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The end of the editor?

The end of the editor?



Tamsin Stanford - Masters Thesis, 2005: ...

Tamsin Stanford - Masters Thesis, 2005:

The role of the editor has long been recognised as a vital part of the print publishing process. However, the World Wide Web offers a new publishing medium that may require a new approach to content and standards of language use.

While previous studies have assessed responses towards language errors in print, the success of organisational websites in communicating, and the differences between print and website writing, little research has been conducted into perceptions of users about the editor’s role in publishing website content.

This thesis investigates whether the way communications professionals working in the non-profit and public sectors perceive website content may suggest that the editor’s role is changing. Based on these perceptions, it considers what the impact might be on standards of language in Web publishing.



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    The end of the editor? The end of the editor? Document Transcript

    • The end of the editor?Perceptions about the role and impactof the editor on language standardsin Web publishingTamsin StanfordSchool of Communication, Culture and LanguagesVictoria UniversityPrincipal Supervisor:Dr Michele GrossmanNovember 2005
    • - 2 -Table of contentsAcknowledgements ...........................................................................................................4Abstract ..............................................................................................................................5Introduction........................................................................................................................6My question in context.......................................................................................................7Narrowing the focus ..........................................................................................................8Communicating the research.............................................................................................8Part 1: Methodology.......................................................................................................101.1 Choice of research method ..................................................................................101.2 Conducting the survey online...............................................................................111.3 Participants..........................................................................................................111.4 Procedure ............................................................................................................131.5 Ethical issues.......................................................................................................14Part 2: Reviewing the literature.....................................................................................162.1 Setting the stage: the editor and publisher in the print environment .......................172.2 Defining hypertext................................................................................................192.3 The new medium demands a new literacy ...........................................................20The reader and writer roles are redefined............................................................22A new type of author emerges.............................................................................232.4 The democratisation of Web publishing ...............................................................242.5 Developing the skills for the medium....................................................................262.6 Dealing with an ever-changing language .............................................................282.7 The human editor takes a back seat ....................................................................29Editing with ease .................................................................................................302.8 The changing role of the editor.............................................................................332.9 Contextualising perceptions about the medium....................................................35Part 3: Research findings and discussion ...................................................................37Websites as a medium for communication ......................................................................373.1 Elements of a website..........................................................................................373.2 Reliance on the medium......................................................................................383.3 Impact of errors: print compared to Web..............................................................393.4 The Web publishing process................................................................................413.5 The editor: role, reactions and scope of involvement ...........................................42Use of programs and guides in preparing content ...........................................................45
    • - 3 -3.6 Corporate and other printed and online guides ....................................................453.7 Computer spelling and grammar checks..............................................................463.8 Participants rate their own competence ...............................................................483.9 Editing on screen: speed over accuracy ..............................................................493.10 Writing for the Web versus writing for print ..........................................................49Analysing the effectiveness of content ............................................................................51Discussion.......................................................................................................................53Constructing a ‘typical’ communications professional ..........................................54Implications for editors.........................................................................................55Opportunities for future research.....................................................................................55Conclusion .......................................................................................................................57Championing the cause...................................................................................................57A misplaced sense of control...........................................................................................57Maintaining language standards......................................................................................58The editor is dead; long live the editor!............................................................................58Appendix A: Research survey questionnaire..........................................................60Appendix B: Research survey textual analyses......................................................65Appendix C: Research survey raw data...................................................................68Bibliography.....................................................................................................................88
    • - 4 -AcknowledgementsThe idea for this thesis would not have developed were it not for all those people whocouldn’t care less about spelling, grammar or punctuation, or how to write for the Web.Thanks must go to them for keeping me employed and for feeding my passion.The busy communications professionals who took the time to respond to my survey broughtthis thesis to life and provided me with great material; thank you for your involvement.Enormous thanks go to Dr Michele Grossman, my supervisor, whose expert guidance keptme focused throughout and made this journey a very smooth one.To Dad and Susan: thank you for your unfailing support, for always believing that I could dothis, and for letting me know that it was OK if I decided not to.And lastly, but most of all, thank you to Joe, who made sure I kept a sense of perspectiveand who supported me every step of the way. Without you I could not have done this.
    • - 5 -AbstractThe role of the editor has long been recognised as a vital part of the print publishingprocess. However, the World Wide Web offers a new publishing medium that may require anew approach to content and standards of language use.While previous studies have assessed responses towards language errors in print (O’Neill,Fontaine & Sligo, 2002), the success of organisational websites in communicating (Durham,2000), and the differences between print and website writing (Gregory, 2004), little researchhas been conducted into perceptions of users about the editor’s role in publishing websitecontent.This thesis investigates whether the way communications professionals working in the non-profit and public sectors perceive website content may suggest that the editor’s role ischanging. Based on these perceptions, it considers what the impact might be on standardsof language in Web publishing.
    • - 6 -IntroductionIn the early 1980s, before the presence of computers in homes and classrooms brought theWorld Wide Web to the fingertips of many, the focus of much educational research was onthe rise of the whole language approach to reading and its implications for literacy. By theearly 1990s, the educational debate had extended to the importance of grammar in youngchildren’s education, with a question mark over a return to the prescriptive grammarpractices of the 1950s and 60s (Williams, p. 19). The same generation that grew up andundertook its schooling during these debates also experienced the introduction ofcomputers, followed by the arrival of the Internet. For people in this generation, thequestion posed in the title of this thesis might seem irrelevant, as they would find it hard toimagine a world without the editorial support provided by word processing programs. Butfor the previous generation, the generation to which I belong, computers were the catalystfor a change in the educational context, which included a shift towards digital literacy,accompanied by a changing social context.The Internet provided an entirely new medium for communication through synchronous andasynchronous chat rooms, role-playing fantasy games and email. This was followed in1994 by the creation of the World Wide Web – the medium at the heart of this thesis –which more easily enabled vast amounts of what had previously only existed in print tobecome available online via websites: journals, poems, corporate reports and brochures,business directories and advertising – lots of advertising.As we will see, the role of the editor in print publishing has developed since the advent ofprint technology in the 14thcentury to be recognised as a vital part of the modern-daypublishing process. The existence of the Web has provided more people than ever beforewith the tools to publish their work and reach wide audiences. Yet in many cases there isno quality control, leading to vast amounts of content that has not been edited as it wouldhave been, were it published in a pre-Internet print environment. With so many words ‘outthere’, and no gatekeeper checking the standard of content, what is the impact on languageand on standards of written communication?
    • - 7 -My question in contextI decided to pose the question of the possible demise of the editor for two reasons. Firstly,as a corporate writer and editor of printed and website material for the past eight years, ithas been my perception that the standard of what is considered acceptable for a corporatewebsite is generally lower than for a printed document. By ‘lower’, I am referring in particularto the correct usage of grammar, punctuation and spelling relevant to the particular country(specifically Australian or British English, as opposed to American English) and, to a lesserextent, to the appropriateness of the message for the audience. In my experience, theeditorial processes governing the production of a brochure, newsletter or other printeddocument are more rigid than those followed in the production of online content. Thus Iwanted to investigate whether others share my perception that website content does notadhere as rigidly to the standards we have come to expect of print, or whether the mediumencourages a more relaxed approach to the rules of our language.Secondly, given the traditional role of editors as gatekeepers of language – at the level ofinfluencing and maintaining standards of public language, and of applying the standardsidentified by their organisation as appropriate – I wanted to find out what the current roleand impact of the editor is, or is perceived as being, in the Web publishing process. Thiswould also enable me to hypothesise about what the future might hold for corporate editorsif others shared my perceptions.At the start of my Masters program, my practical experience far outweighed my academicknowledge about the subject of Web publishing and language standards. An encounterduring my first semester with the theory of hypertext sparked an interest in understandingmore about the impact of the medium on writing. In short, I wanted to try to understand whythe content my colleagues supplied for me to edit for the website seemed to be of such alow standard. In the course of writing a critical review essay, I found a distinct lack ofresearch into the language being used on websites. In 2000, Durham believed that interestwas predominantly focussed on aspects of the Internet other than websites, namely chatrooms and email (2000, p. 3). While previous studies have assessed responses towardslanguage errors in print (O’Neill, Fontaine, & Sligo, 2002), the success of organisationalwebsites in communicating (Durham, 2000), and the differences between print and websitewriting (Gregory, 2004), little research has been conducted into perceptions of users about
    • - 8 -the editor’s role in publishing website content, and the implications arising from theseperceptions for the standard of language contained in websites.Narrowing the focusThe Internet is such a huge beast that it would be wrong to generalise about its content:Snyder (1996) points out that ‘it is just as difficult to talk of “generic” hypertext as of genericprint’ (p. 19). Even limiting the focus to ‘websites’ reveals different genres of content, suchas news, personal blogs, online retailers, e-journals or corporate information, each with itsown writing style and tone to reflect the aims of the organisation or individual, and with‘marketing’ language in particular featuring in website content studies. In the print world,the equivalent would be to compare an encyclopaedia with a church newsletter, wherebudget, strategic aims and resources have a large impact on the standard of the end result.This led me to focus on what people think about corporate websites as a form ofcommunication, and what editorial checks and balances exist, or should exist, in theirongoing production. Do people care if language errors are made on corporate websites, ordo they see the medium as a more relaxed environment for language? Are standardslower, and if so are they acceptable, or even noticeable? To this end, I surveyed a group ofmy peers – communications professionals working for Australian non-profit and public-sector organisations – to examine: Perceptions about the Web as a medium for communication; Attitudes towards the editor function as part of the publishing process; and Opinions and experiences with programs and guides used to prepare content forpublishing, specifically the direction and assistance provided for grammar, punctuationand spelling.Communicating the researchI was raised and educated in a print environment, where even the handful of Maccomputers at my British secondary school were used for design and play rather thancommunication. When I was given a second-hand computer for assignments at universityin 1994, I still ‘thought’ on paper, using the computer only for typing up and printing out myfinal draft. Now I find myself working at a computer five days per week, with even moretime spent ‘online’ at the weekends. A keyboard has become a more natural implementthan a pen, and my thoughts are transferred straight from brain to screen, where they can
    • - 9 -be easily edited and manipulated. This has raised an interesting internal struggle for me:how to structure and present content created on screen and about electronic content that isdestined for a traditional print medium such as a thesis? As a result, I have tended towardsusing some of the tools I have learnt for effective electronic writing – such as usingparagraph headings that break up long blocks of text and provide visual ‘signposts’ for thereader, and avoiding capitals for titles, apart from proper nouns – while trying to keep withinthe prevailing discourse that is an academic thesis, although this conservative genre is alsogradually changing.I have also made this thesis available on the Internet to enable me to present it in the waymy instinct dictated, with ideas and relevant sections linked electronically, so that eachreader ‘may “transform” the textual body by following alternative pathways’ (Snyder 1996, p.31, citing Moulthrop 1991), while always providing a sense of the ‘whole’ document.The address of this thesis is www.penroseproductions.com.au/thesis [no longer active].
    • - 10 -Part 1: Methodology1.1 Choice of research methodDenzin describes qualitative research as ‘a situated activity that locates the observer in theworld’ (2000, p. 4). Almost eight years of working as an editor, for print and electronicmedia, and almost 10 years as a Web surfer and consumer, has enabled me to observecountless examples of corporate Web publishing on the Internet. Much of what I encounterhas been written for print and has not been adapted to a user-friendly online format. Someis badly written, incorrectly written, or written so long ago that it can no longer be assumedto be correct. In my experience this is in stark contrast to organisations’ printed publications,which follow a more rigid publishing process and often have a specific review and updatingprocess, with a budget to match. In one non-profit organisation, I have observed theapproval and checking process for printed documents, from promotional postcards toregular magazines, to involve the appropriate department manager, then the communicationsmanager, often a director and always the chief executive; website content, on the otherhand, is very often published with the approval of only the appropriate department manager,who is recognised as the subject expert, following checking by the website editor.These experiences of poorly written content as the face of an organisation have given mean interest in learning what my peers think about Web publishing, what they perceive to bethe role of the editor in this new environment and what they think about websites as amedium in general.Quantitative research methods return a good level of reliability but I wanted genuineopinions from those in the field as I felt that my experiences could influence any options Imight provide in a quantitative approach. I therefore developed a research questionnairewith mainly open-ended questions to encourage detailed answers, providing real insight intopeople’s perceptions. Additionally, allowing participants to provide their own comments(qualitatively) rather than selecting from pre-determined choices would be better for validityfor the purposes of this study (Knight 2002, p. 88). It would also allow me to cover the topicin ‘depth’ rather than ‘breadth’, as articulated by Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2001, p. 64).
    • - 11 -1.2 Conducting the survey onlineAs I spend the majority of my working day at the computer, as do those taking part in myresearch, it seemed appropriate and useful to conduct the survey in the online environment.Specifically, building an online survey had the following advantages:1. It enabled me to involve participants located geographically across Melbourne in a waythat would have been more difficult with focus groups or individual interviews, avoidingthe time constraints of participants and juggling full-time work with study.2. Gathering data electronically significantly reduced the amount of time needed to analyseand use the results: as I work straight ‘from brain to screen’, instead of drafting first onpaper, I simply copied and pasted those insights that I wanted to use in the findings,avoiding lengthy transcribing sessions.3. Participants were able to choose the most convenient time for them to complete thesurvey (half of all participants completed their surveys between noon and 2.30pm, and19 of the 20 completed it during their working week between 9am and 4pm).4. Online surveys allow participation to be completely voluntary – participants canwithdraw at any time more easily when the survey is conducted anonymously on acomputer instead of face-to-face.5. Most importantly, it allowed participants to complete a survey about website content andpublishing while they were working in that same medium, allowing me to gauge fromtheir responses some of the techniques and behaviours used by people writing in thisenvironment.The only disadvantage I identified was that participants could not easily ask me forclarification during the course of the survey in a way that would have been possible in afocus group or individual interview setting.1.3 ParticipantsI decided to focus on the publishing practices and perceptions of those working specificallyin the non-profit and public sectors, as their communication channels are not involved indirect selling, and tend to be informative rather than containing what Price and Price (2002)refer to as ‘marketing fluff’ (p. 88). They are required to publish diverse information to arange of different stakeholders clearly and have a focus on the community, as well as a
    • - 12 -requirement, if not an obligation, to remain credible. Using these sectors has allowed me tomake use of the professional contacts I have made through working in the field.I identified my potential participants as those working within the communicationsdepartment of two government bodies and four non-profit organisations; however, this doesnot necessarily indicate that they are in an editing role. Rather, they are in some wayinvolved in the production of content – both written and graphic – some of which may bedestined for the electronic medium, and some for print. It should be noted that in oneorganisation the department responsible for internal and external communications, includingmanagement of the website and Intranet, is the Public Affairs Department rather than‘Communications’. All participants have regular exposure to the website of the organisationin which they work and are computer literate to the extent that they have enough knowledgeof computers and operating systems to access websites via the Internet and tocommunicate via email.Thirty people were invited to participate. Given the average composition of communicationsdepartments, it is not surprising that the majority of potential participants – just over threequarters – were female. Seven men were invited to participate, but were under-representedin the results, only four of those seven responding. The results are therefore morerepresentative of women, and also of younger attitudes: of those who provided their age, 60per cent fell into the 25 to 34 age group, and only one was aged over 45. Of the 19 whoresponded to the question about the highest level of education attained, 12 heldundergraduate degrees, five held a postgraduate diploma or certificate, and two held a HighSchool Certificate or equivalent.Twenty-one are personally known to me, 17 of whom consented to participate. Of theremaining nine who were recommended as contacts, five completed the survey. Anacceptable response rate for the purposes of this research was 15: Overall 20 of thoseinvited to participate did so, a response rate of 66.66 per cent.A copy of the survey can be found in Appendix A.
    • - 13 -1.4 ProcedureAn online survey was built using QEDML software (Questionnaire Exchange andDeployment Markup Language). In most cases I mailed the invitation to participate, butemailed several people who were happy to receive information in this way as it is a quickermethod. The invitation contained details of the project, its aims, and information about whattheir involvement would entail. Those who provided their consent to participate wereemailed, thanking them for their interest in the project, and reiterating that participation wasanonymous and voluntary and that they could withdraw at any time, or contact me withqueries. This email contained a link to the website for this survey, not accessible via a linkfrom any other location. Although they were told in advance that the survey would takeapproximately 40 minutes, the survey software allowed me to include a visible ‘measure’identifying their progress through the survey so the participants knew how much moreneeded to be completed. At the end of the survey, a closing page thanked participants fortheir time and provided a link for them to email me if they would like a copy of the finalthesis. Two participants requested a copy and one emailed me to comment on how usefulthe visible ‘measure’ was, so she could see her progress.The first section, ‘Websites as a medium for communication’, aimed to elicit respondents’opinions about how important the different aspects of a website – including design andtechnical aspects – are to them, and how their impressions of an organisation are shapedby errors in print and website communication.Section two garnered information about the processes within their organisation, and theirspecific views and experiences of the role of the editor in the process.In section three, respondents were asked about any programs or guides available to themthat they may use in preparing content, and were asked to judge their own competence incorrect language use. It also asked whether they perceived any difference between writingin the print and electronic media. This section included two brief content analyses of de-identified sample text, which required the writers to shift into the role of readers withoutexplicitly making them aware of this shift. The body text (that is, the main article on thepage, not navigational items or images) from a page on a non-profit organisation’s websitewas presented in two ways: in its original format as it appeared on the website; and as anedited version that used some of the common rules advocated for Web writing, such as
    • - 14 -chunking information and using bulleted lists for clarity and brevity. In this section,participants were asked to evaluate the two pieces to see if they found one to be moreeffective than the other. The second text was taken from a Victorian local governmentwebsite and was selected for its multiple errors. Respondents were again asked toevaluate the text and were prompted to see if they would make any changes such as wordchoice, spelling, grammar and punctuation. Copies of both texts form Appendix B.The purpose of the final section was to collect basic demographic information that mayidentify a correlation between education, gender, or age, and the responses in the rest ofthe survey.1.5 Ethical issuesUsing the Internet to gather research data raises issues that are different from moretraditional data collection methods. Moreover, this method is still in its relative infancy.Problems can arise ‘when a methodology for conducting research is so novel that there areno universally accepted standards or guidelines for its ethical use’ (Porr and Ployhart inBuchanan 2004, p. 131).In this study, taking into consideration the software and participants at my disposal, I aimedto ensure that my survey results would remain confidential. To minimise the risk ofidentifying respondents, I intended to invite at least two people from each organisation Icontacted. Unfortunately, I was not able to make as many contacts as I had anticipated,which resulted in three individuals – none of whom were known to me personally –representing three different organisations. However, two out of those three did not respondto the invitation to participate. Peden and Flashinski (2004), in their content analysis ofsurveys and experiments online, found that none of the studies they looked at achieved thethreshold for compliance with confidentiality guidelines (p. 15).Confidentiality can be achieved through the encryption of data collected; however, this wasnot a feasible option for this study. The QEDML software was chosen because it would notincur any costs, and a survey could be built in a very short time frame. Technicalassistance was provided by Dr Rebecca Mathews, a registered psychologist employed atmy workplace, who built the survey and had temporary access to the data for the purpose
    • - 15 -of downloading and then deleting the survey results from the program. Access to theseresults was by password only, ensuring that they could not be accessed by anyone else.Downloaded data will be stored on CD ROM, with password-only access. Dr Mathews didnot have access to any stored or confidential data and is bound by the AustralianPsychological Societys Code of Ethics with regard to privacy, confidentiality and researchethics and conduct.To encourage frank responses, given that many of the participants have worked with me inthe past or work with me currently in my capacity as a writer and editor, the survey wasanonymous and did not solicit information such as organisation, name, or job title. This wasparticularly important for those organisations in which I had only one contact. The result isthat participants’ comments used in the findings are not attributed to any individual.
