An American Editor

November 29, 2013

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing Now in Kindle Format

Some good news for those waiting for the Amazon Kindle version of The Business of Editing — it has arrived! Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Business-Editing-Effective-Efficient-Prosper-ebook/dp/B00GWU2AC8/

Coming shortly is a hardcover version of The Business of Editing.

Here are links to the other options for buying the book. For the print version of The Business of Editing, go to:

  1. Waking Lion Press at http://www.wakinglionpress.com/businessofediting.htm or
  2. Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Business-Editing-Richard-H-Adin/dp/1434103692/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385545644&sr=1-1&keywords=the+business+of+editing
  3. Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-business-of-editing-richard-h-adin/1117405104?ean=9781434103697

For the ePub version of The Business of Editing, go to https://www.swreg.org/com/storefront/47578/product/47578-23

November 27, 2013

Takin’ a Break

Filed under: A Video Interlude — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: , ,

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States and I’m taking a break from An American Editor.

I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and here is an old Popeye the Sailor cartoon (from 1951) — “Pilgrim Popeye” — for a little Thanksgiving entertainment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2013

Business of Editing: Does an Editor Matter?

It isn’t too often that the worth of a good editor is hinted at by a reviewer, but when it happens, it stands out.

In “The Surprising Empress” (The New York Review of Books, December 5, 2013, pp. 18-20), Jonathan Mirsky reviewed Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. I have always been fascinated by Chinese history, so the article caught my attention (I subscribe to the print edition of the NYRB and read the articles in print, not online). This looked like a book I would add to my future list of books to buy in hardcover, until…

Yes, the until raises its “ugly head” in this quote from the article (p. 20):

I have one small and two serious criticisms of Chang’s usually impressive biography. She occasionally lapses into slang or uses the wrong word. A woman “sashays” into a room, British merchants “showcase” a railway, a “roller-coaster of events” is said to have disturbed the emperor, and a concubine is described as a former “high-class call-girl.” “Winsome” is only one of the words misused.

Mirsky goes on to write:

More serious is the matter of sources.…Chang has drawn on the “colossal documentary pool” of twelve million documents in the First Historical Archives of China, which have to do with the reign of Cixi.

It would be useful to say something about these documents and how they are organized,…[R]eaders would like to know why she has chosen this or that source. I liked this biography, but have been troubled as a reviewer because the sources are not easy to check.

What Mirsky complains about are editorial failings. The publisher, Knopf, may or may not have hired a professional editor. Based on the first complaint of wrong words and slang, I wonder if Knopf did hire a professional editor familiar with American language usage (the market/target audience, at least for the reviewed version, is Americans) to copyedit the book. The second complaint, about the sources, makes me wonder if the book had undergone any professional developmental editing.

Or did Knopf take the easy path and simply hire the least-expensive editor it could find and let the author do as she pleased?

Basically, the review, which was written by Jonathan Mirsky, a well-known historian of China who was formerly the East Asia Editor of The Times of London, is complimentary because the book corrects 100 years of misinformation about Cixi’s reign. But for me, who is not a well-versed historian of China and who cannot read between the lines to determine that Chang’s book is a respectable addition to the repertoire, Mirsky damns the book by his quoted comments. I see, instead of a great addition to the history of China literature, a book that is questionable.

It is questionable not only because of the use of slang and wrong/inappropriate word choices, but because the sources are not verifiable or accessible. The message I receive is that neither the publisher Knopf nor the author Chang cared enough about either the book or the reader to ensure accuracy and provability. When I edit a book and see sources that cannot be accessed or identified as dominating the references, I tell the author that it reflects badly on the substance of the material. As a reader, how can I be certain that the same indifference was not given to the text?

In Chang’s case, the problem goes a bit deeper. When I am editing a book, I at least know it is being professionally edited. Granted, a consumer wouldn’t know, and if the author doesn’t follow my advice and correct the references or change incorrect word choices, the book would appear to the consumer as Chang’s book appears to me — unedited.

