Friday, 01 May 2020 12:00

How it all began: looking back on the first days of SENSE

Written by Jackie Senior

jackie joy

In the late 1980s I was working in the editorial office of an international geophysical journal and had joined the European Association of Science Editors (EASE). The first EASE meeting I attended was a ‘wow’ moment – gosh, there were other people struggling to make sense of scientific manuscripts written by non-native speakers! Back in the Netherlands, I started seeking out other editors. In 1989 Joy Burrough published a letter in the EASE journal about Dunglish and had contact with another editor, Victoria Thatcher. I wrote to Joy and this led to the first tea party where 10 editors met, held in Wageningen in July 1989. This was followed by a more serious meeting in Zeist in November where we decided to set up an official society. The embryonic SENSE soon expanded by word-of-mouth, and through the membership lists of EASE and WERK (Wetenschappelijk redacteurenkring, long defunct).

SENSE’s network proved its usefulness early on, as we spent hours on the phone trying to check terminology with each other (no e-mail or internet then, just paper dictionaries, a fax and a dial-up modem for transferring very small text files to translation agencies). How technology has totally changed our profession since 1990 could be the topic of a historical essay.

When I first wrote to Joy by snail mail in the spring of 1989 I had little idea of what would grow from our desire to talk to other editors and discuss the problems we were encountering. Early committees overcame limited financial resources and the problems of dealing with big egos (people who take initiative and set up a society are generally not the timid type). I’m hugely proud to see SENSE reach its 20th anniversary as an active society with 375 members covering such a wide variety of subjects and expertise. The boost from the e-mail forum has long ensured that some form of the society will continue to exist, whatever the ups and downs various committees may face.

This article was originally published in eSense 20 (September 2010, available to SENSE members only). The SENSE Historical Archives contain a newsletter published in 1995, in which fellow founding members Jackie Senior and Joy Burrough-Boenisch have compiled the timeline in more detail. The society’s ‘history’ can also be traced through the following publications:

  • Burrough-Boenisch, J. 1990. ‘Back to English’. TWIOSCOOP (Tijdschrift voor Technische en Wetenschappelijke Informatie-overdracht), jaargang 8, nummer 2.
  • Burrough-Boenisch, J. 1990. ‘The Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors’. TWIOSCOOP, jaargang 8, nummer 4.
  • McNab, S. 1990. ‘Editing of science papers written in English by Dutch graduate students’. NRC Handelsblad, 16 January. (Based on Sheila’s article in European Science Editing no. 315, September 1988.) [Editor's note: Though this did not mention SENSE, the ensuing correspondence published in the NRC Handelsblad on 13 February 1990 included a letter reporting the setting up of SENSE.]
  • Senior, J. 1990. ‘English-native-speaking editors in the Netherlands’. TWIOSCOOP, jaargang 8, nummer 2.
  • European Science Editing No. 39, January 1990. [Editor's note: Report on Pangbourne workshop.]
  • European Science Editing No. 42, January 1991. [Editor's note: News section report on SENSE.]
Thursday, 07 May 2020 12:00

SENSE 2020 Conference goes online!

Written by Matthew Curlewis & John Linnegar

NEW SENSE2020 Goes Online

At the end of March, we had to announce the cancellation of our 2020 Jubilee Conference in Maastricht to comply with government measures on covid-19. To make something positive from all the doom and gloom, we are pleased to announce that the conference will now take place online in the afternoons of 3, 4 and 5 June 2020. For this online format, we have reduced and simplified the prices of conference and workshop tickets. How's that for good news?

The pre-conference workshops we had planned in Maastricht will now take place as a series throughout May and June, so you can attend as many as you wish. You can register for a workshop or for the conference up to 16:00 on the day before it starts. Once we have received your payment, you will be sent the access codes required to attend.

Please see the programme page for details and go to the SENSE Events calendar to register for what promises to be a unique and exciting event!

Paul Beverley workshop now incorporated into 2020 Conference programme
On 16 May, Paul Beverley will kick off the 2020 Conference workshop series with his highly anticipated workshop on macros for MS Word. If you are starting with zero knowledge of macros, the training will lead you through from square one. But for those of you who have already been using some macros, there will be plenty of scope for learning new tips and tricks. As there are well over 700 macros available (!), there is always something new to help you boost your effectiveness as a writer, an editor or a translator. So whether you are a 'macro newby' or a seasoned and serious devotee, there’s bound to be something new for you to take away from the day’s sessions

Paul Beverley has been creating macros for use by editors and proofreaders for over 13 years. The macros (over 700 of them) are freely available via his website and are used in more than 40 countries. Despite being of pensionable age, he enjoys editing far too much to stop altogether, so he occasionally edits technical books and theses. He has also produced more than 100 training videos, so that you can see the macros in action on his YouTube channel.