    • - 16 -Part 2: Reviewing the literatureIn 1982, Walter Ong wrote: ‘A literate person cannot fully recover a sense of what the wordis to purely oral people’ (p. 12), highlighting the difficulty of considering primary oralitywithout seeing it as a variant of the written. In the same way, the electronic medium underreview in this chapter can only be investigated by seeing how it is not print. If reading andwriting the printed word were not innate for literate people, we would not be so aware of theimpact of the new technology on our reading, writing and learning.The Internet has a much larger presence in, and therefore more of an impact on, Westernsocieties. For example, African nations make up 14 per cent of the world’s population yetrepresent only 1.7 per cent of Internet users, compared to North America’s 5.1 per cent ofthe world’s population making up 23.8 per cent of users (www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm,accessed 26 July 2005). My focus, therefore, is on the writing and language practices of thedeveloped world, although in the future, as Internet technology becomes more widespread,less-developed countries may experience similar opportunities and challenges to thosefaced by the West in the 1980s and 1990s.In this literature review I begin by providing a historical framework of the printed word andcontextualising the role of the editor, looking at its origins in print culture, although I shouldemphasise that this thesis is not about book publishing, or even e-book publishing. Toenable a clearer understanding of the differences between the printed word and hypertext, Inext look at some of the definitions of hypertext by those who are recognised authorities onthe subject. The third section addresses the question of literacy in the electronic mediumand I include some of the theories about the impact on reading, writing and the author, notall of which have been borne out by my study. This is followed by two sections that lookspecifically at website content, both the ability of the general population to self-publish, andthe quality of what appears on websites as those taught to write for print discover a newmedium. I then provide a brief context for the final parts of the review by suggesting thatlanguage has continually been developing, with online written language another phase in itsdevelopment. An investigation into how technology and style guides are influencingpeople’s language standards is followed by the final section of the review, in which Iexamine what shape the role of the editor might take in the future.
    • - 17 -2.1 Setting the stage: the editor and publisher in the print environmentThe printing press changed the course of human history. It produced aninformation revolution. It changed what human beings know, and how we think.(Spender 1995, p. 1)Writing as a technology, which Ong defines as a coded system of visible marks, has existedsince around 3500 BC (1982, p. 83). Cultural definitions of writing have changed over time,however. In mediaeval Europe, ‘writing’ referred to the transcribing of manuscripts;authorship was ‘practically unknown before the advent of print technology’ (McLuhan 1967,p. 122) and scholars were no more than ‘a humble service organization’ (ibid.), responsiblefor copying the work of others by hand. The scribe was not the originator of the text; in fact,‘[any] copyist…who changed anything, was not seen as creative – as making an originalcontribution – but was likely to be charged with corrupting the text’ (Spender 1995, p. 2).Only in the mid-1400s, with the advent of the printing press – a new technology – did writingcome to be viewed as ‘authorship of original material’ (Warschauer 1999, p. 2).The influence of the church in Europe was reflected in the fact that it was the originator ofthe overwhelming majority of manuscripts before the 15thcentury. Yet by the early 1700sthe printing press had brought power to a new group of social actors: printers, usuallyknown as booksellers, who were ‘enlightened businessmen’ (Couturier 1991, p. 17-18) andprinted whatever they thought they could sell. Despite being legally acknowledged as the‘creator of original works that were his property’ (Baron 2001, p. 69), a writer had littleauthority in the printing process, and the editor function as we know it today did not exist.Professional writers often made their way into print publishing as a ‘proof corrector ratherthan an author’ (Febvre and Martin, in Spender 1995, p. 70), and in Britain were notrecognised as owning their intellectual property until the introduction of copyright laws by anAct of Queen Anne in 1710 (Spender 1995, p. 72).In From alphabet to email (2001), Baron takes a close look at the evolving relationshipbetween speech and writing, from the days of manuscripts to the 21stcentury. Shedemonstrates that the changing notion of what it means to be an author, and the lack ofstandardisation of language and punctuation, is nothing new and can be seen developingthroughout history. The apprehension that accompanies new technologies is also an oldconcept: scribes commonly objected to the printed book on the basis ‘that it loweredstandards’ (Spender 1995, p. 7). And in 1492, the Abbot of Sponheim stated: ‘Printed
    • - 18 -books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices, especially since printed booksare often deficient in spelling and appearance’ (Baron 2001, p. 44). Similarly, Ong (1982)refers to Plato’s suspicion of writing as a ‘mechanical, inhuman way of processing knowledge’(p. 24) that destroyed the memory. Ong draws an analogy with modern fears of theintroduction of computers (p. 78), and Crystal (2001) discusses a similar reaction totelevision in the 1960s (p. 4).One of the main effects of the printing press was on the appearance of the written word.Whereas manuscript grammar had varied according to teacher and location (Eisenstein1983, p. 53), standardisation began as printers recognised the need to appeal to thebroadest possible audience, by eliminating what Spender (1995) called ‘the whims ofspelling and the phrases of dialect which would have made their books less readilyunderstood by a wide public’ (p. 13), a phenomenon Ong (1982) terms the development ofa ‘grapholect’ (p. 8). Early editors took the form of ‘compositors‘, those in the employ of theprinters who ensured that the style of punctuation ‘fit the printing house’s (or individualcompositor’s) notions of appropriateness’ (Baron 2001, p. 181). This suggests that nosingle overarching standard existed, and as Baron points out, ‘just as today’s abundance ofdictionaries and spellcheckers hardly ensures correct spelling…printers’ edicts didn’tguarantee consistently spelled texts’ (ibid., p. 99). Publishers today still have their ownhouse style, and an editor’s role and obligation is to apply that style. However, as we willsee, spelling at least is less open to interpretation and personal preference than in the past.While the typewriter may have been credited in 1882 as an aid to learning to ‘read, write,spell, and punctuate’ (McLuhan 1964, p. 282), the advent of the first word processingcomputer in the early 1980s had a more profound impact on the roles of the editor andwriter. Conventions that had formed over centuries of print meant that authors, typesetters,graphic designers and editors had clearly defined roles in the publishing process. The newtechnology suddenly empowered the author (or editor, academic or bookseller) to controlthe whole process, from writing, editing and submitting ‘manuscripts’ to marketing anddistributing the finished product (Feeney 1985, back cover). Yet Feeney’s 1985 guide tonew methods and techniques for publishers showed a lack of foresight, reluctant to advocatea move away from the traditional print-based editing system, as ‘copy editors make poorkeyboarders and it is uneconomic, therefore, to copy-edit at a terminal’ (ibid., p. 28). As wenow know, by the late 1980s the word processor had found its way into homes and schools
    • - 19 -in Western societies, and in 1994 the World Wide Web was launched, giving the massesaccess to a new technology and a new form of writing – hypertext.2.2 Defining hypertextThe concept of the book…has been replaced by the text, fragmented,contradictory, incomplete, relativistic, arbitrary and indeterminate. (Kernan1990, p. 144)Snyder’s 1996 book, Hypertext: the electronic labyrinth, remains one of the definitive textson the subject of writing in the electronic medium. At a time when the Web was in itsinfancy, she addresses the impact of electronic writing on the reader and writer, anddiscusses the implications for teaching. Whereas the printed page fostered a ‘sense ofclosure’ (Ong 1982, p. 132), Snyder describes hypertext as ‘essentially a network of linksbetween words, ideas and sources that has neither a centre nor an end’ (p. 18), andexplains how readers construct their own ‘hybrid documents based on associational linksrather than linear sequences’ (p. 17), thus differentiating it from word processing anddesktop publishing.This builds on Landow’s discussions of hypertext before the Web was invented. He writesof the need to abandon ‘ideas of center, margin, hierarchy, and linearity, and replace themwith ones of multilinearity, nodes, links and networks’ (1992, p. 2). In particular, it is thisability to create links between pieces of information that ‘disturbs our linear notion of textsby disrupting conventional structures and expectations associated with the medium of print’(Snyder 1996, p. 17).In the organisational setting, it is clear that the Web has a great deal to offer. In 2000, theAustralian Government embraced the electronic medium and its features, ‘which enhancethe value and usefulness of the information. Hypertext links, history, backtracking,annotations, bookmarks, formatted copying and printing are functions which paper productscannot provide’ (Guidelines for Commonwealth Information Published in Electronic Formats2000, p. 31).Links – specifically their ability to create intertextuality – are one of the defining features ofhypertext, and indeed of organisational website writing today. Bolter (1991) describes the
    • - 20 -intertextual relationship as occurring ‘everywhere’ in print (p. 164), providing examples ofnovels, magazines, encyclopaedias, grammars, and dictionaries. The difference is that ‘theelectronic space permits us to visualize intertextuality as no previous medium has done’ (ibid.).While websites have certainly fulfilled Bolter’s vision of intertextuality, the electronic mediumoffers a paradoxical situation whereby a website can offer less choice than a printedpublication, through either the deliberate choice of the site’s creator, or bad design.Spyridakis (2000) posits that the ‘reading of print materials can in fact be more nonlinearthan reading of hypertext because the routes with print documents are endless and theroutes in hypertext are constrained by links’ (p. 359). David Crystal (2001) believes that thewebsite owner ‘has total control over what we may see and what may be accessed, andalso what links we may follow’ (p. 203), a situation that has no equivalent in print: even if theauthor of a printed book chose to give the book no chapters, no headings, even no pagenumbers, a reader could still open it at any stage and move around to a different part, orread it from start to finish and make sense of it. If a website owner creates a page that hasno links leading out of it – by accident or by design – a search engine can still index it,providing a way in but leaving the reader effectively stranded once they reach that page.It became clear by the mid-1990s that to enable a full understanding of the impact ofintertextuality, hyperlinking, and the interconnectedness of content and design, the mediumrequired the teaching of a new literacy to acknowledge the impact of this new writing space.2.3 The new medium demands a new literacyWhat we have at present is an intriguing technology whose operations compelus to radically revise our print-derived notions of reading, writing, text, languageand closure. (Snyder 1996, p. 122)Print literacy is defined as ‘the ability to read and write’ (Tuman 1992, p. 2) but, in thecomputer age, it becomes difficult to retain this definition when the meanings of ‘reading’and ‘writing’ have changed and become unstable (ibid.).In Literacy Beyond Books (2000), Nancy Kaplan explores ‘the meanings embedded in theterm [literacy] and the values attached to it’ (p. 210) and responds to the feeling amongsome professors of literature that the World Wide Web is causing a literacy crisis (p. 208).She suggests that the concerns about literacy caused by widespread new technology are
    • - 21 -not new, and that it is less about the technology, and more about those who fear theimplications for society, such as a loss of power and authority: ‘The same sort of plaint risesevery time a new technology for writing begins to permeate the cultural sphere’ (ibid.).As computers began to appear in schools and universities for teaching purposes in the1980s, two main camps arose: those who embraced the change, and the free flow ofideas and information facilitated by the electronic medium, which at last enabled thedeconstructionists to demonstrate what they had been trying to communicate for decades;and those who foresaw a decline in print literacy as the authority of the author was eroded,and the characteristics and impact of hypertext removed the student’s ability to reflect onthe text and thus construct literary theory.Myron Tuman’s unease that the ‘champions’ of hypertext were seeking a new literacypractice to get rid of the hierarchy of the print they know (1992, p. 78) is in stark contrast tothose ‘champions‘, such as Lanham, Bolter and Landow, who celebrate the ability ofhypertext to facilitate ‘a critical and dynamic approach to literacy that is an extension of thebest traditions of the print world and finally fulfils the vision of critical literacy to reconfigurethe text, author, and reader’ (Warschauer 1999, pp. 11-12). Kellner (2002) envisions abroader definition of literacy that includes technical knowledge and skills (p. 162) but seesonline literacy as a continuity of the old, not a replacement: ‘Traditional print literacy takeson increasing importance in the computer-mediated cyberworld as people need to criticallyscrutinise and scroll tremendous amounts of information, putting new emphasis ondeveloping reading and writing abilities’ (ibid., p. 158).According to Kaplan (2000), Tuman’s primary concern is that the links in a hypertextprevent scholars from truly contemplating the text, as their existence disrupts the cognitiveprocess. She sees this concept of literacy as ‘an idealized condition’ (p. 219), and is criticalof literary theorists Myron Tuman and Sven Birkerts for applying the terms ‘literacy’ and‘reading’ to only ‘critical reading’ (p. 215).Technology itself does not appear to change literacy; more precisely, new technologychanges society, and that has an impact on literacy (Warschauer 1999, p. 1). It took theindustrial revolution, not just the invention of the printing press, to create mass literacy inEurope, demonstrating how ‘technological change intersects with other social, cultural andpolitical factors to help determine how literacy is practiced’ (Warschauer 1999, p. 3). For
    • - 22 -Kaplan also, it is the prevailing ‘material, social, and economic conditions’ that affect literacy(2000, p. 212). In the 21stcentury, the prevailing conditions are of people having less timeand being confronted with so-called ‘information overload’, which may contribute to thebehaviour of scanning and skipping around text to find as much as possible, as fast aspossible (Ohi 2001, p. 11).The effect of the word processor in homes and classrooms in the 1980s was to begin to blurthe boundary between language, design and technology, raising issues for editors, readersand writers. It was no longer possible to take for granted the literacy that had becomeinnate – new forms of literacy were needed. The vision that Tuman had in 1992 was of anew type of literacy: Online literacy would be ‘more practical, less theoretical, and newliterates themselves [will be] valued to the extent that they are team players, not traditionalintellectuals’ (Tuman 1992, p. 123), placing an emphasis on ‘collaboration andcommunication’ (ibid.). Similarly, Warschauer (1999) describes the characteristics of theinformation revolution as ‘a flattened hierarchy, multiskilled labor, team-based work, andjust-in-time production and distribution’ (p. 9). Tuman’s vision seems to have become reality.The reader and writer roles are redefinedChanges in our traditional understanding of the terms reader and writer, and the boundariesbetween them, are discussed at length in the literature on hypertext. The electronicmedium has the effect of making people aware of the part technology plays in the creationof text in a way that had become invisible, or ‘unchallenged’ with print (Reinking 1997, p.630). Reinking suggests that this new awareness ‘may lead us to reflect about howtechnology affects reading and writing, which in turn affects our conceptions of literacy’(ibid.). Spender goes so far as to suggest that the terms reader and writer are ‘almostmeaningless in the cyber-context’ (1995, p. 90), supporting Tuman’s statement in 1992: ‘Wehave hardly begun to ask...how giving all writers the ability to produce published forms oftheir own texts will affect our notion of authorship or how giving them the ability to integrategraphics into their documents will affect our notion of writing’ (p. 58).Bolter recognised the impact that the new medium would have on the reader and writer,creating a whole new writing space. His seminal book, Writing Space (1991), explores theeffect of the electronic medium on the way we think, particularly when the reader changesroles to become the creator of a text. The fact that hypertext enables the writer to movetext around on screen and edit easily has an impact on the way we approach writing.
    • - 23 -Snyder (1996) draws heavily on Bolter’s earlier work, describing how ‘writing with acomputer blurs the line between thinking and writing but also shapes to some extent theways in which we think’ (p. 5). She sees the electronic writing space as enabling ‘aninteractive relationship between writer and reader’ (p. 3).A new type of author emergesThe collaborative nature of online writing, its lack of boundaries between texts and lack oftextual autonomy (Landow 1992, p. 74), combine to undermine the idea of what we meanand understand by ‘author’. According to Alvin Kernan (1990), by the 1980s, ‘the author,whose creative imagination had been said to be the source of literature, was declared deador the mere assembler of various bits of language and culture into writings that were…simplycultural collages or “texts”’ (p. 2). In this environment, the author of a text ‘is merely thepersonage charged with collecting and arranging such material’ (Snyder 1996, p. 63).Yet not all those who have written on the subject believe that the changing role of theauthor is a phenomenon particular to the Web: as Naomi Baron (2001) demonstrates,Foucault, in 1977, envisioned the individual author being replaced by ‘author-function’ (p.92) and also in the 1970s, in The Death of the Author, Barthes challenged the notion oftraditional authorship: ‘The meaning of the text is found…in the mind of the reader’ (ibid.).Rather than indicating an epistemic change, then, it appears that the arrival of the computerbegan an overlap between the two literacies, as Poster (1995) asserts: ‘Periods or epochsdo not succeed but implicate one another, do not replace but supplement one another, arenot consecutive but simultaneous’ (p. 21). Poster also sees electronic writing as ‘[continuing]the tendency begun with handwriting and print: it enables the removal of the author from thetext, increases the distance, both spatial and temporal, of the author from the reader andaugments the problem of the interpretation of texts’ (ibid., p. 69). Similarly, Tuman (1992, p.66) believed that the new literacy would ‘enhance’ the old, not replace it immediately.The future for authoring, according to Tuman, means a return to the manuscript days ofmultiple authorship, when old ‘scriptors’ wrote the work of others and added to it,‘commentators’ added their own work to others’ to explain it and ‘auctors’ added others’work to explain their own (1992, p. 64). In this context, the writer would be responsible fordecisions over the appearance and layout of the text, removing the need for an editor.
    • - 24 -Snyder (1996, p. 8) is confident that writers trained in print will adjust to the demands ofonline literacy.2.4 The democratisation of Web publishingPeople who have been taught nothing about their own language are (contrary toeducational expectations) spending all their leisure hours attempting to stringsentences together for the edification of others. And there is no editing on theInternet! (Truss 2003, p. 17)Throughout its history, the printing press has reinforced the divide between the reader andthe writer, mainly for reasons of economics. Bolter (1991) sees the ‘costly and laborioustask’ of printing (p. 148) as widening that divide, and is critical of the attitude that ‘the act ofprinting itself makes these opinions worthy of our attention’ (ibid., p. 149). The ‘new writingspace’ at the heart of Bolter’s book removes the ‘special’ nature of being an author (p. 152),since almost anyone (in the affluent Western world, at least) can become an author throughthis new technology.In the Web environment of democratised authorship, ‘there will be no teacher, editor,publisher or bookseller to vet or validate what goes public; it could soon mean the end ofthe rejection slip and the demise of the gatekeeper’ (Spender 1995, p. 86). McAlpinewelcomes the prospect of self-publishing more positively, seeing the Web as providingauthors with ‘no excuse for languishing in the shadows, mournfully unpublished. They canno longer blame the cold hearts and bad judgment of editors who reject their preciousmanuscripts.’ (McAlpine 2001, p. 225). However, in the case of the eBook she isdescribing, she does acknowledge the value of the editor intervention in the process to‘correct the grammar or cut the excess verbiage’ (ibid., p. 229).The lack of a central control – such as an editor – to determine whether texts are worthy ofbeing published has resulted in people today using the World Wide Web to publish anythingand everything, which, as Yellowlees-Douglas points out, includes a great deal of work that‘no publisher would ever be caught putting into circulation’ (n.d., p. 1). The ease with which‘every computer-equipped, reasonably wired person can be a publisher or “contentprovider”’ (Moulthrop 2000, p. 267) has led to an explosion in online publishing over thedecade of the Web’s existence: In September 2005, popular search engine Google™indexed more than eight billion website pages (www.google.com.au, 17 September 2005).
