An American Editor

March 4, 2015

The Business of Editing: Correcting “Errors”

In my previous two essays, “The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars” and “The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars“, I discussed two ways to improve efficiency and increase profitability by using macros. Today’s essay digresses and discusses correcting earlier-made errors.

I need to put errors between quote marks — “errors” — because I am using the term to encompass not only true errors but changes in editorial decisions, decisions that are not necessarily erroneous but that after reflection may not have been the best decision.

Once again, however, I am also talking about a tool available in EditTools: the Multifile Find in the Find & Replace Master macro. The F&R Master macro has two parts, as shown below: the Sequential F&R Active Doc and Multifile Find (to see an image in greater detail, click on the image to enlarge it):

Sequential F&R Manager

Sequential F&R Manager


Multifile Find Manager

Multifile Find Manager

Today’s discussion is focused on the Multifile Find macro, but the Sequential is worth a few words.

The Sequential F&R works on the active document. It is intended for those times when you know that you want to run a series of finds and replaces. If you are working on a book and it is evident that the author does certain things consistently that need changing, you can use this macro to put together several items that are to be changed sequentially and you can save the criteria so that you can reuse them again in the next document. I often find that, for example, authors use an underlined angle bracket rather than the symbol ≤ or ≥. I created a F&R for these items that I can run before editing a document to replace the underlined versions with the correct symbols.

For editorial “errors” I have made, however, it is the Multifile Find macro that is important.

As I have said many times, I tend to work on large documents. The documents tend to be multiauthored and each chapter is its own file. Sometimes I am able to work on chapters sequentially, but more often they come to me in haphazard order. Consequently, I have to make editorial decisions as I edit a chapter that may well affect earlier chapters that have yet to arrive. And it may be that if I had had the ability to edit the earlier-in-sequence chapter first, I would have made a different editorial decision.

For a recent example, consider “mixed lineage kinase.” My original decision was to leave it unhyphenated, but as I edited additional chapters my thoughts changed and I decided it really should be “mixed-lineage kinase.” But as is usual with these kinds of things, I had already edited another half dozen chapters when I changed my decision. In addition, by that time, I also had edited close to 40 chapters and I couldn’t remember in which chapters “mixed lineage” appeared.

The Ethical Questions First

The first questions to be dealt with are the ethical questions: First, is “mixed lineage kinase” so wrong that it can’t simply be left and future instances of “mixed-lineage” changed to the unhyphenated form? Second, if it needs to be changed to the hyphenated form, do I need to go back and change the incorrect versions or can I just notify the client and hope the proofreader will fix the problem? Third, if the future versions are to be hyphenated, can I just leave the unhyphenated versions and hope no one notices?

We each run our business differently, but number one on my list of good business practices is good ethics. In this case, the third option, to me, is wholly unacceptable. It is not even something I would contemplate except for purposes of this essay. A professional, ethical editor does not fail to accept responsibility for decisions she makes; he does not attempt to hide them. The decisions are faced squarely and honestly and dealt with, even if it means a future loss of business from the client.

The first and second options are less clear. In the first instance, I need to make an editorial decision and abide by it. Whether to hyphenate or not isn’t really an ethical question except to the extent that it forces me to decide whether to overtly or covertly make a change. The world will not crumble over the hyphenation issue. Hyphenation does make the phrase clearer (especially in context), so ultimately, I think the editorial decision has to fall on the side of hyphenation being “essential”; I cannot skirt my obligation to do the best editing job I can by omitting future hyphenation, which means I need to go back and fix my “errors.”

The crux of the ethical question is really the second option. This depends on circumstances. If, for example, I know that the earlier edited material has already been set in pages, it makes no sense to resend corrected files. A note to the client is needed. If they have yet to be set, then new files are the order of business plus advising the client. The key is the advising of the client and identifying where the errors occur. I think that is the ethical obligation: for the editor to identify to the client exactly where the errors are to be found so that they can easily be corrected and to provide new files at the client’s request.

Multifile Find and “Errors”

This is where Multifile Find (MFF) comes into play. MFF will search all the files in a folder for phrases and words. You can have it search for and find up to 10 items at a time and you can have it do one of two things: either it can find the wanted phrase and generate a report telling you where it is found and how many times it is found or it can find the phrase, pause to let you correct the phrase, and then find the next instance. I generally generate the report first. An example of a report for “mixed lineage” is shown here:

Mixed Lineage Report

Mixed Lineage Report

The report tells you name of the document in which the phrase is found, the page it is found on, and how many times it occurs on that page. With this report, you can manually open the named files, go to the appropriate page, and decide whether a particular occurrence needs to be corrected. If I am not sure whether the client can use corrected files, I send the client a copy of this report along with my mea culpa.

If I think the client might be able to use corrected files, I correct them and send the files, the report, and my mea culpa.

Multifile Find Update Files Option

If I know the client can use the corrected files because, for example, pages have not yet been set, I send the corrected files and an explanation of why I am sending revised files. But in this instance I use the MFF update option rather than generate report option:

Multifile Find Replace Option

Multifile Find Replace Option

The update option requires a few different steps than the generate report option. The biggest difference is that you need to save the find criteria for the update option; you do not need to do so for the generate report option.

I enter the find term in the first field (#1 in image above). I also need to check the Inc? (for Include?) box (#2). Only those terms listed that also are checked will be searched for. If I do not want the current active file also searched (assuming it is in the selected search directory), I check the box at #3, which is also where I select the search directory. Because I want to update the files, not generate a report, I check Update files (#4). I then Save my find criteria (#5).

The way the macro works, is that it will first search the files for the first listed find term. When that is done, it will proceed to the next listed term. As you can see, you can list up to 10 terms to sequentially find.

