implicit consensus within a virtual community of writers, readers, and editors.” 

So not only are Grammar Nazis highly annoying, but they’re often blatantly wrong. Their devotion to unchanging grammar and spelling is misplaced in a language like English, which is constantly changing.

And finally, there’s another thing about these pedants that really gets my goat. They’re downright arrogant – a word that comes from the Latin verb arrogare meaning to claim for oneself – which is not an option with something like the English language. No one person is its custodian, not even the world’s best lexicographers, as Pinker says. It’s a language in flux which belongs to us all.  


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry.

 

Word for today: Muckraker

Blog, On language

© 2017 Zapiro (All Rights Reserved) Used with permission from www.zapiro.com

With the South African government in a complete twist about the recent release of Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers (with its damning allegations about President’s Zuma’s misconduct) my word for today is muckraker. 

From the word, muckrake

/ˈmʌkˌreɪk/

(n) an agricultural rake for spreading manure

(v) to seek out and expose scandal, especially concerning public figures

The word first came into use in 1684 when John Bunyan used it in The Pilgrim’s Progress. He wrote about the man “with a muckrake in his hand” who “could look no way but downwards” – a representation of man’s preoccupation with earthly things.

The word was then popularised by President Teddy Roosevelt in his 1906 speech which criticised journalists who focused too much on exposing corruption in government. “The men with the muckrakes,” he said, “are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck.”

Rather than feeling insulted by this description, investigative reporters adopted the term muckraker as a badge of honour. And the verb muckraking is now used in British English to describe the practice of exposing misconduct.

Example sentence: Jacques Pauw has written a muckraking book about Jacob Zuma’s corrupt governance.

Go on, get yourself a (legal) copy and read it today!


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry.

 

Why working in an office is not my cup of tea

Blog, On freelancing

Last week I worked onsite for a magazine publishing client in the city. As a work-from-home freelancer, it’s been a while since I’ve had to get up early and join the masses on the commute into town. However, it wasn’t the commute I neglected to prepare for, it was the return of the office tea round.

To put things in context: I drink a lot of tea. And at home, I get to decide when to drink it and how often. But last week I was reminded how it used to be when I worked in a shared office environment; I always picked up the tea round. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t only do it because I drink buckets of the stuff, I sometimes just did it to change the mood in the office, especially when we were on deadline – tea rounds are great for improving office morale.  I sometimes even did it to get on people’s good sides – because it helps with that too. Take it from me, tea is not just a cure-all, it’s the ultimate connector. 

But on the downside, tea rounds take time, especially waiting for the water to boil or worse when there are no clean cups to hand and you’ve got the job of dish washer as well as tea server. So given that as an onsite freelancer I was being paid by the hour, I had a choice – drink less, or waste my client’s time. Making a cup of selfish tea wasn’t even an option – it’s the surest way to make yourself the most disliked person in any office. 

So it was a no-brainer. I made one round, which was the polite thing to do (and I thankfully received one in return). But I murdered that first cup when I got home. Never has a cuppa tasted so good.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry. Tea’s on me. 😉

 

Give your child the gift of reading

Blog, On reading
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 4.07.15 PMMy son, buried in a book.

This week Herzlia Constantia Primary School hosted a book festival, which included author readings, workshops and the much-anticipated opening parade, where the children dressed up as their favourite literary characters.

As I waved off my 8-year-old son, dressed as Mr Big Nose (from The 13-Storey Treehouse series) and clutching his readathon sheet (with an impressive 2 000 pages read in a week), I felt a sense of pride that my boy loves books the way I do. Especially in an age where many children are so often glued to their digital screens.

We all know that reading is good for us, but today I decided to find out exactly why.

For starters …

  • Reading makes us smart, just ask Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in formal education.

  • Reading improves mental health  

Not only has reading for pleasure been found to reduce stress and help us sleep better, it can also improve our confidence and self-esteem by giving us the tools we need to make life decisions and pursue our goals.

  • Reading strengthens the brain

According to a study at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, reading can help protect our memories and thinking skills, especially as we get older. The study also suggests that reading every day can slow down cognitive decline in later life, ensuring that our brains stay healthy and higher functioning for longer.

  • Reading books prepares us for real life

Following a character’s emotional journey in a book gives us an opportunity to evaluate ourselves. This can be especially useful for children who, while following a story, are exposed to brand-new emotions, behaviours and situations. This kind of exposure helps children discover and develop their own values.

  • Reading builds vocabulary

It’s widely known that reading builds our vocabulary. Did you know that a children’s book exposes your child to 50% more words than watching a television show? And reading 15 minutes per day exposes children to a whopping 1,000,000 words a year.

So that’s five good reasons to get your kids reading. Take them to the library, stock up their book collections – you’ll be doing so much more than giving them something fun to do, you’ll be offering them a lifelong gift.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your networks.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below. 

How to create a style guide in 6 simple steps

Blog, On editing

 

Last week I wrote about the need for a style guide in order to maintain editorial consistency across a publication. This week, I’m sharing my tips for creating a simple style guide, especially when the publisher you’re working with doesn’t have an existing one to work from.

