An American Editor

July 27, 2016

On Language: Doing More Than Spell Check

by Daniel Sosnoski

You’ve probably had a family member or friend say something to you along the lines of “Oh, you’re an editor? Well then, I’d better watch my grammar around you!” And no doubt you’ve seen T-shirts and coffee mugs with the phrase “I am silently correcting your grammar” on them. The general public seems to believe that editing is largely concerned with finding and correcting grammar and spelling mistakes. And it is.

Editing has been likened to milling, with each pass grinding finer, so that pebbles become gravel, and gravel becomes sand. You might consider spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues to be something you catch during one of these stages, but there are other fish to fry as well.

Speed bumps

The editor strives to stand in for all imaginable readers. Most guides, like the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style, have sections and commentary about the avoidance of sexist language. Dialing your focus wider, you want to avoid racist, ageist, and ablest language, too. Be on guard for such faults because they can potentially obstruct the flow of the narrative by needlessly offending the reader.

Anything in the text that pulls the reader away from the reverie of following the author’s train of thought is a speed bump in the text and needs to be removed. These are straightforward matters. But some are less obvious. The following will address a range of factual errors that can be corrected in text, although not all editing assignments allow this. Consider this discussion more applicable to developmental and line editing duties.

For example, in two bestselling novels — Stephen King’s Black House and Lee Child’s Make Me — there are references to 9 mm firearms that are revolvers, and rifles that have “clips” — small details that startle the knowledgeable reader because they are factually incorrect. An audiobook discussing findings in psychology is marred by the narrator mispronouncing “affect” as “uff-ect” when it should be “aff-ect” (The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo). These things interrupt the flow of narrative.

An editor I know said that his author wrote that a billion dollars, in a stack of $100 bills, would be as high as “a 60-story building.” The editor did the math and determined the actual height would be between 285 and 320 feet high. As the average building story is 13 feet, the correct analogy would be “a 25-story building.” You can overlook an error of this type and constrain your focus to matters that directly impact plot and intended meaning; the point here is that any general assertion an author makes can often be easily Googled.

And in an article titled, “Is Copy Editing A Dying Art?,” Lev Raphael notes about a book: “I found missing words and ‘phenomena’ used as the singular, a mistake unworthy of the author and his publishing house.” Furthermore: “They’re evidence of systemic carelessness. And though they’re minor, they’re irritating and can momentarily throw readers out of the book.”

Quote, unquote

For whatever reason, quotations tend to be a minefield of trouble. Particularly, the tendency to misattribute quotations from famous persons. For example, in discussions regarding ending a sentence with a preposition, you are likely to read that Winston Churchill said some version of the following:

  • That is a rule up with which I will not put.
  • This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
  • This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
  • Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
  • That is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put
  • This is insubordination, up with which I will not put!
  • This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.
  • This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put.
  • Madame, that is a rule up with which I shall not put.

Linguist Benjamin Zimmer finds that the first citation was actually, “offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put,” and is marginalia scribed by an unknown government copy writer in 1942. Any time you see a quotation attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or any other notable personage, more often than not the quote will be slightly or completely incorrect. A check with Google is mandatory unless you know the quote to be accurate as given.

Some quotes, like Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” also come in several flavors. Being translated from French, there are a few variations you’ll find in print, but the larger issue is that these are the words of Claude-Adrien Helvétius, as recorded by Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

In cases where you have multiple renderings of a quote from a foreign language, you can search a bit online or check Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to determine whether there is a preferred or standard translation.

You do the math

Anything involving calculations, units of measurement, math you can check — you should try to check it. Nine times out of 10 it will be right, but occasionally you’ll find a miss. A key area for editors is the expression of numbers with graphics. Is the data best presented as a pie chart or a bar graph? A histogram or line chart? Are the words “percentage” and “percentile” being used correctly?

Also look for consistent treatment among numbers. Are there mixed types of fractions, are decimal points treated uniformly? Can numbers be rounded for clarity? When you start asking these questions, you’ll often find problems that require correction. Here, too, we see that editing is more than checking spelling and grammar.

Out of time

Given sufficient resources, you could try to verify every fact presented in a text. In practice, unless the work is short this won’t be feasible. A sound procedure is to focus the bulk of your attention on checking the kinds of details that, if wrong, would do the greatest disservice to the author and reader. What those items are will in part reflect the type of text you’re handling.

For example: If you’re editing a travel guide, place names and directions will be of paramount importance. In my work with medical material, anatomy, references, and footnotes are critical because they reflect upon the credibility and professionalism of the author. Grammar or spelling mistakes would be unfortunate, but a technical error is awkward because it can call the authority of the entire work into question.

In histories and works of historical fiction, dates are going to be in the “must-check” category, but in the latter, especially, anachronisms can fall into two categories; namely, things in the text that could not have existed at the time in question, and words or expressions that are of the wrong period. For example, Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene i), has the following:

Brutus: Peace! Count the clock.
Cassius: The clock hath stricken three.

Yet mechanical clocks did not exist at this time. Also common in historical fiction are anachronisms involving clothing and foods that appear prior to their invention. And with language, here’s a critic noting an error in Downton Abbey, season five:

“[T]he massive anachronism ‘steep learning curve’ in this week’s episode, a phrase from the 1970s that should have no place in Downton Abbey.”

A certain amount of artistic license can be granted in the service of good storytelling, but when the reader hits on significant errors of fact, he or she is likely to wonder how well the work was edited (or if it was edited at all). This is from an Amazon review by a frustrated customer:

“This impression is not aided by the careless errors that pepper the book (e.g., referring to Microsoft as a cable giant). Didn’t anybody edit this thing before it hit the shelves?”

The sixth sense

If you work regularly with an author and find that his or her work tends to be well-researched, you can reduce the amount of checking you do. Conversely, if you start to encounter frequent mistakes of the type discussed above, you’ll want to look closer. Sometimes, you’ll encounter a phrase or statement that makes you wonder, “Is this really so?” That’s usually a sign you should investigate further.

Daniel Sosnoski is the author of Introduction to Japanese Culture and editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics magazine. He has been the staff editor for numerous medical associations and is the founding editor of the PubMed-indexed Journal of Clinical Lipidology. He currently belongs to the American Copy Editors Society.

July 25, 2016

On Today’s Bookshelf XXVI

The time since my last On Today’s Bookshelf post (On Today’s Bookshelf XXV) has resulted in some interesting acquisitions for my library as a perusal of the lists below will show.

Interestingly, I have bought (and received) in the current month alone 15 hardcovers and 29 ebooks. Although I bought some of the ebooks at Barnes & Noble, most I bought at Smashwords, which is having its annual July Summer/Winter Sale. If you are an ebook reader, now is the time to head to Smashwords; the sale ends July 31.

