Check your writing

Artists have always used text – whether as an integral aspect of their work or because they need to write grant applications, catalogue and web biographies or artist statements.

It is always helpful to have texts proofread or checked by someone who didn’t write it – just to catch those tiny mistakes which get through and make you look less professional than you are.

Most word processors do a reasonable job at catching spelling mistakes and some software offers basic grammar checking, but sometimes you need a more robust solution.

The obvious one is to pay an editor to do those final checks or advise you on content changes.  If you are writing for a professional publication, or putting together a research paper, you will normally have someone to do the editing as part of the submission process – or you can obviously pay a freelance editor to help.

If you can’t afford a professional editor and your word processor isn’t quite working for you, take a look at Grammarly.com

It carries out a spelling check, as well as flagging up 250 types of grammatical mistakes. It will also do a plagiarism check by comparing your text against over 8 billion web pages.  Compared to the checkers in word processors, this is a heavyweight, which also gives you context-optimised vocabulary suggestions.

They announce themselves as “the world’s most accurate grammar checker” and certainly offer an enhanced service, which can improve readability and meaning.

You can give it a try for free here – just paste a section of text into their site and you receive an instant check.  If you want details of what the site found, you can set up an account for free* and try their service for 7 days.  After that, there are a number of packages, which include monthly, quarterly and yearly payments.

If you do a lot of writing and need online help, this might be an economical service – and if you just need a few pages of text checking (your new artist statement, for example) give the free* 7-day trial a go.

www.grammarly.com

 


* Grammarly offers a 7-day money-back guarantee to first-time purchasers. If you’d like to cancel your Grammarly Premium account for any reason, just request a refund within the first 7 days of your subscription and as long as it is your first time using Premium, they will honour your request, no questions asked (they say!).

 

  • Published in Tools

Open Office

Open Office is, as its name suggests, is an open source software package.  Completely free to use it allows you to work with word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases (much like the Microsoft Office package).  The clear difference from Microsoft (apart form free) is uses an international open standard format.  It can also read and write files from other common office software packages.

Apache OpenOffice has been in development for over twenty years, so they have ironed out all the bugs which makes for a simple to use and efficient package. Itis easy to learn, and if you're already using another office software package, you'll take to OpenOffice straight away. 

This is one way of having 'office' standard software without the costs of the buying and maintaining Microsoft products.  Some indication is that it has been downloaded over 100,000,000 times!

www.openoffice.org


Please note - we really want to make your creative life more flexible and maximise your resources but PLEASE, make sure you back up ALL your computer filesbefore downloading and installing any new software and make sure it is compatible with your operating system and hardware.  We can’t take any responsibility if you ‘fry’ your files or lose your entire digital archive.

 

  • Published in Tools

LibreOffice

If you don’t want to use Microsoft Word for your writing, or can no longer afford to upgrade to newer versions, LibreOffice might be just what you are looking for - and free of charge, too. 

An open source package, LibreOffice is a free download which provides you with six programs, all of them compatible with Microsoft, which means you can open files already made in those programs (like Word or PowerPoint) and save your LibreOffice files back into equivalent Microsoft files. It also goes one set further and allows you to use the modern open standard, OpenDocument Format (ODF).

 

The package is extensive and includes:

  • Writer: A word processor similar to Microsoft Word
  • Calc: A spreadsheet program, similar to Excel
  • Impress: Presentation software, similar to PowerPoint
  • Base: A database, similar to Microsoft Access
  • Draw: A design program
  • Math: A simple equation tool
  • Charts: A chart creation module

The clear advantage here is that it is free and compatible.  If someone sends you a Word document, you can open it, work on it, in LibreOffice and then save it as a Word equivalent which can be shared with people who only use Word.

There are versions of LibreOffice for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux operating systems.

One great advantage is that it also supports Microsoft’s “.docx” files, which are the new files made by the most recent versions of Word.  Some other free programs don’t do that, so you have added flexibility here.