    • - 25 -In one sense, this fulfils the vision of the man credited with inventing the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, whereby ‘anyone (authorised) should be able to publish and correct information andanyone (authorised) should be able to read it’ (Berners-Lee 1999, pp. 41-42).While information can certainly be easily published and read on the Web, Berners-Lee’sexpectation of anyone being able to ‘correct’ information has certainly not come to pass.True, the electronic medium offers a feature without parallel in print, that of correcting, orupdating, information over time in a way that cannot be compared with the issuing of errataor new editions of printed books. But literature suggests that attitudes towards the Web as amedium remove any sense of urgency over correcting mistakes. This perception is clear inMcAlpine’s writing guide, in which she suggests that ‘…it’s never too late to fix the wordson a web site’ (McAlpine 2001, p. 2). It is a sentiment shared by Gerstner (1998), whosays: ‘It’s not like print, where mistakes live forever. You can change the web sitetomorrow’ (p. 17).The medium does allow for many inaccuracies to be corrected, be they factual orgrammatical, and for arguments to be updated as further studies are conducted. This,Burbules believes, results in ‘more highly refined content, via multiple revisions: correctingerrors…modifying works’ (1998, p. 117), although he continues: ‘Such relentless tinkeringfor the sake of marginal improvements can become wearisome, and it is doubtful how manyreaders would continue to reread versions of a paper to get the latest state of an author’sthinking’ (ibid., p. 121). The role of the editor is still not mentioned as part of this process;the assumption here is that the author will be doing his or her own correcting. A significantdisadvantage of this flexibility is that a website author can remove all traces of an argumentpublished only on the Web, without any thought to those that may have quoted andreferenced the article. The only proof would be if the researcher had printed orelectronically stored a copy of the article at the time it was accessed. Similarly, a grosserror in a study published on a website might be seen, believed, and even printed bythousands of readers before a correction is issued.
    • - 26 -2.5 Developing the skills for the mediumThe method of delivering the message to the viewer has changed almostbeyond recognition, but the fundamental principles which govern themanipulation of characters, words and pages in the ‘old’ world of printtypography are still vitally important. (Pring 1999, Introduction)The early days of the Internet and hypertext led to demands for a complete rethink aboutour approach to writing, as the electronic medium began to reshape our thinking. Somepeople took the time to learn a new literacy to help them approach hypertext in a differentway but the results of self-publishing, both written and visual language, vary widely. AsCrystal (2001) points out: ‘Just because a new visual language is available to everyonedoes not mean that everyone can use it well’ (p. 46). The websites that Crystal refers to as‘untutored typographical hotchpotches’ (ibid., p. 204), and Dorner (2001) considers ‘unevenat best and dismal at worst’ (p. 115), indicate that amateur publishers have not yet becomeWeb literate. Other writers add their lament about the standards of writing and layout ofthose with no experience or training, including Burbules (1998, p. 118), Ohi (2001, p. 3),and Baron (2001, p. 215).In print publishing, ‘several pairs of eyes may scrutinize a document…publishers providecopy-editors and proof-readers to eradicate unintended idiosyncrasy and implement housestyle’ Crystal (p. 207). It must be questioned, therefore, whether the poor quality of amateurwebsites is due to the medium being different, or to what Crystal describes as the ‘checksand balances’ (ibid.) being absent, one of which would traditionally have been the editor.Judy Gregory believes that there are many similarities between writing for print and writingfor the Web, which would suggest that the lack of an editor as part of the checking systemis the key. In her 2004 article Writing for the Web Versus Writing for Print: Are They ReallySo Different?, Gregory aims to debunk some of the much-quoted maxims about writing forthe Web, to demonstrate how similar the two can be, and in fact how writers for certaingenres of print writing could benefit from employing characteristics of what is accepted asbeing ‘good’ website writing. She examines seven of the key differences highlightedbetween print and website writing, and concludes that ‘many of the underlying principles ofwriting apply to both media’ (Gregory 2004, p. 276). This argument is supported by authorsof writers’ guides, such as McAlpine (2001), according to whom, ‘the hallmarks of goodwriting are identical, whether the writing appears on paper or on a monitor, whether it’s anovel, a business proposal, or a web page’ (p. 10), and Jennie Eley, website reviewer for
    • - 27 -the Plain English Campaign: ‘Whatever medium they are writing for, people need to keeptheir language plain and their sentences short!’ (McManus 2003, p. 82).For Gregory, genre – that is, the ‘recognizable communicative purposes of documents’(2004, p. 281) – is a more useful method of comparison between print and Web publishing.Crowston and Williams (2000), in their article Reproduced and emergent genres ofcommunication on the World Wide Web, assert that ‘genres are useful because they makecommunications more easily recognizable and understandable by recipients’ (p. 203).Similarly, Crystal considers genre to be important when considering the appropriateness oflanguage: ‘I read innumerable Web sites where the content demands longer and moresophisticated exposition. It is unlikely that a single principle of economy could ever explainthe variety of uses, intentions, tastes, and effects which give the Internet its character’(Crystal 2001, p. 76).One of the most-quoted articles among texts about website writing is a 1997 study byMorkes and Nielsen, Concise, SCANNABLE and Objective: How to Write for the Web.Among their findings, the authors discover that ‘scanning is the norm, that text should beshort (or at least broken up), that users like summaries and the inverted pyramid style…’(Morkes and Nielsen 1997, Study 1: Findings). This key phrase ‘or at least broken up’seems to have been overlooked by most authors of Web writing guides. In the Morkes andNielsen study, the text they tested cut 50 per cent from the text written in ‘promotional’language, which they themselves considered to contain ‘exaggeration, subjective claims,and boasting, rather than simple facts’ (ibid., p. 11). Despite this context, the ‘cut by 50 percent rule’ for moving print text to screen is advocated without qualification by writersincluding Price and Price (2002, p. 96), McAlpine (2001, p. 36), Fichter (2001, p. 82) andKilian (in Ohi 2001, p. 10).This attitude of those who advocate cutting text in half is, according to Gregory, ‘generaland context free…at best, overly simplistic’ (Gregory 2004, p. 277). Spyridakis (2000)quotes the same study but interprets the findings as supporting multiple, short pages, ratherthan simply halving the text (p. 363). For her, ‘the goal of conciseness should be to improveclarity by deleting unnecessary words, phrases, and excess details, and by manipulatingsyntactic structures’ (p. 370). Others see the characteristics of good writing being similar inprint and online, such as Kellner, for whom the various forms of Internet writing – chat,email, forums – underline ‘the importance of clarity and precision’ (Kellner 2002, p. 158).
    • - 28 -Unlike her print predecessors, the website editor has a free hand when it comes to creatinga message for the intended audience, unconstrained by the boundaries of page size ordocument length.2.6 Dealing with an ever-changing languageLanguage changes constantly without reference to anyone, including editors:the editor can only manage change, never control it. (McDonell 2004, p. 24)Language over the centuries has been shaped by editors, along with writers of style guidesand usage manuals, dictionary makers, teachers and newspaper columnists (Burridge2004, p. 16). The role of the editor, what McDonell (2004) describes as the ‘public’ functionof the editor, is ‘gatekeeper of the language, guarding the portals against the ravages ofthose who don’t mind – or worse, know – their “p’s” and “q’s”’ (p. 22). Editor interventionhas always been a critical part of the print publishing process, imposing and thusmaintaining the prevailing standards of language, grammar and punctuation. It is importantto note, however, that just as language use varied between early printing houses, today’s‘house style’ can vary between organisations in its preferred punctuation and rigidity ofgrammar. Even sentence length, which has become ‘steadily shorter’ (Haussamen 1994, p.9) since the 1700s, is ’only a moment in the evolution of style’ (ibid., p. 24).Language is changing because it always has, as Spender describes: ‘What was good formin one generation becomes undesirable in the next, and vice versa: words, phrases, usagesthat were once unacceptable are now widely used’ (Spender 1995, p. 9). Spelling hasvaried significantly through the ages, showing ‘considerable variety’ in the 17thcentury(Baron 2001, p. 57) and punctuation was only introduced to make it easier to read aloud. In1996, the Macquarie dictionary (second edition) had ‘on-line’ as the accepted form of theword. By the third edition in 2002, the entry had changed to ‘online…also on-line’. Otherterms linked to the electronic medium are also becoming more conveniently compact, suchas ‘website’, ‘email’ and ‘homepage’, suggesting that change is continuing apace.Significant research has been conducted to ascertain whether electronic writing is closer tospoken language than to written language. While that is not the focus of this thesis, it isimpossible to discuss website writing without acknowledging briefly the other forms in whichwriting appears on the Internet, in particular role-playing ‘MUD’ games, chat rooms and
    • - 29 -email, all of which seem to suggest that electronic writing closes the gap between speechand print that was widened by the printing press (Haussamen 1994, p. 20). O’Neill,Fountaine and Sligo (2002) see the Internet and email as encouraging people to use ‘quick,less formal English’ (p. 95), and according to Turkle, in her book about the impact of theInternet on identity, ‘a relaxed attitude towards sentence fragments and typographic errorssuggest that the new writing is somewhere between traditional writing and oralcommunication’ (1997, p. 183). Naomi Baron (2002) posits that while punctuation in emailmay reflect the newly emerging relationship between spoken and written English (p. 189),‘e-mail style reinforces ongoing change rather than initiating it’ (p. 411).The Internet has not yet been around long enough for people to instinctively know what is,or is not, acceptable language to use (Crystal, p. 107), raising the significant question ofhow many of today’s editors, who were not educated using computers, can learn the skillsthey need to publish effectively on the Web.2.7 The human editor takes a back seatNo-one writing material for online dissemination should ever think they can dowithout the intervention of a human copy editor despite the editorial help that isnow available automatically. (Commonwealth Guidelines 2000, p. 60)In the same way as grammar and punctuation guides abounded as the need arose tocreate some form of standardisation for print (Baron 2001, p. 184), so too have websitewriting style guides and grammars flourished as a source of knowledge about how to writefor the new medium. Optimistically, McAlpine (2001) advocates that ‘Web writers mustsoak in the Web and absorb the conventions by constant exposure and osmosis’ (p. 11).This fails to acknowledge that what is accessible may not have been written with Webconventions in mind, and as Fichter (2001) points out, referring here to Intranet writing, ‘theproblem with learning by osmosis is that there are just as many bad examples as there aregood. Do new content providers have the wisdom to know the difference?’ (p. 82).A similar problem for those seeking to replace the editor function with a guide is knowingwhich one to use. While publications such as the Macquarie Dictionary and Strunk andWhite’s Elements of Style are widely accepted in Australia as the bases of appropriatelanguage and grammar usage, Crystal (2001) is correct in stating that for the Internet ‘no e-
    • - 30 -corpus of this kind yet exists, and so it is inevitable that guides…will contain a great dealthat is subjective, expressing personal or institutional taste’ (p. 73). So many options existthat Durham examined the proliferation of ‘how-to’ guides in her 2000 study Organisationalwebsites: How, and how well, do they communicate? The results showed that ‘in a largenumber of guidelines…the material found was often overwhelmingly unsubstantiated andoften highly idiosyncratic’ (p. 3), and that many style guides ‘rely on writing and design“folklore”, with little substantiated evidence’ (ibid., p. 4).Baron is critical of what she calls ‘self-proclaimed language authorities’ (2002, p. 404) whodecide on what constitutes correct spelling and usage with no thought for linguisticconventions. She is not alone in singling out Hale and Scanlon’s Wired Style for particularcriticism (ibid., p. 405): Crawford Kilian, in his online article ‘Against Wired’ (1996), stateshis feelings unequivocally: ‘If Wired Style’s style is contemptible, it is also both antique andimmature’. Yet this printed book (ironically not published online) is seen by many as thedefinitive writing style guide for the electronic medium, and writers such as McManus (2003,p. 85) and De Wolk (2001, p. 93) propose using it if you have no other guide. This sharpdivide between the camps can be understood by looking at some of the comments in WiredStyle, which include:‘Treat the institutions and players in your world with a dose of irreverence. Play withgrammar and syntax. Appreciate unruliness.’ (p. 15)‘When it comes to a choice of what’s on the Web and what’s in Webster’s[Dictionary], we tend to go with the Web.’ (p. 2)‘We like the way many tech upstarts defy conventions for capitalization such as iMacat the beginning of a sentence.’ (p. 187)They presume that digital writing demands the colloquial, and are critical of the ‘starchy’nature of traditional style manuals (Hale and Scanlon 1999, p. 2).Editing with easeOne way in which the first word processors were seen to have an advantage over printpublishing was their ability to take the ‘drudgery’ out of editing and revising (Feeney 1985,p. 6), allowing the writer to get on with the job of writing. The development of spelling- andgrammar-checking programs was also seen as a way of reducing the interference with theprocess of writing and editing, encouraging what Reinking (1997) called ‘new strategies forwriting, less inhibited by a concern for spelling’ (p. 640). By the mid 1980s, text-editing
    • - 31 -programs were able to check for spelling and punctuation errors, grammatical errors suchas split infinitives, and even ‘sexist phrases’ (Feeney 1985, p. 6), although Feeney is quickto point out that ‘human contribution is required to pick up errors of fact and controversialpoints, and to make qualifying comments and suggestions’ (ibid.). Bush takes this idea astep further, suggesting that what he calls ‘robotic editing’ may cause the result to be lessaccurate than the original by ‘encouraging [editors] to rigidly insert rule bound “corrections”that make the copy logically wrong’ (1992, p. 115).Modern word processing programs undoubtedly enable the author to check grammar andspelling with very little effort and have become particularly important as more and moreorganisations have websites, with staff from around the organisation contributing to content.This easy access to programs that apparently tell us what is acceptable writing, and moreimportantly what is not, may result in the human editor being seen as an unnecessary stepin the electronic publishing process – until you look closely at the accuracy of someprograms. Crystal describes the spelling checks and grammar checks available in softwarepackages as prescriptive ‘in an intrusive and arbitrary form’ (2001, pp. 66-67), and refers tothe ‘pedants’ in software companies (p. 212) who interfere with a writer’s style. Yet hesounds the alarm by stating that online dictionaries and grammar guides are likely toinfluence usage ‘much more than their Fowlerian counterparts ever did’ (ibid.).Even worse is the tendency of some programs, acting as the new gatekeepers of thelanguage, to make incorrect suggestions, such as a spell checker removing the hyphenfrom a word that should have one (Michele Grossman, pers. comm. June 2005). Bishop(2005) tested the standard Microsoft grammar checker and found it lacking, with failuresthat included ‘skipping misplaced apostrophes, singular-plural inconsistencies, missingarticles, sentence fragments, improper capitalization and other problems’, leading thisAssistant Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Stanford University – the titleitself indicative of how times are changing – to conclude that even if the grammar checkwas improved, ‘it still wouldn’t be as good as a good human editor’ (ibid.). This may soundlike good news for editors, who will still be needed to ensure that content is accurate, butthe danger is that Microsoft grammar will become definitive simply by being used more thanany other grammar guide. Baron (2001) talks of the disturbing trend in education ofchildren’s ‘increasing dependence upon such tools, rather than pressing themselves to testtheir memories, to sound out words, or to look them up in the dictionary’ (p. 213). Thisincreasing reliance on software seems to be the next phase in the reduction of our reliance
    • - 32 -on memory, which began with the development of the alphabet and was compounded bythe printing press (cf Ong). The Internet allows us to forget everything other than where tofind the facts; we don’t need to remember the facts themselves (Reich, in Warschauer1999, p. 15).Along with new standards in grammar and spelling, the general consensus is thatpunctuation will decrease. From its original function as an ‘aide-mémoire for the publicperformance of a written text’ (Lanham 1993, p. 127), many would now view it as anirritation, one more thing to learn and remember. For Haussamen, a decrease inpunctuation use simply reflects a natural progression, and ‘some of our correct punctuationrules will look as excessive in the year 2200 as some eighteenth-century punctuation rulesdo to us now’ (Haussamen 1994, p. 21-22). Price and Price (2002) see a more practicalreason for using language rather than punctuation to convey meaning in content that isdisplayed on screen: ‘[understanding can] rely too heavily on little punctuation marks thereader can miss’ (p. 108).Opinion is divided over whether this ‘informal and grammatically very “relaxed” kind oflanguage’ (Deuze 1999, p. 379) produced by the Internet is a positive change or signals adecline in standards. Spender (1995) insists that the standardised features of print arebecoming less important: ‘there is no longer the same need for standardisation, fordefinitions of spelling, pronunciation and meaning. It is no coincidence that wordprocessors have spellcheckers…as well as a thesaurus…but generally no dictionary withdefinitions and set, standardised forms’ (p. 23). This, she believes, is not a drop instandards; it is a ‘change in medium…it may even be an improvement’ (p. 11). Otherwriters, such as Kernan, ‘wince’ at the tendency in the media of ‘the old rules of grammarbeing broken, anarchy overtaking spelling, comma fault and dangling modifiers becomingbrazen, and the jargons of a pompous dullness being amplified and broadcast with high-wattage sound equipment’ (Kernan 1990, p. 169). Similarly for Spyridakis, a Professor inTechnical Communication, ‘readers expect information on Web pages to be accurate andfree from typos and other errors that reveal carelessness or ignorance’ (2000, p. 373) andlater: ‘errors and inconsistencies across pages…raise doubts about the author’s credibility’(ibid., p. 373). Ten years ago, Spender (1995) asked whether opening up publishing toeveryone would result in authorship losing its ‘status and credibility’ (p. 81). Thedemocratisation of publishing may have decreased the authority of the author as aprofession, and resulted in there being ‘almost certainly…more garbage than work of
    • - 33 -quality’ (Burbules 1998, p106), but credibility remains an important issue. Credibility isjudged via the grammatical and typographical as well as factual correctness. As thefindings of my study will show, factual correctness remains vital, but opinion in the literatureremains divided over whether grammatical correctness needs to be maintained at the samelevel on the Web as in print.In their study into perceptions of error, O’Neill, Fountaine and Sligo (2002) discovered that‘as more people cease to view particular errors as errors, the errors become graduallyacceptable’ (p. 94). Without an editor as gatekeeper, much of the written content appearingon the Web is not being properly checked, the implications being cause for concern forBaron, according to whom ‘unmonitored self-publication may come to redefine publicstandards of acceptability for the written word’ (Baron 2001, p. 215). In this looser linguisticenvironment, the editor, with a ‘keen eye for the ill-chosen word, the grammatical error, theinfelicities of style and punctuation’ (Burridge 2004, p. 210-211), may well become redundant.2.8 The changing role of the editorYou have to be your own editor. That’s called being an adult in the informationage. (Baron 2001, p. 267)The new environment offers a challenge for editors that surpasses the need to simply learna new literacy with its new rules and regulations. In this medium, ‘computer language rules(grammar) are first stated and thereafter used’ (Ong 1982, p. 7), and the grammar ofhypertext, which enables us to understand what is being communicated within thediscursive framework of electronic writing, includes not only language but also space andcolour, images and sound. The spaces, paragraphs, font style and footnotes of the printedbook that ‘go largely unnoticed as visual elements’ by the contemporary writer (Landow1992, p. 46), suddenly become a highly visible part of electronic writing, as Lanham (1993)comments: ‘We have come to regard print as so inevitable that we have ceased to notice itsextraordinary stylization’ (pp. 73-74). Web publishers have access to ‘a range oftypographic and colour variations that far exceeds the pen, the typewriter and the earlyword processor’ (Crystal 2001, p. 46), suggesting that website editors need to learn newskills in order to offer value that is one step ahead of the general publishing public.