The hardcovers I bought in July and list here are the ones I have received. In looking at my records, it appears that I have more on order that are supposed to be delivered by July’s end. Here is the list of July hardcovers received:

Nonfiction –

  • Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning
  • The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andres Resendez
  • Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler by Stefan Ihrig
  • The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren
  • In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse
  • The Eugenics Movement: An Encyclopedia by Ruth C. Engs
  • The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History by Andrew G. Bostom
  • The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings

Fiction –

  • Summer Dragon: First Book of the Evertide by Todd Lockwood (Signed Book)
  • Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
  • Age of Myth: Book One of The Legends of the First Empire by Michael J. Sullivan
  • Flag in Exile 20th Anniversary Special Limited Edition by David Weber
  • Fellside by M.L. Carey (Signed Book)
  • Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan (Signed Book)

I also bought some fiction ebooks. The following is a partial list of the fiction ebooks I bought this month:

  • The Collars of Phaleran by Ashely Abbiss
  • Ice Station X by V. Bertolaccini
  • Ravens in the Sky by Will Bly
  • Children of the Trident by B. Albert Brier
  • The Ascension Trilogy by David S. Croxford
  • The Key by Brian Fisher
  • Philippa Barnes Mysteries Books 1-3 by Trish McCormack
  • The Blue Folio by Matt McMahon
  • The One Hundred by K. Weikel
  • The Safanarion Order Books 1-3 by Ken Lozito
  • Ties That Bind by Carolyn Arnold
  • Forgotten Ages (The Complete Saga) by Lindsay Buroker

Unfortunately for me, those books are not all of the books I have acquired since the last edition of On Today’s Bookshelf. Below is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I have added to my to-be-read pile since that post:

Nonfiction –

  • The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha
  • At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others by Sarah Bakewell
  • Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen
  • The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History by Tonio Andrade
  • Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby
  • Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era by Thomas C. Leonard
  • The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home by Joyce Goldstein (I also bought copies for gifts)
  • A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America by Frederic Cople Jaher
  • The Jews and the Nation: Revolution, Emancipation, State Formation, and the Liberal Paradigm in America and France by Frederic Cople Jaher
  • Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire by Peter H. Wilson
  • Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation by Nicholas Guyatt
  • Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolution Invention by Alexander Monro
  • Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf

Fiction –

  • Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner
  • Burned, Pierced, and Scarred (3 novels) by Thomas Enger
  • Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
  • The Photograph by Beverly Lewis
  • Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey
  • Cold Shoulder (Lorraine Page Series #1) by Lynda LaPlante
  • Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes
  • Power in the Blood by Michael Lister
  • The Serial Killer’s Wife by Robert Smartwood
  • Two Strangers by Beryl Matthews
  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

I mentioned retirement in my last essay (see Thinking About Retirement). Part of my thinking of retirement is looking at the TBR pile and wondering how many years it will take me to read all of the books I currently have in the TBR pile, the ones that I have preordered and will be coming, and the ones I do not currently know about but that I will buy in the coming months. I keep promising myself that I will stop buying books, but buying books is the bane of my editorial existence.

I guess I will never stop buying books, regardless of whether it is likely that I will be able to read them in my remaining years, until the time arrives when I can no longer read. Are you a book buyer? Have you cut back? Do you have plans to stop buying books?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

July 20, 2016

Thinking About Retirement

I am at the age when I can say “Enough — it’s time to retire.” I don’t plan to do so anytime soon, but I have actively reduced my workload from what it used to be.

One of the most difficult things I’ve done over the years has been to set aside money for retirement. My income was the primary family income, and the trappings of a middle-class life are not cheap. Mortgage, college, automobiles, house maintenance, health insurance, braces, and other everyday expenses really can cut into an income. In addition, being self-employed increased the taxes I paid.

When I first began setting aside money for retirement, I followed the standard advice of putting the money into tax-deferred accounts. The theory behind that advice is that when I finally do retire, my income will be less and so I will pay less in taxes, and deferring taxes seemed like a cash-back savings plan.

But a few years ago, I took another look at the tax-deferred savings in light of my reaching the traditional retirement age, and I considered what my real plans for retirement were — that is, not to fully retire, ever. The truth was that I wasn’t going to save any (or very little) tax money, and I would probably have to keep on working just so I could afford to pay the deferred taxes and the rising living expenses. Which made me rethink how I was investing my retirement money.

To take advantage of tax-deferred savings, investments pretty much had to be in mutual funds. The wonderful thing about mutual funds is that they spread risk. In contrast, buying individual stocks not only didn’t defer taxes but also focused risk: If the stock went up, I became richer; if it went down, I became poorer. The mutual fund might also have its ups and downs, but they tended to be more controlled — until 2009, when down was all there was.

After reviewing my retirement funding in light of my real plans, not the imaginary plans I had earlier in my career, I’ve put less emphasis on tax-deferred savings and more emphasis on investing with after-tax dollars. By using after-tax dollars, I do and will pay tax based on dividends and long-term capital gains. If I don’t sell any of the stocks, then I just pay tax on the dividends, a much lower tax burden than will be imposed when I am forced to start drawing down the tax-deferred accounts.

Of course, this raises another issue. Most of the mutual funds that are the base for tax-deferred accounts charge management fees. In some cases, a fee is assessed annually; in other cases, no fee is incurred until you start drawing from the account. Each fund needs to be looked at individually for the answers to “when” and “how much.” But regardless of when and how much, there is still another charge against the tax-deferred savings. Not only do you pay taxes on an ordinary income basis as you withdraw from the accounts, you also pay the management fees.

Usually, when you invest through a stockbroker, you have to pay buy and sell fees. That was always a downside to direct investing with after-tax dollars. Another downside was the minimum purchase amounts; brokers avoided fractional shares, or if they did allow fractional-share purchasing, the fees made the purchase unwise. Some brokers also charged minimum service fees when the accounts had fewer than a certain number of shares or less than a fixed value. In recent years, this has changed as competition among brokerages has increased and investing options have changed. The original impetus for the change was the rise of the Charles Schwab discount brokerage.

A while ago I read a newspaper article about an online brokerage called Loyal3. It is one of a newer type of brokerage that offers no-fee or fixed-fee options. (Three examples are Motif, Folio Investing, and Betterment.) With no-fee brokerages, if I invest $100, I receive $100 in shares; if I sell $100 worth of shares, I receive $100; if the shares earn a $10 dividend, I receive $10.

(Note: I am a client of Loyal3, and I am referring to it only because of my personal experience dealing with it; I haven’t dealt with any similar brokerages. I am not affiliated with Loyal3 and I receive no compensation for my mention of it here.)

What attracted me to Loyal3 were these features: no fees, IPOs (initial public offerings), fractional shares, and low purchase requirements for scheduled monthly purchases. I saw the brokerage as a good way to advance my financial interests without having to incur any undue expense.

Again, I want to state that while I am talking about my personal experience, there are similar brokerages available and the services they offer may differ. Loyal3 has certain limitations, some of which are important. The first limitation is the number of stocks available — currently, 70. Why only 70? Companies have to agree to both sell fractional shares and pay the brokerage fees. But there are high-quality investments available, such as Amazon, Coca-Cola, Twitter, Facebook, Tesla, Alphabet, Apple, Netflix, and Berkshire Hathaway.

A second limitation is that Loyal3 doesn’t have joint accounts, at least right now. A third limitation is that it doesn’t have TOD (transfer on death) accounts, which makes the process of transferring stock ownership after death a little bit more cumbersome but not difficult.

A fourth limitation is that transactions are not instantaneous. This can be a serious limitation if you are looking for short-term investments. A regular brokerage will receive your buy or sell order and execute the transaction within minutes, if not more quickly. Loyal3 works, instead, on daily batch buying and selling. Once a day it batches together all of the orders to buy and sell it has received and executes them. Consequently, if you see your stock take a dramatic rise at 10 a.m. and send the instruction to sell, you may get a different dollar amount from the sale than you expected, because the execution occurs only once a day.