Editors do matter. The choice of editor does matter. The type of editing does matter. A good working relationship between author and editor does matter. And it is vitally important that an author not believe that each word he or she has written is sacrosanct and cannot be changed for the better. I’m sorry to say that in my career I have encountered several authors who wrongly believed that what they had written was already perfect and that my role as editor was simply to make sure there were no typographical errors.

There is a dual failure in Chang’s book. The first failure is that of the publisher. The publisher clearly should have had Chang’s book developmentally edited by a professional editor who has mastery over American language and usage. I would like to think that the sources problem would not have passed by such an editor. The publisher should have followed up the developmental editing with copyediting, again done by a professional editor with mastery of American language and usage. Many of the wrong word choice and slang problems might (would) have been avoided.

The second failure in Chang’s book is that, if the book was professionally developmental edited and copyedited, either the publisher did not insist on Chang following, or at least seriously considering, the suggestions of the editors (again, assuming there were editors involved) and offering justification for not following the suggestions, or Chang failed to seriously consider the suggestions on her own. It is not for the editors to be the experts on China history or the reign of Cixi, but it is for the editors to be the experts on word choice and source accessibility. (Again, all this rests on the assumption that whatever editing there was, was done by professional editors with mastery of American language usage.)

As I have written above, it is questionable whether the book was edited. But assuming it was edited, there is one other matter that could be problematic: What were the instructions to the editor?

Several factors actively impede a high-quality edit. These factors include schedule, author cooperativeness, publisher and author instructions that define the task for the editor to perform, and fee. We have discussed these many times, and the limitations each of these factors imposes do not change. It is difficult to obtain a high-quality edit when you pay a pauper wage and demand an unrealistic turnaround. (I recently was asked to edit a book on a schedule that would have required editing 116 manuscript pages each day. The material was very complex and a realistic schedule would have been 25 to 30 pages a day at most. I declined, but I do know that an editor who agreed to the schedule was hired — and was being paid less than I had been offered, which was not a celebratory amount.)

Which of these factors was present in Chang’s case, I do not know. I suspect, based on the reviewer’s comments, that several were present. Because I know that quality editing by a professional editor is important, perhaps more so in a book like Chang’s than in some other books, the reviewer’s comments are the red flags that tell me “do not buy this book” — and so I won’t.

Editors do matter and the right editor for the right job matters greatly.

November 23, 2013

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing in eBook Form

I am pleased to announce that The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper, is now available in ebook form in the ePub format. Kindle (Amazon) format is expected to release shortly,  so for those looking for the Kindle format, keep an eye on Amazon.

To purchase the book in ePub format, visit https://www.swreg.org/com/storefront/47578/product/47578-23.

For more information about the book, see “Worth Noting: The Business of Editing in Print.”

November 22, 2013

Articles Worth Reading: More on Ransomware

Recently, I wrote about being attacked by ransomware (see Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses). It appears that the problem is getting worse. I thought you would be interested in this short Ars Technica article (and the comments that follow it):

Soaring price of Bitcoin prompts CryptoLocker ransomware price break.”

The ransomware mentioned in the article is even more frightening (to me) than the ransomware I “caught,” and makes clear that it is more important than ever to regularly backup and image my hard drives.

Although the article is short, it is worth spending a few minutes to read. There are a lot of comments, but the first few are enough to emphasize the danger of ransomware and the need to be increasingly vigilant.

November 20, 2013

The Holidays Gift List of Books II

The holiday season is fast arriving. In another week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Chanukah comes early this year, coinciding with Thanksgiving. And Christmas is a little more than a month away.

The real excitement in my household is spending the holidays with the grandchildren. One grandchild is still too young to really appreciate the season; the other is just getting to the age when she can at least appreciate gifts. But Thanksgiving should be great. Carolyn and I are hosting this year and expect about 20 people, maybe a few more. I’ve decided to be adventurous with the turkey so, I’ll be making it differently than in the past. The one thing I will be sure to do, however, is brine it in Coca-Cola (regular, not diet).