    • - 34 -Hypertext may have resulted in a loss of writer authority over the written word, but Landow,for one, believes that the opportunity the medium presents for writers to affect the visualappearance of their text is important, even ‘empowering’ (Landow 1992, p. 49). In his view,plenty of books are examples of bad design, with narrow margins and too-small type; andthe assumption that the visual elements are less important than the words is a socialconstruction (ibid., p. 50). Snyder, too, talks of the tendency among writers to ‘internalise’the idea that non-verbal information is less important than the writing, and is the business of‘publishers, designers and printers, not of writers’ (Snyder 1996, p. 18). Advice from theCouncil of Australian Societies of Editors (CASE – now the Institute of Professional Editors)makes it clear that all editors need to be aware of the use of design elements ‘to conveymeaning and enhance readability’ (Australian Standards for Editing Practice 2001, p. 3).Writing from the viewpoint of the graphic designer, Kalantzis (2001) illustrates the changingroles of those involved in the publishing process since the arrival of word processors. Shedescribes as ‘parallel’ the electronic workflow process, rather than ‘consecutive’ as it is inprint publishing (p. 63). Where once editors were involved at every stage – dealing withauthors and typesetters, and handling the text structure, checking proofs and makingcorrections (p. 60) – now their role has shrunk in the sense that text and images are markedup by ‘creators’ who are a mixture of editor and graphic designer (p. 63). Her reaction tothis change is that writers and editors are thus entering a space ‘traditionally considered tobe the exclusive domain of graphic design’ (p. 66), although an alternative interpretationcould be that the graphic designer is infiltrating the domain of the writer.In addition to an understanding of graphic design, website editors are also expected to havea certain level of technical skill and an understanding of the intricacies of Web publishingtechnology. It is telling that McManus, in his article, ‘How to write for the Web’, providesHTML coding tips to help writers format their work (McManus 2003, p. 82), while McAlpine(2001) includes ‘an understanding of Web culture…detailed knowledge of how searchengines work’ in her list of skills required in writing for the Web (p. 219). Indeed theAustralian Standards for Editing Practice (2001) has an impressive catalogue of skillsrequired of the modern editor: ‘Publication planning, editing, designing, formatting,proofreading, navigation, indexing, print production (e.g. production checking, binding,distribution), screen-based procedures (e.g. programming, testing, uploading or replication,site maintenance) and marketing...’ (p. 1).
    • - 35 -In the context of a company website, content is often provided by a range or team ofpeople, each with their own writing style and appreciation of the medium. According toCrowston and Williams (2000), many organisations see the Web ‘primarily as a cheapmeans of publishing information’ (p. 201), the danger being that they are not taking thetrouble to adapt the information to the medium. This idea is borne out by Price and Price(2002), who criticise the ‘impersonal style’ of printed communication from corporations,universities, and governments, and the fact that ‘in the rush to fill up Web sites, a lot of thisfaceless prose got posted’ (p. 31). Having a multi-skilled editor who can take responsibilityfor content, layout and distribution offers significant efficiencies of time and hence lower costs.The medium has led to such an increase in writing that some, such as McAlpine, see thedemand for good website writers and editors as having grown (2001, p. 7). At the sametime, the abundance of software programs and ‘how-to’ tools may lead content providers tobelieve that anyone can be an editor, devaluing editing as a recognised skill. Turkle (1997)says: ‘Once I would have thought of it as editing. Now with computer software, movingsentences and paragraphs about is just part of writing’ (p. 29), a perception that does notbode well for the future of the editor. Some see the editors’ skills as becoming diluted asthey are forced to become programmers and designers in order to maintain their place inthe online world, and Jane Dorner, for example, wishes that ‘…the new era of e-this and e-that would value people trained to edit words as highly as it values graphic designers…orprogrammers’ (2001, p. 89).2.9 Contextualising perceptions about the mediumWhen word processors first appeared, much was written about the possible impact onstandards of literacy, of teaching, and on language in general as the electronic environmentcauses us to think differently about how we read and write. What some, such as Tuman,saw as presaging a decline in literacy, others such as Kaplan, Snyder and Landow saw aspresenting new opportunities for teaching and learning. Twenty years on, the issue ofcomputer literacy is becoming less prominent in Western societies as new generations growup with computers and technology a part of their daily lives. At the same time, it should beacknowledged that the debate over the teaching of English reading and writing is returningto the surface, with a move away from the ‘whole language’ approach to reading.
    • - 36 -Opinion differs over whether the medium itself has caused a change in our languagestandards or whether, as Spender and Haussamen point out, language has always beenchanging, and we are simply in the next phase of its progression. The characteristics of theInternet encourage what Baron and Crystal identify as a movement towards oral languagein our written communication but it is, as yet, too early to see what the future holds.Clearly, the World Wide Web has democratised publishing, although writers such asSpender are quick to point out that this only applies to first-world societies. In addition,there seems to be little doubt that the medium requires a different approach from writers, asis visible in the plethora of guides on how to write for the Web, and the existence ofprograms that enable any writer to instantly become their own editor. Yet the role of editorshas come under much less scrutiny than the website content they are editing. The literaturereveals a lack of investigation into what people think about the medium, and what impacttheir perceptions about editors and editing have on the standard of language they use – andcome to expect – on websites. Coupled with this is the challenge facing the editor, whoseskills – which were so visible in the print publishing process – have been variouslyundermined (Dorner 2001) or broadened (McManus 2003, Price and Price 2002). Against abackdrop of changing literacy and language in an online world, I now turn to thoseperceptions and consider what the implications might be for the editor as we know her.
    • - 37 -Figure 1: Thinking about websites, how important are the following elements to you?Group 1: RANKED the items from one to six:Website structure makes it easy to find information 4.2Information is factually accurate 3.9Writing style makes it easy to read 3.6Spelling and grammar are good 3.4Design is attractive 3.1Information is up-to-date 2.8Group 2: gave each item a SCORE out of six:Information is factually accurate 6.0Information is up-to-date 5.9Website structure makes it easy to find information 5.8Writing style makes it easy to read 5.5Spelling and grammar are good 5.4Design is attractive 4.8Part 3: Research findings and discussionAs explained in Part One, I conducted an online research survey of communicationsprofessionals in non-profit and public-sector organisations. The survey gathered mainlyqualitative responses from 20 people – the majority female and in the age bracket 25 to 34– on their perceptions about different aspects of websites as a form of communication andtheir views of the editor’s role in Web publishing. The findings below include extracts fromrespondents’ comments; a copy of the participants’ full responses can be found inAppendix C.Websites as a medium for communication3.1 Elements of a websiteDifferent groups of people are likely to place different levels of importance on the elementsof a website such as written content, design, navigation and functionality. To find out howthe participants view websites as a medium for communication, I asked them about thesedifferent elements. Although the survey had been pre-tested to check that the terms usedwere understandable, nine participants understood the first question to mean that the itemsshould be ranked from one to six (which was the intention), and 11 gave each item a scoreout of six. The nature of Web surveys means that it is not feasible for participants to ask forclarification on questions during the survey (Reips 2000, p. 111) so it is not clear whether anyparticipant found this question confusing. I have therefore grouped the responses into ‘group1’ – those who ranked the items – and ‘group 2’ – those who scored them (Figure 1 below).
    • - 38 -The results show significant differences between the two groups, particularly in relation tothe importance of information being up-to-date, ranked sixth overall by group 1, but secondby group 2. For the second group, all elements are important but the factual accuracy ofinformation scored full marks from every respondent.The nature of hypertext means that even the best-written content can only be found easily ifthe website structure is effective, as the links – or lack of – may inhibit a browser in theirsearch for information so it is understandable that a good Web structure was important toboth groups. This demonstrates the ‘newness’ of websites as a means of communication,and the different approach required from readers: making sense of the structure of acorporate brochure or report is innate, and all information contained within it can easily beaccessed; in the electronic medium, the structure is raised up to become visible andintrusive and while poorly written content will not necessarily inhibit our understanding of themessage, a poor structure will do so.The two items that relate most closely to the written element of a website – ‘Spelling andgrammar are good’ and ‘Writing style makes it easy to read’ – are not top priorities for eithergroup. This is reflected in comments from participants: many of them are tolerant of minorerrors, but at the same time these have a negative impact on the perceived credibility of anorganisation. This ranking seems low, coming as it does from communicationsprofessionals, as it suggests that they are judgemental about others’ work but do notconsider the impact of their own work’s accuracy.3.2 Reliance on the mediumThe participants are known to have easy access and exposure to organisational websites,so it is understandable that when it comes to relying on information, their reliance on print islow (see Figure 2 overleaf).Two of those who thought that a printed brochure would be more reliable had financialreasons for doing so: for one, the cost of producing printed materials makes the informationmore reliable as the organisation has ‘a vested interest in the information being correct’.For the other, a strain on resources makes it rare for an organisation to have a dedicatedwebsite editor, making it less reliable than print.
    • - 39 -Figure 2: Would you rely on website content from a public sector or non-profit organisationMORE or LESS than a printed brochure on the same topic?15%45%40%Rely on the website moreRely on both to the same extentRely on the printed brochure moreOf those who would rely on both equally, one suggested that ‘It is perhaps especiallyimportant for websites to be trustworthy and professional because commonly they are aconsumer’s first contact with an organisation’. One person qualified her response by sayingthat she would rely on the Web because of its speed, yet would ‘trust the printed word moreand assume the printed information is more reliable’.Ease of access and speed of updating were among the reasons of the 45 per cent who saidthat they would rely more on the website. The website also has the ability to ‘provide moredetailed information’ as it does not have the same space constraints as a printed brochure,where length can be dictated by budget. Of this group, interestingly, two ‘hoped’ and three‘assumed’ that the Web was more reliable, indicating that they perhaps have some doubtsabout the medium they said they would rely on more. What these results show is that theubiquitous nature of the Internet, and easy access to it in the work environment, makeswebsites the preferred port of call for information but while respondents rely on it forreasons mainly of convenience, they do not believe that it is necessarily to be trusted.3.3 Impact of errors: print compared to WebAs someone who has worked with communications professionals in several organisations, Ihad expected that this group would be fairly judgemental about punctuation, spelling andgrammar errors on a public-sector or non-profit website; after all, many of them are involvedin producing the content that represents their organisation to the public and have a clearrole in shaping and maintaining the reputation of that organisation. The overwhelmingopinion among participants is that punctuation, spelling or grammar errors on a website givethem a negative impression of the organisation. Although some qualified their responses,
    • - 40 -all suggested that anything more than minor mistakes affected their view. Seven said that itwould undermine the ‘professionalism’ of the organisation, with two singling out for criticismthe specific staff or department responsible for the quality of the content. Others were moreforgiving of small mistakes, four commenting that a small error or easy-to-make typo wasunderstandable and one stating that it would have no impact ‘if it does not impede readingand is minor’. Reflecting on the current trend of website content, one respondentcommented that ‘bad grammar or punctuation is something that perhaps we have come toexpect’. Another, who also considered mistakes to be inevitable, saw the lack of resourcingfor editing services, and the pressure to publish quickly, as the causes for error.The impact on ‘credibility’ was specifically mentioned by one quarter of respondents, whichis in line with Spyridakis (2000, p. 373). As one participant said: ‘Sometimes it seems thatyou see so many [mistakes] that it would be impossible to treat anything you read onlinewith any credibility’. In contrast, one respondent, who felt that small errors were acceptable,asked, ‘What is perfect?? “Perfect” varies from person to person depending on theirstandards and expectations’. This response underlines that people bring with them to onewebsite different expectations that have been shaped by other websites and, although theywere not asked directly, it is probable that all or most of them also access websites in theirnon-work lives, which may have influenced the way they responded. The way we approacha book or brochure is shaped by our past experiences and we may only be made aware ofthe convention when it is broken (see as an example House of Leaves by Mark Z.Danielewski, a book that sets out to deliberately break layout conventions). Onerespondent explained, ‘A book/brochure etc tells you almost everything about itself simplyby holding it’, whereas Web conventions are still emerging, even for the genre ofcorporate websites.When asked how they would feel if a similar error appeared in a printed version of theinformation, 12 respondents indicated that they would feel the same as it if appeared on awebsite, one repeating that a mistake would have a negative impact on the credibility of theinformation and others commenting again that they would have a ‘poor impression’ of theorganisation or would see it as ‘unprofessional’.Just one respondent suggested that a mistake on a website is worse, commenting thatthere is ‘even less excuse I think for errors on the Web, as website information can becontinually updated, and if someone misses something in the proofing processes it can
    • - 41 -always be corrected later’. This sentiment that information can be easily corrected isechoed in the literature of McAlpine (2001 p. 2) and Gerstner (1998 p. 17).Comments from six respondents showed a clear difference between the media, with amistake in print worse in their opinion than a mistake on a website. Their reasons weresplit: three commented that the print process, which includes a ‘formal edit, sub-edit, proof-reading process’, should involve more rigorous checking, so a mistake in a print publicationthat has been seen by ‘more sets of editorial of eyes’ is less acceptable; for the other three,a mistake in print was seen as worse because it is harder to fix. Again, money was a factor,with two respondents reasoning that the cost involved in creating a printed document, orcorrecting an error in one, makes a mistake worse in print than on a website. Thisperception of the Web as the quick and cheaper option seems fairly widespread, anddemonstrates that the participants are generally unaware of the costs associated withbuilding and maintaining websites.3.4 The Web publishing processThe editorial process for print content is more rigorous than for the website in theparticipants’ organisations. This is not surprising, given the still relative newness of themedium: organisations that had a place in their structure for a print editor were, with theadvent of their corporate website, forced to cope with an increase in the volume of contentbeing produced, regardless of whether or not the print editor had the required skills to editfor the new medium. I wanted to find out what level of involvement the editor has in Webpublishing, so I asked participants to explain the process in their organisation for producingcontent. Many of their responses could be broken down into clear stages, and in 13 casescontent is written (or usually written) by the various departments throughout theorganisation. In 12 out of those 13, the communications team has the opportunity foreditorial input before the content is uploaded. In the remaining organisation, the respondentindicated that there are no resources to deal with editing the content, and it is uploadedeither by the part-time, off-site webmaster or by the Communications Officer. In theremainder of cases, it was hard to identify a clear publishing process, or the respondentwas not sure of the process.Encouragingly, two thirds of those who write content do so specifically for their website,which suggests that they are likely to have the medium in mind when they write and edit,resulting in more appropriate content for the Web.
    • - 42 -Figure 3: If content is given to an editor before being uploaded, what do you see as the roleof the editor?Element No. responsesGrammar 9Spelling 8Clear, plain English 7An appropriate style for the audience 7Punctuation 53.5 The editor: role, reactions and scope of involvementRoleThe perceived role of the editor in the Web publishing process ranges widely among theparticipants but the primary function appears to be the management of all aspects of thelanguage in the same way as would be the case for print. The elements most commonlyseen as part of the editor’s role can be seen in Figure 3:Where the electronic environment differs from print is partly in its need to be structuredmore appropriately for being read online. Five participants made comments to that effect,including suggestions that the editor should ‘advise on the best ways to present thematerial’. A surprisingly low number of respondents – just three – believe that the roleincludes deciding where to upload content on the website, to ensure that the location is, asone person put it, ‘the most usable for the user, and not what suits the internal person in theorganisation best’. And only one suggested that the editor needs to look at how contentmight link with other Web content.The responses raise an interesting point: in all instances where participants explained theirorganisation’s publishing process, the content was uploaded by a member of thecommunications team. It seems, then, that the first factors that come to mind as part of theeditor’s duties are the same as they would be for print, demonstrating a lack ofunderstanding of how the role of the editor is changing, or needs to change, to be effectivein Web publishing. To a certain extent, this is a reflection on the nature of editing whenprint was the dominant medium: editors today working on printed documents perform thetasks that they have always performed, albeit with the benefit of computers and wordprocessing programs. A new environment has been created but it is possible that someeditors, perhaps those who have a history of working with print that pre-dates the Internet,continue to approach content for the new medium in the same way as the ‘old’. The result
    • - 43 -will be a split between those who continue to approach website content as they did print –without concerning themselves with its location or interaction with other pieces of content –and those that embrace the broadening of the role that has happened with print, to includeareas such as design, as explained by Kalantzis (2001), structure, and a certain amount oftechnical know-how (McManus 2003; McAlpine 2001). Section 2.8 of the literature reviewabove discusses this in more detail. One particularly telling comment sums up a commonapproach to website content: ‘If a website is difficult to use, hard to navigate around and thelayout is inaccessible, then any good writing on it is lost. However if a website is easy tonavigate, easy to look at, and easy to use, and the text is below par, I would be lessbothered’. This interconnectedness between the medium and the message is one that hasno clear parallel in print, as we have internalised print conventions to the extent that we cantolerate deviations (such as those in Danielewski’s House of Leaves) with little problem.ReactionsIn a corporate setting, the role of the editor is to check and, where needed, correct orotherwise improve content from a range of sources. In the case of more than half of thesurvey participants, content was written by multiple work areas before being passed to acommunications professional for editing. When I asked how the editor’s involvement isreceived by the content providers, reactions ranged widely from ‘very positively’ to ‘poorly’.Nine respondents receive either a positive or ‘generally OK’ reaction, with one stating thatthe skills of the communications team are welcomed by those who are ‘specialists in otherfields’. At the other end of the scale, two describe people as ‘precious’ about their content,and overall four receive a negative reaction. An interesting point came from someone whois required to edit for print but not for the web: ‘Many of the editorial contributors I work withare happy when grammar issues are checked and corrected. However, I often struggle withcontributors when structure and content issues arise’. On the whole, it seems that acollaborative approach, whereby the reasons for changes are explained, receives the mostfavourable reaction from content providers.Scope of involvementSeventeen of the 20 responded positively that their content should be edited before it isuploaded, many suggesting the same reasons as in question six, such as to ensure that thegrammar and punctuation are correct. Several explained that ‘fresh eyes’ or a ‘second setof eyes’ are useful for picking up things they have missed. One respondent felt it would be
    • - 44 -preferable for her content to be edited, but as she writes and uploads content herself ‘theredoesnt seem to be this check built into the system’.Two respondents felt that their work does not need to be edited. One gave the reason asbeing that she has ‘a background in communications and writing’ but added: ‘I always find ithelpful to receive input from the editor on how people use information on the Web to helpme improve the way I tailor the information I provide’. This indicates an appreciation of thespecific skills of a website editor compared to print, where people would usually know howthings should be structured as they are print users themselves. The second respondent isa website editor who does not think it necessary for her work to be edited, but finds it‘worthwhile asking for feedback if anything is wrong once it is live’.All 20 respondents agreed that the websites of public-sector and non-profit organisationsshould be subject to some level of quality control, although one response suggested ‘most’should, as visitors won’t bother coming back if content is not reliable. Another said that itdepended on the nature of the site and therefore should ‘generally probably’ be controlled,stating as an example that the Australian Tax Office has a responsibility to maintainaccurate information because consumers make decisions based on that website. Severalrespondents mentioned the website projecting the ‘public image’ of the organisation,making it important that quality is assured, and stated that ‘all’ content should be checked,whether print- or web-based. One respondent went as far as to suggest that all Internetcontent, including chat rooms, should be subject to quality control, but added: ‘This iscoming from someone who punctuates her text messages, so I’m probably a bit extreme’.