But there are plus sides to investing via Loyal3 or other similar brokerage. First, no fees that reduce the value of your investment. Second, an opportunity to participate in IPOs at the same price and time as Wall Street.

I have always wanted to have a chance to invest in IPOs. I realize they are a gamble because they can drop like a cement block, but they can also be rewarding. How many of us could participate in, for example, Facebook’s IPO. The Facebook IPO price was $42.05 per share; at the time of this writing it is $116.42 a share. Amazon’s IPO price was $18; at this writing it is $734.75. Small investors like me couldn’t participate in these IPOs in the absence of a service like Loyal3 for a variety of reason, not least of which was the minimum number of shares that had to be bought.

Granted, I came too late to Loyal3 for those IPOs, but I have been able to participate in others and have experienced a significant increase in share value. (For information on how IPO investing works at Loyal3, click here.) Unfortunately, IPO investing is limited and infrequent, but some opportunity is better than no opportunity.

The third plus is the ability to buy fractional shares, as I’ve said before. I am not as wealthy as I wish I were. I cannot afford to buy 100 shares of Amazon at $734.75 a share or even Microsoft at $53.70 a share. And I want to gamble on Tesla because I love its cars and its dreams for the electric automobile, but $220.40 a share is a bit steep for me. Loyal3 gives me an opportunity, however, to become a shareholder by allowing me to buy fractional shares in those companies. I can choose to invest any amount from $10 to $2500 — either once or monthly — in any of the stocks, and whatever that amount will buy is what I get.

Loyal3 has a fourth plus: I can invest in stocks and amounts of my choosing either one time or on a monthly schedule that I can alter at any time. It is easy. I’ve set up my account to take a certain sum from my checking account each month on a particular day (you pick the day, such as the first, the seventh, the fifteenth, or the twenty-first of each month) and divide that sum among stocks of my choosing. There is no limitation except the $10 minimum and $2500 maximum. Consequently, you could tell Loyal3 to take $250 from your checking account on the first of each month and invest it as follows: $25 in Disney, $25 in Pepsi, $100 in Amazon, $50 in Apple, and $50 in Tesla. If Disney shares are selling for $100, your $25 will buy one-quarter share. That would remain your standing order until you change it. You can change the amount, the date, the stocks — anything, including canceling the investments altogether.

When a company declares a stock dividend, it appears in your Loyal3 account and you can either leave it and have it applied to your next scheduled investments or have it electronically transmitted to you.

I’ve spent a lot of time explaining how Loyal3 and similar brokerages work, and for a good reason. These brokerages offer the small investor — like many of us freelancers — an opportunity to prepare for our future. This is an opportunity that many colleagues are unaware of. This type of investment should not be your sole investment. Mutual funds offer stability and greater security, but the penalty is often lower return and fees. For example, my tax-deferred funds are currently returning less than 5%, whereas my Loyal3 investments, in the aggregate, are returning over 15%. That imbalance is unlikely to last, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Because we are responsible for our own retirement preparation, we need to learn about and explore multiple ways of increasing our net worth. Firms that offer no minimum required account balances and low minimum investment opportunities via fractional shares can be important parts of our future. It is never too late to start.

If you know of firms like Loyal3, Motif, Folio, or Betterment, whether in the United States or another country, please mention them in the comments.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

July 18, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Inside Notes

by Jack Lyon

As useful as they are, Microsoft Word’s footnotes and endnotes are amazingly easy to mess up. Let’s look at some ways that can happen — and how to fix the problems.

First, we need to open a document that has footnotes — or make one. Then, to really see what’s going on, we’ll do this:

  1. Click “View” and then “Draft.”
Click "View" then "Draft"

Click “View” then “Draft”

2. Click “References” and then “Show Notes.”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

That should take you into Word’s “Notes Pane,” which should look something like this:

Word’s “Notes Pane"

Word’s “Notes Pane”

Deleted Reference Numbers

The superscript numbers in front of each note are called reference numbers. By default, they’re formatted with a character style — either Footnote Reference or Endnote Reference, which you can modify if necessary. What’s interesting about these numbers is that it’s possible to delete them, so the notes look like this:

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting them, however, is an extraordinarily bad idea. Those numbers may look simple, but under the hood they have a lot going on. The number itself is automatically generated based on the reference number in the text itself. (If you create footnote number 9 in your document, the note itself will start with the number 9. If you delete footnote number 9 in your document, the note and its number will be deleted.) The number also signals the start of a new note, and if it’s gone, document corruption is probably not far behind.

You can often tell if a reference number is missing by looking at the other note numbers. If they’re numbered like this, you know something’s wrong:

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

That’s actually a fairly easy problem to fix: just copy the reference number from one of the other notes and paste it in front of the note that’s missing its number. For example, if you copy the number for note 3 and paste it in front of the numberless note 2, you’ll actually get a 2 in front of the note. Microsoft Word is smart enough to know what the number should be.

Usually, the reason a number is missing is because the author has directly deleted the entire text of the note, like this:

When Note Is Deleted Directly

When Note Text Is Deleted Directly

Why Microsoft hasn’t prevented this is beyond me. If the author had deleted the note number up in the main document text, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Typed-In Reference Numbers

Sometimes, in an effort to make notes look “pretty” or meet a certain style, authors will format reference numbers as regular text rather than superscript, then type a period after them. There’s really nothing wrong with that, other than introducing extraneous periods when importing the file into a typesetting program. But some authors actually delete the numbers and type in new ones by hand. You can tell when that has been done by putting your cursor in front of a double-digit note number and pressing the right cursor key. If your cursor moves past the entire number, the number has been automatically generated. But if your cursor moves forward only one digit, the number has been hand-typed.

Again, you could fix the problem by copying an automatic number and pasting it over the hand-typed number, but what if all of the numbers have been hand-typed? Where will you get an automatic number to copy? Simple: just insert a new footnote and copy the number from that. After you’ve finished pasting, delete the extra note (up in the text, remember).

If you have lots of these numbers, you probably won’t want to fix them by hand, so here’s an easier way:

  1. Select all of the notes in the notes pane.
  2. Copy the notes.
  3. Paste the notes at the end of the document.
  4. Using Word’s Find and Replace feature, search for ^f (the code for footnotes) or ^e (the code for endnotes) and replace all of the existing note numbers with a superscript 1. (That will also delete all of the automatic notes in the document.)
  5. Use the “Text to Notes” feature of my trusty NoteStripper add-in to turn the text notes into automatically numbering ones.

“Special” Carriage Returns

Sometimes when editing notes, you’ll try to make a deletion and get the message that “This is not a valid action for footnotes”:

Oops!

Oops!

What that cryptic message should say is “You can’t delete the carriage return that ends a footnote.” The carriage return that marks the end of a note isn’t a regular return; it’s a special return, and you can’t delete it — Word won’t let you. So what often happens is that authors will delete the note text and its reference number, leaving the carriage return behind. But there is a way to get rid of that return: delete its note number up in the main text of the document. If you can’t tell which note number that is, copy the number of a different note and paste it in front of the note’s carriage return. That will give the note a proper number, and you can then delete the note up in the main text. If you have lots of these extraneous carriage returns, you can get rid of them with a macro, as described in “Lyonizing Word: Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns in Footnotes and Endnotes.”