1. Pick your program

Choose a program in which to create your guide. You may want to use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, a Trello board or a simple spreadsheet. I like to use Google Docs, simply because it’s collaborative. I can share my style guide with anyone who needs it – the publisher themselves and particularly my proofreader.

2. Add your alphabet

Because I like to work in Google Docs, I create a table with each square representing a letter of the alphabet.  You can do this in Excel or even using Trello cards. The point is to make a repository for each letter so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for at a glance.

3. Start with the basics

I usually begin populating my style guide with the general rules (especially words and punctuation marks that are commonly spelled or used incorrectly). Under ‘D’ I might add ‘dashes’ and write up the conventions for using en dashes and em dashes. Under ‘S’ I might add ‘spelling’ and specify: British. It’s also important to clarify the kind of tone the publication uses.

4. Every word counts

And then I’m ready to crack on. If a word comes up while I’m reading the text that isn’t used in a consistent way, I make a decision on the correct usage and pop it into my style guide under the relevant letter. It’s often a case of whether the word takes upper or lower case or is written as two words, rather than one. And so it continues…

5. Check with the pros

When in doubt it’s always useful to check in with the latest published style guides. I like The Chicago Manual of StyleThe Guardian and Observer Style Guide and for academic texts, APA Style. And let’s not forget the good old dictionary, of course. Make sure to include which dictionary you’ve referenced somewhere in your style guide.

6. Keep going

If a style guide is not up-to-date, it’s no use to anyone. Keep adding as you go and remember to date your document so everyone knows they’re working with the latest version.

 

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let me treat you to a coffee so we can discuss the industry. Contact me at melissa.fagan@mfedit.com or 082 5002612

 

The secret to editorial consistency

Blog, On editing

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 10.28.33 PM.png

The secret to editorial consistency is no secret at all, it’s called an editorial style guide. Using a style guide is critical for those of you who are passionate about delivering award-winning content. The style guide will almost guarantee that your editor, copy-editor and even your proofreader will all deliver copy using the appropriate tone, punctuation, abbreviations and spelling for your publication.

More often than not I’m finding that publishers today don’t keep their style guide up-to-date and even worse, some publishers don’t have one at all. If your publishing house is after award-winning content, then working with a style guide is critical to your success.

A style guide clarifies things like:

  • whether your publication uses British or American English
  • how to spell commonly misspelt words
  • whether or not to use Oxford commas
  • how and when to abbreviate certain terms
  • when to captitalise words

And the list goes on.

Inconsistency is the single most distracting thing to a reader. Consistency ensures that your reader focusses on what you are saying, not on how it is being said. And it’s what makes your reader trust the credibility of your publication.

Every time I take on a new job, I either create my client’s style guide from scratch or update their existing one. If you need help creating a style guide, look out for my blog post next week.

 

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

If you need help creating an editorial style guide, let’s chat. Coffee’s on me. Contact me at melissa.fagan@mfedit.com or 082 5002612

 

The ugly truth: Copy-editing and proofreading are two different things

Blog, On editing

 

I’m always surprised at how many people think that copy-editing and proofreading are the same things. They are not, people! And if you don’t believe me, here are the facts:

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final stage of any publishing process. It’s the last quality check that happens after your text has gone into layout and before your content is printed or published online.

The proofreader’s job is to check (among other things):

  • that there are no typos, inconsistencies or grammar errors in the text. (Duh.)
  • but also that all the page numbers and page headings are where they should be
  • and that the illustrations and captions match up
  • that the same font type and size have been used throughout
  • and very importantly, that there are no missing punctuation marks or elements that may have crept in during the design phase – we’ve all seen them in printed copy before – a series of x’s indicating unfinished content that never found its way into the layout. Cringe.

In other words: They check EVERYTHING. Every page, every word, every image. Think of proofreading as a final spit and polish of your product before it goes out into the world.

Copy-editing

Copy-editing happens after you’ve written your text and before it’s been typeset – or for digital publishers –before it’s been added to the platform you will be using to share your product.

The job of the copy-editor is to (among other things):

  • bring the first draft of a manuscript up to scratch. (You may think it’s perfectly written. But, remember:  Everyone needs an editor.)
  • check grammar and spelling (Duh – it’s the job of any editorial role)
  • suggest edits to cut wordiness and repetition
  • (if necessary) suggest changes to chapter titles and sub-headings
  • reorganise certain sections so that the content flows in a more logical order
  • make sure that the writing conforms to the publisher’s style guide (more about that in another post)
  • and of course to check that any dates, names, places and facts mentioned are accurate

In short, the copy-editor’s job is to help make the content accurate and more readable before it goes into layout. If proofreading is the final spit and polish, think of copy-editing as the sanding down of a new sculpture to bring out its sheen before being treated.

Sadly in today’s world of immovable deadlines and compulsive cost-cutting, especially in publishing, these roles are often played by the same person. But make no mistake – they are two separate jobs. And both are necessary.

 

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let me treat you to a coffee so we can discuss the industry. Contact me at melissa.fagan@mfedit.com or 082 5002612