Book Reviews on HIV and sexuality

Originally published on 26 October 2015 on

From the archives, here are two book reviews that I wrote for the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation’s (AFAO) National AIDS Bulletin.

First of all, a short book review from NAB, volume 13, no 5, 2000 on Peter A. Jackson and Gerard Sullivan (editors)’s Multicultural Queer: Australian Narratives:

An invitation (as in the words from Edward Said) to ‘break down the stereotypes and reductive categories that are so limiting to human thought and communication’.

Multicultural Queer Review

In Endangering Relations: Negotiating Sex and AIDS in Thailand, Chris Lyttleton delves into the real stories behind a country being held up as an example of how the world should respond to HIV.

Endangered Relations Review

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An article on access to HIV drugs

Originally published on 26 October 2015 on

From the archives, here is an article that I wrote for the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation’s (AFAO) National AIDS Bulletin.

In 1999, the hot issue was how to get HIV drugs to those who needed them. One way was to find legal ways to import or produce those drugs so they would be affordable. This article on drug access appeared in NAB, volume 13, no 1, 1999:

Article in the National AIDS Bulletin on global access to HIV drugs

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Avoiding jargon words

Originally published on 27 July 2014 on

The British Home Office has produced a style guide which recommends against a whole lot of jargon words.

It’s excellent, particularly the section on Plain English.

I have to admit to being guilty to using some of this jargon in my editing and writing work…

What about you? Guilty?

Here’s their section on Plain English excerpted:

Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Use ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘help’ instead of ‘assist’, ‘about’ instead of ‘approximately’ and ‘like’ instead of ‘such as’.

We lose trust from our users if we write government ‘buzzwords’ and jargon. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We can do without these words:

  • agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
  • advancing
  • collaborate (use ‘working with’)
  • combating
  • commit/pledge (we need to be more specific – we’re either doing something or we’re not)
  • countering
  • deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)
  • deploy (unless it’s military or software)
  • dialogue (we speak to people)
  • disincentivise (and incentivise)
  • empower
  • facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you are helping)
  • focusing
  • foster (unless it’s children)
  • impact (as a verb)
  • initiate
  • key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t ‘key’ – it’s probably ‘important’)
  • land (as a verb. Only use if you are talking about aircraft)
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense)
  • liaise
  • overarching
  • progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
  • promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
  • robust
  • slimming down (processes don’t diet – we are probably removing x amount of paperwork etc)
  • streamline
  • strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
  • tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
  • transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
  • utilise

Avoid using metaphors – they don’t say what you actually mean and lead to slower comprehension of your content. For example: drive (you can only drive vehicles; not schemes or people)

  • drive out (unless it’s cattle)
  • going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions)
  • in order to (superfluous – don’t use it)
  • one-stop shop (we are government, not a retail outlet)
  • ring fencing

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NTT Communications Brochure

Originally published on 7 May 2014 on

Since last year, I’ve been copywriting for NTT Communications (NTT ICT), an information, communication and technology company expanding its operations in Australia (in its entirety, the company, headquartered in Japan, is one of the world’s largest companies of its type).

I love my work with NTT ICT. The people I work with there are lovely to work with: friendly and professional. I get to work in an area that I’m not familiar with (I know a lot more about Cloud services than I did before!), and I get to make my client’s words better.

As a copywriter, I don’t necessarily need to be an expert in my client’s field. Accessible and clear writing makes sure that a broad audience can understand and engage with it. While technical or specialised language is sometimes necessary, a good copywriter and editor will still be able to make sure that the messages are clear, the grammar is correct and the text is free of mistakes.

This general brochure that I worked on with NTT ICT takes copy that I wrote for their website combined with materials they supplied, all edited up and checked over and proofread.

And then, I think it might just be the nicest looking brochure I’ve ever worked on! Check it out by clicking here: NTT Brochure. The reduced-size PDF has deleted words from the cover and slightly altered the colour scheme. Simply ‘view’ it as a PDF in your browser or download it to see its full glory. It’s BEE-you-tiful.

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A little bit of writing assistance for Sydney Dance Company

Originally posted 8 October 2015 on


What an absolute pleasure to providing copywriting and editing assistance to the Sydney Dance Company, including for their latest programme, for the amazing ‘Triptych’, a set of three works, all set to the music of Benjamin Britten.

I was able to see this show on a special Opening Night, and I was in awe over the beautiful dancing and the amazing creativity and artistry that brought these pieces to life.

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How do I need to promote my small business?

Originally posted 18 August 2020 on

I’m going to hit my 10-year anniversary in a few months of being a freelance editor, after a career change from working in the international response to HIV. It’s been an interesting journey, and very positive. How I love working for myself, and the varied, interesting work. I also enjoyed learning how to run my own business.

A key question this whole time has been: how do I need to promote my business?

