Tag Archives: quality

HSE in typo-ridden, grammer-challenged style guide shocker!

In-house style guides are there to keep publications clear, consistent and accurate so shouldn’t they be proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation themselves?

You’d think so, but it seems the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland forgot to check its work (or it hired the worst proofreader in the world) when it published a Plain language style guide for documents.

You can see the pretty long list of the errors on the document in Stan Carey’s post: HSE – Who proofreads the proofreaders? There’s also a good discussion going on in the comments.

My experience is that this kind of work can easily fall between the cracks in a big organisation. It is often the comms people who create the copy and the illustrators who lay it out. Technical points or queries about sense will most likely be run past a subject matter expert.

But basic proofreading is often passed on to the person in the department considered to have a good grasp of English. This is like giving the company accounts to someone who likes numbers, or layout to someone who is good at drawing.

Big orgs seem unaware of (or unwilling to prioritise the budget for?) proofreaders. But proofreading is a skill. Not only does it keep spelling, grammar and style points on track but, through accuracy and better readability, it builds trust in the reader.

I’ve only worked for two public sector organisations and both had previously just done the proofing themselves. In some cases, they didn’t do a bad job. But when they saw the level of red pen marks of a qualified proofreader, then they realised the difference between a quick read-though and a proper markup.

Still, the HSE errors are particularly surprising – even an automatic spellcheck should have picked up many of the issues that Stan highlights.

But, yanno, whatevah! I’m sure HSE is not the only outfit in the land with a dodgy style guide. I remember a superbly accurately Radio Times style guide that was completely unusable because it was the size of a doorstep.

Anyway, enough finger-pointing. Here is a LOLcat to rebalance the universe.

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Bloggers not filling gap left by journalism

Here comes… Clay Shirky. Clay Shirky’s talk at LSE last night presented something of a logistical reporting first for me – with traditional reporter’s notepad in one hand, mobile Twitter in the other and an Aussie-American sitting next to me who’d wandered in from a cancelled lecture asking who is this Clay Shirky guy and what is Twitter? (if I had a penny…).

Well, Clay Shirky is the author of a rather good book on the interwebs called ‘Here Comes Everybody’. And Twitter is, well, many things to many people – but last night it was a way for me to report and also tune into what others in the room were thinking.

Prof Shirky covered much of what is in the book (the paperback’s just out), including touching on the sea change happening in publishing right now. But last night he expressed little pity for the fall of newspapers:

‘Newpapers are panicking – I mean, 2009 is the year they realise the internet spells trouble for newspapers?!

‘The problems of newspapers are so much of their own making that it’s hard to show an ounce of pity… journalism was not aware of its business model [ie funded by advertising from the likes of M&S]

‘We have to find another way to subsidise journalism… [because] the gap between what journalism leaves and what bloggers pick up will not be filled.’

He cited the example I always use in the ‘what’s the difference between bloggers and journalists’ debate; that local reporters are the ones who go down to the city council house and report on/challenge/ask questions at all those little meetings where agendas are pushed through.

This beat is regularly covered by journalists, with the effect of it being a watchdog, and acting as checks and balances against local council corruption.

Interestingly, he also covered new internet tools and democracy, the rise of factionalism and issues of legitimacy.

On Change.gov, the official website of Barack Obama’s presidential transition project, he points out that the issue the American people most wanted Obama to act on was not Iraq, the collapse of the banks, economic crisis nor any other major pressing issue but the legalisation of marijuana (for medical purposes).

His 5-word summary of his book at the start of the talk was:

‘Group action just got easier.’

And so, people are organising and campaigning and directing their views thanks to new media tools – but, like journalists and the local council, there are currently no checks and no balancing mechanism to say when these views are legitimate, democratic and right to act on. He ended his speech with:

‘I think 2009 is the year we will make some momentous decisions about checks and balances.’

For all the negative press journalism has been getting, and for all its faults, it’s interesting to see it in these terms. As part of the fabric of a democracy and a force for policing local government. This won’t be news to regional journalists, of course, but it might be to parts of the blogosphere.

As for the future for journalism, and particularly the good work that it does, Clay Shirky’s view is that journalism will ‘move towards a more vigorous non-profit model’. The question, as ever, is who will pay?

Amplified08: UK’s network of networks?

Ach, it’s been a week already since Amplified08, which took place a short walk from the ghost town of print media, London’s Fleet Street, and I’m only just getting round to posting some feedback. But my pop music course taught me never to start with an apology so stuff it.

I attended #amp08 for two main reasons – partly to put a face to my Twitter contacts, who’ve helped me greatly since I started blogging four months ago, and partly because I don’t want to miss out on the social media trends that are happening now.

Brief aside for sub-editors wondering what all this has to do with copy editing – I did attend a discussion topic called ‘Mainstream media and citizen journalism’ aka #amp08#21. The good news is that the quality and accuracy of information is forecast to become more important. Readers will expect different levels of conversation – not just ‘Wild West opinion’ but also ‘moderated BBC content’ types, so trust and reputation will remain a brand indicator. The bad news is that, atm, this seems dependent on the brand being actually able to afford the staff.

But sub-editing wasn’t the point, or journalism, or any of the short topic sessions around which we all gathered, submitting, in some of the Barleyesque pods, to being live-streamed.

Get yourself connected
Amplified08 mainly offered an opportunity to get connected. Nesta invited the UK’s 40 most active social media networks to essentially hook up in the sexy new social media-style format of an ‘unconference’ – where the organisation and content is left to the attendees and a wiki to decide.

The big event in 2010
Feedback from #amp08 – to explain, hashtags are collected post-event to collect outcomes – will inform #amp09 leading, hopefully, to a super-connected conference in 2010, and fulfilling Nesta’s ‘modest ambition to make the UK the most connected place on the planet’. Because apparently 99.9% of us still don’t get ‘it’ – the new connectivity, that is. And I’d add that even the ones that kind of do get it are still boradcasting (Freudian slip typo there!) as a default because they’re just not used to readers and customers talking back.

I think, for all its faults, ultimately the medium of #amp08 was the message – how we are now coming together, organising ourselves without hierarchy, sharing ideas, making new contacts, learning through conversation rather than presentation, trying out the fun stuff such as table wikis, live Twittering on screen and ‘what I learned’ Tweets after each session.

How could Amplified do better?
More feedback to come but, for now, here’s my 3 ideas for #amp09:

  • more visible hashtags so I can catch up on all the sessions I wanted to see
  • more soundproofed conversation areas so I don’t have to bring my ear trumpet
  • more introductions and insights into the attendees and a meet-up slot – perhaps profiles of contacts up on site well beforehand and opportunities to arrange a meet. Maybe a little ning to go with the wiki? Cos I’m sure I was inches away from meeting my perfect compadre in a ‘million dollar homepage’ type scam, sorry, I mean ‘social enterprise’ start-up.