Which brings me to list making. I have to do the one thing I really hate doing at holiday time: make a list of possible gifts for me. I keep saying no gift is needed, just show up and let’s have fun, but that goes over as well as a lead balloon flies. So several years ago I started putting together a list of hardcover books I would like. Last year I published my list on An American Editor in “The Holidays Gift List of Books“; I thought I would do the same this year and see if you have any suggestions for hardcover books that I should add to my list. Here goes:

  • The War that Ended the Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Making Freedom by R.J.M. Blackett
  • Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation by Estelle B. Freedman
  • Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lauer
  • Fear Itself: The New Deal & the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson
  • The Tie that Bound Us by Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz
  • The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History 70-1492 by Maistella Botticin & Zvi Eckstein
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  • The Strange Career of Porgy & Bess by Ellen Noonan
  • Thomas Nast by Fiona Deans Halloran
  • FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman
  • A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust by Mary Fulbrook
  • How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore
  • The Original Compromise by David Brian Robertson
  • Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
  • The Creation of Inequality by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus
  • Remembering Survival by Christopher Browning
  • Angel of Vengeance by Ann Siljak

There are some others I am thinking about, but the truth is I already have a large number of books — both fiction and nonfiction — to read. I don’t really need more books to add to my to-be-read pile, especially as I am constantly adding books throughout the year.

If you are looking for a good book to give as a gift, I highly recommend The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople by Susan Wise Bauer. This is the third book in Bauer’s survey of world history. Her first book, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, and her second book, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, are excellent.

Also excellent is the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the most remarkable woman, I think, of the twentieth century, by Blanche Wiesen Cooke. Only two volumes have been published so far: Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1933: A Life: Mysteries of the Heart and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1933-1938. Both volumes are available in the used book marketplace.

Some other nonfiction books I can recommend are these:

  • The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E. M. Berens
  • Wilson by Scott A. Berg
  • Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership by Conrad Black
  • One Summer by Bill Bryson
  •  One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
  • The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis by Julie Kavanagh
  • The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester
  • The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 by Chris Wickham

Now it’s time for your suggestions.

November 18, 2013

Tale of 3 Editors, a Manuscript, & the Quest for Perfection

My book, The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper, was recently published. Its making makes for an interesting tale about the quest for perfection.

Most books are subject to three limitations: one editor (chosen from a range of experience), limited editing budget, and short schedule. In contrast, The Business of Editing had three very experienced professional editors, essentially an unlimited editing budget, and no set time by which the editing had to be completed. In other words, from an editorial perspective, it was the dream project.

If I was to present this scenario to forums that were made up of noneditors — and even forums made up of some/certain editors — the comments would be the same: the book should be “error-free,” with various meanings attached to “error.” After all, there are multiple sets of eyes looking at each word, sentence, and paragraph, looking multiple times, and no schedule pressure; consequently, “perfection” — which I assume is synonymous with error-free — should be achieved.

Alas, even with three professional editors, no schedule pressure, and no budget worries, perfection is nearly impossible to achieve.

There are many reasons why perfection is not achievable even under such “perfect” circumstances, yet I think the number one reason is that one editor’s error is not another editor’s error.

In the editing of The Business of Editing, there were numerous exchanges concerning language and punctuation, which are the meat of editing. Spelling is important, but a professional editor isn’t focused on spelling. True spelling cannot be ignored; whether reign is correctly spelled is important. But spelling as spelling is not the key; the key is knowing which is the right word — is it rain, rein, or reign — which is why a professional editor does not rely on spellcheckers; they know that doing so often leads to embarrassment. If the correct word is reign but the word used is rain, rain is correctly spelled — it is just the wrong word.