The answer wasn’t clear at the beginning as I didn’t understand how my business would work, who my clients would be, and how I would get clients. And so, the answer for each small business is going to be different. However, it did become clear after a few years that I would be the type of small business that can get enough work from a few clients to manage. I tend to occasionally find new clients. Current and old clients slip away (sometimes to return). I have a few, steady clients that I provide the bulk of my work too, and the rest rotate. My main clients are UN agencies, such as UNDP, UNESCO and UN Women, and the City of Sydney, and some similar agencies that produce policy-oriented work, though I do some oddball work as well, proofreading labels for liquor companies, and editing the occasional blog for smaller businesses.

So, from this, I’ve eventually discovered that I don’t need all the things I was told to get when I started out: a business name, business cards, social media, and even this website. Having established myself, my work comes from word of mouth and referrals. In the early years, it was crucial to learn how to run a business, how to write for any client (particularly small businesses) and what my identity and unique selling points were. So, for this, it was very useful to join the business network, Business Networking International (BNI) and indeed, to go through the process of branding and business cards and a website. But I’m not sure this is the path for everyone.

I’ll probably do some more writing on this at a later time, but for now, the main point of this blog post is to note that my editing business does NOT need a Facebook page, and while it was simple enough to set up, my clients aren’t going to find me through Facebook and nor do I think they particularly care or not if I have a page. It was possibly a nice way to show my friends what I do in my professional life, but with today’s information overload, I can’t imagine anyone of them doing more than having looked at the Facebook page once, and then maybe visited this website. In the interest of a Marie Kondo clean-up, I’m deleting the page … now. I’ll record that I had 208 page likes and 198 followers and made about 50 posts since my first, on 12 September 2013. Sadly, most of my posts seem to have had 0 views and 0 reach, though a handful garnered a reach of 67, 67 and 50. As I said, it really wasn’t a way to help my business. Bye, bye, Facebook page.

2023 update:

And now, I’ve hit the point where I don’t think a website for my business is necessary. Some presence on the internet is necessary, so I’ll let LinkedIn take care of that, but I think websites are mostly for businesses or services where people visit the website to buy something, or so something, or even research something specifically. If a website is specialised enough, say, for recipes, then I think there’s still good interest, but the days of a general website for a small business are over. Large businesses would be expected to have a website, but if a business has the clients it needs, and the website isn’t generating business: bye, bye, Boldface website.

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Punctuation..? (by User Design)

Originally posted 18 June 2016 on


I received a very charming book in the mail the other day.

Punctuation..? is a short, handsome book from User Design, a typesetting and illustration business based in Leicester, United Kingdom.

With 21 explanations of punctuation marks, all accompanied by fun illustrations, the book would make a nice stocking stuffer or Happy Day Surprise with the word geek in your life (e.g. editor, writer, young human with an interest in words).

I quite liked the pages on the pilcrow, was reminded of the guillemets, and learned that curly brackets are used to ‘indicate a series of equal choices’ such as when deciding between {sausage, cheese, a sandwich, pretzel}?

User_design_Books_Punctuation_p34_35A few of the uses may be regional; I wasn’t familiar with them, e.g. round parentheses to ‘indicate optional words that imply some doubt’ as in the sentence (directed at a police officer), ‘Listen mate (Bobby), you do not want to mess with me.’

And I guess that would be my only suggestion for another edition (this is in its second edition already). Styles change. Usage of punctuation changes, and is not the same in different cultures. While the book does point out some of these differences, for example, the use of double quotation marks being common in North America, and single quotation marks in the United Kingdom, a preface or introduction would be nice to set the scene.

The book is available from Waterstones and some other bookshops in the UK, as well as Amazon, but check out the book’s website for more information.


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Marketing the Arts

Originally published on 12 October 2015 on

When I told my pal Grant that I was enjoying providing some copywriting and editing services to the amazing Sydney Dance Company, he told me about his favourite blog on arts marketing, Trevor O’Donnell’s Marketing the Arts to Death.

Grant worked in arts organisations for rather a long time, I believe, before starting Benson & Fox Concierge Services (Need something done in your home? Anything at all? Get in touch with Grant).

I love O’Donnell’s blogs. They’re on the ball, to the point and hilarious. And are basically about the main point that I keep in mind for all of my copywriting: who is the audience?

So, instead of just keeping Grant’s recommendations of his favourite posts to myself, I thought I’d share them here:

Two ways to design a classical music brochure

Arts Leaders’ Egos and Bad Arts Marketing

‘Monumental’ Adjective Abuse at Minnesota Orchestra

San Diego Opera Presents a Short White Man in a Brown Suit

The Arts’ Shameful Habit: Masturbatory Marketing

Grant’s particular fave is The Girl In Starbucks test. Though really, it doesn’t need to be a girl nor in Starbucks. My brother Walter, who works in arts, chimed in:

‘I thought it was my idea!  Take your project description, find anyone at a Starbucks, have them read the description and then tell you what you’ve said… if it IS what you’ve said, thank them and buy their coffee for them… if it ISN’T what you thought you wanted to say, then thank them and buy their coffee for them…

If it’s clear to a layperson, then it’ll be clear to folks who are ‘in’ on art or your discipline or genre…’

The next time I’m having trouble making sure my copy is accessible, I think I might hit a local coffee shop. There are plenty around Surry Hills where I live and work…

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NSW pre-qualification for editing services

Originally published 11 March 2014 on

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been prequalified as a contractor for the state of New South Wales in Australia.

