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How a visual tool changed the way this writer works

Close up of light globe at nightRed Pony Managing Director Peter Riches’ recent presentation at the National Editors Conference on how he uses technology to quote, execute and manage our work here at Red Pony made me think of other ways we use technology in our jobs as writers and editors, and which tool I use the most. Surprisingly, it’s my smartphone, those pocket-size mini-computers we all seem to own now.

I use it for communications – to talk to clients, check emails, but also as a back-up voice recorder for interviews, to list frequently used phrases ready to paste in Notes, to pepper my calendar with reminders, to check social media accounts, and very often I use Google to fact check. For much of our government work and some of our corporate work it’s useful to be up on current affairs and trends, so reading news and checking social media on public transport is how I spend my commute.

The most useful feature though? The camera. Recently I worked on a job where the client required an unusual style for their referencing but there were no guidelines on how this should be done. I needed to quickly come up with a consistent style based on the way they had already formatted their references. The easiest way to do this? Photograph six of the references, compare them and then write up a standard to use.

Writers and editors can be like bower birds – if we see a beautiful turn of phrase in a newspaper or a book, in a thank-you card, on a news ticker at the bottom of a TV screen, on a billboard, or a new way to present information in an annual report, we take it and store it away to be used and reworked at an appropriate time. I once also photographed a font I saw in a bookshop to show to a typesetter.

The way we writers and editors work is very different to our colleagues in the world of visual communications. But sometimes using a tool that might not seem an obvious choice for your industry (such as a camera) can open up an entire world of new possibilities for working more productively.

Photo: kevinspencer Waiting via photopin

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