The “real” editorial issues are word choice, coherence, grammar/punctuation — the things that can make for interesting discussion among professional editors. And such was the case with The Business of Editing. I don’t recall an issue of spelling arising, although it may have; what I do recall was the discussion over punctuation and wording. It is this discussion that demonstrated to me that there can be no perfection in editing.

We were three editors with at least two, and sometimes three, different opinions. (It was nice, for a change, to be the powerhouse. As the author, I got the deciding vote.) It is not that one opinion was clearly wrong and another clearly right; it was, almost always, that each opinion had merit and was correct. On occasion, one opinion was more correct, but on no occasion was an opinion incorrect in the sense that there would be universal agreement among professional editors that implementing the opinion would be tantamount to creating error.

Sometimes consensus could be reached; at other times, each of us stood firm. Yet in no instance was one of us “wrong.” Which brings us back to the matter of perfection.

How can we judge perfection when perfection cannot be pinned down? Given two equally valid opinions, how can we say that one leads to perfection and the other to imperfection? We can’t.

It is true that if all else were equal, using reign when it should be rein can be pointed to as clear error and imperfect editing. Reign, rain, and rein are three distinct things and one is not substitutable for the other. But if the correct one is used and is correctly spelled (i.e., reign and not riegn), then we must look elsewhere for imperfection and that elsewhere takes us down the path of opinion. (Of course, the question also arises if the correct word is rein but it is spelled rain, is it a misspelling or incorrect word choice? I would think that the latter is more problematic than the former.)

Is The Business of Editing perfect? With three highly skilled professional editors perusing it (and let’s not forget the eyes of the many professional editors who read the essays when they were originally posted on An American Editor), the expectation would be, “yes, it is perfect.” Alas, it is not. It is imperfect because there are elements whose grammar and construction are reasonably questionable.

This is the folly of client expectations, which we discussed several months ago in The Business of Editing: The Demand for Perfection. More importantly, this is the folly of “professional” editors who affirmatively state that they provide “perfect” editing or who declare that x number of errors are acceptable. The flaw is that the editors and clients who make these demands assume that only their opinion has any validity, that contrary opinions are inherently erroneous.

Consider this issue: An author writes, “Since taking aspirin thins blood, at least one aspirin should be taken daily.” The question is this: Is “since” correctly used? In my view, it is not; “since” should be replaced by “because” and “since” should be limited to its passing-of-time sense. However, a very legitimate argument can be made that its use in the sentence is perfectly good usage today. What we really have are two opinions of equal merit, neither being inherently wrong.

But if you are of the camp that believes correct usage demands “because,” how likely are you to declare the sentence (expand to manuscript) perfect or error-free? Clearly, those in the “since” camp would consider it perfect/error-free. Consequently, we either have an imperfect manuscript or an error-free manuscript.

Which is it in the quest for perfection? The truth of the matter is that both can be perfect and both can be imperfect — it just depends on who is doing the grading, which is why the quest for perfection is never-ending.

Consequently, depending on whose camp you are in, The Business of Editing is either perfectly or imperfectly edited.

November 15, 2013

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing in Print

Over the several years that I have been writing the An American Editor blog, some readers have urged me to write a book on the business of editing. I admit that writing a book has not been one of my driving life passions, but eventually I caved.

The result is the just-published The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper (ISBN 978-1-4341-0369-7). The book is a compilation of many of the essays I have written for An American Editor (and some guest essays, too). Aside from the essays being in one easily accessible place, the book organizes them by topic and has a comprehensive index, making it easy to locate the information you seek.

The Business of Editing

The Business of Editing

The Business of Editing is for new editors, persons thinking about becoming editors, and experienced editors. The book focuses on the business aspects of editing; not on how to edit, but on how to run an editing business.

The book is available directly from the publisher, Waking Lion Press and Amazon. For some reason I don’t understand, Barnes & Noble lists the book but says it is not available through B&N. Hopefully, for people who prefer B&N, that status will change in the near future. The book may be available through other outlets as well.