    • - 45 -Figure 4: Does your organisation have a website writing style guide for staff?55%10%15%10%10%OnlinePrintedPrinted and onlineNoDon’t knowUse of programs and guides in preparing content3.6 Corporate and other printed and online guidesThe ease of access to a corporate style guide has an apparent impact on staff using it (seeFigure 4 below): when asked whether they referred to this guide when preparing content,both of those who said that they ‘always’ used it, and all four respondents who said thatthey ‘frequently’ use it, had access to print and online formats. Although one quarter ofrespondents indicated that they ‘never’ refer to the style guide, it should be noted that twopeople said their organisation does not have one, and another two said that they did notknow whether theirs has one.Since the early days of word processing, one of the computer’s key advantages overhandwritten text has been the ability to run spelling and grammar checks quickly and easily,picking up items that might otherwise go uncorrected, and giving every content provider thetools to edit their own work. This has been compounded by the Internet, home to amultitude of online reference websites. In all, 12 of those I surveyed referred to dictionariesand grammar/punctuation guides other than their organisational style guide, and a furthertwo, who do not use other guides, stated that they ask colleagues (in one case a journalist)in the same office.Of the 12 who refer to their organisation’s style guide ‘always’, ‘frequently’ or ‘sometimes’,10 also rely on other guides (See Figure 5 overleaf), suggesting that some people aresignificantly more concerned about inaccuracies and errors than others. This is alsoconsistent at the other end of the scale, with those who consult their organisation’s guide‘infrequently’ or ‘never’ also much less likely to use other guides, although one checksdefinitions online. The comparatively high number of respondents who refer to the News
    • - 46 -Figure 5Type of guide Name No. who useDictionaries www.dictionary.com 3Macquarie Dictionary (printed) 3Oxford English Dictionary 2Microsoft program dictionary 3Grammar and punctuation News Limited Style Guide 4Fowler’s Modern English Usage 1Australian Writers’ and Editors’ Guide 1AGPS Style Guide 1Other Roget’s Thesaurus 1www.clearwriting.co.uk 1Google™ 1Wikipedia (free online encyclopaedia) 1Limited Style Guide can be explained by the fact that one participant, a former journalistand now communications team leader, provides that as a resource for her team.One editor, who rates her language competence as ‘excellent’, nonetheless listed threewriting and style guides that she uses, plus one ‘clear writing’ reference website. She alsomaintains an ‘index book’, and refers to her team leader for punctuation if needed,indicating an extremely high level of concern over the professionalism and accuracy of herwork. This was reflected in her responses, which were in my opinion entirely free fromgrammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes. Only one other participant’s responses wereentirely error-free. Some people are therefore more vigilant in their work, irrespective ofhow they perceive their level of language ability.3.7 Computer spelling and grammar checksA large proportion of participants – 80 per cent – use the spelling checker that accompaniescomputer programs. Of that 80 per cent, 12.5 per cent only use it sometimes, andsignificantly 18.8 per cent use the spell checker but not the grammar checker.Only four participants said that they do not use the computer spelling and grammar checksat all, one person responding that the majority of her correspondence is via email so shechecks it herself, while another – who listed the most reference guides – said she rarelygets ‘those red/green squiggly lines, and they are usually for American words or stupidgrammar suggestions’. None of those who use the computer checks always accept therecommendations, although it was more likely that spelling would be accepted than
    • - 47 -grammar, perhaps suggesting that they judge grammar errors less harshly. A pictureemerged of participants rating their own grammar as superior to that of their computerprograms, particularly since the ‘default’ grammar tends to be American. This issue ofAmerican English versus Australian English was given by three respondents as their reasonfor not accepting grammar suggestions; another cited her mistrust of Microsoft.Explanations included: ‘8 times out of 10 the things it comes up with are irrelevant.’ ‘Often the suggestion offers the wrong meaning for the sentence, a word that does notmake sense.’ ‘Generally the grammar check is of limited use.’In an apparent disparity, two of those who were critical of the American focus of grammarchecks said that they refer to www.dictionary.com, a free, online, American dictionary. Thisraises two points: websites are perhaps less of a conveyor of cultural identity than print; andthis is an indictment of the fact that Macquarie, the most popular Australian dictionarymentioned by participants, charges individuals and corporations a subscription fee to use itsonline dictionary.For those who are in a communications role that is not specifically an editing role, it seemscommon to run a cursory check using the easy-to-access Microsoft programs but then handthe content over, knowing that the website editor will pick up any inconsistencies and itemsthat do not fall within the house style. A different pattern emerges, however, when it comesto checking email content: a full 40 per cent of respondents are less likely to check emailsfor error as consistently as other written content. Email is seen as ‘casual andconversational’, with a ‘short life span’ and the perception seems to be that as the audienceis one-to-one rather than one-to-many – as would be the case for website or print content –errors are less significant and the content itself is less important. Most respondentsgrouped print and Web together and said that they checked those for error with the samedegree of consistency and, encouragingly, 40 per cent said that they check all equallycarefully, with comments including ‘I make an effort to be accurate in every medium…I dothink I am responsible for the words, no matter where they end up’ and ‘As acommunication professional I apply this standard to all of my words, regardless’.
    • - 48 -3.8 Participants rate their own competencePerhaps not surprisingly, given that all participants are employed in the communicationsfield, they rated their level of competence in spelling, grammar and punctuation and thegeneral correct usage of language fairly highly (see Figure 6). No-one rated themselves asonly ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’.A good grounding in language skills may well be a pre-requisite of working in the field. Yetmany of them refer to guides and dictionaries, or consult colleagues, to verify the accuracyof their content, and 85 per cent agreed that their own content needs editing before beinguploaded onto their organisation’s website. This perhaps indicates that they do not feeltheir abilities are adequate for the medium.Three respondents who indicated that they do not refer to any guides, ever, all ratedthemselves as having a ‘very good’ level of language competence. One indeed did havegood attention to detail, with no spelling or word-choice mistakes and only minorgrammatical errors, while a second had only one miss-spelled word in all their responses,which indicated a miss-type rather than a lack of knowledge (‘competence’ as ‘competemce’).The third made seven spelling mistakes and one incorrect word choice (‘for’ instead of ‘to’)but had previously commented that she did use the computer program’s spelling andgrammar checkers, which were not available in the online survey software.Figure 6: How would you rate your own competence in spelling, grammar and punctuationand the general correct usage of language?024681012Excellent Very good Good
    • - 49 -3.9 Editing on screen: speed over accuracyWhen it comes to the paper-free working environment, it would appear that the ideal is stillsome way off, with a large proportion of participants likely to print their work to check it,even when they have performed a check on the computer. Forty per cent print their work tocheck it, with another 30 per cent printing after checking on screen. Length seems to be thekey factor that determines whether content will be printed, which links closely to commentsfrom five respondents that printing enables them to take a break from the screen, whichthey find uncomfortable to view for long periods of time. Of the two respondents who saidthat they proof on screen, one clarified that she prints long documents, and the otherchecks on screen due to ‘time constraints’.Several responses provided an indication that the medium is still new enough for people tofeel more at ease with the ‘old’ way of checking on paper. Participants demonstrated a highlevel of self-awareness that checking their work on screen is not as effective as checking aprinted document. One respondent who ‘always’ proofs in hard copy does so because hefinds that he ‘tends to skim’ when reading on screen. Six respondents felt that they proofbetter on paper than on screen, with another two saying that print was ‘easier to read’. Fortwo respondents it was important to have a sense of the document in its entirety, whichresulted in them printing out longer items. One commented: ‘You don’t get a sense of thewhole document without seeing all the pages together’; and the other said: ‘It is easier toconcentrate and see the whole context in print rather than scrolling to read’.3.10 Writing for the Web versus writing for printThe innate nature of print in our culture means that we can write for the medium withouthaving to consider too much how we write: for a brochure, for example, you write to fill thespace available, often to get a specific message to an identified audience. As well asgauging opinions and perceptions about Web publishing, I thought that it would be useful tosee what differences, if any, participants saw in writing for print versus writing for the web.This section tested their awareness and to a certain extent their skill in identifyingcharacteristics of hypertext and common rules about writing for the electronic medium, suchas keeping content concise and more structured, with paragraph headings, chunks ofinformation and lists. What I was not expecting was that their interpretation of the questionprovided much richer answers than I had anticipated.
    • - 50 -The most popular responses were that website content needs to be shorter, and chunked orbroken up through the use of dot points and paragraph headings. This indicates thatrespondents are aware of the way people scan or skim across information on the screen.From their responses, I am encouraged – as an editor, and as a reader – that so many ofthem consider their target audience, in either medium. The electronic medium has affectedthose who are used to writing in print by making them rethink how they communicate withtheir online readers, who may no longer be so easy to identify and categorise as they werefor print. While publications are seen as very targeted, respondents are very aware of awebsite’s ability to reach more people through Internet distribution, making it necessary towrite more generally – one response was that it is ‘harder to know who your audience mayend up being so I am more likely to use a general tone’. Another person said it wasimportant to be ‘conscious of leading the reader through the pages’, and in total a quartermentioned the audience as being different from the print environment, to include ‘people ofall abilities and cultures’ for example.A general perception about website content is that it is simpler, in fact needs to be simpler,the medium not lending itself particularly well to complex information, and people being lesslikely to tolerate reading long blocks of information on screen. One respondent said that ifshe had a long document to put up on the web, she would create a summary and thenprovide the full document ‘in a form that is easy to print and take away (either PDF or Wordformat)’, indicating that she perceives the goal of the reader to be printing a documentrather than reading on screen. Another difference for one participant is that ‘the web is notas well suited to detailed and complex information’.Only two people clearly consider the rules for print and Web writing to be ‘very similar in thatall information should be as user-friendly as possible’. For both, all writing should be clearand concise, one suggesting that the use of cross heads and dot points in Web publishingwas not a bad idea in print either, comments that echo Gregory’s arguments (2004, p. 276).The idea that Web content has an obligation to be more ‘dynamic’, ‘interesting’ or ‘lively’than its print counterpart was a clear theme, as if the time factor and the easy access tocompeting material means that content has to vie for people’s attention. While this suggeststhat the tone of corporate website writing perhaps needs to be less formal than its printequivalent, it does not imply that language standards can be relaxed.
    • - 51 -Analysing the effectiveness of contentTo establish the effectiveness of different characteristics of website writing, I asked theparticipants to analyse two versions of the same information, a page from the website of anon-profit organisation. Version one was unchanged from the original, apart from having allidentifying names removed so that neither the organisation nor the disease wasrecognisable. In version two, I applied several of the most common characteristics of Webwriting to the original text, namely chunking information, using paragraph headings, andbreaking up content into bulleted lists. The results were conclusive: in 17 of the 19responses to this question, version two was preferred, and even the remaining two were notdecisive in their preference of version one: one who ‘probably’ preferred version one feltcompelled to read everything so as not to miss out on anything, but added that the secondversion was also ‘written well…quick and easy to get through’; the other respondentsuggested that to improve version one and engage the audience more, it needed ‘a “fastfact” box at the top, and more headlines throughout’, which would have made it moreclosely resemble the second version.It is significant that four people who preferred version two did so because it was ‘short’,making it easy to read online and easy to remember. Version one was criticised as being‘too wordy’, ‘dense’, ‘tedious’ and ‘very dry’. When I created version two I deliberately triedto avoid reducing the word count, and at 239 words it was only four words shorter thanversion one, as well as being longer by 10 lines – or 42 per cent – in Microsoft Word. Whatthis underlines is that length is less of an issue than layout, and it is therefore moreimportant to structure content so that users can skim quickly (mentioned by 7 people),either to learn what they need from the information, or to work out whether this is, in fact,the information they need. Speed for Web users is of the essence: ‘Readers want to get tothe point and version 2 does that,’ said one respondent.The original version may well have started life as a print document, probably part of abrochure, and been simply uploaded as a Web page. It is interesting, therefore, that oneparticipant deemed this version ‘more authoritative’, since it resembled a print layout. Thissupports the earlier result that 45 per cent would rely on website content more but somebecause they ‘hoped’ it was right.
    • - 52 -The second piece of text that participants were asked to evaluate was on the subject of‘Animal control’, from a page on a Victorian local government website. This text, and thefirst text, can be found in Appendix B. The text had been selected for its range of errors,which included word selection and use of capitalisation, grammar and punctuation, andgenerally poor comprehension due to its layout. Although the question asked for details ofany changes the participants would make, such as spelling, grammar or punctuation, theoverall number of comments from the 18 respondents who completed this question wassurprisingly low. Only a third said that the bulleted lists had been incorrectly broken up, andjust one quarter identified a misuse of capitals in the first sentence. The use of ‘wondering’instead of ‘wandering’ in the first sentence was spotted by three respondents, one of whommade the impassioned comment: ‘Lets hope that editors are never so far-reaching andeffective that they take away delights like “wondering stock” from this world!’. Sevenrespondents said that they would rewrite the whole thing and a quarter commented thatthey found it hard to read.While many of the mistakes were picked up during the survey by at least one person,responses to previous questions suggest that the respondents would have behaved as theynormally do when reading text online: skimming the page quickly, looking for the headingsand chunks of information that they have come to expect. Where the mistake did notimpact significantly on their comprehension of the text, it was less likely to be picked up.Participants seemed more troubled by the bullet points having been broken up ininappropriate places – with some points converted to bullets that should simply have beenparagraphs – than by the incorrect use of hyphens, apostrophes, capitals and semi-colons.This piece of text demonstrates that editing for the Web requires more than the ability toapply Web writing guidelines – such as the use of bulleted lists – for the text to becomprehensible. One respondent summed up the text effectively when she said: ‘It initiallylooks readable, but once you start reading the bullet points, it became apparent that thereare too many and the text starts feeling heavy and difficult to read’.
    • - 53 -DiscussionWhat I found particularly surprising from the survey was the number of grammatical,spelling and punctuation errors in respondents’ answers, considering that the subject matterwas the standard of online language, they all judge their language skills as good or above,and all work in the communications field. While some people are clearly vigilant in everymedium, others consider the context to be important, suggesting that the onlineenvironment is perceived as more transient, with mistakes less important because they arenot ‘cemented’ into print. Some participants pointed out that if their work was not going to awide audience, they would be less concerned if it contained an error (for example inemails). From this I would infer that the ‘genre’ of an online survey is rather informal, with anarrow audience, which therefore does not warrant the same level of checking as moreformal communication. The comments also demonstrate a reliance on the spelling andgrammar checks found in word processing programs, which would have picked up many ofthe spelling mistakes made (‘unambigious’, ‘beuracratic’, ‘occassionally’), although not theinstances of incorrect word choice, which appear to be typing errors more than a lack ofknowledge on the part of the typist (‘conscience’ instead of ‘conscious’, ‘that’ instead of‘than’, ‘journalise’ instead of ‘journalist’). One respondent, whose comments containednumerous spelling mistakes and minor grammar errors, also used lower case throughout,including at the start of sentences and for the pronoun ‘I’. A grammar check would havepicked up many other mistakes such as incorrect verb tense and verb agreement and “it’s”instead of “its”; although whether the participants would have acted upon the suggestionsseems unlikely, given their reluctance to act on what grammar checks advise. It should alsobe noted that the online survey did not easily enable respondents to go back and proof readtheir work.Although these respondents are communicators, they are also normal Web users, so theircomments about finding it uncomfortable to read on screen, their preference for printing out,and general trend towards not checking online communications for accuracy to the samelevel as in print, or expecting that accuracy, can probably be related to the broaderpopulation (Jones 1999, p. 36).
    • - 54 -Constructing a ‘typical’ communications professionalIf we were to generalise in a limited way from these findings – taking into account the smallnumber of participants and qualitative nature of the survey – we could consider the profile ofthe communications professional working in the non-profit or public sector to help usunderstand more about current perceptions:She uses websites for their speed and convenience of access and relies on theircontent more than if the information appeared in print, even though she may not entirelytrust its accuracy or timeliness. For her, being able to access information quickly ismore important than the writing style or correct use of grammar and punctuation. Thisprofessional, when writing content, mostly writes it specifically for the Web, as she canidentify differences between the two media. She expects website content to be shorterand sharper than its print equivalent and feels that the structure of a website is moresignificant than the quality of the writing.While she considers her language skills to be good, she willingly hands over her work tothe website editor to be double-checked for accuracy and put into an appropriate formatfor the screen. Generally, she makes use of the spell checker that is built into hercomputer but is more suspicious of the grammar suggestions, and refers to other guidesto check her work. Reading on screen is an uncomfortable practice so she prefers toprint anything longer than a few paragraphs, or anything particularly important.Although she knows she proofreads more effectively on paper, time constraintssometimes mean that content has to be checked only on screen, making it more likelyfor a minor mistake to slip through. As long as that mistake does not impinge on theoverall comprehensibility of the content, she does not see the impact as being toosignificant, partly because she knows that even editors are only human, and partlybecause mistakes can be quickly and easily corrected. Larger mistakes, however,would cause her to call into question the reliability of what she is reading, and thecredibility of the organisation that has published it.She sees the role of the editor in the Web publishing process as being a languagechecker, a content polisher, someone who ensures that the grammar, spelling,punctuation and overall readability of the content are appropriate for the audience. Thisfairly narrow view indicates that communications professionals are by and largeunaware of the requirements of a Web editor to create meaningful links to other areas of
    • - 55 -content, handle images and design elements, have at least a basic level of technicalskill, and place the information in the best location, taking into consideration the contentthat has been published before it. Rather than being a gatekeeper of language, the Webeditor is perceived as the gatekeeper of ‘reputation’ and ‘quality’ and although the typicalcommunications professional can see the value of her work being checked by an editor,the same may not be the case for other professionals in other departments who haveless interaction with editors and therefore less understanding of the value they can add.Implications for editorsMy survey participants provided an interesting contradiction: generally they think theirstandard of language is good, and more than half use at least an online spelling andgrammar checker – and often other dictionaries and guides including their corporate styleguide – but almost all see the value in having an editor check their work. This suggests thatin the corporate environment at least, the editor is safe for now. What I find lessencouraging, though, is the narrow view of these skills when it comes to Web publishing.The editor in the online environment, as the perceptions of my participants would suggest,is no longer credited with being the gatekeeper of language or having an impact onlanguage standards; instead, editors are only seen as having responsibility for the quality ofwritten content as it relates to upholding the reputation of their organisation. This couldindicate either that editors who have a background of working in print and are now workingon websites have not developed the additional skills needed to be an effective websiteeditor, or editors are not doing an adequate job of ‘selling’ their skills.Opportunities for future researchThe new electronic medium spawned a multitude of studies into the effects of technology onliteracy, the style of email content, chat room language and its influence, new genrescreated by the Internet, and even the effects of different styles of writing on our level ofcomprehension. The reality is that corporate websites form only one part of the Internet,although with new sites being added daily, we will never be able to accurately work out theproportion. What holds true for corporate websites – specifically those of public-sector andnon-profit organisations – may not even be the case for other genres of website. In thesame way as readers bring to one website their expectations created through interactionwith other sites, they must also be influenced by other methods of communication such astext-messaging, emailing and even more recently voice-recognition software as it begins to
    • - 56 -permeate the workplace. All of these seem to transcend the boundary between the writtenand the verbal and it is important to underline that the creation of the Internet and thesubsequent development of websites is not an ending but just another phase in thedevelopment of our language and the way we communicate.One theme that appeared briefly in my findings is the pervasive nature of American Englishand its link to the apparent reliance on spelling and grammar checkers. Many writers andeditors, particularly those of British English and Australian English backgrounds, would nodoubt welcome further investigation into this aspect of online writing.In the same way as technology has allowed anyone to assume the role of the writer andeditor, it seems that the democratisation of Web publishing has allowed the editor toencroach on areas in a way that undermines other skilled professionals such as Webdevelopers or graphic designers, suggesting a further opportunity for study.What is missing from the field is research into the standards of what is appearing online,and in particular whether the attributes of the medium (such as sitting at a desk, staring at ascreen) affect language standards. Although this thesis provides an insight into theperceptions of the editor held by a group of communications professionals, using thesequalitative results to conduct a broader quantitative survey could indicate whether thoseperceptions are held by the general population. Duplicating the study with professionalsoutside of the communications field, or with students, blue collar workers, or retirees, wouldprovide a more complete picture of the direction in which language standards, particularlyonline, are heading, and whether the professional editor has a role to play.