Finally,, I click Run (#6) and the macro will begin searching files in the selected directory until it comes to the first instance of the find term. When it finds a match it displays the following message:

Find Message

Find Message

In the file, it highlights the found term as shown here:

Highlighted Find Text

Highlighted Find Text

I can either insert my hyphen or click OK in the Find Message dialog to find the next instance. If I insert the hyphen in our example, I then need to click OK in the Find Message dialog to go to the next instance. When there are no more instances to be found in the particular file, a message asking if you want to save the changed file:

Save Changes?

Save Changes?

The macro then proceeds to the next file in which it finds the term and the process continues until the term is no longer found or you cancel the process.

Saving Time and Making Profit

Again, I think it is clear how the right macro can save an editor time and make editing more profitable. In my experience, it is the rare editor who doesn’t have a change of mind the further along she is in editing a project. I think it is a sign of a professional editor. But editing is a business and as a business it needs to make a profit. One way to do so is to minimize the time and effort needed to correct “errors” and to do so in a professional and ethical manner.

Over the years, I have found that using Multifile Find has not only enhanced my profitability, but it has enhanced my reputation as professional editor because my clients know that I am not only willing to recognize that I have made a mistake, but I am willing to correct it. One reason I am willing to correct a mistake is that it doesn’t take me hours to do so; I can do it efficiently with EditTools’ Multifile Find.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

March 3, 2015

Worth Noting: Meet New Authors at Smashwords Sale

Through March 7, Smashwords, the publisher/distributor of indie authors, is having a Read an eBook Week sale. Through this sale, you can buy ebooks for as little as “free” (using the RW100 coupon). This is the time to do some indie author shopping. I’ve already picked up 15 ebooks and plan to look for more.

To access the sale, on Smashwords’ homepage, click the Read an eBook Week title in the left column. To go directly to the sale, click this link:

Read an eBook Week

You can narrow your search based on how much of a discount you want and the approximate minimum length of book you like to read. I suggest only those narrowing terms, but you can also narrow by category.

Remember that when you click to buy the book, you also have to enter the discount coupon code and click apply coupon. When you do, the price will change to reflect the discounted price.

Enjoy new authors and find new favorites — visit the Read an eBook Week sale at Smashwords.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

(Disclaimer: I have no interest of any kind, except as a purchaser/reader of books, in Smashwords or in any book published or distributed by Smashwords.)

March 2, 2015

The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars

In The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars, I discussed wildcard macros and how they can increase both accuracy and profitability. Profitability is, in my business, a key motivator. Sure I want to be a recognized, excellent, highly skilled editor, an editor who turns ordinary prose into extraordinary prose, but I equally want to make a good living do so — I want my business to be profitable.

Consequently, as I have mentioned numerous times previously, I look for ways to make editing more efficient. The path to efficiency is strewn with missteps when editors think that all editing tasks can be made more efficient; they cannot. But there are tasks that scream for efficiency. Wildcard macros are one method and work very well for the tasks for which they are suited. A second method, which deals with references, is the EditTools Journals macro.

As I relayed in previous articles, I work on very long documents that often have thousands of references. My current project runs 137 chapters, approximately 12,000 manuscript pages, with each chapter having its own list of references, ranging in length from less than 100 to more than 600 references. And as is true of the text of the chapters, the condition of the references varies chapter by chapter. The goal, of course, is for all of the references to be similarly styled. as well as to be accurate.

The first image shows a sample of how journal names were provided in one chapter. The second image shows how the names need to end up.

Journals in original

Journals in original


How the journals need to be

How the journals need to be

The question is how do I get from before to after most efficiently? The answer is the Journals macro.

The key to the Journals macro is the Journals dataset. In my case, I need journal names to conform to the PubMed style. However, I could just as easily create a dataset for Chicago/MLA style (American Journal of Sociology), CSE (Cell Biochem Funct.), APA (Journal of Oral Communication,), AAA (Current Anthropology), or any other style. The image below shows the Journals Manager with my PubMed dataset open. The purple arrow shows a journal name as provided by an author; the blue arrow shows the correct PubMed name of the journal, that is, to what the macro will change the wrong form.

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

The next image shows a sample APA-style dataset. The red arrow shows the abbreviated version of the journal name and the green arrow shows the full name to which it will be converted by the macro.

APA style in Journals Manager

APA style in Journals Manager

As I stated, nearly all my work requires PubMed styling so my PubMed dataset is by far the largest. If you look at the PubMed dataset image above, you will see that as of this writing, the dataset contains more than 64,000 journal name variations. “Variations” is the keyword. Authors give journal names in all kinds of style, so to cover the possibilities, a single journal may have two dozen entries in the dataset.

The key to creating the dataset is to make use of the Journal Manager — and to keep adding new variations and journals as you come across them: Spend a little time now to make more money every future day. The images of the Manager shown above show you the primary interface. The problem is that it would take an inordinate amount of time to add each possible variation individually. The smarter method is to use the Multiple Entries screen, as shown here:

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

With the Multiple Entry dialog open, you enter a variation in the #1 field. By default, all of the trailing punctuation is selected (#2), but you could choose among them by deselecting the ones you didn’t want. For example, if the style you work in requires that a journal name be followed by a comma, you might want to deselect the comma here because this is the list of “wrong” styles and having a trailing comma would not be “wrong.” Clicking Add (#3) adds whatever you have typed in #1 to the main screen (#4) along with the selected trailing punctuation. In the example, I entered N Engl J Med once in #1, left the default selection in #2, clicked Add (#3), and had five variations added to the main field (#4) — I did not have to type N Engl J Med five times, just the once.