If you order directly from Waking Lion Press before December 1, 2013, there is a publisher’s discount. For details, go to the Waking Lion Press website. A sample of the book is available from the Waking Lion Press website or from this link.

No book should stand on its own in the sense of the author doing it all, some of it competently, some of it not. I’ve written numerous times in An American Editor that every author needs a professional “pit crew.” And so it was true with The Business of Editing.

The Business of Editing was professionally edited and organized by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter and Jack Lyon. Jack also did the layout, and Ruth and Jack also wrote introductions to the material. The book was professionally indexed by Sue Nedrow. This “pit crew” took what would have been just another book and made it into a wonderfully useful tool for professional editors.

November 13, 2013

Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses

Filed under: Computers and Software — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

One of the things I most dislike about editing is the need to check author references. Aside from the mishmash manner in which the references are provided (e.g., it is not unusual to find two journal cites, one following the other, in completely different formats), I find that I am becoming increasingly angry at having to check URLs.

The Internet Age has brought many positive things to our world, but one negative is that authors increasingly cite URLs as a reference. Aside from the transience of URLs, they present a hazard to the editor who has to verify them.

Checking URLs has become expensive for me. Why? Because the links provided have become dangerous.

Twice in the last 3 months, I have inadvertently (i.e., unknown to me) downloaded ransomware (malware) to my computer as a result of clicking an author’s reference URL cite. Each of those incidents cost me several hundred dollars to remedy. In addition, my antivirus/antimalware software has protected me against another half dozen potential threats.

I’m not so angry about the threats against which I was protected by my antivirus software as I am about the ransomware ones that cost me money to cure. Fortunately, I have a local computer expert (the person who built and maintains my computers) who is willing to put me at the top of the list when I have a problem. Of course, it also means I pay for the service — and clients are unwilling to reimburse that expense.

What happened is that I clicked on a URL, found it was not good, and then moments later found that I could not access my computer’s primary screen — instead, I was faced with a demand for $300 to unlock my computer. Apparently, this is a regular scam. Sometimes the demand is labeled as coming from the FBI, sometimes it is from Homeland Security. According to my computer expert, if you pay the $300, you get a code to “unlock” the screen but then, sometime down the road, it locks up again and another demand for payment is made.

At least this bit of malware is less vicious than it could be. It only blocks access to the screen; it doesn’t attack data files.

I would be less angry about this if I thought the authors even cared a little bit, but considering that 75% of the URLs cited in the reference list in the latest project were either invalid (the URLs returned “Error 404: File Not Found” errors) or took me to clearly irrelevant sites, I have little faith in the idea that the author cares that at least one of the listed cites caused major problems for me — and would do the same for the reader who decided to check the cite.

We all know that the Internet can be a dangerous place. For the young, it is a source of never-ending bullying; for the elderly, it is a way to lose life savings; and for editors who have to check the validity of a cited URL, it is a way to infect one’s computer and suffer financial loss.

I am also mad at myself for getting caught by this malware twice. I am very careful about how I use the Internet and I make sure that I use up-to-date protection software. I even use the “pro” versions so that I get hourly updates. I also avoid likely troublesome sites. And for years I never suffered an invasion of malware.

Getting caught twice in 3 months is making me wonder what else I can do. It is hard to avoid the risk exposure when I have to check URLs as part of my job. And there is no way to know (at least not that I am aware of) in advance that a particular URL is going to make me wish I was retiring.

One colleague suggested that I simply not check URLs. Unfortunately, I cannot see an ethical way to do that. Instead, I am thinking of adding a clause to my “contract” that basically says, “client warrants that all URLs cited in the manuscript are virus- and malware-free. In the event that verifying a cited URL causes a virus or malware attack on my computer and/or network, client agrees to pay the cost of expert removal plus for my lost work time.”