    • - 57 -ConclusionIn 1996, Sven Birkerts saw us ‘living through a period of overlap’ (Birkerts 1996, p. 121).This statement remains true almost a decade later, when much of what we find on websiteswas never written specifically for that medium. It appears that in an apparently resource-stretched corporate environment, it will be some time before all Web content is producedand edited specifically for the Web; in the interim we are presented with a hybrid of printand electronic text, a mixture of information written for print but available online, andinformation written for the screen but printed out by those who find old habits hard to break.Championing the causeIn the 1400s, members of the church establishment were against the printing pressbecause ‘they wanted a world where what they could do was valued; they didn’t wantchanges which marginalised them, deskilled them, and left them feeling worthless anduseless’ (Spender 1995, p. 8). To a great extent, this is why I have pursued this topic – toemphasise the skills of the website editor in an era where self-publishing, Microsoft’s spellchecker, and a plethora of ‘How to write for the Web’ guides have done a great deal toremove the editor from the online publishing process. I hoped to instil into the hearts ofthose who completed the survey some of my passion for good Web writing, to make them –as communications professionals – more aware of the challenges that their editing peersare confronting. I also wanted to find out if my perceptions about website content notmeeting the same standards as printed material were shared by others working in a similarfield and whether it is the perceived informality of the Internet that affects standards, orgiving people without the appropriate communications skills and level of literacy thetechnical tools to publish in a way that is not possible in print.A misplaced sense of controlThe electronic medium appears to give the editor more control over her work, withcomputers allowing the easy manipulation and correction of text. At the same time,technology used to publish in the corporate environment often disperses editorial control,reducing the gatekeeper aspect of an editor’s role. Indeed, those literate in the onlineenvironment need to be ‘team players’, with an emphasis on ‘collaboration’ (Tuman 1992, p.123). On top of this, the ubiquitous spelling and grammar checks can make incorrectgrammatical suggestions or even automatically override copy, undermining the authority ofthe editor. It is perhaps this sense of disempowerment that causes the communications
    • - 58 -professionals in the study – and those in the broader corporate world – to not take as muchcare over the accuracy of their grammar and spelling as they may have previously done, ordo for print.Maintaining language standardsThe pressure to publish quickly and cheaply may result in some organisations notresourcing a Web editor position but, as my research demonstrates, even those with goodeducational backgrounds who rate their language skills highly and work in thecommunications field feel the need for their work to be edited before being published, andmake numerous errors when working in the online environment. My findings also revealeda lack of understanding about the breadth of the website editor’s role, which is disquietingconsidering that many of those who responded to the survey work with their organisation’swebsite editor on a regular basis. On the one hand, the results are encouraging, in thatthey suggest that good Web editors will be valued for their ability to maintain the standardsof language in Web publishing and to control the way content is presented through structureand design. On the other hand, the editor cannot be appreciated for her role if the fullscope of it is not known. And, more importantly, if those in communications departmentsare only mildly bothered by small errors in punctuation and grammar, we run the risk of thisbecoming the tolerated new standard, as discussed by Baron (2001) and O’Neill, Fountaineand Sligo (2002).The editor is dead; long live the editor!As the title of this thesis indicates, I began by wanting to look at the role and impact of theeditor on language standards in web publishing. What I have discovered is firstly that myunderstanding of the term ‘editor’ was too embedded in print, too narrow to accuratelyreflect what today’s successful editor needs to be. In Web publishing, the impact of theeditor is visible not on language alone, meaning she needs more than just excellent grammarand a passion for the language to be successful. On a website, one piece of contentcannot truly be separated from the content that surrounds it, making it vital that the editorcan create relationships through links and juxtaposition to other content. She needs to putherself in the position of the reader even as she is writing, to recognise the new relationshipbetween reader and writer in online literacy, as voiced by Tuman (1992) and Spender (1995).Secondly, the literature I reviewed and the results of my study gave me a clear indicationthat in fact perceptions about the Web as a medium for publishing have an impact on the
    • - 59 -role of the editor. In reality, successful website editors need a broader palette of skills thantheir print counterparts: a certain amount of design nous and technical proficiency are asvital to the role as the understanding of how to write appropriately for the medium, as wellas other skills listed previously that appear in the Australian Standards for Editing Practice(2001). The role of the editor as it existed in print – that of gatekeeper of the language –still exists to some extent, but even traditional editors must be facing a broadening of theirskills due to technological advancements.Language has come under increasing public scrutiny in the past few years, but it seemsthat is what the public wants, with a plethora of books about language such as DonWatson’s Death Sentence (2003) and Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves (2003)topping the bestsellers list. This resurgence of interest bodes well for the future. Similarly,the abundance of Web writing guides indicates that Web editors have become a breed oftheir own, although whether their skills are expanded or diluted versions of the traditionaleditor depends on your viewpoint.It is still too early to judge whether the electronic word has overtaken print as the dominantmedium in Western societies. The rules for language standards in the electronic mediumare still developing, so the onus on the corporate editor, as I see it, is to adapt and learn tonegotiate the intersecting realms of print and digital culture. The editor must form thevanguard and ensure that she contributes to the development of those rules to avoid beingleft behind by change.
    • - 60 -Appendix A: Research survey questionnaireThe end of the editor? Perceptions about the role and impact of the editoron language standards in Web publishingPlease return this survey to Tamsin Stanford by email:Tamsin.Stanford@students.vu.edu.au.Survey contentsThe role of the editor has long been recognised as a vital part of the print publishingprocess. However, the World Wide Web offers a new publishing medium that may require anew approach to content and standards of language use.The aim of this project is to investigate whether the way people perceive website content onthe Internet suggests that the editor’s role is changing in the realm of Web publishing.Specifically, participants are asked to think about content that appears on the websites ofpublic sector and non-profit organisations.To that end, this study will pose key questions regarding website users’ opinions andperceptions about:Section 1. websites as a medium for communication;Section 2. using an editor as part of the content publishing process;Section 3. programs and guides used to prepare content for publishing on websites,relating in particular to grammar, punctuation and spelling.Section 4 asks for information about the participantSection 1. Perceptions about websites as a medium for communication1. Thinking about websites, how important are the following elements to you?Please indicate by numbering the items from 1 to 6, where 1 is the least important, 6 is themost important:Information is factually accurateWebsite structure makes it easy to find informationSpelling and grammar are goodInformation is up-to-dateWriting style makes it easy to readDesign is attractive2. Would you rely on website content from a public sector or non-profit organisationMORE or LESS than a printed brochure on the same topic?Please tick one only
    • - 61 -Rely on the website moreRely on the printed brochure moreWould rely on both to the same extent2a. Please provide a reason for your answer:3. If you saw an error on a website (for example punctuation, spelling or grammar),what impact would this have on your view of the content, or the organisationitself?4. How would you feel if this same error appeared in a printed version of theinformation?Section 2. Attitudes towards the editor function as part of the publishing process5. What is the process for publishing website content in your organisation?Please describe briefly. For example, the HR Manager writes content that is edited by theCommunications team before upload, or each work area uploads its own content withoutrequiring approval.6. If content is given to an editor before being uploaded, what do you see asthe role of the editor?7. Do you think it is necessary for YOUR text content to be edited before it isuploaded onto a website? Please explain your answer.8. If you are required to edit other people’s content for the website as part ofyour role, how do they react when you propose changes?9. Do you think that website content, specifically from public sector or non-profitorganisations, should be subject to some level of quality control?
    • - 62 -Section 3. Preparing content for the web: use of programs and guides10. Does your organisation have a website writing style guide for staff?Yes – onlineYes – printedYes – printed and onlineNoDon’t know11. Who is responsible for preparing and updating your organisation’s style guide, ifone exists?12. When preparing content, do you refer to this style guide:AlwaysFrequentlySometimesInfrequentlyNever13. Do you ever refer to other online or printed dictionary or grammar/punctuationguides? If so, please specify which one(s).14. Do you ever use a computer program’s spelling and grammar check? If so, doyou always accept its suggestions?15. When checking your work, do you print it out or read it on screen? Why?16. How would you rate your own competence in spelling, grammar and punctuationand the general correct usage of language?Please tick one onlyExcellentVery good
    • - 63 -GoodFairPoor17. If you produce content that is published on the website, do you usually:Please tick one onlyWrite it specifically for the websiteWrite it for print, to be uploaded without alterationWrite it for print, to be edited for the Web before uploadOther:_____________________________________________Do not produce any content for the website18. What do you see as the differences, if any, between writing for print documentand writing for a website?19. Do you pick up typographical and other errors with the same degree ofconsistency in your work for email, print and website content? Please explainyour answer.20. This question requires you to read two versions of one page from a non-profitorganisations website.Please view the text at www.penroseproductions.com.au/question20.htmWhat is your analysis of the two pieces? Do you find one more effective than the other?21. This question requires you to read a piece of text from an Australian localgovernment website.Please view the text at www.penroseproductions.com.au/question21.htmPlease evaluate the text. Would you make any changes to the content (for examplespelling, grammar and punctuation)?22. Please add any comments that you would like to make about the topics coveredin this survey.
    • - 64 -Section 4. About you23. What is your highest qualification?Please tick one onlyHigh School Certificate or equivalentUndergraduate DegreePostgraduate Diploma or CertificatePostgraduate Degree24. Please select the age range that you belong to:Please tick one onlyUnder 2425 to 3435 to 4445 to 5455 to 6425. Are you:MaleFemale--- End of survey---Thank you very much for your participation in this research. If you would like to receive acopy of the finished thesis, available in early 2006, please emailtamsin.stanford@students.vu.edu.au
    • - 65 -Appendix B: Research survey textual analysesQuestion 20: Version 1How [disease] can affect ExerciseIn addition to being essential to general health and well-being, exercise is helpful inmanaging many [disease] symptoms. A study published by researchers at the University ofUtah in 1996 clearly demonstrated the benefits of exercise for people with [disease].Those patients who participated in an aerobic exercise program had better cardiovascularfitness, improved strength, better bladder and bowel function, less fatigue and depression, amore positive attitude, and increased their participation in social activities.Inactivity in people with or without [disease] can result in numerous risk factors associatedwith coronary heart disease. In addition, it can lead to weakness of muscles, decreasedbone density with an increased risk of fracture, and shallow, inefficient breathing. Anexercise program needs to be appropriate to the capabilities and limitations of theindividual, and may need to be adjusted as changes occur in [disease] symptoms.A physical therapist experienced with the unique and varied symptoms of [disease] can behelpful in designing, supervising, and revising a well-balanced exercise program. Anyperson with [disease] who is initiating a new exercise program should also consult with hisor her physician before starting.Periods of exercise should be carefully timed to avoid the hotter times of the day andprevent excessive fatigue. With some guidelines, a good exercise program can help todevelop the maximum potential of muscle, bone, and respiration, thereby avoidingsecondary complications and gaining the benefits of good health and well-being.(24 lines, 243 words)
    • - 66 -Question 20: Version 2[Disease] and ExerciseExercise is helpful in managing many [disease] symptoms, in addition to being essential togeneral health and well-being.In 1996, a University of Utah study clearly demonstrated the benefits of exercise for peoplewith [disease]. Patients who participated in an aerobic exercise program had: better cardiovascular fitness; improved strength; better bladder and bowel function; less fatigue and depression; a more positive attitude; and increased their participation in social activities.Risks of inactivityInactivity in people with or without [disease] can result in numerous risk factors associatedwith coronary heart disease. Inactivity can also lead to: weakness of muscles; decreased bone density with an increased risk of fracture; and shallow, inefficient breathing.An exercise program needs to be appropriate to the capabilities and limitations of theindividual, and may need to be adjusted as changes occur in [disease] symptoms.Starting an exercise programA physical therapist, experienced in dealing with the unique and varied symptoms of[disease], can be helpful in designing, supervising, and revising a well-balanced exerciseprogram. People with [disease] are advised to consult their physician before starting aprogram.Time your exercise carefully to avoid the hotter times of the day and prevent excessivefatigue. A good program can help to develop the maximum potential of muscle, bone, andrespiration, helping you both gain the benefits of good health and well-being, and avoidsecondary complications.(34 lines, 239 words)
    • - 67 -Question 21Animal ControlDog and Cat Problems, wondering stock and animal cruelty/welfare should be reported toCouncils Animal Control Officers on [xxxx xxxx] or mobile [xxxx xxx xxx].After hours contact can be made on [xxxx xxx xxx] which will be referred to the on dutyofficer. Please note, the after hours service is only for emergency animal control situationsonly.Menacing Dogs: The Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act allows Councils to declare a dog tobe a menacing dog. Council may declare a dog to be a menacing dog if it has rushed at or chased aperson or has been declared a menacing dog by another Council. To protect local dog owners, incidents where the dog was being teased, abused orassaulted; a person was trespassing on the premises where the dog was being kept;or another person known to the dog was being attacked in front of the dog, will notbe considered. Local laws officers will investigate residents complaints and make recommendationsto the Chief Executive of Southern Grampians Shire Council. Owners of a dog proposed to be a menacing dog, will be advised in writing andprovided with the reasons for making the declaration. They will then have the opportunity to make both written and oral submissions within14 days from the date of the initial notice. All submissions received will beconsidered before a final decision is made. If the dog is declared to be a menacing dog, it will have to be muzzled when outsidethe premises of its owner and kept under control with a chain or leash. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in a $400 fine. Owners of a menacing dog must also notify the Council within 24 hours if the dogrushes at or chases a person; is missing; or ownership of the dog changes. Fines of $500 for the first offence or $1,000 for the second or subsequent offenceswill apply to those owners who do not comply. Owners who disagree with the menacing dog declaration may appeal to theVictorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 28 days for a review of theCouncils decision.For further information, contact Councils Business Centre on (03) xxxx xxxx.
    • - 68 -Appendix C: Research survey raw dataSection 1. Perceptions about websites as a medium for communication1. Thinking about websites, how important are the following elements to you?Please indicate by numbering the items from 1 to 6, where 1 is the least important, 6 is themost important:Of those who ranked the items from one to six:Website structure makes it easy to find information 4.2Information is factually accurate 3.9Writing style makes it easy to read 3.6Spelling and grammar are good 3.4Design is attractive 3.1Information is up-to-date 2.8Of those who gave each item a score out of six:Information is factually accurate 6.0Information is up-to-date 5.9Website structure makes it easy to find information 5.8Writing style makes it easy to read 5.5Spelling and grammar are good 5.4Design is attractive 4.82. Would you rely on website content from a public sector or non-profit organisationMORE or LESS than a printed brochure on the same topic?Rely on the website more 9 (45.0%)Would rely on both to the same extent 8 (40.0%)Rely on the printed brochure more 3 (15.0%)2a. Please provide a reason for your answer:Rely on the printed brochure more Organisations have to expend significants amount of money to print information and sothey have a vested interest in the information being correct. Am aware that resources are pushed in these types of organisations and thereforededicated resources to ensuring the Web is kept up to date is rare, so I just wouldnt trusthe content is the most up to date. I know from experience that websites are often not updated very frequently.
    • - 69 -Rely on the website more More likely to be up to date, you’d hope. I make the assumption that the website is more up-to-date and authoritative because itis easier to edit and keep up to date than a printed brochure. There is usually noindication of currency on a printed brochure. There are usually some clues to currencyon a website or on web pages. Only marginally more reliable however I would think the information on the website wasmore likely to be current. Generally, it is more likely information will be up-to-date on a website as it is easier toupdate than a brochure. Also, going to a website is faster than ringing up and requestinga brochure. My personal preference is to read a brochure but time limitations mean Iwould naturally try the web first, and call second. Plus it is better to avoid wasting paperfor information I would probably only need for a brief amount of time. web has the ability to provide further information, more detailed information and theability to have information changed immediately if required. I would assume the information is basically the same and has been checked andverified for both formats, however the website information may be more up to date thanthe printed brochure as it is easier to constantly update. Assuming that these organisations dont have the funds to reproduce hard copies oftheir information regularly I would hope that is was more up to date and correct as it is more of an ‘immediateupdate’ medium. if the organistaion is organised, then I would expect the website content to be more upto date. the website may also provide easier and more interactive avenues for enquiriesthan print material [eg email, commenting in a blog, replying to or iniaiting a forumtopic...]. and a website may also provide insights about the content from informed 3rdparties, eg. via forum.Would rely on both to the same extent Give equal importance, as long as the organisation is creditable and the industry sourcefor the topic. I wouldnt give more importance to web, as some comapanies do notmanage proactively manage this. I think I would rely on the website more to try and find information quickly but I wouldtrust the printed word more and assume the printed information is more reliable. Websites and printed brochures are both valid means of business communication. As aresult, it is important that both can be relied on as being trustworthy and professional. Infact, it is perhaps especially important for websites to be trustworthy and professionalbecause commonly they are a consumer’s first contact with an organisation. Often website content is just a rehash of the information that has been placed in abrochure anyway, so I would rely on them the same. In the instance that there was adifference between the brochure and the website content, I would seek furtherinformation by contacting the organisation, rather than believing one over the other. If the information is generic in nature, ie. that there are not dates or times when theproduct or project will end then I would rely on both forms of communication. If howeverI am relying on specific information I would look to the web more for more accurateinformation. It is faster to up-date information on the web than to print a new brochure. I would expect both to be up to date and accurate but it often seems that less care istaken with the website content than the printed material. It really depended on the context and how the information was presented to me. I wouldhave an expectation that both channels would both equally reflect the programs andactivities of the organisation.