Thursday, 23 April 2020 12:00

6 April: Eastern SIG Editing Slam

Written by Ruth Davies

EasternSIG screenshot

We must take our silver linings as they come. Did you think you’d get a report for an Eastern SIG editing slam from one of your Aussie members who is now back in Australia? Neither did she. But thanks to our new circumstances, about 16 of us were able to meet over Zoom on 6 April with people in the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Spain.

The setup was that Sally Hill and Daphne Lees had both edited the discussion section of a journal article. Attendees had been sent the section in Word – so we could make our own edits – as well as the PDF of the full article, so we could read the discussion in context.

During the session, Sally shared her screen to show us three pieces of text: the original, her tracked edits and Daphne’s tracked edits. We then discussed how their edits differed, and what further changes we had made.

Apart from the mechanics, a key theme came out of the (very gentle) slam: for an audience of of peers, familiarity with the topic is important. With Daphne having more experience in this field than Sally, she was able to avoid some of queries because she knew a) what the author meant, and b) how to fix any errors. Sally had raised this as a point right at the start, saying that the first thing you need to ask yourself when editing in these specialist fields is ‘Do I understand enough to do this job?’

After we had been through the text, Sally showed us a summary of the types of changes. Most editors will find the mechanical ones and address them in fairly similar ways; these include corrections to prepositions, articles, modal verbs, subject-verb agreement, plurals, punctuation, tenses and style issues. However, there was more variety between Sally and Daphne – and across the bigger group – when it came to redundancy, wordiness, word choice and word order.

There were also some nuances that came from being aware of the cultural background of the author, such as knowing that patients in Chinese hospitals are often cared for by their families. This kind of knowledge can be developed through your relationship with your client. Another good tip was to begin that relationship by sending a small section of edited text, so that your client knows how you work and what kind of edits they can expect.

The session was diligently prepared and masterfully delivered, ending with a whisper about a possible rematch with another two slammers and a third moderator. When we get back to our (new) normal, your Aussie correspondent for one will be hoping for continued international interaction of this quality.

Friday, 29 May 2020 12:00

SIGs in the Spotlight: FINLEGSIG

Written by Ashley Cowles


In this new blog series, we will highlight the different Special Interest Groups (SIGs) SENSE has to offer. SIG meetings are open to all members, and guests are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding whether they would like to join SENSE. For upcoming SIG meetings, check the SENSE Events calendar. Contact the SIG convener for more information or to suggest a meeting topic. If you would like to start a new SIG, contact our SIG and Social Events Coordinator. In this edition, we talk to FINLEGSIG co-conveners John Alexander and John Hynd.

Can you tell me a little about yourselves?
JH: I’ll start. Imagine you’re Heather’s mother. You’ve just flown over from Durham because Heather is in trouble. In the clink actually. She went over for a hen party that got out of hand. The police say that she mistook a police officer for a male stripper and tried to shove a five pound note down his trousers. Heather’s mother (and Heather too) badly need a good translator to help straighten things out. What could be more reassuring for them to know that one of my topics in theology in Rome was the relationship between Augustine’s abandonment of his mother to take ship to Italy and the Church’s subsequent treatment of Mariology?

JA: Actually, yes, that is reassuring. The law regulates all human conduct – well, except for religion and philosophy, but that’s not conduct. Which means the ability to translate (yes, translate!) universal, abstract rules to rules that apply to policemen, male strippers and drinking too much. So an abstract education – mine starts with a History degree – helps. And that applies to finance as well: mezzanine financing, Double Dutch sandwich, all examples of abstract ideas applied to real-life situations.

What is FINLEGSIG and who is it for?
JH: Editors and translators working on financial and legal texts. So go the topics.

How did FINLEGSIG get started?
JA: About ten years ago, Stephen Machon decided it was time for a grouping like that. It was very popular and we’d meet in the splendid offices of a leading law firm on Amsterdam’s Zuidas.

How often does FINLEGSIG meet up?
JH: Three times a year or so.

How many people generally attend FINLEGSIG meetings?
JA: We meet in my place which is easy to get to, so there’s a limit on the numbers: 12, including the speaker. We did, however, increase the numbers to 18 for our latest meeting when Tony Parr was using slides. But then you don’t sit around a table, which is more gezellig. And we’ve found that nibbles and a glass of wine do a lot to make a success of the meeting.