Microsoft, Are You Listening?

We wouldn’t have such problems with notes if Microsoft would implement just a few changes:

  1. Make it possible to delete a note by selecting the entire note, including the note reference number, the note text, and the “special” carriage return at the end of the note, and then pressing the Delete or Backspace key (which should also remove the note number from the main text). That would keep authors from leaving behind misnumbered notes and extraneous carriage returns.
  2. Provide additional numbering options for the reference numbers in front of the note text, in particular the option to use full-sized numbers followed by a period. That would keep authors from typing in numbers and periods by hand (maybe).
  3. When trying to delete the reference number or carriage return, provide a message that says “Select the entire note before deleting” or “To remove a note, delete the note number in the main text of your document.”

These changes would do a lot to prevent problems caused by authors who don’t know how to properly use Word’s notes. You can help by letting Microsoft know about these needed changes. Give your feedback at Microsoft’s “Welcome to Word’s Suggestion Box!

What about you? Have you seen other odd problems with Word’s notes? If so, how have you solved them?

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

July 13, 2016

On the Basics: So You Want to be a Freelancer

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The idea of being a freelance editor, writer, proofreader, or other editorial worker — for that matter, a freelance anything — is alluring. The prospect of escaping from routine or a difficult boss, setting your own hours, making more money, saying no to work you don’t want to do — it all seems so exciting and worthwhile.

And it is. But freelancing isn’t easy. Being a freelancer means being in business. You might not have an outside office, employees, or a warehouse full of inventory, but you will be in business. Editorial work may be creative, but that doesn’t mean you can approach freelancing nonchalantly, as if there were no business aspects to success.

First steps

For many, if not most, of us, the hardest part of freelancing seems to be finding a steady stream of work that pays well. Before you can meet that challenge, you have to know what to do, for whom, and at how much.

Figure out what you do well, and what you want to do. Put some time into identifying your market — publications, publishers large or small, big corporations, small businesses, independent authors, government agencies, domestic and international not-for-profit organizations, etc., all use freelance writers, editors, desktop publishers, proofreaders, website designers and managers, indexers, graphic artists, and more. Think about your competition, and how you might make yourself stand out from them. Use resources discussed in An American Editor and elsewhere to figure out how much you need to earn to cover your expenses. Then get ready to find the clients that respect your skills and pay accordingly.

Charging for your work

Setting rates for your freelance work can be daunting. Some clients will have rates in place and all you have to do is decide whether to accept those rates. Others may ask what you would charge, or expect you to bid on their work. Various publications and professional organizations provide guidelines on ranges for different types of editorial work, and colleagues are often willing to share what they charge. (Search An American Editor for columns about “effective hourly rate” and “what to charge” to understand and set the rates you need to cover your bills and expenses.)

Keep in mind that everyone is different; my skills, years of experience, types of client, types of work I accept, and chutzpah level are different from yours, so what I charge might be irrelevant to what you can charge (in either direction).

Part of freelancing successfully and getting paid what you think you’re worth has to do with how you set up your business. If you’re a specialist, you probably can charge higher fees; if you’re a generalist, you should get more assignments. The bottom line might look the same.

Thinking about this aspect of freelancing before you actively look for clients will make it easier to know which projects are worth accepting and which ones to turn down.

Finding work

Finding worthwhile clients and projects means marketing and promoting yourself and your skills. As creative people, and as the introverts that many writers, editors, and proofreaders supposedly are, that is a nerve-racking prospect, but it is absolutely essential to freelance success.

The first step is to let everyone you know — family, friends, and especially everyone you’ve ever worked with — about your freelance business and that you are looking for projects. Get business cards and carry them with you at all times; you never know when the lead to a project might crop up, even in social situations. Then go after clients beyond your current network of contacts.

The “bible” for freelance writers is Writer’s Market. I’m also a big believer in trolling local newsstands to find and read magazines that interest me so I can pitch story ideas; they all have websites, and most of those sites provide editorial calendars and writers’ guidelines. Editors and proofreaders often rely on Literary Market Place. We all can use membership (and visibility) in professional associations or discussion groups for access to job-listing services, directory listings, and referrals as colleagues get to know us.

About the boss

One of the fun things about freelancing is being the boss. One of the hard things about freelancing is being the boss.

As the owner of your freelance business, you are responsible for meeting deadlines; paying quarterly estimated taxes; billing and collecting; filing and record-keeping; marketing and promoting; managing time; and all the other little details that are not the editorial activities that you want to spend all your time doing.

You also now have to psych out not one “boss” or “supervisor,” but several. You will have more than one client to answer to and understand — if you’re lucky, dozens. Some will interpret a deadline to mean receiving your work first thing in the morning of the due date; others will consider 5 p.m. as meeting that deadline. Some will want to discuss every detail of a project by phone or e-mail, adding substantial amounts of time to the work. Different clients may expect you to follow different style guides; some may not even know what a style manual is. Some of your responsibility as a freelancer will be to educate clients — tactfully, of course — on expectations.

(For more details on all of these topics, search the An American Editor archives for “setting office hours,” “managing time,” “expectations,” etc.)

Protecting yourself

Rewarding as it can be, freelancing also has its risks. The one that seems to come up in discussions the most often is not getting paid. You can head that off, for the most part, by having something in the way of an agreement or contract. It doesn’t have to be overly formal or lawyerly, but make sure you confirm all details of an assignment or project by e-mail or in a Word document. Include language about how and when you’ll be paid. (Check the An American Editor archives for “Getting Paid: Things for a Freelancer to Think About.”)

If the client has a contract for you to sign, read it carefully to make sure you aren’t accepting liability for anything beyond your control, such as changes after you’ve submitted your work that could create inaccuracies. You can often negotiate to cross out clauses that don’t apply to you or that you find unacceptable. Some boilerplate contracts that make sense for large vendors but not individual freelancers ask for huge levels of insurance coverage, for instance, and usually can be removed if you point that out to the client.

Do some basic research on copyright so you understand, and don’t unnecessarily give away, your rights to your work. With writing, the work belongs to you once you’ve created it until you’re paid for whatever rights you’ve agreed to sell. For editing work, include language in agreements and invoices about retaining the copyright to your version of the document until you’ve been paid. (See the An American Editor essay “The Editor’s Interest: Copyright or Not.”)

For writing assignments, payment will usually be by the word and after the assignment is done. Try to get payment on acceptance rather than on publication — it could take several months between when you hand in that article and the magazine comes out, and all kinds of things could happen in between to delay or even cancel publication.

Editing and proofreading usually are paid by the hour; sometimes by the word or page, or as flat (project) fees. When working with nonpublisher companies and individuals, you often can get a deposit or advance before starting the work; with many clients, you can arrange for interim payments on lengthy projects. That kind of arrangement is especially useful with individual authors, who could be gobsmacked by the total fee but able to pay several smaller amounts over time. Consider making it your business policy, whenever possible, to withhold the finished work until paid in full.

