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Wait … is that a rule?

What font should I choose for my thesis?

The Thesis Whisperer gets 1.3 million views per year. The most popular post in 2016 was my one:

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by DrJanene Carey, a freelance writer and editor based in Armidale NSW. She occasionally teaches academic writing at the University of New England and often edits academic theses, articles and reports. Her website is

Arguably, this question is a classic time waster and the student who poses it should be told to just get on with writing up their research. But as someone who edits theses for a living, I think a bit of time spent on fonts is part of the process of buffing and polishing what is, after all, one of the most important documents you will ever produce. Just bear in mind that there is no need to immerse yourself so deeply in the topic that you start quibbling about whether it’s a font or a typeface that you are choosing.

Times New Roman is the standard choice for academic documents, and…

View original post 744 more words

Armidale’s version of One Plus One

Here’s a partial transcript of my One Plus One style interview with ABC TV’s Jane Hutcheon, with a couple of amateur quality videos embedded to give you the flavour of what was a most entertaining evening.

Jane Hutcheon, welcome to Armidale’s version of One Plus One!


Photo by Darrel Whan

You went from being a foreign correspondent to being the host of an interview show. As a foreign correspondent, you were chasing stories about war, disaster, political conflict – things that affect masses of people. Then you switched to a job where you’re sitting down with one person and having a very intimate conversation about their life. Did it feel like a radical change? Or not really?

Not at all, because as a correspondent I was sitting down with people having little one plus ones in their house for four, five hours, sometimes longer, just to understand their stories. And then I would interview them and you might see 30 seconds of them, or if you were lucky and watching Foreign Correspondent you might see a 20 or 30 minute story. That was always the bread and butter of my job, was to sit down and talk to people and really – this is so kind of overused, this phrase – but to walk in their shoes, to feel what it was like to live in a place that bombs were whizzing over, or to live in an Israeli settlement or live in Gaza. That was my job, to go and find out what life was like for those people. And I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea of the  interview program. That was my boss, Gaven Morris, who’s now the director of ABC News, and he was the one who actually said to me, why don’t you do an interview program. I remember thinking at the time – why would I do an interview program? I didn’t really click to the idea immediately. But then when I sat down and started talking to people I thought, this is just an extension of what I’ve always done.

Right, so no new skillset required?

Oh no, most certainly a new skillset. I think as an on-the-road journalist, and as you can see from a lot of our political interviewers, they need to get a more precise answer. They don’t have half an hour to sit down and have a chat. I think the whole process of getting a short news clip or an answer where you need someone to say something very succinctly, is very different to trying to encourage someone to unfold their story. Whereas they might not be so keen when they sit down to tell you all of those things. So it is a different skillset. You can’t scare them off, particularly at the first hurdle. I think you have to demonstrate that you have invested in them – you’ve read everything you can about what they’ve done, you’ve watched their shows, maybe read every profile that’s been written of them. You have to demonstrate you have this connection because you have spent hours and hours looking at their lives and careers.

You’ve done your homework …

You have to. Homework is very important most of the time. But sometimes there is not much time available. If someone offers you a big interview and says its tomorrow at 9 o’clock, and its 5pm the day before, well, you just read whatever you can, do whatever you can in the remaining hours. You can’t say no.

And, I believe you do all your own research. You don’t have a team of people digging up facts for you and writing your questions?

That’s right. One Plus One is a very small team. Its literally produced by two people, and we have an editor, and we have a wonderful camera crew.

It’s a very small team, and also I found in the early days, with the first producer I had we tried to split up the research, so she would say I’ll do this one and this one and you can do these two. And I would come to the interview with her questions, and I saw the interview in a completely different way. So we decided that in order for me to have that connection, it had to be me doing the research, I couldn’t have someone read the book and give me notes about it.

Because the things that she would pick up wouldn’t be the same as what I would pick up. So I’m very proud to say I do all my own research. I wish I had someone I could have a bit of a back and forth with so I made sure I could get all the questions exactly right – we don’t have that luxury. So I write the questions, I write the flow of the interview, and do all the reading, which is actually extremely pleasurable.