LibreOffice was developed by an international group of volunteers backed by a charitable foundation.  It really is free, really does work and, if you really like it, or find it useful, you can make a donation on the download site.  With the Home and Student versions of Microsoft Office (2010) running at £180.00 (on Amazon) you could save a small fortune. This might be the time to explore alternatives!

www.libreoffice.org

Please note - we really want to make your creative life more flexible and maximise your resources but PLEASE, make sure you back up ALL your computer files before downloading and installing any new software and make sure it is compatible with your operating system and hardware.  We can’t take any responsibility if you ‘fry’ your files or lose your entire digital archive.

  • Published in Tools

How to Write a Killer Press Release

Following her advice to artists on approaching the press, professional art writer Becky Hunter focuses on the fundamentals of PR copy.

In An Artist’s Guide to the Press, I dealt with the nuts and bolts of PR strategy, involving good timing, careful research, personalized communication, and a punchy press release. However, once your press release is, safely and punctually, in the right journalist’s inbox, what will make it memorable? And, as an independent artist competing with the well-oiled press machines of commercial and public galleries, how will you project a professional image, while remaining true to your unique story?


This article is my answer to those questions, based upon experience receiving and writing hundreds of press releases, and talking to writers and magazine editors. To get the most out of it, I suggest downloading a press release or two from an established gallery website, for example Tate ModernBALTIC, or Sadie Coles HQ, or from an arts PR firm like JB Pelham. These will serve as a “model” for best practice as you work through my advice; they are also invaluable as you get to grips with layout issues, such as working out how much space (or how many words) each section of the release should use.

So, first things first, at the top of your document indicate that it is a press release simply by typing “For Immediate Release” accompanied by today’s date. In the case of time sensitive material, such as top-secret competition results, instead type “Embargoed Until [future date]”. As a header, include your logo or name as it appears on your website, which will provide visual continuity for writers who receive your information regularly.

In terms of text, the release’s first two lines are the most important – if they’re vague, dull, or full of jargon, the journalist may not read further. You might like to highlight them in bold, or separate them from the rest of the piece. Take a while to think about the overall concept or feel of your project – brainstorm it on a big sheet of paper if you’d like – then whittle it down to a maximum of two informative sentences. For example, these are my most recent opening lines:

Philadelphia, PA – Vox Populi hosts a special summer party on First Friday with music, video and performance events by Jim Jeffers & Lydia Grey, Micah Danges and Jessica Gath.

Building upon the success of last summer’s event, SOUND/STAGES II is an exciting First Friday one-nighter channeling themes of collaboration and participation in music, video and performance.

The first, bold sentence communicates the location, event type, approximate date, media, and artist names, using “special summer party” to set the tone. Placed underneath a hi-res image, the second line puts the party in context, outlines key themes, and reaffirms the type of art to be expected, leading onto more detailed descriptions of each planned performance.

The main body of your press release should expand upon the intro, providing specifics on anything you’ve mentioned thus far, and weaving a narrative around the most interesting aspects of the project. Basically, you’re coming up with a “story” that a busy journalist can quickly lift into their article. For the Vox Populi release , my story circled around participation, collaboration, and fun. You might choose to highlight a technique that you’ve invented, focus on a theme or curatorial premise as I did, or go into some depth on how your firsthand experience of nuclear physics, motherhood, or a residency in China has influenced your current work.

It’s also a good idea to include a quote from a project participant, previously published review, or key theoretical text, as time-challenged art writers like to have quotations to hand if there’s not time or scope to arrange an interview.

It’s worth keeping in mind that most emerging writers (and many established ones!) are overworked and underpaid, fitting in exhibition reviewing and feature writing after their day job, or alongside full time study. The easier you can make it for them to grasp and enjoy the key points of your project, the more likely it is that you’ll get reviewed. In light of this, be sure to include a section headed “Key Information” or “Notes for Editors” either at the very top or bottom of the page, where it is easy to spot. List here, in clear bullet form, important dates, opening times, event address and nearest subway/tube/bus station, your contact information, plus useful web-links where appropriate.