When and where will the next FINLEGSIG meeting be?
JH: We’d normally be planning to meet again in June, but depending on how the social distancing rules evolve, that’s looking very ambitious. Early autumn, maybe. At the usual address on Minervalaan. We don’t like the idea of a video meeting.

Interested in joining the next FINLEGSIG meeting? Keep an eye on the SENSE Events page!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020 20:00

Utrecht SIG March meeting

Written by Anne Hodgkinson

buurtcentrum OASE

The Utrecht SIG met on the evening of Wednesday 11 March, in a new location. If you have been following this you will know that the Park Plaza has turned out to be unsuitable, and other central spots are too expensive for meetings that are free to members. Convener Maartje Gorte had found a surprisingly accessible if not central spot, buurtcentrum Oase, right across from Utrecht Zuilen station. Four of us joined Maartje in a clean and quiet meeting room (only now and then, when a door was opened, did we hear the distant strains of Bollywood karaoke from the main hall downstairs). Since there was no text to work on this time, we were free to discuss whatever was on our minds.

Inevitably this included coronavirus, but also a few things like the new mandatory disability insurance for ZZP’ers. Opinions differed on this one; some of us resented it, some of us welcomed it. A couple had looked into insurance before and found it simply too expensive, especially given it usually does not pay out for a year or longer after you have to stop working. One member had applied for it some time ago, but their application was rejected for reasons that made absolutely no sense. The rates under the mandatory system are more reasonable than before. In any case, it is not expected to take effect until 2024.

We also discussed the overuse and near-meaninglessness of the word duurzaam (‘sustainable’ but these days it’s used to mean the same thing as ‘environmentally friendly’). Other subjects included resources for sustainability, a new member’s activity leading night-time city walks in that very area, and John Linnegar’s grammar workshop the weekend before. Finally, we packed up the snacks we had brought to share, and walked the 80 metres or so to catch our trains at Zuilen.

The next meeting, provisionally scheduled for 13 May, will be live online. Check the Events page for details.


Thursday, 16 April 2020 12:00

SIGs in the spotlight: SENSE Ed

Written by Ashley Cowles

SENSE Ed meeting

In this new blog series, we will highlight the different Special Interest Groups (SIGs) SENSE has to offer. SIG meetings are open to all members, and guests are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding whether they would like to join SENSE. For upcoming SIG meetings, check the SENSE Events calendar. Contact the SIG convener for more information or to suggest a meeting topic. If you would like to start a new SIG, contact our SIG and Social Events Coordinator. In this edition, we talk to SENSE Ed convener David Barick.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I’ve been a member of SENSE since 2012, which was when I set up my language business. Although I also work as a translator, most of my time is devoted to English teaching. I specialize in academic English, although I’ve taught conversational and business English as well.

What is SENSE Ed and who is it for?
SENSE Ed is a sounding board and information source for people with any sort of involvement in English-language education. As I mentioned above, I’m active in several different areas of education. Some people who attend our meetings have a similar activity pattern, while others devote themselves to only one of those areas. It doesn’t matter as there’s room enough for everybody, and I try to alternate the themes of our meetings so that each field gets attention in turn.

How did SENSE Ed get started?
I don’t know the exact year, but it was shortly after I joined SENSE that Iris Maher took the initiative to set up this group. I had already had some mentoring talks with her, so when she told me about her intention of starting this group and invited me to come and give it a try, I was happy to join. After a few years, Iris asked me to replace her as convener.

How often does SENSE Ed meet up?
We meet twice a year, on Saturday afternoons.

How many people generally attend SENSE Ed meetings?
Anywhere from seven to ten.

When and where will the next SENSE Ed meeting be?
We meet in Utrecht – as you know, exact venues are in a bit of doubt at the moment there. I expect the next meeting will be held in late May or early June barring unforeseen circumstances, if you know what I mean.

Interested in joining the next SENSE Ed meeting? Keep an eye on the Events page!

Thursday, 09 April 2020 12:00

Meet our new EC members!

Written by Mike Gould

new EC 2020

Left to right: Anne Oosthuizen, Matthew Curlewis, Margreet de Roo.

At the AGM on 28 March, the Society voted in three new members for the SENSE Executive Committee. But who are they and what makes them tick? SENSE Chair Mike Gould provides some more information about each of them.