You come from a family of journalists. Your eldest brother writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, your father was the editor of the South China Morning Post, and your mother was a senior reporter there. In your book you said journalism lets you indulge your ‘insatiable curiosity about the way people live, fight, survive, die, create and destroy’. But why are you the black sheep of the family – why have you gone in for television rather than print?

Ah, that’s a very good question. I loved the medium of pictures, moving pictures, ever since I started to study journalism at Charles Sturt University. There was something magical to me about telling a story in pictures. And I suppose too I wanted to stamp out a different territory from newspapers as that’s where my dad in particular had been. It’s always been just a complete love affair. I tried radio, I had to do radio in most of my postings, and there’s an intimacy in radio but its always been about TV for me. I can’t really explain why.

I actually wondered – because I saw that you had a great love of drama, and that was something that attracted you to the course at Bathurst – I wondered if you just liked presenting words in person instead of words on the page?

Oh gee, that’s deep. I did enjoy drama but I don’t know that work as a TV journalist and enjoying drama – maybe there is some segue in that you have to present and in a sense you have to be a bit larger than life on occasions. But its always been about intimacy for me. I do love all of those wonderful interviews we have at the ABC, fantastic radio interviews. But I love to see the expressions on people’s faces. And incredibly, whenever I look back at the interviews – so for example, today’s interview was with Tim Cahill, the Socceroo, the legendary Australian football player and I haven’t seen it yet because I was travelling – as soon as I see that interview I will see about ten things that I did not pick up when we were sitting opposite each other. Sometimes they can be really minute things, sometimes you can actually see a bit of disturbance in people’s faces. You can notice nerves which you absolutely didn’t notice when they were sitting in front of you. So I think there is something magical about the lens, and I know a lot of people who work in TV say that. It picks up things that perhaps us talking here together might not pick up ourselves.

One Plus One began a year or so after Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope finished, and you’ve said you’re a big fan of his. I wonder, do you think he’s had an influence on your work?

<Video of Jane talking about the influence of Andrew Denton and Peter Harvey>

Denton has been back in the public eye recently with his assisted dying cause. Will you have him on the program?

I have asked him before, to be honest, and he has not agreed.

He’s not keen to be on the other side..?

No. I do know him personally, so I understand where he’s coming from. I could try and ask him again, I might do that. I respect it if people say no. There’s usually a good reason. He is quite a private person and I usually do ask a lot more than just about his current work and his career, so he’s got to be up for that.

He’s actually said that he’s “an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s career”.

That’s a great description.

He has some good lines.

Someone who spent many years interviewing prominent older Americans, called Marc Pachter, said in a TED talk that it’s important to get through the ‘infomercials’ that people trot out about themselves, especially celebrities. He thinks if the interviewer has enough empathy and can ask the right questions, it allows people to be truthful about who they are, and how they became that way. Do you agree with that version of things – do you think it’s part of your job to break through the cocoon of the public self and reveal the person within?

I always aim to do that. It’s not always possible, for a variety of reasons. The other thing is that unlike a lot of interview programs where they film and film, we don’t do that. We try to make our interviews as organic as possible. We  normally film for 30-40 minutes and they’re edited to time. I think if you accept that you are going to be able to break through in some areas but perhaps not all areas then perhaps it’s up to another interview, or another interviewer, to get other parts of that person. I don’t think you can have the definitive interview. Certainly I don’t look at it in that way. I look at these interviews as moments in time. Sometimes you can cut through the public persona. You know, the public persona is just protection. People form narratives of themselves because it’s safe. That way they don’t have to talk about things that are painful, they don’t have to talk about failure if they don’t want to. I love talking about failure but not everyone does.

I wonder what you think about when you’re deciding what should be your first question… Are you looking for something that your guest can relax into and answer quite easily, or are you looking for a fresh and interesting angle given that they’ve probably spoken a fair bit before to other interviewers? Or is it a bit of both, or something else?

