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Author Archive | Peter Riches

Editing as an essential service

In a time of crisis, misinformation spreads faster than ever. The current COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Back in the 14th century, the rapid spread of bubonic plague was blamed on a variety of causes, including a divine punishment for collective sin, celestial alignment of the stars and an imbalance in the human body’s ‘four […]

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Seeing names: the fascinating world of synaesthesia

I’m terrible at remembering people’s names. I’m well aware of this deficiency and over the years I’ve made a conscious effort to address it, admittedly with limited success. As Dale Carnegie once observed, ‘A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.’ For Carnegie this was simply good […]

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Email tone detector: helpful tool or cultural imperialism?

I’m always interested to see how automation and artificial intelligence are being deployed to help people write more clearly. The latest innovation to catch my eye is a ‘tone detector’ from the popular writing assistant software developer Grammarly. At the time of writing, the beta version of the tone detector is available as part of […]

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Four writing styles and when to use them

If you were to read the instructions for operating a nuclear reactor, you would expect it to be written very differently to a novel about a nuclear accident, or a newspaper editorial about the merits (or otherwise) of nuclear power. Broadly speaking, there are four different styles of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive and narrative. The […]

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Where words go when they die

The current online version of the Macquarie Dictionary lists 138,000 words and 210,000 different definitions. According to an online survey of 2 million (admittedly self-selected) people, the average adult has a vocabulary of 20,000–35,000 words. Which begs the question, what happens with the rest? Some words are part of industry jargon or have a technical […]

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A Style manual for the digital age

Whenever I find myself editing a document, there are two resources I keep close at hand – a dictionary and the Australian Government Style manual. Unlike the dictionary, which I can access online (depending on the version required), the Style manual has always been a physical publication. Hopefully that is soon to change. The Commonwealth […]

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