I then repeated the process for N. Engl. J. Med. (#4) and am prepared to repeat it for New Engl J Med. (#1). I will repeat the process for a variety of variations in an attempt to “kill” multiple possibilities at one time. When I am done, I will click OK (#5), which will take me back to the main Manager screen, shown here:

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

The main Manager screen — after using the multiple entry dialog — shows in faint lettering “Use ‘Multiple Entries’ button to adjust” in the Add Journal field (#1). This means two things: First, it tells you that there are journal variations waiting to be added to the dataset, and second, that if you want to modify the list of waiting names, either by adding or deleting, click the Multiple Entries button to bring the dialog back up for editing. If you are ready to add to the dataset, the next step is to tell the macro to what the “wrong” versions should be corrected. This is done by typing the correct form in the Always correct journal field (#2).

If your style was to add a comma after the correct form, you could enter the correct name trailed by a comma here. In the example I show, you would just add the comma after Med. But that might not be the best way to do it because you then lose the ability to use the dataset for a style that is identical but that doesn’t use the comma. There is an alternative, which we will get to. What is necessary, however, is that the correct form be entered here so the macro knows what to do. After entering the correct form (#2), click Add (#3) to add all of the variations and the correct form to the dataset.

The macro will not add duplicate entries so no need to worry about having an entry appear multiple times in the dataset. The macro automatically checks for duplicates. When you are done adding for this session, click Save & Close. (Tip: If you plan to add a lot of entries in one sitting, every so often click Save. That will save the dataset with the newest entries and let you continue to add more. Until Save or Save & Close is clicked, any entries are not permanently part of the dataset.)

Once you have your dataset, you are ready to unleash the Journals macro. It is always a good idea to put the reference list in a separate file before running the macro, but that can’t always be done. Separating the references into their own file helps speed the macro.

When ready to run the macro, click Journals (red arrow below) on the EditTools Tab.

EditTools Tab

EditTools Tab

Clicking Journals brings up this dialog with options:

Journals Macro Options

Journals Macro Options

Here is the best place to select trailing punctuation you want added to the correct journal name. Clicking on the dropdown (#1) will give you the choice of comma, period, semicolon, colon, or the default “none.” If you choose, for example, semicolon, every time a journal name is corrected, it will be followed by a semicolon. Note, however, that if the journal name is correct already except that it doesn’t have the trailing punctuation, the punctuation will not be added. In other words, New Engl J Med will be corrected to N Engl J Med; but N Engl J Med will be left as it is. In this instance, using the other system (adding the punctuation to the correct name in the dataset) will work better.

If your manuscript has endnotes or footnotes with references, clicking #2 will instruct the macro to search those items as well. You can also tell the macro to make the journal names italic, nonitalic, or as they currently are. In this instance, the macro will only change those journal names it highlights. For example, if it doesn’t change/highlight N Engl J Med because it is not in the dataset, it will not change the text attribute of it either.

Clicking #4 lets you change the dataset file to be used by the macro and #5 starts the macro running.

The results of running of the Journals macro depends on your dataset. Clearly, the larger your dataset (i.e., the more journals and variations it contains), the greater impact the macro will have on your reference list. The following image shows the results of running the Journals macro. Journals macro makes use of track changes and color highlighting. As the first instance (#1) shows, the incorrect journal name, Am. J. Kidney Dis. Off. J. Natl. Kidney Found., was corrected to Am J Kidney Dis and highlighted in cyan. The cyan tells me that the name is now correct. Note that the change was made with tracking on, which gives me the opportunity to reject the change. The green highlight (#2) tells me that the journal name Pharmacotherapy was correct as originally provided. And #3 tells me that this journal name variation is not found in my dataset. At this juncture, I would look up the journal in PubMed Journals, open the Journal Manager, and add the variation other needed variations of the name to the dataset so that next time it will be found and corrected.

Results of Running the Journals Macro

Results of Running the Journals Macro

I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is when you are starting out to build the dataset. But as your dataset grows, so do your profits. Consider this: If the reference list you need to check is 100 entries, how long does it take you to check each one manually? I recently checked a reference list of 435 entries. The author names were done incorrectly (see The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars for examples) and the year-volume-pages portion of the references were also in incorrect order. Most — not all — of those errors I was able to correct in less than 10 minutes using wildcarding. That left the journal names.

Nearly every journal name was incorrectly done. With my large dataset (over 64,000 variations), it took the Journals macro 32 minutes to correct the journal names. (Nine entries were not journals and so were not in the dataset and seven incorrect journal names were not in the dataset and had to be added afterward.) I still had to go through each entry in the reference list, but to complete a review of the reference list and make any additional corrections that were needed took me an additional 2 hours and 10 minutes. In other words, I was able to completely edit a 435-entry reference list, fixing all of the formatting problems and incorrect journal names, in less than 3 hours.

How quickly could you have done the same?

Combining macros is a key to efficiency. Recognizing that a problem has a macro solution and then knowing how to impose that solution can be the difference between profit and no profit. Using macros wisely can add fun and profit to the profession of editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

February 27, 2015

EditTools v. 6.1 Released

Filed under: Breaking News — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

EditTools version 6.1 has been released and is a free upgrade for current registered users of EditTools. Several enhancements have been made, most notably to the Code Inserter macro. In addition, new tabs have been added to Never Spell Word and Toggle. The Journal macro has also been improved, especially the multiple entry dialog.

To download version 6.1, go to the downloads page and click on Download EditTools v.6.1.

NOTE: Version 6.1 requires Microsoft Word 2007 or newer. It adds a tab to the Ribbon. There is no toolbar option.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

February 25, 2015

Changing Formats: From Scroll to Codex to eBooks

Changing Formats: From Scroll to Codex to eBooks

by Jack Lyon

Electronic reading devices abound. There’s the Kindle, the Nook, the Kobo, and many, many more. Electronic formats abound. There’s EPUB, Plucker, Mobi, and many, many more. But for thousands of years, there was only one way to read a book: by unrolling a scroll.