SIG and Social Events Coordinator: Anne Oosthuizen
Anne, who’s Dutch, was born and raised on the outskirts of Amsterdam Zuidoost. After she finished secondary school, she first spent ten months as an au pair in London. Back in Amsterdam, she did two years of teacher training (TEFL) before taking her education to an academic level. She spent the final year of her BA programme in English in New Zealand, writing a thesis on translation. This is also where she met her partner, Jack. Back in the Netherlands, she worked in door-to-door sales and did charity work, before starting an MA in Translation Studies. That year, Jack moved here from the UK, and they have been living together ever since. She graduated six months ago (cum laude) and has since been working part-time at at fellow SENSE member Ellen Singer’s translation agency AzTech Solutions. When not at the office, Anne is establishing herself as a freelance translator and editor, focusing on the creative and academic sectors. She regularly works for Dave Thomas’ company NST Science (EN-EN revision) and has done translations for cultural festivals, such as the Amsterdam Light Festival, and a book translation (How to Go Meat-Free/100% Vleesvrij by Stepfanie Romine). Her super-special niche, which she has still to find her way into professionally, is song translation.

CPD coordinator: Matthew Curlewis
Our new Continuing Professional Development Coordinator, Matthew, is an Australian. He’s thrilled to have this opportunity to help create workshops and events for SENSE that he will endeavour to make practical and useful at a minimum – while also striving towards making them inspiring, challenging and rewarding as a maximum. ‘Training and re-training’ are pretty much integral to who Matthew is. He moved from New York City to Amsterdam in 2003 to attend the Binger Filmlab and make a career transition from website producer to professional writer. Since then he’s worked as a journalist, screenwriter and copywriter and founded the writers’ workshop Amsterdam Writers. Before moving to New York, he also enjoyed successful mini-careers as a restaurateur, a contemporary dance publicist/manager in Sydney, Australia, and as a dancer and performance artist in Tokyo, Japan, as well as at numerous arts festivals in Europe, Australia and North America.

Secretary: Margreet de Roo
Our new Secretary, Margreet de Roo, is Dutch. She studied German at Groningen University and then worked as a teacher at a secondary school. In 2003, she moved to Nairobi, Kenya, with her husband, who works for the Christian charity Mission Aviation Fellowship as a programmer. During her nine years there, their two daughters were born – now 15 and 13. In 2012, her family moved to Zwolle when she chose a new career: editing and translating. She got some training and set up her business, Maneno tekstredactie, in 2013. Maneno is Swahili for words or text. Since then she has been working as an independent editor of Dutch texts and an English-to-Dutch translator. She enjoys the freedom and flexibility of being a freelancer and working from home suits her very well. As a non-native speaker of English, Margreet wasn’t sure SENSE was the right organization for her at first. However, attending a SIG meeting at the end of 2018 convinced her that it was. She sees the value of a professional organization that combines informal contact with professional development. And the role of Secretary seems to be the perfect fit for Margreet. She says: ‘it will allow me to give back to SENSE in a way that matches my interests and talents.’

Thursday, 02 April 2020 12:00

22 January SIG Far North meeting recap

Written by Kate McIntyre

SIG Far North 22 Jan

After a year’s hiatus, SIG Far North finally convened on 22 January, with 6 SENSE members meeting at 20:00 at Café De Graanrepubliek in Groningen. As has been the tradition for our SIG, those who wished to meet up for dinner before the event did so at Traiterie De Olijfboom.

The January meeting was a chance to re-connect after a long time apart, and it was a pleasure to welcome two members back into the fold after several years away. Keeping it informal did not mean, however, that the conversation was not language-focussed. One of the subjects was the ongoing struggle between professional translators and the Ministry of Justice and Security, an issue previously highlighed on the SENSE blog. We discussed the talks that were given at METM2019, as well as the SENSE conference in Maastricht, where one SIG member was scheduled to give a presentation. (Sadly, the conference has been cancelled because of the coronavirus.) Two other members gave spirited testimonials on the benefits of PerfectIt proofreading software.

We also discovered that one of us may have coined the phrase ‘From Bench to Bedside’ in a text she wrote back in 2009, and we recounted how much this expression has now become part of the medical lexicon, especially in the context of precision medicine. Discussion also touched on everyone’s work and home lives, and the challenges we all face in getting enough work, but not too much (and the struggle to take that one necessary holiday).

We ended the evening talking about bilingual children, then drifting into a discussion of how sign language is a model for linguists and to recent examples of where we had seen sign language used in public forums.