Your completed text should be no more than 300 words, or one page long. Longwinded copy just doesn’t get read. End with any sponsors’ logos, and a simple call to action to prompt your reader to visit the show, or to pitch your story to their editor. This might read, as mine did: “Join us on First Friday for this special night,” or you might encourage the journalist to get in touch: “Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for high resolution images, information, and interview opportunities.”

After final careful spelling, grammar, date and time checks, your press release is ready to send as a PDF together with one or two images under 1MB each. With a bit of luck and persistence, you’ll get a fantastic response!


Becky Hunter (MA History of Art, University of York, AHRC) writes regularly for Art Papers and is available to write catalogue essays, press releases and creative marketing copy, or to edit artist statements. Fine out more about her at: www.beckyhuffhunter.net or Twitter @musehunter

 


  • Published in Advice

An Artist's Guide to the Press

Becky Hunter, a professional art writer and press manager for Core Gallery, London shares essential advice on getting reviewed.

As an emerging freelance art writer I receive fifty to one hundred press releases and email queries from galleries, artists and their agents each week. I love to discover new work, ideas and creative projects – it’s how I make (part of) my living, alongside writing catalogue essays and, I admit it, temping– but I’m often disappointed by the lack of care and attention put into these vital communications.

After all the hard graft you’ve put into your show - making art, earning and allocating cash, finding an exhibition space or a willing curator, printing up invites and catalogues, and planning an ace opening night – I’m guessing you want to give it the best possible chance of being written about. And all it takes is a little research and planning to move your press release from the trashcan to, potentially, the top of a journalist’s to-do list.

Firstly, timing is essential: however awesome your exhibition, if you submit a release too late it will be ignored. National and international print magazines, such as MAP (mapmagazine.co.uk) or Artforum (artforum.com), plan their issues four to six months in advance; local print monthlies operate with a two or three month lead time; while newspapers and online magazines are more flexible, sometimes able to respond to events with two or even one week’s notice.

If there’s a particular magazine you dream to be featured in, check their contributor guidelines to find out how and when to approach them – but be sure to get in touch with writers and editors before their own deadlines kick in. Then, once you’ve identified a handful of magazines on various levels and timeframes that seem a good fit for your work, the next job is to put yourself in the shoes of a writer (read: do your research).

When I decide to approach an art publication with my freelance writing, I tend to buy a couple of copies of the magazine and read them cover to cover, sneakily make notes in the bookstore, or browse online. I want to make sure my pitch matches their overall style, tone, content, and position. For example, if I’m pitching to Dazed Digital(dazeddigital.com) I’ll focus on providing striking images; for Art Papers (artpapers.org) I’ll put contemporary art into a socio-historical context.

As an artist, you’ll also want to note down the names of writers whose articles resonate with your concerns. Usually, it’s quite easy to Google them, find their blog or portfolio site, and send a brief, polite email explaining that you enjoy their work (give an example!) and would like to send them occasional news on your own practice. While not everyone will get back to you, many critics will be flattered that you’ve taken the time to understand what they’re about, instead of just spamming them with irrelevant content.

Finally, when the time comes to write your press release, abide by the following rules. Make your first two lines punchy, summarising what’s interesting or unique about your show– that will convince the journalist to read further. Build a “story” paragraph, expanding on the opening sentences, using quotes from people involved in the exhibition and further points on the show’s concept.  Include key information (who, where, when, etc) in bullet format at the very top or bottom of the release so it’s easy to locate, and attach your best image to the email.

As a writer, I’d love to receive more press releases that correspond to my actual location (currently East Coast USA) and interests (contemporary twists on abstraction, modernism & feminism, for example), and am sure I’m not the only one. Building relationships with the art press may take time and care, but will surely benefit your practice.


Becky Hunter (MA History of Art, University of York, AHRC) writes regularly for Art Papers and is available to write catalogue essays, press releases and creative marketing copy, or to edit artist statements. Fine out more about her at: www.beckyhuffhunter.net or Twitter @musehunter


 

  • Published in Advice
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