What does this mean? Well, it’s under the ‘Performance and Management Services’ category of a prequalification program, and I’m listed on the ‘Early Access Registration List (EARL)’. Rather than ‘Goodbye Earl’ (as in a fabulous song by the Dixie Chicks), it’s ‘Hello Earl’.

I’ve basically been accepted to be on a panel of service providers to assist NSW Government agencies in engaging external consultancy services. I’ve offered my expertise in editing, copywriting, communication and policy writing, and they’ve checked over my insurances, experience and rates. The EARL scheme approves me for engagements valued at up to $50,000 including GST.

So, there we go. NSW Government Agencies, I’m at your service.

Boldface editing and copywriting: Pre-qualified under the Early Access Registration List for Performance and Management Services for the NSW Government, offering services in editing, copywriting, communication and policy writing.

Update 2 January 2023:

For years, I wasn’t sure whether I had gotten any work at all from this programme. Whenever I’d checked the website and job postings, there was no dedicated category for editing and writing services, and I feared that I was invisible.

But for the last few years, I’ve been helping NSW Government House to turn bullet points into the citations for the recipients of the Order of Australia and other recognition, and I found out that they found me through this programme, which made me think that my work for NSW Justice (and Corrective Services NSW) and NSW Health may have related to the programme too. My advice for other small businesses then: always keep your options open!

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Some advice on switching web hosting

So, I previously wrote about why I switched from Site5 to Hostinger for web hosting. From what I can tell, Hostinger is reasonably priced, has excellent customer service and has good reviews.

BUT if you are thinking of switching web hosting, I wonder if you can learn from my experience. My problem is that I was so anxious to leave Site5 that I didn’t do any preparatory work. And I’d also have to criticise Hostinger, because they make it all seem like it will be easy. There isn’t a simple list of things to prepare, or a guide for how to transfer over your websites easily, and particularly, what to do if things go wrong.

Probably though, they don’t have to deal with complicated situations like mine: three websites to transfer over hosting, of which one is a complex one, having been up for many years. Hostinger made it sound so easy. Just give them some information and click on a request form and they’ll transfer them over, easily.

This worked for only one of my websites. The other one, which was not important, thankfully, as I’m cutting it down to basics and may eventually phase it out, failed because the template that I had bought years ago was out of date and not compatible with Hostinger. So, that would have been a problem if the website was important to me.

The big issue turned out to be a problem which a friend described as ‘a root canal without an anaesthetic’. A good description. First of all, I hadn’t properly located my backup. Which, hey, was stupid of me, I know. But it’s not like I’d ever needed it before. So, when Hostinger told me my website migration had been rejected, I had some panic trying to figure out what to do.

I was instructed to request a backup from Site5. Yet, at 16GB (I still don’t know why the file was so big), doing this took hours for the file transfer! Pretty much every step of this long, boring story took hours. After something would fail, taking hours, the Hostinger folks would advise me to do something else, or I would try to figure out something else, which would take me hours to set up, and then trying again, it often took the technical team a whole day to look at my request. I think in all, it took close to 10 days to resolve.

Anyways, after I got the files, and tried to zip them, and then send them to Hostinger again, they were rejected. In the meantime, because they were so big, I had to figure out how to store them and send them. They recommended Dropbox, which didn’t work, and I tried Hightail, which didn’t work, and then Google Drive, which eventually did work, though I had to find space on my secondary gmail account.

After failing to get Hostinger the humungous backup file, I remembered that I had another version of a backup through Updraft. So, I sent this to them, only to find out that the format that Updraft saves the backup in is not to their liking. They required me to unzip all the folders, compile them into one folder, and then zip them up again, as they would not accept the files without doing this. So, this took me time to do. And then took me many hours to try to send them the new backup file. Which then, didn’t work.

In the meantime, I’d talked to something like 10 different helpdesk people from around the world, most with colourful names, and trained to say, ‘Sorry for the wait and the problem. We’ll do the best we can.’ Which I appreciated. But no one seemed to really have any pull with the technical team to get me a priority spot in the queue(s).

My eventual saviour was Naomi. We determined that I needed to upload not the entire backup folder but the public_html file (which I think was more like 6 GB and quicker to upload). And THEN, I needed to upload an .sql file, the database. And even though I was confused that I had four different .sql files, Naomi helped me choose the right one, which I uploaded and … finally, after 10 days, it worked. I think I spent the equivalent of many working days uploading and downloading, waiting for the helpdesk to log on, chatting with the helpdesk people, waiting for movement from the IT team. It was infernal. I hope I never have to change web hosts again!

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