Include language in agreements about late fees, and something to that effect in your invoice template; you generally can’t, or at least shouldn’t, charge late fees if you haven’t said that you will do so. And don’t jump the gun — you can say “payable on receipt” on your invoice, but the standard timeframe for payment in the business world is 30 days after invoice date. Unless your contract specifies otherwise, that’s when you’ll be paid. A few days past the 30-day limit might not mean someone isn’t going to pay. Give it a week, perhaps two, before treating a missing payment as late. (For additional discussion about invoicing on An American Editor, see “The Business of Editing: Thinking About Invoices.”)

The possibility of late payment or nonpayment brings up another important aspect of protecting yourself: Try to have a savings cushion that covers at least a few months of expenses before you venture into full-time freelancing, so you’re covered in case it takes a while to find projects, or you encounter slow or no-show payments. Knowing you can pay your bills affects your attitude. If you’re desperate for money, you’re more likely to accept low fees and draconian conditions. Try not to do that to yourself.

Self-protection is also a factor in marketing and promotions. When you’re immersed in a substantial, demanding, long-term project, it’s easy to forget to market yourself. Don’t get so buried in current work that you stop looking for the next project. Otherwise, you’ll have no work or income while you wait for that check to come in. The smart thing to do is to set aside a few hours every week to devote to marketing.

Working for free

If you don’t have experience or training in the skills you want to sell, it might make sense to do some free or low-paying work to build up a portfolio of work. If that’s the case, do so on your own terms — write or edit for a nonprofit organization you support for long enough to establish yourself, and then use that work and those contacts as your springboard to paying projects.

Beware of websites where you bid for projects; those clients are usually more interested in how little you’ll accept than the quality of your work. You don’t want to wear yourself out by doing $1,000 worth of work for $5 or $10, even $100. That time could be better spent on looking for clients who respect skill and quality, and pay accordingly.

Resources

There’s a lot more to freelancing, of course, than these tips. For more, check the An American Editor archives and consider getting my self-published booklet, “Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer”; my booklet for the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), “Freelancing 101: Launching Your Editorial Business”; and Rich Adin’s book with Jack Lyon and me, The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper; and attending the “Be a Better Freelancer”® conferences offered by Communication Central.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

July 11, 2016

The Business of Proofreading: Taking a Long and Interconnected View

by Louise Harnby

I love a list! Recording the stuff I need to do helps me to organize my thoughts and steers me away from procrastination and toward action. So what follows is by no means a call for the abandonment of the to-do list. New starters and old hands alike can benefit from a list of actionable points.

More than a to-do list – linear vs. interconnected thinking

Caution is required, though. The to-do list does have the potential to encourage linear thinking, and this can be a hindrance when it comes to the business of proofreading (or any other type of editorial service for that matter).

Linear thinking can lead one down a road of focusing too heavily on one part of our business in the belief that if we get X just right everything else will fall into place, or that X is more important than Y and therefore must be completed in full before Y is considered. Interconnected thinking (I call this joined-up thinking elsewhere), on the other hand, recognizes that X impacts on Y, which impacts on Z, and that, together, X, Y, and Z drive success.

In this essay, I’ll look at the interconnectedness of our business practices, and the time it takes to build connections.

A simplified example

Isabel is in the process of setting up a proofreading business. She’s completed a comprehensive training course followed by mentoring. She’s confident in her skills and believes that she’s fit for the purpose. And she is – from a technical point of view. She has a potential problem, however. She’s been so focused on her training that she’s not spent any time considering how she’ll make herself visible to paying clients. Training was at the top of her list – and while this is certainly no bad thing to be at the top of any freelance business owner’s list, focusing on this alone will not bring in paying work.

Isabel’s business to-do list

  1. Training – courses and follow-up mentoring
  2. Buying relevant equipment – hardware and software
  3. Networking: joining a society, setting up social media accounts, attending meetings
  4. Design brand: name of business, logo, color way
  5. Officially launching the business – tax authorities, bank, insurance policies if required
  6. Creating a promotion plan: website, business cards, leaflets, adverts, directories, domain name, and custom email address
  7. Create pricing matrix for different client types
  8. Create additional resources: consider blog, information sheets, terms and conditions, process documents outlining service
  9. Create stationery: letterhead, invoices, email signature, postage labels
  10. Create work schedule to track jobs, payments, time, etc.

An alternative view: Isabel’s business wheel

I’m a firm believer that Isabel would benefit from looking at her proofreading business in a different way. What if, instead, she visualized it as a wheel rather than a list? I’ve regularly promoted this approach specifically in relation to editorial marketing (see, for example, “The Marketing Wheel – Visualizing Your Editorial Business’s Promotion Strategy,” Proofreader’s Parlour, January 2016), but it’s a useful tool for thinking more broadly about editorial business practice.

The Business Wheel

The Business Wheel

Both the list and the wheel address the same issues, but the wheel has the advantage of helping Isabel to visualize the interconnectedness of the various aspects of her business development.

Let’s consider Isabel’s training in relation to other aspects of business development.

  • Training provides her with skills. But it’s also a valuable message that she could use in her promotion materials, and that will make her more interesting to potential clients.
  • Her qualifications include rich keywords that potential clients will use when searching online for people with her skills, so there will be SEO benefits, which will enhance her discoverability further.
  • Her training program has also instilled in her a desire to provide proofreading work of the highest quality, and these high standards mean those new clients who discover her will be more likely to retain her and recommend her, thus leading in the longer term to a more consistent work flow and income stream. This will give her greater choice as to the work she accepts and the prices she can charge.
  • Training has also contributed heavily towards her application for a higher-level tier of membership in her national editorial society, and this membership tier will provide her with the right to take an entry in its online directory. She can link her new website to this directory, so that’s increased professional credibility, SEO and visibility.
  • The training organization she used might be interested in featuring a guest article that she could write about her experiences. This will add to her professional credibility, and will provide her with an opportunity to create inbound and outbound links between her website and the training organization’s website. The organization has a large following on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It will share a link to her guest article with its followers. Some of its followers will link with Isabel, thus expanding her own professional community. That’s training, professional credibility, brand enhancement, business networking, SEO, and social media engagement in one fell swoop.

I could go on, but I expect you get the point. Training isn’t something you do before marketing. Rather, it’s connected to marketing. They are but two spokes on a wheel and they link the hub (the business) to the rim (clients). Training gives substance to the marketing message. Marketing generates visibility and, therefore, new clients. New clients become regular clients because of the standards embedded by training. And up and down the spokes and round the rim we go.

We might carry out a similar exercise when considering the links between pricing, an accounting schedule and stationery; or resource creation and business promotion; or brand design, accounting and stationery.

Taking the long view

Developing a successful proofreading business doesn’t happen overnight. No matter how good your skills, how creative your marketing, how professional your practice, it takes time to become so discoverable that you’re never without work offers; it takes time to build a list of regular clients who trust your skills and judgment so that they return to you time and again. And, even then, you can’t sit on your laurels because our industry, broad as it is, is always changing.

  • What your clients wanted 5 years ago may not be what they want next year (consider, for example, the number of publishers who now require PDF markup).
  • What your clients were paying 5 years ago may not be what they are paying this year (you may be worse off in real terms).
  • The types of clients who were using people like you 5 years ago may have become more varied as of today (consider the expansion of the self-publishing market).
  • The software or hardware you used 5 years ago might no longer be fit for the purpose or compatible with what your current potential clients are using and expect you to use.
  • Two companies you worked for 5 years ago might merge tomorrow; or one might acquire the another. This could reduce the number of editorial freelancers hired, and you could end up on the cut list.
  • The publisher you work with directly today might outsource its proofreading and editing to a packager in 2 years’ time. That could affect the rate you are paid and even the security of your freelancing relationship.