Scrolls offered some big advantages over their predecessors, stone columns and clay tablets. They were easy to make, easy to write on, and didn’t weigh much. They were also compact, holding a lot of text in a relatively small space. But they had one big disadvantage: they could only be accessed sequentially. In other words, if you wanted to read the 77th column of text on a scroll, the only way to get there was to “scroll” through the first 76 columns. Remember the good old days of cassette tape players? If you wanted to hear “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” you had to fast-forward through “Come Together” and “Something.” Are we there yet? Oops, went too far. Press “Rewind” and try again. Scrolls were like that.

But around the end of the 1st century C.E., someone developed a new technology—the codex.

The codex was a collection of pages bound together in a book—like the printed books we read today. It offered one big advantage over the scroll: random access. In other words, if you wanted to read page 77, you could just turn to page 77. And you could do that while keeping your finger between pages 34 and 35. And you could put a scrap of papyrus between pages 34 and 35 to mark your place without having to leave your finger behind. Remember the good old days of vinyl records? If you wanted to hear “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” you could just pick up the tone arm and move it to the third track on the record, bypassing “Come Together” and “Something” altogether. The codex was like that, and it was a wonderful invention.

Not only that, but the codex eventually became a work of art. Over the years, the scribes of the Middle Ages worked out all the techniques needed to compose beautiful pages, and they went on to illuminate those pages with gorgeous decoration.

When Gutenberg printed his famous two-volume Bible in 1455, he modeled his pages after those of the scribes, and his text is a masterpiece of fine typography, including such features as hanging punctuation, optical alignment, and font expansion (type variation)—features that have become available on the computer only in the past few years.

Yet we typically see none of those features on an electronic reading device. There’s no (or very little) random access. There’s no beautiful typography or page design. There aren’t even any pages. Instead, the text “reflows” to accommodate various screen sizes and readers.

But a page is the basic unit of book design. It’s functional. It can be beautiful. And, not least in importance, it’s fixed in place, allowing us to remember that the passage we loved so much was about halfway through the book at the bottom of the page. This “positional memory” is important not just in reading but in editing as well.

All of that is lost on an electronic reader. One solution would be some kind of software that can replicate a printed page with all the beauties of traditional typography. Is there such a thing? Well, yes. It was invented by Adobe in the early 1990s and is known as Portable Document Format—that’s right: PDF.

Nearly all electronic readers support PDF, so the problem doesn’t lie with technology but with publishers looking for an easy way out—a single file that can be read on a screen of any size. That’s what EPUB is all about.

But is it really that difficult to turn a book into PDFs of various sizes? Most electronic readers have screens of 5, 6, 7.1, or 9.7 inches, which isn’t really that many sizes to deal with. Adjust the pages in InDesign, and off you go.

Doing that, of course, would mean extra work for publishers, who are always watching that bottom line, and for online retailers, who would have to offer the PDFs in those various sizes. And that means most publishers have turned to EPUB as their format of choice.

I read a lot of books in EPUB format, on my Android phone and tablet, and on my computer. And I’m sorry to say that many publishers seem to have abandoned any attempt at controlling the quality of electronic books. Block quotations are indistinguishable from body text; poetry is a mess; text is usually justified but with no attempt at hyphenation, resulting in widely spaced lines. And any attempt at beautiful typography? Forget it. In short, the experience of reading ebooks is far less satisfying than it could be. In most cases, I attribute this to sheer laziness on the part of publishers, who continue to crank out junk when the means to excellence lie readily at hand. For example, EPUB relies on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which can accomplish absolute miracles.

Fortunately, some people still care about readability and fine typography, and they are working to ensure that ebooks are as functional and beautiful as possible:

What about you? Do you publish books in electronic form? If so, what do you to make sure that your books are readable and beautiful?

Someday, in the distant future, someone who has read nothing but ebooks is going to stumble into an ancient library and open an honest-to-goodness book. Will that experience be an illumination, a revelation of what we have lost? Or will the reader say, “Wow, this is just as beautiful as my ebooks!”?

What do you think?

Jack Lyon ( 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 and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

February 23, 2015

On the Basics: Questions to Ask for the Ideal Client–Freelancer “Marriage”

Questions to Ask for the Ideal
Client–Freelancer “Marriage”

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

There’s been some media buzz in the wake of a recent column in the New York Times about applying psychological research to finding love by asking a date something like 36 supposedly ideal questions that determine whether the other person is marriage material. It all seemed rather forced and hokey to me, despite my definite leanings toward the romantic, but it made me think that freelance colleagues might want to apply a similar process to identifying ideal clients — or at least giving a relationship between client and freelancer a more reasonable likelihood of success.

The right questions asked at the right time can make the difference in a smooth, rewarding experience for both client and freelancer, whether the project is a writing, editing, proofreading, graphics, desktop publishing, or other assignment of some sort. The “never assume” adage is a good one to keep in mind. The one element you don’t ask about is likely to be the one that turns into a huge headache for one or both parties in the relationship.

Of course, we don’t always know what we should have asked about until not having done so comes along to haunt us or ruin the relationship. Other peoples’ experiences — and questions — could be the factor that keeps your next new client relationship from going on the rocks.

With that in mind, here are some of the questions that I try to remember to ask of or verify with prospective new clients, and some that a client might be expected to ask of us.