It was good to meet again, and we look forward to more SIG Far North events in the future.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 12:00

20 February SenseMed meeting recap

Written by Curtis Barrett

Canva Pile of Books

I’m happy to announce that we held the first (modern-day) SenseMed-sponsored meeting on 20 February in Utrecht. The topic, entitled ‘Editing Medical/Biomedical Texts: Proofreading or Heavy Lifting?’ was a round-table discussion of the many challenges (and rewards!) that editors face when editing medical and biomedical texts. A total of 20 members and non-members from a variety of backgrounds came to Utrecht and shared their own experiences. We discussed common mistakes (eg, ‘cases’ vs ‘patients’, ‘prevalence’ vs ‘incidence’), how to deal with the medical  profession’s fondness (obsession…?) for over-using , and then edited examples of text, figures and tables from authors of various nationalities including Dutch, Chinese and Israeli.

Particularly interesting was the realization that just like with translators, two different editors rarely make the same changes and suggestions. Some editors take a heavy-handed approach, also giving feedback on the science itself (eg, suggesting a helpful control or alternative way to interpret the data). Some editors focus solely on the language (‘Is this sentence grammatically correct? Then no need to change anything’), and of course many fall somewhere in the middle. We also talked about the client’s needs and expectations, and how to ensure that our role as editor meets (or hopefully exceeds) those expectations. The meeting was followed by drinks and dinner. Given the clear success of this meeting, our plan is to make this a regular event, so watch your inbox and this space for news regarding the next SenseMed gathering!

Thursday, 19 March 2020 11:54

SIGs in the spotlight: UniSIG

Written by Ashley Cowles

UniSIG meeting Ludo Waltman

In this new blog series, we will highlight the different Special Interest Groups (SIGs) SENSE has to offer. SIG meetings are open to all members, and guests are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding whether they would like to join SENSE. For upcoming SIG meetings, check the SENSE Events calendar. Contact the SIG convener for more information or to suggest a meeting topic. If you would like to start a new SIG, contact our SIG and Social Events Coordinator. In this edition, we talk to UniSIG convener Joy Burrough-Boenisch.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am one of the founding members of SENSE: the tea party at which a group of about ten discussed the idea of starting an organization for English-native-speaking editors was held at my house in Wageningen. I’ve been editing the English of Dutch scientists ever since the late 1970s.

What is UniSIG and who is it for?
UniSIG is for SENSE members with clients in academia.

How did UniSIG get started?
It has grown from the group that drew up SENSE’s guidelines for proofreading student texts, which was set up after former SENSE member Camilla Brokking-Maltas expressed surprise that whereas all Australian universities had such guidelines in place, there weren’t any guidelines in the Netherlands. Initially, Camilla and I were co-conveners but after Camilla resigned from SENSE to pursue another career, I stayed on as convener.

How often does UniSIG meet up?
UniSIG meetings are held three to four times a year.

How many people generally attend UniSIG meetings?
From the outset, they have attracted double-digit audiences. No less than 25 members attended the first meeting in June 2016 and registrations for the meeting held this year on 31 January at one stage exceeded 45! Big turnouts happen not only because so many SENSE members edit, translate or teach for universities and their staff or students but also because we have had excellent speakers (often recruited from the SENSE membership). Another factor could be the growing general awareness of the ethics and challenges of editing for Dutch university clients, as the rise of essay mills has hit the headlines in the UK and the Netherlands and the editing of non-native-English researchers and students is now a hot topic in the applied linguistics world (one of the leading researchers in the field, Nigel Harwood, has twice spoken at SENSE events). And as meetings are held on a Friday, maybe the post-meeting drinks-cum-networking in the bar and the opportunity to meet to eat before or after are irresistible.

When and where will the next UniSIG meeting be?
Unfortunately, planning  a suitable venue for an audience of between 15 and 25 when registrations fluctuate right up to the day of the meeting has become a headache, especially as the cost of hiring venues for more than 10 people are high and have to be paid by SENSE regardless of whether everyone who’s registered turns up. So, for the upcoming meeting on 17 April in Utrecht, we’re reluctantly requiring a registration fee of €10, which will cover at least part of the fee the venue charges per person. SENSE will continue to pick up the tab for the (not inconsiderable) room hire charge. What you’ll get for your money is an excellent is enough to tempt anyone – at a professional, easily accessible venue, plenty of convivial and knowledgeable fellow attendees, plus tea and coffee. A great way to finish the week and start the weekend! 

Interested in joining the UniSIG meeting on 17 April in Utrecht? Click here to register! 

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