    • - 70 -3. If you saw an error on a website (for example punctuation, spelling or grammar),what impact would this have on your view of the content, or the organisationitself? It would depend how large the error eg an error in a headline or the actual spelling ofthe company or product would be bad and leave me with a bad impression. Badgrammar or punctuation is something that perhaps we have come to expect. Alsoadvertisers sometimes use unusual or gimmicky spelling. It is annoying but I dismiss it pretty quickly. Ive almost come to expect it because so littlemoney is put into resourcing editing services these days and everyone wantsinformation up so quickly on the web. It would depend on how many errors there were. If it was just a typo, it wouldnt reallybother me. If it was filled with multiple errors, it would probably impact negatively on myview of the content and the organisation. Poor impact It would depend on the organisation, with a smaller less professional not-for-profit beingmore able in my mind to get away with this. But overall it would lead me to have anegative view of the quality of information being produced by the organisation and of thequality of staff they had preparing it. I would feel sorry for them for displaying their lack of care and accuracy in public. Plus, Iwould feel less trust for the rest of the information. Sloppy content undermines an organisations credibility.It is essential for content to betimely, accurate and grammatical if the organisation wants to be regarded as aprofessional outfit. I would view the organisation as unprofessional. Less creditable and professional, high standards need to be met (but understand simplemistakes) I would think that organisation was unprofessional. Minor punctuation, spelling or grammar errors on websites make me relate to the peoplewho maintain its website as fallible peers and I send them an email telling them tocorrect the error because it gives a bad impression. I did this recently for the QueenVictoria Market website when there was an apostrophe in the wrong place on a webpage. More extensive punctuation, spelling and grammar errors, suggesting sloppiness,would lessen my respect for the professionalism of the organisation and my confidencein the reliability of the information content of the website. I would prefer to see a polished piece of communication online in the same way that Iwould prefer to see a polished/edited printed publication. If an organisation producesmaterial with errors, it indicates a less-than professional approach to theircommunication. Depends on the type and extent of the error. If it was only once and an easy to makemistake, not much, however if the content was full of mistakes and hard to follow thenthis would impact my perception. Major error, I would think it was fairly poor in terms of standard, if it was a minor typo, Iwould just think oh well happens to everyone. My view is what is perfect?? Perfectvaries from person to person depending on their standards and expectations. It would mean I would be likely to more critical of the public affairs or communicationssection of an organisation rather than the whole organisation. Unprofessional and naive about the importance of the website to image of theorganization.
    • - 71 - one or two - wouldnt matter too much. If there are more, I would question the credibilityof the information and site. if it does not impede reading and is minor then no impact. were just mere humans afterall. Sometimes it seems that you see so many of them that it would be impossible to treatanything you read online with any credibility. It would make me question theircompetemce. I think it reduces the credibility of the information. If you cant spell correctly, obviouslynot much time or thought has gone into the content so whos to say the content istrustworthy.4. How would you feel if this same error appeared in a printed version of theinformation? For some reason it would seem worse because it is harder and more expensive to fix.Also web material can be fixed quickly and with less impact. With the printed material itis out there so to speak. Even more annoyed. There is little room for error in printed material, you cant quicklychange it or take it back and that error is out there for a long time, I think it has more ofan impact on how you feel about the particular organisation. Again, it would depend on how many errors there were. However, I must admit I wouldbe likely to view more than one error in a printed publication more negatively, becauseprinted collateral costs a lot more money and multiple errors might be interpreted ascarelessness or wastefulness on behalf of that organisation. Not as harshly as there are many proofreaders for print information so accidents areless likely to occur. I would think that I was unlucky to see an error in print. The same as above. However there is even less excuse I think for errors on the Web,as website information can be continually updated, and if someone misses something inthe proofing processes it can always be corrected later. With printed materialsometimes mistakes happen and once something is printed it cant be changed. The same way. Id consider the editing and proof reading to be slack and, therefore, have a poorimpression of the organisation. I would also view the organisation as unprofessional, but it would also depend on theoverall quality of the publication. I would think less If I saw these types of errors in a printed brochure my view of that organisation would bethe same as if I saw them on a website - I would feel the organisation wasunprofessional. I would be less tolerant of punctuation, spelling or grammar errors in print becauseprinted material should go through a formal edit, sub-edit, proof-reading process. same as above. More of an impact - I expect printed documents to be more accurate and to have beenmore rigorously checked for errors. I am more forgiving on a website because a slip iseasier to make (propably shouldnt feel this way as accuracy should be equallyimportant in both formats)and correct at a later date with little harm done. Oh no theres a typo. Oh well these things happen and move on. I wouldnt let myselfworry about if it isnt my work. It would suggest that the problem is consistent and that internal communicationsprocedures had not picked it up.
    • - 72 - I would see it as a greater error, as a print publication usually passes by more sets ofeditorial of eyes. think there was no approval process on the text which would make me question whetherthe information was infact correct. the same. Same as above. The same.Section 2. Attitudes towards the editor function as part of the publishingprocess5. What is the process for publishing website content in your organisation?Please describe briefly. For example, the HR Manager writes content that is edited by theCommunications team before upload, or each work area uploads its own content withoutrequiring approval. Communications area edits source copy from work areas as per above. Areas of our organisation prepare information to go onto the web site, it is forwarded toour Multimedia department or corporate writer for editing and then it is loaded onto theweb. At times the edited work is sent back to the area to ensure that the essence ofwhat they wanted to tell people had still been captured. On City of Melbournes corporate site, website content is generated by the person in thework area or by myself. This is then checked over by a web editor who uploads theinformation on our site. On the City of Melbourne intranet, information is uploaded bydesignated internal CoMweb editors and does not go through a checking procedure byan editor. Tamsin writes it and uploads it!!! Information as I understand it is provided to the Communications team which thenuploads content. It varies from work area to work area. Some like me, or my team, to do all the work,others will fight to do it all themselves. Usually it is a happy medium of collaborationwhere content is supplied for development by me or my team, but there are extremes. Our Intranet site has a number of work area editors who publish content about their areato the site, without the communications units approval.All content on the externalwebsites is dealt with by the multimedia team in Corporate Communications. Im really not sure - there seem to be quite a few people with their fingers in the pie. Work area provides raw content, communications team edits text and seeks work areaapproval, then uploads on the website. Content supplied by various contributors and edited/monitored/approved by an internaleditor. Work area subject experts provide content which is edited by communications adviser.Content is uploaded by multimedia team after approval from communications adviser. All Internet editing is theoretically managed by Public Affairs, however we have an off-site part-time webmaster who liaises one-on-one with various work areas. Content isgenerally written by the work areas with little input from a communications team. Wecurrently dont have the resources to provide this. All Internet uploading is approved byPublic Affairs and/or the webmaster.
    • - 73 - Content developed by a range of contributors, them checked by website editor beforeupload. Each work area is responsible for the content on their site. Some work areas develop alook for their own site, others dont have anyone with the skills to develop the site inwhich case the Public Affairs Officer (Communication) or the Webmaster would developtheir site. There are no set guidelines for the Intranet in my organisation. Media unit staff and communications staff produce copy. Copy is approved by relevantmanager. Copy is placed online. Work area writes contents then gives to editor before uploading. The completeness andquality of content varies. In majority of cases, work area writes the information and communications edits the text. the GM asks people to write content. then he rewrites it the way he wants it! I am not entirely sure. Work areas prepare content which is then edited by the Multimedia Editor for upload.The Multimedia Editor also creates some content, so writes and edits that too.6. If content is given to an editor before being uploaded, what do you see asthe role of the editor? To advise on the best was to present the material and also to take responsibility for anyerrors in terms of writing eg spelling etc. I would expect the editor to pick up errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation. I alsolove it when they say they dont understand something or the flow doesnt seem rightand make a suggestion on how the information could flow better. To make sure that the information is user-friendly, both from a web perspective andgeneral readability perspective. If the information requires further work, the editor willcome back and check in with the author of that information to make sure that theirinterpretation is OK. To ensure the information is accurate and well written To make sure that the text is clearly written, professionally written, without spellingmistakes and that is put in the best place on the Web, i.e. the most usable for the user,and not what suits the internal person in the organisation best. My role should involve correcting for style, spelling, grammar and consistency of voice.It can also involve clarifying content, checking facts and advising on appropriateapproaches for location or for the content itself. I also think an important part is passingthe information back so the supplier knows what I have done, for their generaleducation. The editors role would be to ensure the content is clear and concise as well as accurateand timely.The editor would also ensure spelling and grammar were correct. The role of the editor is to create a consistent tone across all content, make sure thecontent is expressed in Plain English, make sure the spelling and grammar is correct. The style to be targeted to the target audience, it is simple and clear to understand,grammar and punctuation is correct. The role of the editor is to ensure the content is free from errors - grammatically andfactually. Structure - look at piece of writing as a whole and organise it logically. Perhaps break itup into sections with section headings.Redundancy - look for excessive wordiness and reduce down.Grammar, punctuation, spelling check.
    • - 74 -Plain English, readability. Make sure it reads well and is written in plain English.Is anything missing? Is information missing that the reader needs to know, of it wouldbe convenient for the reader to know, to complete a picture? This part of the editorsrole could be described as concerned with usability issues. From our organisations perspective Public Affairs provides a gate-keeper role tomanage the reputation of Southern Health. At this time we do not have the resources tooffer a strict corporate writer/editor role. To ensure it is well written with the web and the audience in mind and that it is accurateand checked for grammer and punctuation. To proof read it, picking up spelling and grammatical errors, sentence structure etc. To edit the content to fit web style guidlines. To be a second set of eyes that see editorial mistakes I have missed after my ownediting. Checking for grammar, spelling, punction and context (and maybe if relevant informationalready exists which can be referenced). to be a gatekeeper of qualityto be sensitive to the intent of the content, and the needs of audience wholl read itto ensure it is written and structured for the web.to educate authors about writing for the webto develop and enforce standards, within a flexible editorial frameworkto be stubborn The same as the traditional editors role has always been. As the editor is not the subject area expert, the editors role is mainly to ensure thecontent is appropriate for the audience, is in the house style, is in an appropriate layoutfor the medium, where the content will sit in the navigation, what images are needed,how long will the content be current, who is the contact person for future reference.Summary of responses to question 6: Grammar: 9 Spelling: 8 Clear, plain English: 7 Appropriate style/tone for the target audience: 7 Punctuation: 5 Factual accuracy: 3 Appropriate presentation for web: 5 (eg “Perhaps break it up into sections with sectionheadings”, “general readability”) Location on web: 3 Length: 2 How it might link with other web content: 1 Check for missing info: 17. Do you think it is necessary for YOUR text content to be edited before it isuploaded onto a website? Please explain your answer. I would be happy for my text content to be edited prior to uploading by someone whohas experience in web. It must however remain consistent with any spporting printedmaterial in terms of message. Absolutely. I make punctuation and grammatical errors all the time and do seek theservices of the spell checker before I send anything. I often have an editor or writercheck everything I do.
    • - 75 - I dont think it is always necessary for my text content to be edited by a web editor, givenI have a background in communications and writing. Having said that, I always find ithelpful to receive input from the editor on how people use information on the web tohelp me improve the way I tailor the information I provide. Yes as I bear some responsibility in the process. I would think it would be up to me toensure information I wanted uploaded is accurate and that it is the editors responsibilityto ensure it reads perfectly. I would say it would be preferable, as it is always preferable to have a second set ofeyes proofread any text, but as I am able to upload things myself, there doesnt seem tobe this check built into the system. If I am editing something from another area, particularly one I know little about, I preferto work closely with that area to make sure I have not misconstrued any information,and that I am taking their ideas and needs into consideration as well as the generaldirection of the website/section and our corporate policies. I feel confident that I can editwell, but am not arrogant in thinking I am always going to be correct. So I guess theanswer to the question is yes, in a lot of cases. It is essential that all content on external websites is edited by a proficient editor toensure an acceptable standard is maintained. Again, this is about the organisationscredibility.Ideally, intranet content should also be overseen by an editor; however, in ourorganisation we lack the resources for this to be possible.The multimedia team conductsspot checks of content uploaded by workplace editors (these people usually have onlybasic editing skills). I think it is necessary for all the reasons above. Yes, as per question 6 Certainly. All written material should be proofed/edited by another person prior topublishing - both online or in print. Yes, fresh eyes will always pick up some waffle or poor expression or even just typos.Even editing your own work by setting it aside for 24 hours and then returning to it, is agood idea. Yes. Any text being published should be treated in the same way regardless of format.Website publishing allows for leeway as it can quickly be changed if need be. Yes, it is too easy to make mistakes and your are not your own best editor. Also writingcontent for the web is not necessarily my area of expertise. Yes. I think it is always good to have someone alternative to yourself read you work, asthey will provide a different outlook on the work. Yes - the web is a particular channel of communication that requires a distinct voice andadherence to accessibility standards. Absolutely, in keeping with it being correct, but also to ensure that I have complied withthe corporate style guide. I cant see everything I have written clearly and dont have thespecialised skills that an editor possesses. yes as I am not the editor. Less likely to pick up my own errors than somebody elses. it depends. if its short and written using basic web standards then possibly not. it is longand rambling then yes. i think a second [informed] opinion is always good. All content should be edited before being released to the public. I dont think it is necessary as I am the website editor, although it is always worthwhileasking for feedback if anything is wrong once it is live.
    • - 76 -8. If you are required to edit other people’s content for the website as part ofyour role, how do they react when you propose changes? Some are more precious than others. Its not part of my role to edit content for the web site but I am often asked to editinformation written for email and any changes I suggest are made. The people I work with generally reactive very positively as I make a habit of explainingthe reasons why I have altered the content (ie it was too text heavy for web-basedreading or not appropriate to the target audience). Poorly It depends on the person, but most people are generally accepting of this, and if notthey keep quiet about it. Generally well, if you explain why the changes are necessary. Usually, you have a goodreason and people appreciate you put some thought into their content and want to makeit better. Sometimes people want it to go up unchanged, but generally people are happyto collaborate and get the best result. Some people are quite precious about their content, however, when the reason for thechanges is explained most understand the need for the changes.Needless to say, thereare still a number of people who dont respect the role of editors and think that theyknow best (despite the fact they may be an engineer not a writer!) I dont have to do this - thankfully. Most positively I am not required to edit content for a website. However, I am required to edit content fora printed publication. Many of the editorial contributors I work with are happy whengrammar issues are checked and corrected. However, I often struggle with contributorswhen structure and content issues arise. I am not required to do this as part of my role. This depends on their area of expertise. In our organisation most people are specialistsin other fields (e.g. surgery, diabetics etc) and concede that writing is not their forte. Weare in a fortunate position as any writing/communication skills are welcomed (there aretoo few of us here!) Not always positively. Havent actually had to do this. I would incorporate changes until agreement on the text was reached. Receptive and appreciative of the help (advertisers content). Generally people are okay with any changes we suggest as it is usually not to changethe information that is presented. We prefer to only cut it back or make it easier to read(and correct grammar, spelling etc..) usually quite well. although my editing is usually minor. N/A Mostly people respect my professional skills.9. Do you think that website content, specifically from public sector or non-profitorganisations, should be subject to some level of quality control? It depends on the nature of the work. Generally probably yes. In terms of some publicsector eg tax department, people based decisions on information on the web so thedepartment has a responsibility to maintain accurate information. IN the caseof not-for-
    • - 77 -profit if it involves the collection on money then perphaps there should be some form ofregulation. Absolutely. Definitely all website content should be checked because people have a habit ofcommunicating information from the perspective of themselves (the writer) rather thanthe audience for the information (the reader). Particularly in organisations like localgovernment, people have a tendancy to rely on the language they use in theorganisation (jargon words, acronyms etc) and expect external people to understand it. Yes Definitely. Absolutely. All website content should be, even in chat rooms! (But this is coming fromsomeone who punctuates her text messages, so Im probably a bit extreme.) But if youare using your website as one of your public faces, you should be absolutely committedto presenting the best public face you can. Yes, most should have some type of quality control. If these organisations want peopleto come to their sites, they need to ensure that their content is reliable and accurate orpeople wont be bothered visiting again. Yes I think it should be subject to some level of quality control. Self imposed qualitycontrol I suppose. Yes, often public sector information is beuracratic and hard to understand, needs acommunications person/editor to review. Certainly, all professional organisations should prepare/adopt QA procedures for everyaspect of their operation - including communication. Yes, the same level as printed material. Yes, although due to the funding/resourcing issue I concede that this isnt alwaysrealistic. All public information whether on a website or printed document should go through aprocess of checks. Yes, most definitely. I think that web copy should satisfy the highest accessibility and usability standards. Definitely - often the website is our shopfront for all stakeholders, the quality there is ofthe utmost important and really projects our desired public image. Yes. I think people really on the information from the public sector or non-profitorganisations more than the private sectors as they arent trying to sell and make aprofit. yes. but id frame it as quality assurance. Absolutely. Yes. If an organisation is going to bother having a website, then it should spend the timeensuring it is credible and useful for the audience.Section 3. Preparing content for the web: use of programs and guides10. Does your organisation have a website writing style guide for staff?3 Yes – online2 Yes – printed
    • - 78 -11 Yes – printed and online2 No2 Don’t know11. Who is responsible for preparing and updating your organisation’s style guide, ifone exists? The style guide isnt specifically for the web but for writing for the organisation and isprepared by the Corporate Writer. The Multimedia team. The multimedia team who manage the website also manage the style and content guidewhich also provides guidance on issues, such as attachments. Communications Editor and Writer Im not sure whose role this falls within. Our branch - Corporate Communications The multimedia editor Not sure. Corporate writers The communications team in conjunction with other staff members. Corporate Communications Branch Public Affairs Department Communications team members. Internal Communication Manager Stakeholder Communications team leader. Our editor. Corp Communications you Tamsin! Not sure. Corporate Communications team.Summary of responses to question 11: Corporate writer or editor: 4 Communications team members or branch: 8 (including one Internal CommunicationsManager) Multimedia team, including editor: 3 Public Affairs Department: 112. When preparing content, do you refer to this style guide:2 Always4 Frequently6 Sometimes3 Infrequently5 Never
    • - 79 -13. Do you ever refer to other online or printed dictionary or grammar/punctuationguides? If so, please specify which one(s). It is seldom that I get the pleasure of writing any copy! Yes all the time. Rogets Thesaurus and the latest Oxford dictionary. I rarely refer to online or printed guides as there are a number of people I can refer tointernally for advice on these issues, where necessary. Email dictionary or printed dictionary for everything else Dictionary.com sometimes Yes, the AGPS Style Guide, the News Ltd Style Guide, my own personal index bookand the Australian Writers and Editors Guide. I have a few others but these are my firstports of call. I also use the Clear Writing (UK website) for advice sometimes. Forpunctuation I ask my team leader if I am not sure but I generally know what goes whereand when. (I hope so, anyway!) No. I use the hard-copy Macquarie dictionary No www.dictionary.com and The Macquarie Dictionary (hard copy) News Limited; Fowlers Modern English Usage; Microsoft Dictionary etc. Various medical online sites as relevant. No Yes, journalise who sits in the same office. No - I use printed style guidelines such as News Limited Style Guide and OxfordDictionary. Dictionary.com Macquarie dictionary, News Limited Style Guide i use MS Word as a dictionary and thesaurus. sometimes Google for definitions andoccassionally Wikipedia. N/A14. Do you ever use a computer program’s spelling and grammar check? If so, doyou always accept its suggestions? Yes I do and no not all the time. Yes, all the time. Not always do I accept the suggestion. Often the suggestion offers thewrong meaning for the sentence, a word that does not make sense. When you acceptsthe suggestion it then tells you other options which again dont make sense. Often I willrewrite the sentence until the computer program is happy with what Ive written! I will do a spelling and grammar check using Microsoft Word to review possible spellingmistakes. However, 8 times out of 10 the things it comes up with are irrelevant, so I donot accept its suggestions. Yes I use it, no I dont always accept it as its frequently full of americanisms Yes, and not always as generally the grammar check is of limited use I rarely get those red/green squiggly lines, and they are usually for American words orstupid grammar suggestions, so no. I dont run a spell check, but Word checks myspelling and grammar as I type. Yes I use it and no, I dont always accept its suggestions,
    • - 80 - No - I dont use one, because the majority of my correspondence is via email so I checkit myself. Yes, I use spelling anf grammar checks, if unsure double check with dictionary Yes - but I dont always accept the suggestions (usually because the suggestions aretailored for U.S. users). No, I dont trust Microsoft. Yes and no, I dont always accept the suggestions. When in doubt I always refer back toa printed dictionary/guide. Yes and sometimes if they seem correct, sometimes the grammer check does not seemOK. Spelling yes, grammar sometimes. I will usually read what it suggest in terms ofgrammar but not always take its advice. Sometimes I use spellcheck - I often do not accept recommendations. Yes - no, I only have American English loaded and dont have Australian English, so Imanually override. Yes I do use the spelling and grammar check but not always accept the suggestions. Yep, i use spellcheckers in all apps if available. i dont use grammar checkers.sometimes i leave spelling mistakes in jusst to be naughty. Never. Sometimes. No.15. When checking your work, do you print it out or read it on screen? Why? Both - I should print it out as I seem to pick up more errors that way. Sometimes I readoff screen if time is a factor. I do both. For small reviews I read it on the screen but sometimes I cant look at thescreen for too long. Recently I had 25 page document to review and I printed it out. It depends on the length of the information. For shorter sections of text (a couple ofparagraphs), I will edit it online. Anything longer than that, I will generally print off andedit the hard copy. Print it, easier to read and vet. I print it out to get away from looking at the screen and also as I feel I proof better onpaper If my work is only a few paragraphs, I read it on the screen, but if it is longer than that, Iprint it out. I like to mark the pages up with pen. Its easier to miss things on the screen,and you dont get a sense of the whole document without seeing all the pages together. I read it on screen mostly. If its a large and complex document, I might print it out andmake changes on the hard copy. In my previous role as a newspaper editor, I, and allother copy editors, make changes on screen. Stories were never printed out because itwould be time wasting. If it is an email message I will check it on screen. If it is an important document I willprint it out and check it because Im more likely to pick up any changes Ive missed onthe screen by printing it out. Print it out, sometimes easier too read and its good to have a short break and comeback to the topic. I always proof in hard copy - I find that I tend to skim when reading on screen. I sometimes print it out to check it because it seems to be a more effective way to pickup errors and I can mark them with a pen and return to screen to correct them indocument.