Moving from entitlement to investment

This means that, as business owners, we need to be keeping our ear to the ground so that change is something we embrace, not resent, and something we view as providing opportunity, not marginalization.

When we own our own businesses, we don’t have the luxury of spending time on blaming a lack of success on others who are now doing things in ways that don’t suit us. We’re not entitled to be paid X by a publisher whose profit margins may be being squeezed its own customers (consider, for example, the impact of university library budget cuts on academic publishers in the past two decades); we’re not entitled to work on paper because that’s the way we prefer it (for example, most independent authors want us to work in Word or on PDF).

Instead, we have to invest in what makes us interesting and discoverable to those we want to work for and who will pay us what we want/need to earn if our businesses are to be profitable. Whether that means acquiring new skills, learning how to use new tools, changing the way we do our tax returns, targeting new client types, replacing old equipment, or testing and evaluating new and innovative marketing activities that increase customer engagement, the responsibility lies with us, and us alone.

It takes time and hard work

Furthermore, we may not see the fruits of our labor for months, even years. None of us can say how long it will take for an individual’s marketing strategy to put them on pages 1–3 of Google. None of us can predict whether a favorite publisher client will merge with another press and freeze its freelance rates. None of us can know whether the skill we learned back in 2008 will still be relevant in 2020 (proofreading on paper? Are you mad?).

I do know one thing, though. There are no shortcuts — building an editorial business takes time and effort (and even courage when we are pushed out of our comfort zone). Taking the short view leads to disappointment and stagnancy: disappointment that the creation of a website alone didn’t generate 50 new leads a month — only 2 eight weeks after launch — or that the client you’ve worked for almost solidly for 6 years is now squeezing 200 additional words on a page but still paying you the same page rate; and stagnancy because you didn’t keep up to date with new developments and are no longer able to compete with colleagues who are providing a service that you consider unusual but that they consider run-of-the-mill (editing and proofreading onscreen might be a current example).

Summing up

First, you may be the type of person who is perfectly capable of looking at a list without feeling compelled to move through it only from top to bottom. In that case, list away! However, if you think that your to-do list is leading you into a mode of thinking that ignores the connections between the various aspects of running your business, try redrawing it as a wheel. It may be just the ticket to seeing your editing or proofreading business in a whole new interconnected light – and focusing your energy accordingly.

Second, be realistic about the time it will take to build your editorial business. The hard work you put in at the beginning will not generate immediate results. Taking the long view will keep you on your toes and prevent disappointment and stagnation.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

July 6, 2016

Thinking Fiction: The Subjectivity of Editing IV, Part II

by Carolyn Haley

Part I of this essay described the results of my survey of nine independent editors, which asked for their individual definitions of copyediting. First I evaluated the definitions in general terms, then I looked at the first three descriptions from the perspective of a hypothetical indie author, John Q. Novelist. Part II looks at the remaining six descriptions through the eyes of different hypothetical author, Henrietta Nonfiction Writer (HNW).

A view through the nonfiction lens

HNW works in the insurance industry. For decades she has written employee manuals and other in-house materials for a megacorporation, and even wrote the company newsletter for a while, so she knows how to craft clear sentences for different audiences. That pays the bills, but her real passion is American history, in which she took a master’s degree.

She’s not sure there’s a market for her book — a collection of true stories about white women captured by Indians in the Revolutionary War period — or whether she’ll publish it traditionally or on her own, but she does know that it needs to be clean and accurate, if only for her own pride. She’s written a dissertation and read many technical journals, so she understands the complexities of references and bibliographies. Also, she knows there are different kinds of editors, and a copyeditor will best serve the housecleaning needs of her manuscript.

She likes the detailed definition of copyediting that John Q. Novelist passed on to her, and files it for future reference. First she wants to do her own search for editors, which pulls up these:

Editor #4 (25 years, scholarly, U.K.)

Copy-editing is revising… an article, a book, a chapter in a book, etc., to eliminate errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage; to ensure consistency in abbreviations, capitalization, spellings, etc.; and, where required, to make the contents conform to the requirements of the intended channel (print, web, electronic, etc). [The text] may also contain illustrations, tables, footnotes, references, etc., in which case the copy-editor is required to check such adjuncts to text as well. Generally, copy-editorial changes are made at the sentence level (that is, copy-editing rarely involves changing the sequence of sentences). Language editing is the next higher level, at which the copy-editor may do some rewriting to make the text more concise and clearer, whereas proofreading is the next lower level.

This suits HNW just fine, and she feels the editor will grasp what she’s after. She’s a little uncertain about working with someone in another country, though, so makes a note to ask about the differences between U.S. and U.K. English when she sends her inquiry to the editor.

The next candidate impresses her with their specificity:

Editor #5 (5 years, business, U.S.)

Copyediting is being the best and first objective reader of a written work and making changes to ensure writing is clear, consistent, and in compliance with a specific writing style or style manual and with accepted usage of the target language.… [S]pecific tasks include:

  • Querying the author when a sentence doesn’t make sense.
  • Checking that the correct formatting codes have been applied.
  • Applying formatting codes to text with missing or incorrect codes.
  • Checking the accuracy of cross-references and citations.
  • Checking the spelling of names and accuracy of easily verifiable facts.
  • Ensuring writing complies with a specific style manual and dictionary.
  • Ensuring writing conforms to the grammar and punctuation of Standard English, except when I can discern a good reason for unconventional sentence structure or punctuation.
  • Asking the author to OK a deletion, rewording, or relocation of more than one consecutive sentence.
  • Ensuring the author consistently formats and spells terms that aren’t in the specified style manual or dictionary and creating a style sheet to document my and the author’s decisions regarding such terms.
  • Ensuring numbers that are supposed add up to a specified sum add up to it and ensuring that numbered lists are written in order without skipping numbers.
  • Suggesting wording changes in headings that don’t reflect their content well.
  • Ensuring correct characters are inserted for dashes, mathematical symbols, names in foreign languages, and so on.
  • Ensuring artwork is clearly visible, referred to in the text beforehand, and reproduced with permission.
  • Ensuring tables are easy to read.
  • Suggesting titles for untitled tables and figures.
  • Communicating changes to the author and others who must work with the [manuscript] with electronic markup.

This covers everything HNW can think of, and she particularly likes the inclusion of production-oriented elements. She hadn’t thought about all the technical steps between writing and publishing. This editor seems to assume that every manuscript they work on will be published, which makes her feel more confident. She wants to work with another professional to bring her project to fruition.

In contrast, the next candidate unsettles her because of their informal tone and imprecision:

Editor #6 (4 years, scholarly, U.S.)

I view [copyediting] as readying a piece for publication.… first, ensuring that the copy meets all the style guidelines, and second, that the copy is as good as it can be. I do subdivide the various tasks somewhat on my website since I work with academic authors… and invite them (for example) to do the reference formatting themselves, but if somebody sent me an article and said “unlimited budget, copyedit this” I’d get it completely ready to go: line edits…, style guide compliance, cross-checking, consistency checking, clarity/coherence fixes, reference formatting, etc.… I don’t think it includes fact-checking… research … rearranging the piece’s organization (although many of them need that, and if I notice it I make a comment to that effect…).