It’s a great question, because the first question is the hardest. So how I normally structure my interviews is chronologically but sometimes I’ll move things around depending on where in the narrative we come in. then I try to think of an opening question that either completely relaxes, stuns or transports them. I’m just thinking off the top of my head. It’s got to be something that is like a giant door opening.

<Video about dud first questions, Wil Anderson example, and TimTams>

Married to the job

I have another story in OUTBACK magazine – this time it is a business one about a wedding planner who lives way out in the sticks …

MelissaBowman plain bg

Business » Married to the job

Living on a cattle property in north-west New South Wales didn’t dissuade Melissa Bowman from becoming a wedding planner.


Magazine Issue
Outback magazine
Issue 104 – Dec 2015-Jan 2016
page 92-93
Issue 104


Melissa Bowman was 35 years old and had three small children when she discovered her dream job. Her husband’s brother wanted to get married on the family farm 75 kilometres north of Tamworth, but he and his bride lived in Hong Kong, so he employed a wedding planner to handle the details. As she watched this woman at work, Melissa thought, “That’s exactly what I want to do. I’ve always loved everything about weddings and I love to organise, I love to plan things.”

Initially she thought her location would be a big disadvantage. “But with the internet and social media and word-of-mouth, it just hasn’t been a problem for me at all,” Melissa says.

Dying to Know Day – info and links

Did you know that 45% of people die without a will and 90% never tell anybody their end of life wishes? And 80% would prefer to die at home but less than 20% actually do?

It’s statistics like these that prompted the establishment of Dying to Know Day  (August 8), a day when Australians are invited to talk to each other about those scary but inescapable things that we often push to the back of our mind.

I will be hosting a stall about Dying to Know Day at the Farmers’ Markets in Armidale on Sunday August 2.

I will be offering information and conversations about death and dying, and books to browse and buy, including my own A Hospital Bed at Home: Family stories of caregiving from diagnosis to death.

Below are the links to some of the things I will be talking about:

Click to access ADCA-WEB-2014-My-Health-My-Future.pdf

The Bottom Drawer Book by Lisa Herbert, the DIY life after death action plan, and a list of other books I recommend FURTHER READING

My article about the home death movement in Australia

And these controversial articles about end-of-life care


Dying to Know Day is an initiative of the Groundswell Project, a group dedicated to bringing to life conversations and community actions around death, dying and bereavement.

The idea is to encourage people to develop their death literacy; make their end of life plans such as a will and advance care plan; share these wishes with their families; get informed about end of life and death care options such as dying at home, home and community-led funerals, and natural burial; and be better equipped to support family and friends experiencing death, dying and bereavement.

For more information, see

Thesis Editing FAQs

How much do you charge to edit a thesis?
The only way I can accurately answer this is by looking at a few chapters of your thesis so I can see how much work it requires. A Master’s thesis might take me a few days; a PhD thesis might take me one to two weeks. If you email me a few chapters of your manuscript, I will edit several pages  and send them back to you with an estimate of how long it would take to complete the job and how much it would cost. This will also allow you to ensure that you are happy with the level of editing. The sample edit is free; however, prepayment is required before work can commence on the full manuscript.

But what’s your typical charge?
Because I am asked this so frequently, I made a spreadsheet of all the theses I’ve done in the last year, excluding those from students with poor English expression and those from students who had very limited IT/word processing skills, and came up with a mean of $AUD1800 for a thesis of 100,000 words. The range was from $1320 to $2290. Please note that I don’t claim to be the cheapest, but I do pride myself on the quality and professionalism of my work.

What subjects can you edit?
A wide range! For example, here is a list of what I worked on in the first six months of 2015 :

  • an academic book about sustainability in the primary science curriculum (formatted according to the requirements of Sense Publishers);
  • a PhD about learning Japanese kanji;
  • an MA about learning Welsh;
  • an engineering research dissertation about repairing concrete structures;
  • a journal article about family business;
  • a music PhD about an avant garde composer;
  • a peace studies PhD about the Solomon Islands’ Truth & Reconciliation Commission;
  • a medical PhD about assessing cardiovascular risk;
  • a PhD about women’s sexual difficulties while taking SSRI medications; and
  • a PhD about recruiting and retaining doctors in regional centres.