The Essentials

  • What is the scope of the project or assignment — number of words or pages? Are there references, footnotes, etc.?
  • If in pages, I define a page as x number of words/y number of characters. Do you use a different definition? When is it due?
  • What is the fee?
  • If there is no set fee, what is your budget?
  • Do you pay by the word, hour, page or project?
  • Do you pay on submission, acceptance, publication, within 30 days of invoice, or by some other timeframe once I’ve sent my invoice? If you usually pay after longer than 30 days after invoice, is that negotiable?
  • Do you have a contract we can use? If not, can we work from one that I provide?
  • If your usual rate is lower than I usually charge, is there any flexibility, such as an increase after a successful project?
  • Is there room in the budget in case the project changes, or goes beyond the original, scope?
  • Would there be any problem with my subcontracting some or all of the assignment as long as I review my colleague’s work before submission?

Editing in General

  • Is this for editing or proofreading?
  • If for editing, what level of edit do you expect — substantive, developmental, copy, line?
  • Which style manual do you use?
  • If you don’t have a designated style manual, is it OK if I use Chicago/AMA/AP/APA/ MLA?
  • Do you have any in-house style specifics that I should follow?
  • Do you have a preferred dictionary?
  • Is the document in Word? A PDF? PowerPoint? Some other format?
  • Do you expect one pass through the document or two?
  • Do you want me to use Track Changes?
  • Do you want me to provide coding? Fact-checking? Reference verification? Plagiarism checking?

Editing or Proofreading a Thesis or Dissertation

  • Does the institution or department have guidelines on the type of editorial assistance that is allowed?
  • Does the university or department follow any specific style guide? If they don’t use the same one, which should I follow?
  • Are there any specific checklists or guidelines to be followed?

Writing/Journalism Assignments

  • How many sources do you require?
  • Is there anyone in particular who absolutely must be interviewed and included?
  • What style manual should I follow?
  • Is there any flexibility in the word count if I get really good quotes and other interesting information?
  • Do you allow sources to see their quotes before publication of the article if they ask?

From the Client

  • What have you worked on in this genre/topic area?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Can you provide samples?
  • Will you take an editing/proofreading/writing test?
  • Do you offer any guarantee of accuracy or quality?
  • How many revisions are included in your fee?
  • Do you subcontract any of your work, or can I count on it actually being done by you and you alone?
  • Do you offer a discount for a steady stream of regular assignments?

You don’t want to scare off prospective clients by asking an overwhelming number of questions, or ones that appear to assume there will be problems with the assignment, but you do want to nail down as many  important specifics as possible before you start working on a project. I hope these suggestions help colleagues and clients get on track for the ideal professional marriage.

Are there any other questions that you would ask, or wish you had asked, of new clients or about new projects?

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.

February 20, 2015

Worth Reading: Commas and Copyediting

The newest issue of The New Yorker has a wonderful article about commas and copyediting by the magazine’s own copyeditor, Mary Norris. “Holy Writ: Learning to Love the House Style” is a must read for editors and authors. You might also want to read an earlier article by Mary Norris, “Don’t Try to Hone In On a Copy Editor.” It is another well-written insight into editing. From The Economist comes this editorial by Schumpeter: “Authorpreneurship: To Succeed These Days, Authors Must Be More Businesslike Than Ever,” which is also true of editors.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 18, 2015

The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars

Freelancers often lack mastery of tools that are available to us. This is especially true of wildcarding. This lack of mastery results in our either not using the tools at all or using them to less than their full potential. These are tools that could save us time, increase accuracy, and, most importantly, make us money. Although we have discussed wildcard macros before (see, e.g., The Only Thing We Have to Fear: Wildcard Macros, The Business of Editing: Wildcard Macros and Money, and Macro Power: Wildcard Find & Replace; also see the various Lyonizing Word articles), after recent conversations with colleagues, I think it is time to revisit wildcarding.

Although wildcards can be used for many things, the best examples of their power, I think, are references. And that is what we will use here. But remember this: I am showing you one example out of a universe of examples. Just because you do not face the particular problem used here to illustrate wildcarding does not mean wildcarding is not usable by you. If you edit, you can use wildcarding.

Identifying the What Needs to Be Wildcarded

We begin by identifying what needs a wildcard solution. The image below shows the first 3 references in a received references file. This was a short references file (relatively speaking; I commonly receive references files with 500 to 1,000 references), only 104 entries, but all done in this fashion.

references as received

references as received

The problems are marked (in this essay, numbers in parens correspond to numbers in the images): (1) refers to the author names and the inclusion of punctuation; (2) shows the nonitalic journal name followed by punctuation; and (3) shows the use of and in the author names. The following image shows what my client wants the references to look like.

references after wildcarding

references after wildcarding

Compare the numbered items in the two images: (1) the excess punctuation is gone; (2) the journal title is italicized and punctuation free; and (3) the and is gone.

It is true that I could have fixed each reference manually, one-by-one, and taken a lot of time to do so. Even if I were being paid by the hour (which I’m not; I prefer per-page or project fees), would I want to make these corrections manually? I wouldn’t. Not only is it tedious, mind-numbing work, but it doesn’t meet my definition of what constitutes editing. Yes, it is part of the editing job, but I like to think that removing punctuation doesn’t reflect my skills as a wordsmith and isn’t the skill for which I was hired.

I will admit that in the past, in the normal course, if the reference list were only 20 items long, I would have done the job manually. But that was before EditTools and its Wildcard macro, which enables me to write the wildcard string once and then save it so I can reuse it without rewriting it in the future. In other words, I can invest time and effort now and get a reoccurring return on that investment for years to come. A no-brainer investment in the business world.

The Wildcard Find

CAUTION: Wildcard macros are very powerful. Consequently, it is recommended that you have a backup copy of your document that reflects the state of the document before running wildcard macros as a just-in-case option. If using wildcard macros on a portion of a document that can be temporarily moved to its own document, it is recommended that you move the material. Whenever using any macro, use caution.

