An American Editor

August 5, 2010

The 3 Stages of Copyediting: III — The Proofing Stage

In part I of this series (The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage), the focus was on getting the manuscript ready for editing by taking care of the mechanical things — the clean up — of author-provided files using macros created by The Editorium and wordsnSync. Part II (The 3 Stages of Copyediting: II — The Copyediting Stage) focused on EditTools, a group of macros designed to make editing faster, more accurate, and more consistent.

Now that the manuscript has been prepped and copyedited, it is time to take one last look through the manuscript to catch some things that may have been missed and to do a final cleanup. This is the proofing stage — the third stage of copyediting — and the stage where PerfectIt is so valuable.

Stage III: The Proofing Stage

No matter how good an editor is, the editor will have missed something; the more complex the manuscript, the more somethings that are likely to have gotten by the editor’s eagle eye. For example, 18 times in the manuscript the editor hyphenated time-consuming, but twice did not. Are the 2 exceptions correct or just missed hyphens? That is the question — among many questions — PerfectIt asks.

PerfectIt analyzes your document in detail, looking for certain types of “common” errors. For example, if the rule is that numbers 10 and below are to be spelled out, it will flag instances of the number 10 in digit form and ask you whether it should be corrected. And what about capitalization of heads? Was it correct to use sentence style in this head when all other heads use title case style?

PerfectIt comes with 27 built-in tests, that is, things to look for. The tests include

  • hyphenation and dashes, including phrases with hyphens and dashes, singles words split by hyphens or dashes, and compound words
  • spelling consistency, including spelling variations, numerical characters, common typographical errors, and contractions
  • abbreviations, including abbreviations in 2 forms, defined two ways, used before being defined, defined the same way more than once, abbreviations without definitions, and abbreviations not used
  • capitalization, including capitalization in phrases and heads
  • list punctuation and capitalization
  • tables, boxes, and figures, including capitalization, punctuation, consistency, and order
  • comments and highlighting left in the text
  • final cleanup tasks, such as removing for double spaces and creating a table of acronyms

PerfectIt also lets the editor create his or her own custom word lists, which are the tests to be run and the parameters for the tests. For example, rather than being presented with having to choose each time whether self esteem or self-esteem is preferred, the editor can create a custom word list that tells PerfectIt to (a) never find self-esteem, (b) always prefer self-esteem and so find instances of self esteem, or (c) always prefer self esteem and so find instances of self-esteem. This customization also works with spelling (i.e., not just phrases and hyphenation) so if the editor prefers distension over distention, the editor can make distension the always preferred spelling and instances of distention only will be found.

If the editor chose self-esteem as the preferred form, when PerfectIt finds self esteem it tells the editor how many locations this form appears in and provides an opportunity to go to those locations if needed. If the editor is certain that it needs to be corrected, clicking the Fix or Fix All buttons makes the corrections (with tracking on). No need to manually fix each instance.

PerfectIt’s display is divided into several informational panels. At the top it tells you what test is being run and what percentage of the proofing process has been completed. Immediately below the test name, PerfectIt describes the error it has found and how many. For example, if the test is “Abbreviations in two forms,” the error description may say “Error description (1 of 3),” indicating that 3 errors have been found and this is the first one.

This panel is followed by the “Choose preferred abbreviation” panel. If the error is that sometimes the abbreviation is USA and sometimes it is U.S.A., this panel will tell you, for example, “USA (found 5 times)” and “U.S.A. (found 2 times).” You click on your preference and then look below this panel to the final panel which shows the locations of the nonpreferred form. You can then fix them one at a time or all at once — or you can decide that these are not errors based on the context and thus not change one or more of the “errors.” The editor always has the option of leaving something as it is. PerfectIt is mechanically finding these errors so that the editor can apply his or her editorial judgement.

PerfectIt is a perfect way to do a final check of an edited manuscript. It can save an editor from embarrassment and can reduce the number of errors that clients find. Although not a panacea for all errors and missed items, PerfectIt does focus on the more commonly missed items.

Editors who do not already use PerfectIt in the proofing stage should consider trying it. I can tell you that when I found PerfectIt, I downloaded the trial version, and within 5 minutes of running it on a chapter I bought it. I immediately saw its value, and have been recommending it since.

The combination of  Editorium programs, EditTools, and PerfectIt is a combination that will enhance every editor’s accuracy and efficiency. Improving efficiency is a sure way to improve any editor’s bottom line; improving accuracy is a sure way to improve editor and client relations because better editing results in lower client costs.

(Disclosure: I have no financial connection to or other interest in either Intelligent Editing or The Editorium. I have purchased their macros and use them in my own editing business. I am the creator of EditTools and an owner of wordsnSync Ltd.)

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