Why do you ask for payment in advance?
I do ask students to pay in advance via a direct deposit into my bank account. I understand that this may worry some people, so I do a sample edit for free, and am happy to provide contact details of former clients who would be willing to vouch that I am diligent, hardworking, competent and trustworthy. I have a professional reputation to maintain, so it is in my interest to make sure clients are satisfied with my work. Consider the matter from the freelance editor’s point of view – what recourse does s/he have if the recipient of a professionally edited thesis does not get around to paying?

Do I just send you my Word document? What about my EndNote database?
It’s fine to email just the sample chapters as a Word document with formatted EndNote citations. But there is too high a risk of your thesis becoming corrupted if it is edited with ‘live’ EndNote codes embedded in it. Before sending it to me, you should select the EndNote option to Convert Citations & Bibliography and Convert to Plain Text. Save the resulting document with a new file name. From this point, any modifications to citations/references on that version of the thesis will have to be done manually. If this is likely to be a problem (e.g. if you don’t have a close-to-final version of the text, or if you are using Vancouver style with consecutive numbering), choose Convert to Unformatted Citations instead. The copy I work on won’t have a reference list but you can easily regenerate it by choosing Update Citations and Bibliography.

If you haven’t used EndNote consistently and need me to check that all your citations appear in your reference list, it would be helpful for you to send me your EndNote database. It will probably be too large to email – DropBox or a USB stick are better alternatives.

Will my thesis be ready for submission when I receive it?
No. You will need to step through each of my suggested ‘changes’ and consider whether to accept or reject it. You may also need to rewrite sentences or paragraphs based on the comments that I have made. You should allow time to do this when scheduling your submission date.

Helen Garner likes my book!

Last week I went to a couple of public events connected with the Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference at the University of New England. Iconic Australian writer Helen Garner was a special guest. I spoke to her after a lecture on Judith Wright, and gave her a copy of A Hospital Bed at Home. As homage, really. I love her writing, especially The Spare Room.

The next day, I went along to the other public ASAL event, Helen Garner in conversation with literary critic Susan Lever. When I arrived for the pre-talk refreshments, Anne Pender from UNE was chatting to Susan Lever, and she introduced us. Susan’s first words to me were, “Oh, are you the Janene who gave Helen a book? She’s been telling me all about it; she’s been reading it all day!”

When I spoke to Helen before her talk my head was spinning so much that I can’t even remember exactly what her compliments were. She said something about the clarity and directness of my writing, and the way the emotion was handled. I suggested that she’d had a strong influence on my style and she laughed and said, “That might be why I like it!”

Anyway, this week I plucked up the courage to contact her through her publisher and ask if she would consider giving me a quote for the cover. I thought it quite likely that she would refuse as she must be asked so often. But she emailed it to me within a couple of hours of receiving the request. Actually, I have two – what she sent would fit on a back cover, but I was keen to have it on the front, so she allowed me to trim it.

So the front cover now says: “An articulate, practical account of the work of love in the face of death.” – HELEN GARNER

The longer version that has gone online is:
“A quietly articulate, intensely practical account of the work of love in the face of death: a guide for the timid and a challenge for the confident.” – HELEN GARNER (Author of The Spare Room)

Story about my book in Australian Ageing Agenda

Linda Belardi, editor of Australian Ageing Agenda, interviewed me about A Hospital Bed at Home. See the story online here:

Speaking about the book…

I have been invited to speak about A Hospital Bed at Home at the community open day for the Tablelands Clinical School (the new building at Armidale Hospital for training medical students), on Tuesday July 8 at 3.30pm. Looks like an interesting day – here’s the complete program TCS Community Open Day Program as at 3.7.14

Stories of love, life and death

Fellow writer, Lynette Aspey, has written a lovely, appreciative post about A Hospital Bed at Home on her blog – click here to read it.