Clicking Wildcard in EditTools brings up the dialog shown below, which gives you options. If you manually create Find and Replace strings, you can save them to a wildcard dataset (1) for future recall and reuse. If you already have strings that might work, you can retrieve them (2) from an existing wildcard dataset. And if you have taken the next step with Wildcards in EditTools and created a script, you can retrieve the script (3) and run it. (A script is simply a master macro that includes more than 1 string. Instead of retrieving and running each string individually, you retrieve a script that contains multiple strings and run the script. The script will go through each string it contains automatically in the order you have entered the strings.)

Wildcard Interface

Wildcard Interface

As an example, if I click Retrieve from WFR dataset (#2 above), the dialog shown below opens. In this instance, I have already created several strings (1) and I can choose which string I want to run from the dropdown. Although you can’t see it, this particular dataset has 40 strings from which I can choose. After choosing the string I want to run, it appears in the Criteria screens (2 and 3), divided into the Find portion of the string and the Replace portion. I can then either Select (4) the strings to be placed in primary dialog box (see Wildcard Interface above) or I can Edit (5) the strings if they need a bit of tweaking.

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

If I click Select (4 above), the strings appear in the primary Wildcard dialog as shown below (1 and 2). Because it can be hard to visualize what the strings really look like when each part is separated, you can see the strings as they will appear to Microsoft Word (3). In addition, you know which string you chose because it is identified above the criteria fields (purple arrow). Now you have choices to make. You can choose to run a Test to be sure the criteria work as expected (4), or if you know the criteria work, as would be true here, you can choose to Find and Replace one at a time or Replace All (5).

The Effect of Clicking Select

The Effect of Clicking Select

I know that many readers are saying to themselves, “All well and good but I don’t know how to write the strings, so the capability of saving and retrieving the strings isn’t of much use to me.” Even if you have never written a wildcard string before, you can do so quickly and easily with EditTools.

Creating Our String

Let’s begin with the first reference shown in the References as Received image above. We need to tackle this item by item. Here is what the author names look like as received:

Kondo, M., Wagers, A. J., Manz, M. G., Prohaska, S. S., Scherer, D. C., Beilhack, G. F. et al.:

What we have for the first name in the list is

[MIXED case multiletter surname][comma][space][single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]

which makes up a unit. That is, a unit is the group of items that need to be addressed as a single entity. In this example, each complete author name will constitute a unit.

This first unit has 6 parts to it (1 part = 1 bracketed item) and we have identified what each part is (e.g., [MIXED case multiletter surname]). To find that first part we go to the Wildcard dialog, shown below, click the * (1) next to the blank field in line 1. Clicking the * brings up the Select Wildcard menu (2) from which we choose we choose Character Menu (3). In the Character Menu we choose Mixed Case (4) because that is the first part of the unit that we need to find.

Wildcard First Steps

Wildcard First Steps

When we choose Mixed Case (4 above), the Quantity dialog below appears. Here you tell the macro whether there is a limit to the number of characters that fit the description for this part. Because we are dealing with names, just leave the default of no limit. However, if we knew we only wanted names that were, for example, 5 letters or fewer in length, we would decheck No Limit and change the number in the Maximum field to 5.

How many letters?

How many letters?

Clicking OK in the Quantity results in entry of the first portion of our string in the Wildcard dialog (1, below). This tells the macro to find any grouping of letters — ABCd, Abcde, bCdaefTg, Ab, etc. — of any length, from 1 letter to 100 or more letters. Thus we have the criteria for the first part of our Find unit even though we did not know how to write wildcardese. In the dialog, you can see how the portion of the string really looks to Microsoft Word (2) and how, if you were to manually write this part using Microsoft Word’s Find & Replace, it would need to be written.

How this part looks in wildcardese

How this part looks in wildcardese

The next step is to address the next part, which can be either [comma] alone or [comma][space]. What we need to be careful about is that we remember that we will need the [space] in the Replace string. If we do [comma][space] and if we do not have just a [space] entry, we will need to provide it. For this example, I will combine them.

Because these are simple things, I enter the [comma][space] directly in the dialog as shown below. With my cursor in the second blank field (1), I simply type a comma and hit the spacebar. You can verify this by looking below in the Find line of wildcardese (2), where you can see (, ):

Manually adding the next part

Manually adding the next part

The remaining parts to do are [single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]. They would be done using the same techniques as the prior parts. Again, we would have to decide whether the [period] and [comma] need to go on separate lines or together on a single line. Why? Because we want to eliminate the [period] but keep the [comma]. If they are done together as we did [comma][space], we will manually enter the [comma] in the Replace.

For the [single UPPERCASE letter], we would follow the steps in Wildcard First Steps above except that instead of Mixed Case, we would select UPPER CASE, as shown here:

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

This brings up the Quantity dialog where we decheck No Limit and, because we know it is a single letter we want found, use the default Minimum 1 and Maximum 1, as shown here:

A Quantity of 1

A Quantity of 1

Clicking OK takes us to the main Wildcard dialog where the criteria to find the [single UPPERCASE letter] has been entered (1, below). Looking at the image below, you can see it in the string (2). For convenience, the image also shows that I manually entered the [period][comma] on line 4 (3 and 4).

The rest of the Find criteria

The rest of the Find criteria

The Wildcard Replace

The next step is to create the Replace part of the string. Once again, we need to analyze our Find criteria.