    • - 81 - It depends on the length. Anything over 400 words or so I usually print. Reading largeamount of text on screen is not comfortable for my eyesight, I tire easily staring at amonitor. Depends on how long it is and what it is for. If it is lengthy, then I print it as it is easier toconcentrate and see the whole context in print rather than scrolling to read. Print it out. Find it easier to read in printed form in terms of absorbing the information. Read on screen due to time restraints. Print it out after a screen edit. I just need to see a paper copy, habit I guess. If rather lengthy I print it out as I find my eyes get more tired and sore looking at thecomputer screen. depends. i do both. if its large and work im writing then i print it so i can annotate it, andread it in a differnet context away from the screen. if its other peoples work or minor[emails etc] then I read/check on screen. Depends. For more important stuff I always print it out. Both, depending on the document. If it is short, on screen. For longer documents I mayprint them to give my eyes a break from reading at the screen all day.16. How would you rate your own competence in spelling, grammar and punctuationand the general correct usage of language?6 Excellent10 Very good4 Good0 Fair0 Poor17. If you produce content that is published on the website, do you usually:10 Write it specifically for the website0 Write it for print, to be uploaded without alteration4 Write it for print, to be edited for the Web before upload5 Do not produce any content for the website1 Other:a lot of the text I produce needs to be used both online and paper printed, and isgenerally shuffled between these two media18. What do you see as the differences, if any, between writing for print documentand writing for a website? Depends on the subject matter. Some things lend themselves to both. The web canhave an immediate call to action which is not always available in the written form. I find that when Im writing for the web Ive become more conscience of the manyreaders we have, people of all abilities and cultures. Whereas for printed material Imoften more targeted with the distribution and therefore I can afford to write differently oradd more information.
    • - 82 - I believe the rules for writing for a print document and website are very similar in that allinformation should be as user-friendly as possible. This means clear, succinct,unambigious, well structured and interesting. However, the difference is that I think theweb is not as well suited to detailed and complex information. Therefore, if I had aparticularly complex strategic document that I needed to put up onto the web, I wouldbreak it up into a short summary for the website and would then aim to provide thestrategic document in a form that is easy to print and take away (either PDF or wordformat). There should be none but I think the editing is less rigorous for websites Text for a website needs to be shorter, simpler. Writing for the web means writing shorter sentences and paragraphs, creating adifferent structure, having more opportunities to link to extra information, and writingwith flexibility in mind - you know you can change things easily, and that the informationmay become part of something else in the future. It is harder to know who youraudience may end up being so I am more likely to use a general tone. If your website isa structured template, getting the reader to click though means being conscious ofleading the reader through the pages. Writing for publications means writing more for a specific audience for a specificpurpose. Publications are generally distributed to a targeted reader, so you can adoptan appropriate voice. Writing for publications can mean less effort in directing the readerwith headlines and links, because the designer can do that visually. But in bothmediums you need to be accurate, clear and accessible with your content, otherwisethere is no point doing it in the first place. No many differences at all. In both cases the writing should be clear, concise andaccurate. The writing should be active an lively. Web writing uses more cross heads and dot points, but Id dont think theyre a bad ideain print either. Not sure. I think styles ned to be different. Style for the web - short, concise, factual butconverstaional, no longer than a screen - otherwise people will not read it. Incomparison, written documents, you can get away with text being longers as people arepotentially more likely to spend the time reading it. Correct grammar and punctuation isparamount for written publications, more likely to be accepted if an error is made on theweb. As over time standards have reduced. Web content is live. For example, if the names and position titles of staff are publishedon an organisations website then those details need to be updated immediately shouldindividual staff members change roles. The same urgency is not expected in printedmaterial. This is one major difference. Information for website should be succinct and broken up by section headings orparagraph headings. It depends on the format that the online information will be presented. ie. If its for awebsite then I will tend to use less text and more summary information, if its for a PDFto be loaded to a website (and potentailly printed by the user) then it can be similar toproducing a document for print. Website is shorter, easy to scan, uses more dot points I dont think there should be any difference in terms of the standard of spelling andgrammar. The target audience maybe different and would need to be taken intoconsideration when writing anything. Writing for website requires an eye for linking opportunities. Yes - the audience can be quite different, Im thinking particularly of time. People lookingthough a site might want a faster read. Links can be provided to a longer version of a
    • - 83 -document. A print document needs to be more thorough as it needs to hold moreinformation. Layout is different to according to website design and graphics Website (html page) information should be written in smaller chunks for peoplescanning. People tend to loose patience with reading from a screen quicker than a printdocument writing for the web is dynamic and alive. writing for print seems static and somewahtlifeless. content on a website is represented on one small screen, it therefore needs toprovide much meta communication about the content that cant be seen; this requiresskill and greater understanding of the inherent 3 dimensionality of webspace. whereas abook/brochure etc tells you almost everything about itself simply by holding it. webwriting requires the author/editor to conceptualise the realtionship betweeen differentpieces of content and pathways through it. web writers also have to consider theinteraction with the content from other writers. eg blogs, email lists, forums etc. theprocess is fluid and unstable, and is open to very public scrutinity and intervention,unlike a print doc. I imagine that writing for the web would need to be more concise. For web: content needs to be written for a broader audience given it is distributedglobally, more subheadings and chunkier paragraphs to help people skim information,identify related links for more information, use images/video etc as people come toexpect more from the medium.19. Do you pick up typographical and other errors with the same degree ofconsistency in your work for email, print and website content? Please explainyour answer. Yes, possibly more so. I am responsible for the content in my emails and often in theprinted material I may prepare but when it comes to the web there is a buffer zone of theMultimedia team who will pick-up something I may have missed. I generally check all my written communications for errors. However, given that my workfor print and website content is often for a broader audience, I would be more thorough.Also, due to the nature of this organisation, content for print and website is oftenchecked by at least one other person. No I tend to edit my work better in print that any other format. I dont know why, perhapsbecause I read more frequently in print than online You would hope so, but as I dont print out e-mails before I send them, unless they aremass e-mails, you can imagine that I miss mistakes in e-mail more often. Also I tendnot to print out proofs of website content, but as mentioned above this has invariablyalready been used in printed material, or vice versa so it all generally gets proofed insome way at some point. Sounds professional huh? I hope so. I make an effort to be accurate in every medium. I am probably a bit slackerwith emails, but I do think I am responsible for the words, no matter where they end up. Yes. I havent noticed that I pick up errors more easily on one particular medium. Probably more likely to check document based on the importance of the document. I give more importance for print and website. Email can be very casual andconversational. I try to be consistent with all communication. Yes, Ive started to check my emails very carefully before sending them because Idecided that it looked pretty bad to come from Corporate Communications but besending an email message that was ungrammatical and full of typos, so Id say I take anequal amount of care with all my writing now.
    • - 84 - Yes. As a communication professional I apply this standard to all of my words,regardless. I spell check all my work e-mails and have even been known to do the samefor SMS messages! Less accurate for email, same for website and print No. I would frequently send out emails with a typo or two in them. Print and websitecontent yes I would say there is the same degree of consistency. Erros are picked up consistently. Yes - I try to, but there is a stronger sense of permanency in print mediums rather thanelectronic. The idea that I can fix electronic problems more easily often means that myaccuracy in seeing mistakes is lower. But once a mistake is web published that is badso this si an area Im improving on. I am not as particular about email content. I know this is not right but I figure the emailis not being published or being put out to the public. i get heaps of typos in emails. far less in print and the web. I usually pick up errors no matter where they are. I tend to skim anything that is written on screen, so probably miss more errors, while inprint I will often read the information more thoroughly and see the errors. Also, ifsomething is in an email, it has a short life span, so I dont worry so much if there areany errors, while something is printed may be around for a while, eg a brochure, so Iwould spend more time ensuring it was error free.20. This question requires you to read two versions of one page from a non-profitorganisations website.Please view the text at www.penroseproductions.com.au/question20.htmWhat is your analysis of the two pieces? Do you find one more effective than the other? Theyre both written well. I felt that the first version was offering me more information, Ifelt compelled to read everything. The second version was quick and easy to getthrough but I skimmed through it because it was all laid out in front of me with thesections. With the first version I felt that I might miss something so I read the enirepiece. I probably preferred the first version. Version 2 is more effective because it provides the same information in a more succinctway. The use of bullet points eliminates a lot of unnecessary words and makes theinformation easy to scan. Obviously easier to read the second as it is brief, less wordy and esy to remember. Thefirst is too wordy and could be written in the same format, concisely. The second example is far easier to read, and the bullet points and headings make iteasy to scan so that you can see if you want to read the text or not. The first one is verysolid and heavy, particularly to read online. I didnt print out the pieces so I cantevaluate their readability when printed, but in this format, the above stands. Version One: I found this easy to read and digest. It read a bit like a magazine article,and I was comfortable with the medium. Version Two: I felt this version was written as afast fact sheet. If your audience is looking for quick information, the second would bebetter. If you want to really engage with the audience, I would suggest using VersionOne with a fast fact box at the top, and more headlines throughout. I prefer version 2, which uses cross heads and dot points effectively. It maintainsreaders interest and the major points are highlighted. Readers want to get to the pointand version 2 does that.
    • - 85 - Version 2 is more effective because it simplifies the content - highlighting the mainpoints by the use of dot points. Version 2 is much more effective, short and concise, doesnt waffle, layout is good Version two is written and structured in a way that aids comprehension. So much so, Ifound reading version one to be tedious; reading version two however was quicker andeasier to understand. The first version seemed more dense with information and more authoritative. Thesecond version seemed light-weight and life-style magazine style with its bullet points. For the website I automatially scroll to the highlights. In this case it was version two,with shorter sentences, more white space and bullets. Version 2 is much easier to read online - brief and to the point introduction followed byclumps of information with dot points, gets the main thrust of the information over moreeffectively. I found version two more effective as it broke the information up into chunks and thebullet points highlighted pertinent points too remember or consider. I personally find iteasier to absorb and remember information set out in this manner. Example 2 is more appropriate for web - better layed out for screen readability. Version 2 is more effective in my opinion because: its clear, the visual layout guides myeyes to read the information, less overwhelming than just a block of text, wellsegmented. Generally easier to read Version two was more effective. I couldnt concentrate on version one. Version twowas written in clear writing, was in sizable chunks, easier to scan and understand. version 2 is much easier to read because it allows for scanning, through the use of sub-headings. it also chunks the info which achieves two things - 1. at a general level thecontent says im easy to read and clearly organised; 2. it creates a visual rhythm thatpropels the eye down the page. 1. Very dry. 2. Much easier to quickly grasp what is going on - much more effective. The second one is more effective. It is easier to read and as I usually just skim, it waseasy to skim through the bulleted lists and only read the sub-headings instead of theentire paragraphs to find out whether there was anything interesting there.21. This question requires you to read a piece of text from an Australian localgovernment website.Please view the text at www.penroseproductions.com.au/question21.htmPlease evaluate the text. Would you make any changes to the content (for examplespelling, grammar and punctuation)? I have typed my answer three times and it keeps deleting what I have written, so I cantanswer this question as I would like to. Suffice to say that I would rewrite this page. The text under Animal Control has spelling mistakes (wandering stock), punctuationerrors (incorrect use of capital letters) and is imprecise (assumes that the reader knowswhat is meant by a dog and cat problem). The text under menancing dogs is very poorlyput together as there are bullet points where there shouldnt be (between dot points 2and 3) and overall, the information is broken up in such a way that makes it very difficultto read. I would remove the existing bullet points and reassign them to the lists in theinformation (dot points two and three). The rest of the information, I would rewrite in aparagraph format. Yes I would like to make many changes to the text. There are capital letters where thereshould be none. There are “ ‘ s“ where there should be none and the bullet points are
    • - 86 -inappropriate as they do not itemise the text at all. The perfect tense is also incorrectlyutilised. It initially looks readable, but once you start reading the bullet points, it becameapparent that there are too many and the text starts feeling heavy and difficult to read.Iwould perhaps take sections out of the bullets and put into paragraphs, to see whetherthis made it more readable. Or perhaps look at setting the text out to show theprogression through the dangerous dog process Youd better believe I would!!!! Capital letters misused throughout, eg Dog and Cat Problems. Wandering notwondering stock. Lack of hyphens, eg after hours contact. Grammatically incorrectsentence structure, eg After hours. Only used twice in that sentence Punctuation for thelist - lower case letters and semi-colons should be used. Unnecessary repetition ofwords, eg declare a dog to be a menacing dog (declare a dog to be menancing)Residents complaints not residents complaints. This sentence is long winded andconfusing - To protect local dog owners, incidents where the dog was being teased,abused or assaulted; a person was trespassing on the premises where the dog wasbeing kept; or another person known to the dog was being attacked in front of the dog,will not be considered There is a spelling mistake in the first line which immediately puts me off. The textseems a little convoluted and while all the information is there I think there should be aclearer way of setting it out. I think the opening paragraph needs to be expanded, subheaders for contactinformation, fines, resposibilites etc The editorial should be broken down into a number of subheadings with one or twobullet points under each. This would make it easier to read. Also, it would be easier forthe reader to find any particular information they may be looking for (for example,information on fines). There were basic grammar issues also. Many readers of thisinformation would most likely not pick up on the basic grammar - but that does not makeit acceptable. Lets hope that editors are never so far-reaching and effective that they take awaydelights like wondering stock from this world! I wouldnt change it for quids! Id change"residents" to "residents "and there are other things that I could do to the text to make itgrammatically correct, but really, why bother, as long as the meaning is clear? Its oneof those tedious bits of writing that makes your eyes glaze over and it is actuallyimproved by ludicrous punctuation, spelling and grammar errors. Let them be. Inappropriate us of capitals, order of the information not logical, doesnt follow on frompoints above etc, the use of dot points here doesnt work under the heading used -information not sorted into the various areas that it is refering to Yes I would reformat the lot as it doesnt read clearly at all. Very poor content. Dot points could have been briefer and contact details should have followed the maincontent. Layout I would probably change the layout so it was easier to read, such as subheadings or section headings, maybe even a FAQs style of What happens if my dog isreported? and answer. less use of caps (ie, Dog and Cat Problems) information doesnt flow nicely. Very legalor business like? its late and im really tired, sorry. I would probably rewrite the whole thing. It is not very good. There are too many dot points under the one subheading. These could be broken upinto simpler lists with simpler sentences to help people understand what is written. Also,
    • - 87 -I would put the content phone number last, which would also avoid the repetition whichcurrently exists. I would avoid use of / as it slows down the reader.22. Please add any comments that you would like to make about the topics coveredin this survey. Im happy that you have taken the time to prepare this survey and Ive enjoyedresponding. I hope this will end up being the catalyst to organisations have more editingresources at their work places for the web. I just wanted to make a comment about the usability of web sites, in contrast to thequality of the writing on them. If a website is difficult to use, hard to navigate aroundand the layout is inaccessible, then any good writing on it is lost. However if a websiteis easy to navigate, easy to look at, and easy to use, and the text is below par, I wouldbe less bothered. Good to make me think about such issues!Section 4. About you23. What is your highest qualification?2 High School Certificate or equivalent12 Undergraduate Degree5 Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate0 Postgraduate DegreeNo response - 124. Please select the age range that you belong to:0 Under 2412 25 to 346 35 to 441 45 to 540 55 to 64No response – 125. Are you:4 Male15 FemaleNo response - 1--- End of survey---
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