It’s not the tone that puts HNW off as much as the mention of being “invited” to format her own references. That’s something she wants to pay another person to do. Although she was careful in compiling her references, and is pretty sure she has them all listed in correct scholarly style, the labor of double checking and using Word for special formatting is beyond her ability and patience. That’s why she set aside a hefty chunk of money for professional editing, which she can afford because of her solid career. But she knows someone on a tight budget who might like this cost-reducing option, so she forwards the link and moves on.

Editor #7 (50 years, nonfiction/scholarly, U.S.)

Copyediting is whatever the client says it is for a given job. This holds whether the client is a traditional publisher, a packager, an indie publisher, or a private client regardless of whether the definition consists of the client’s detailed specifications or reflects my education of and negotiation with the client.

Golly, thinks HNW, this one is a chameleon! On one hand, she realizes, the door is wide open for a customized experience. For writers like her who know their strengths and weaknesses, the idea of negotiating a personalized edit holds appeal. On the other hand, HNW wants someone with a stronger sense of who they are and what they offer so there’s a standard she can wrap her head around. If she’s going to pay for a professional service, she wants the professional to know something she doesn’t, to justify her expense. Having to lead an editor through an editing job doesn’t inspire confidence.

Editor #8 (35 years, academic/business, U.S.)

Copy editing is performed on a near-final draft of a manuscript that has gone through developmental or line editing. Copy editing entails reviewing spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation; checking facts, abbreviations, trademarks, and references to figures and tables; ensuring consistency in spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, and numbers; and flagging ambiguous or unclear wording. Copy editing can involve smoothing transitions, changing passive to active voice, and breaking up long sentences or paragraphs (which can cross the border into line editing).

This description is the concise version of what HNW seeks. Her only misgiving comes from the fact that her manuscript, though near-final, has not gone through developmental or line editing. She’s taken care of that herself, having acquired the necessary skills from her own scholastic and business experience. Thus she’s unsure the editor will take her seriously. Still, she adds this editor to her list of people to contact.

The final editor offers something she hasn’t seen before. After noting the elements she’s looking for…

Editor #9 (30 years, legal/textbooks, U.S.)

  1. Preparing a manuscript for publication: cleaning extra tabs and spaces, applying style tags, and the like.
  2. Reviewing and correcting a manuscript for grammar, spelling, punctuation, logic, consistency, and house style.
  3. Styling notes/citations, often including finding missing info.…

HNW finds something very important to her:

What copyediting is not: rewriting to suit my own personal style; imposing “what sounds better to me.”… In my books, maintaining author’s voice is rarely a huge consideration…, but still, you have to have a reason to make a change.

This paragraph relieves an anxiety HNW didn’t know she had. Owing to her experience, she hadn’t considered the possibility that her work might be rewritten. Seeing this editor’s assurance about voice preservation makes her wonder what the other candidates’ policy might be on the matter. She needs to review their presentations in this light and look for others who mention it. For now, she puts this editor at the top of her list, even though the subject of her book might not be within the editor’s purview. It’s close enough to a textbook that they have a basis for conversation.

Embracing subjectivity

I’m certain that every author would perceive each editor’s description from a different viewpoint. For example, I would go for Editor #2 (see Thinking Fiction: Subjectivity in Editing IV, Part I) because their description is detailed enough to tell me what I want to know, succinct enough to not belabor any points, and conveys experience in my target publishing arena. Another author might favor lots of details, as presented by Editors #3 and #5, or something loose and simple, like Editor #1’s one-liner: “correction of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and basic facts/continuity.”

The great thing about working in such a subjectivity-oriented industry like publishing is that there’s something for everyone, as much in the author–editor equation as in the books–audience equation. The goal in both is to match the right parties with each other. So the smart strategy for independent editors in a business lacking uniform role and task definitions and performance standards is to cater to subjectivity: define themselves, their services, and their approach for the publishers and authors they best serve. That reduces wasted time and incompatible clients — and the headaches that go with them — leaving energy to enjoy successful projects and build satisfying careers.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

July 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, America

Filed under: Editorial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am

Today, July 4, is Independence Day in America. An American Editor hopes you have a wonderful and joyous holiday celebrating America’s 240th birthday.

Happy Birthday, America

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

June 30, 2016

The Last Day for the AAE Discount

Filed under: A Good Deal,Worth Noting — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags:

Today is the last day to take advantage of the AAE discount for the upcoming Be a Better Freelancer™ — Profiting in Publishing conference. For more information see “Worth Noting: A Super Deal for AAE Subscribers.”

If you have already decided to attend but still need to register, go to the special registration page for An American Editor subscribers now and lock in your AAE rate! (Remember to use the password: AAE-CC16.)

The AAE special discount ends today, June 30, so register now to save big.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

June 29, 2016

Thinking Fiction: The Subjectivity of Editing IV, Part I

by Carolyn Haley

As the final step in my exploration of subjectivity in editing, I conducted another experiment. The first experiment was to see what would happen when editors were asked to edit sample text with no direction beyond “Copyedit according to your own understanding of what copyediting means.” Seven professional editors volunteered, and their edits showed a range of approaches from light touching to heavy recasting. I discussed the results in Thinking Fiction: The Subjectivity of Editing I, II, and III.

The second experiment took the opposite position, and asked a different set of independent editors for their specific definitions of copyediting. Nine volunteered. Their replies follow, continuing into Part II of this essay. Part I begins with an evaluation of their definitions filtered through my direct experience as an independent editor and author.

To give the editors’ responses some context, I requested data from each person, such as years of professional editing experience, clientele base, area of concentration, approximate percentage of business comprising copyediting, country of residence, variant of English used, and a sampling of editing-related software tools and reference resources. I also invited clarification of what copyediting isn’t.

As I expected, the respondents’ descriptions ranged from simple to complex. But all revolved around the common denominator I had hoped to see: a focus on the mechanical aspects of editing — spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, continuity, consistency.

The mechanical focus suggests that any author seeking copyediting can have the work done by any copyeditor. But as the nine descriptions show, there are variations in style and approach that make finding a good fit between author and editor more than just a spelling-and-punctuation game.

Elements to consider

For an author or publisher seeking to hire an independent copyeditor, the first line of distinction is the logical one of whether they edit fiction or nonfiction or both. Another selection criterion might be language bias — meaning, for writers in English, whether an editor works in American, British, Canadian, Australian, or some other variant of the tongue, or handles translated material, or works with people for whom English is a second language.

Authors and publishers might also consider an editor’s area of specialty and style of approach. These are, in my experience, the most common “match” criteria. Novelists often seek editors with experience in their genre. Nonfiction writers often seek editors knowledgeable about the topic of their book. Subject aside, authors divide in personality type. One author might want an editor who is superfocused on details and formal language, whereas another author might want an editor who is open to creative interpretation and won’t micromanage the author’s prose. The possible author–editor matchmaking combinations are myriad.