We have divided the Find criteria into these 4 parts, which together make up the Find portion of the string:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [comma][space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [period][comma]

The numbers represent the numbers of the fields that are found in the primary dialog shown above (The Rest of the Find Criteria). What we need to do is determine which fields we want to replace and in what order. In this example, what we want to do is remove unneeded punctuation, so the Replace order is the same as the Find order. We want to end up with this:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [comma]

The way we do so is by filling in the Replace fields. The [space] and the [comma] we can enter manually. You can either enter every item manually or you can let the macro give you a hand. Next to each field in the Replace column is an *. Clicking on the * brings up the Select Wildcard dialog:

Select Wildcard

Select Wildcard

Because what we need is available in the Find Criteria, we click on Find Criteria. However, the Select Wildcard dialog also gives us options to insert other items that aren’t so easy to write in wildcardese, such as a symbol. When we click Find Criteria, the Use Find Criteria dialog, shown below, appears. It lists everything that is found in the Find criteria by line.

Use Find Criteria dialog

Use Find Criteria dialog

Double-clicking the first entry (yellow highlighted) places it in the first line of the Replace, but by a shortcut — \1 — as shown in the image below (1). If we wanted to reverse the order (i.e., instead of ending up with Kondo M, we want to end up with M Kondo,), we would select the line 3 entry in the Use Find Criteria Dialog above, and double-click it. Then \3 would appear in the first line of Replace instead of \1.

The completed wildcard macro

The completed wildcard macro

For convenience, I have filled the Replace criteria (1-4) as The Completed Wildcard Macro image above shows. The [space] (2) and the [comma] (4) I entered manually using the keyboard. The completed Replace portion of the string can be seen at (5).

The next decision to be made is how to run the string — TEST (6) or manual Find/Replace (7) or auto Replace All (8). If you have not previously tried the string or have any doubts, use the TEST (6). It lets you test and undo; just follow the instructions that appear. Otherwise, I recommend doing a manual Find and Replace (7) at least one time so you can be certain the string works as you intend. If it does work as intended, click Replace All (8).

You will be asked whether you want to save your criteria; you can preempt being asked by clicking Add to WFR dataset (9). You can either save to an existing dataset or create a new dataset. And if you look at the Wildcard Dataset dialog above (near the beginning of this essay), you will see that you can not only name the string you are saving, but you can provide both a short and a detailed description to act as reminders the next time you are looking for a string to accomplish a task.

Spend a Little Time Now, Save Lots of Time Later

Running the string we created using Replace All on the file we started with, will result in every instance of text that meets the Find criteria being replaced. I grant that the time you spend to create the string and test it will take longer than the second and subsequent times you retrieve the string and run it, but that is the idea: spend a little time now to save lots of time later.

I can tell you from the project I am working on now that wildcarding has saved me more than 30 hours of toiling so far. I have already had several chapters with 400 or more references that were similar to the example above (and a couple that were even worse). Wildcarding let me clean up author names, as here, and let me change cites from 1988;52(11):343-45 to 52:343, 1988 in minutes.

As you can see from this exercise, wildcarding need not be difficult. Whether you are an experienced wildcarder or new to wildcarding, you can harness the power of wildcarding using EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace. Let EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace macro system help you. Combine wildcarding with EditTools’ Journals macro and references become quicker and easier.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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February 16, 2015

Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets—Part II: Characters

The Style Sheets — Part II: Characters

by Amy J. Schneider

This month I continue my discussion of the style sheets I keep and the details that go into them. Let’s talk about tracking character attributes.

The Devil Is in the Details

When I receive a style sheet for a previous book by the same author, whether a standalone title or one in the same series, it usually includes a character list. And by “a character list,” I mean just that: a tidy alphabetical list of character names, often last name first, first name last. We copyeditors love to make alphabetical lists. But for ensuring continuity both in attributes of individual characters and in the relationships between them, such a list isn’t very useful.

For example, suppose that in Chapter 1, James is described as being a vegetarian, but in Chapter 18 he orders a Big Mac for lunch. Or suppose that Angela is an only child in Chapter 3, but in Chapter 6 she gets a call from her sister. I don’t know that my memory is good enough to recall a detail from so far back. And often such details are mentioned in the barest passing, and so they are easy to overlook. That’s what the style sheet is for. Any detail that could possibly be contradicted later on goes on the style sheet. Examples follow shortly.

In addition, I find it extremely helpful to group characters not alphabetically, but by their relationships to each other. Family members, coworker groups, the neighbors, the guys down at the pub, the bad guys: these are examples of how you might group characters. Sometimes you may not be sure where to put a character. That’s okay; just start them in their own group for now and later it may become clear. The advantage of grouping like this is that it helps you spot name changes (the bartender was Andy, but suddenly he’s become Randy), missing or extra people (there are supposed to be five Murphy brothers, but six are named), and so on.

Remember to track nonhuman characters too. I enclose animal names in quotes (“Max” — Susan’s cat; black fur, left front paw and tip of tail are white). Make note of unnamed animals too; make sure that the neighbors’ black lab doesn’t turn into a border collie. In fantasy and science fiction, you may encounter “characters” that are sentient objects such as weapons and other magical items (think of the elven blade “Sting” from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), as well as fictional deities, spirits, and so forth. On the style sheet they go.