Some authors and publishers want to know about an editor’s toolkit. In my survey, all nine editors reported that they use only MS Word for electronic editing, with one editor still working primarily on hardcopy. Six editors use a mix of editorial software tools (e.g., EditTools, Editor’s Toolkit 2014, PerfectIt, macros) to enhance their accuracy and consistency. Everyone’s reference resources correlate with the publishing area they serve.

In the area I serve (mainly independent and especially first-time novelists), the topic of reference works rarely comes up. The authors seem to assume I’m working within universal and arcane parameters known to the publishing industry and will apply those “rules” to their work. Few authors are aware that there are different dictionaries and different style guides, and they don’t appear to care as long as the editing is consistent and editorial explanations make sense. My clients expect me to know what to do; that’s what they’re paying me for. Consequently, I don’t advertise my constantly growing reference library beyond a short statement on my website. I do, however, list on my style sheet for the project the reference works I consulted for the job. On the two occasions a client has shown interest, we’ve discussed and agreed to which reference works to employ.

Things are different when I work for publishers. The project editor specifies which dictionary and style guide the house adheres to, and often defines the copyediting tasks they expect me to cover. I duly comply.

In my survey, all the American editors named Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (MW11) as their primary dictionary (except one who didn’t answer that question), with the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., as alternate. All the Americans also named the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., as their general style/language guide, with some editors mentioning the AP [Associated Press] Stylebook, the AMA [American Medical Association] Manual of Style, and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The sole British and handful of American-British editors listed one or more of the Oxford and Hart dictionaries and style guides. Individuals then included a sampling of other works pertinent to their specialty. The fiction-only editors listed fewer reference works than the nonfiction editors.

The fiction-only editors were also less detailed in their copyediting descriptions than the nonfiction-only editors. Whether this represents a valid pattern can only be determined by a survey on a much larger scale. What matters here is that each editor gives potential clients a snapshot of their approach and personality. The information helps authors and publishers swiftly narrow down a wide field to a short list of candidates for their jobs.

Whether a given editor is a good editor, or the right editor, can only be determined through follow-up actions between author and editor: their dialogue, a sample edit, and, ultimately, the project itself. But editors who offer a profile help themselves and compatible prospective clients find each other, while reducing the risk of surprises that could negatively affect a project or relationship.

Nine definitions of the same thing

What follows is the survey respondents’ actual text, verbatim save for some condensing. It answers only the question, “How do you define copyediting?” I’ve included each editor’s years of experience, specialty, and English variant for context.

These descriptions, however, only have meaning when matched against an author’s expectations and desires. The number of possible combinations seems endless, so for this essay I’ve created a hypothetical scenario that views the editors’ descriptions from the perspective of a fiction and a nonfiction author, each independent and unpublished. The nine volunteer editors’ descriptions that I received through private solicitation are assumed for the scenario to be material on professional editors’ websites found through a Google search.

A view through the fiction lens

The editor-shopping fiction writer John Q. Novelist (JQN) is a software engineer and zealous science fiction/fantasy reader who has written his own sword-and-sorcery epic and thinks it’s ready for editing. His family and friends have told him the story is wonderful, and he dreams of great reviews and cash flow, especially if he expands the book into a series. All he wants from an editor is to correct his spelling and punctuation errors, point out any content goofs he’s unaware of, and help prepare his manuscript for publication.

Somebody in his writing group put a name to what he’s looking for: copyediting. So he uses that as a keyword in his online searches. He knows there are different kinds of editing but doesn’t fully understand the fine points of distinction between them. Since he’s researching a task, he doesn’t think to add “fiction” or “novels” to his keywords, so his search on “copyediting” returns an enormous list of websites and articles. The first three editors who offer a definition of copyediting are these:

Editor #1 (18 years, mostly fiction, U.S.)

[Copyediting is t]he correction of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and basic facts/continuity.

Perfect, thinks JQN. He can send this person his manuscript for tidying up, then be on his way to fame and fortune. But Editor #2 offers more details, so, curious, he reads on.

Editor #2 (5 years, fiction, U.S./U.K.)

Copyediting is targeted at fixing elements of sentences, addressing correctness rather than artfulness of expression. Copyediting focuses on elements such as detail and description consistency (making sure the hero’s eyes stay the same color throughout, a house doesn’t grow an extra bedroom, if a character is standing on page 10 they aren’t said to be rising from a chair on page 11, etc.), grammar, correct word usage (such as die vs. dye), punctuation, adherence to a style guide or a publisher’s house style, fact-checking minor details such as business names and historic dates, formatting elements like text messages and letters, flagging potential copyright and legal issues, and more. The editor will make nearly all of the changes within the manuscript, not the writer.

Even better, JQN thinks. Exactly what he needs. This person must know what they’re doing. But, good grief, look at how long the next one is! What more could be involved?

Editor #3 (10 years, nonfiction, U.S./U.K./Can.)

I [derived these definitions]… from the Bay Area Editors Forum.… At all levels of copyediting… the copyeditor corrects errors, queries the author about conflicting statements, requests advice when the means of resolving a problem is unclear, and prepares a style sheet. The copyeditor may also incorporate the author’s replies to queries; this work is known as cleanup editing.

Light Copyediting (baseline editing)

  • Correcting faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Correcting incorrect usage (such as can for may).
  • Checking specific cross-references (for example, “As Table 14-6 shows…”).
  • Ensuring consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization.
  • Checking for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical order) in lists and other displayed material.
  • Recording the first references to figures, tables, and other display elements.

A light copyedit does not involve interventions such as smoothing transitions or changing heads or text to ensure parallel structure. The editor checks content only to detect spots where copy is missing. A light copyedit may include typemarking.

Medium Copyediting

  • Performing all tasks for light copyediting.
  • Changing text and headings to achieve parallel structure.
  • Flagging inappropriate figures of speech.
  • Ensuring that key terms are handled consistently and that vocabulary lists and the index contain all the terms that meet criteria specified by the publisher.
  • Ensuring that previews, summaries, and end-of-chapter questions reflect content.
  • Enforcing consistent style and tone in a multi-author manuscript.
  • Changing passive voice to active voice, if requested.
  • Flagging ambiguous or incorrect statements.
  • Typemarking the manuscript.

Heavy Copyediting (substantive editing)

  • Performing all tasks for medium copyediting.
  • Eliminating wordiness, triteness, and inappropriate jargon.
  • Smoothing transitions and moving sentences to improve readability.
  • Assigning new levels to heads to achieve logical structure.
  • Suggesting — and sometimes implementing — additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level.

The key differences between heavy and medium copyedits are the levels of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copyedit, the editor improves the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; may suggest recasts rather than simply flagging problems; and may enforce a uniform level, tone, and focus as specified by the publisher or developmental editor.

Wow! That covers everything JQN could possibly want, and breaks it into clusters with different price tags. JQN now starts thinking about cost-benefit ratio and how far his budget will stretch. He’s sad that he can’t spring for heavy editing, it sounds so helpful, but at least he knows what his dollar will buy for light and medium. But wait — in rereading the page to evaluate his best choice, he notices what he missed on first scan. This editor only handles nonfiction. Drat! So he refines his search terms in hopes of finding a fiction editor offering the same level of detail and clarity.

Part II of this essay covers a nonfiction author’s response to the remaining six volunteer editors’ descriptions of copyediting, followed by a summary of the subjectivity studies.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

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