Details to Track

So, what kinds of details should you track? As I stated earlier, anything that could possibly be contradicted later. (And as you come across such items, later, check against your previous entries on the style sheet to ensure that they are still accurate; if not, you know that you need to flag or query.) The following are only a few examples:

  • Physical descriptions: hair color/length/qualities, eye/skin color, facial descriptions (straight nose, thick eyebrows, high cheekbones), body build (muscle bound, lanky), blood type, clothing size, glasses, disabilities, vocal quality (pitch, accent)
  • Life status: age/birthday (age 27; her birthday was last May; the baby will be born next fall), relationships (her mother died of cancer when she was twelve; he has been divorced twice), employment, schooling, abilities (I once met a character who could speak a foreign language, but had mysteriously lost that ability later on), nicknames, habits (vegetarian, doesn’t drink), accents, pet phrases, personal history (inherited $6 million from his grandmother)
  • Right/left: scars, injuries, tattoos, and so on
  • Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, Twitter handles (query the author to ensure that these are not in use by real people)
  • “Negative” attributes: can’t swim, is afraid of dogs, has never seen the ocean
  • Relative descriptions: Rodrigo towers over Lancelot; Evan is two years older than Shane

Assuming you are editing in Word, it’s easy to copy relevant descriptive phrases out of the manuscript and plop them into the style sheet, for ease of searching later if you need to refer back to earlier text. I condense the copied text to save a little space by changing spelled-out numbers to digits and editing down to the essential key words (e.g., “her auburn hair cascaded down her back, and fluffy bangs accentuated her ocean-blue eyes” would become “auburn hair down her back, bangs, blue eyes”; “died six days before her eighty-fifth birthday” would become “died 6 days before her 85th birthday”). The idea is to take out information that’s non-essential to the style sheet (you might copy a full paragraph just to grab a few informational phrases). Another point to remember: in hard-copy days, we noted the page number for details, but with electronic editing, page layouts can shift, so use the chapter number instead. You can always use search to find the exact text you’re looking for.

I Found a Contradiction; Now What?

Oops. Nancy is blonde in Chapter 4 but brunette in Chapter 27. Michael’s eyes keep changing color from blue to green to blue again. Tonya’s parents died when she was a baby, but also threw her out of the house when she was sixteen. What to do?

Remember that it’s the author’s story, so if any major rewriting or plot adjustment is required, it’s up to the author to do so. However, you can certainly help by making suggestions.

  • If it’s a minor detail that’s not critical to the plot, and only a few instances are different (suppose Nancy’s hair is described as blonde twelve times and brown twice), it’s safe to simply change the brown hair back to blonde and write a query alerting the author to the change.
  • If Michael’s eyes are blue six times and green seven times, then you need to write a query that lets the author know about the discrepancy and ask the author to decide which way to go.
  • Let’s say that the fact that Tonya is an orphan is important to the plot, but so is the fact that she had to fend for herself at a young age. That’s not something that a copyeditor can fix. But you might suggest that the author have Tonya raised by an aunt and uncle, and they are the ones who threw her out.
  • You may find a character-related plot hole that has no obvious solution. The best you can do then is outline the problems and ask the author if he or she can see a way to solve them. After that, it’s in the author’s hands — and the author may decide to just live with it. (I’ve seen that happen.) But you’ve done your due diligence.

Because fiction is by nature made up, there’s no real-world reference for its internal factual information — so keeping a detailed style sheet with as much information as possible about the characters (and other elements) is enormously helpful for catching inconsistencies.  In the next article, I’ll talk about tracking information about locations and buildings, which involves much the same approach as I’ve discussed here.

Amy J. Schneider (, owner of Featherschneider Editorial Services, has been a freelance copyeditor and proofreader of fiction and nonfiction books since 1995. She has shared her insights on copyediting fiction as a speaker at the Communication Central conferences, in writing for the Copyediting newsletter, and in an audioconference for Amy can be reached at LinkedIn, via Twitter, and on Facebook.

February 11, 2015

On Today’s Bookshelf (XX)

My acquisition of new titles to read never ends. Here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post:

Nonfiction –

  • Lenin: A Revolutionary Life by Christopher Read
  • Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
  • The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman
  • Kafka’s Law: “The Trial” and American Criminal Justice by Robert P. Burns
  • The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx by Jerry Toner
  • Nixon’s Secrets: The Rise, Fall and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon by Roger Stone
  • Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America by Peter Andreas
  • Reinterpreting the French Revolution: A Global-Historical Perspective by Bailey Stone
  • War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black
  • The Great Turning Points of British History: The 20 Events That Made the Nation by Michael Wood
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama
  • Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright
  • Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry
  • World Order by Henry Kissinger
  • The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry by Gary Greenberg
  • Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II-Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire by John Freely
  • The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin
  • Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin

Fiction –

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, & The Bitter Kingdom (The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy) by Rae Carson
  • Serious Men by Manu Joseph
  • The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt
  • The Sentinel Mage by Emily Gee
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  • One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  • The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
  • Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

I’ve been looking at my TBR piles — both print and ebook  — and wondering if I should just stop acquiring books. These piles are so large, that I’d have to read several books a day to get through them all before it’s time to greet my maker.

I know I’ve lamented that before, but I guess that is why I am an editor — a love of books and the knowledge they contain. I keep hoping that my grandchildren will want my library, but I suspect not. (They are currently too young to understand what a library is and why it is important.)

I have told my children that if they aren’t interested in my library, I want them to find a rural library that would be interested in receiving the books. The print books are nearly all pristine  — even though I have read them, they have the look and feel of new, unread books.

One thing I find interesting about a physical library, in contrast to an ebook “library,” is that the physical library acts as a visual reminder of how much information there is in the world that I have not yet explored. It also makes me admire even more some of the Renaissance people who are noted for having had the world’s knowledge at their fingertips — the Michaelangelos and Voltaires and Rousseaus and Jeffersons of past ages — something that would be very difficult, if not impossible, today. Today, we admire those who are masters of their sub-subspecialty areas.

The holiday season brought more books to my pile, including a book by my daughter, Mariah Adin, The Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang and the Great Comic Book Scare of the 1950s. She and her husband badgered me to put aside everything else I was reading to read her book. I eventually caved and found the book to be an interesting read. Although I was a youngster at the time, I admit I was unaware of the debate that apparently raged around me about the negative influence of comic books on young minds. The arguments made then about comic books can certainly be made today about video games.

Did your holidays bring new books to your library?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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