I suspect that few clients would be willing to accept such a clause, especially if the client is a publisher or service provider rather than the author. But I need to do something, and the additional clause seems the best option at the moment. It would at least make my client aware of the potential for the problem.

For those of you who are interested in seeing what this particular virus is about, here is a link to Yoo Security. Should you get the virus, getting rid of it is a problem because you can’t easily access your desktop and rebooting doesn’t get around the problem. I suggest that you go now to your antivirus software’s website and search for ransomware under Support. There should be an article that tells you the steps you need to take to rid your computer of this malware. Print it and save it. Even if you can’t do it yourself, it may save you some money when you have someone else do the fix.

Have you experienced virus or malware attacks from client files? How did you deal with it?

November 11, 2013

Four Questions & Jargon

Every editor has to deal with jargon, because every form of writing has jargon designed to speak to the author’s audience. The question that editors need to resolve is this: Should I delete jargon? Today’s guest essayist, Erin Brenner, tackles the question by asking four questions about the jargon and its use.

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

_________________

Before Deleting Jargon, Ask These Four Questions

by Erin Brenner

Copyeditors are trained to spot jargon. We’re taught to see it as obscuring meaning, as something designed to keep readers out, so delete it we must. Yet jargon can be helpful as well. For those familiar with it, jargon can provide a concise way to say something.

Instead of automatically deleting jargon, we should be considering whether it’s helpful to the reader.

How do you do that? Let me show you.

Ask Four Simple Questions

While editing the newsletter recently, I came across three jargon terms in an article about email discussion lists by Katharine O’Moore-Klopf: listmate, onlist, and offlist. I’ve been participating in such discussion lists for a long time, so I didn’t even blink at the terms.

But one of my copyeditors, Andy Johnson, did. Given that the article is aimed at folks who don’t currently participate in discussion lists or boards, would those readers understand the terms?

Johnson knows that jargon must be helpful to readers or be removed—just like every other word in a manuscript. To determine whether the terms are helpful, I apply a list of questions I wrote for deciding whether to use a neologism in a manuscript:

  • Does the word in question mean what the author intends it to mean?
  • Does the word fit the style and tone of the text?
  • Will any connotations of the word inhibit the author’s intended message?
  • Will the audience understand what the author means by this word?

In this situation, O’Moore-Klopf was using the terms correctly. They fit well within the piece, and there were no connotations of the terms to inhibit meaning. The problem was whether the audience would understand the terms. The article was targeting readers who don’t currently participate in discussion lists, remember.

We could determine whether there would be readers who wouldn’t understand the jargon by determining how well known the jargon was outside of discussion lists. I started my search for these words:

  1. In several dictionaries. No results.
  2. In the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Zip.
  3. On Google. Now I had a few results:

a. listmate: There is some list management software called ListMate that grabs most of the first few results pages; about four pages in, I found one result that was in the subject line of a Yahoo Group message.

b. onlist: Results included social media handles and program commands. They also included some descriptions of activity on a list (as opposed to off it).

c. offlist: This term had the best results. It appears in Wiktionary, a Minecraft forum, and discussion comments. It’s also as a tag on Instagram and Pinterest.

By this point, I had a fair idea that these terms weren’t used much, if at all, outside of discussion lists. Still, I checked one more place, Google Books, and came up with a few accurate results. Most were books about discussion lists or marketing; one was on relationships in the digital world. Another was a book about language usage in a specific culture, while another was a fiction book set in the modern day.

Given that the terms were not often found in the mainstream, I hesitated to use them. Listmate seemed self-explanatory once the idea of discussion list had been introduced. Onlist and offlist were less clear; although our readers are intelligent and could parse out the meaning, we’d be making them work for it. Could we say the same thing without those terms?

We could. In most places where onlist was on its own, we could just drop it; the context was clear already:

If you have a funny work-related anecdote that you can share [deleted: onlist] without violating anyone’s privacy or embarrassing anyone, do so.

Offlist didn’t appear on its own, but when paired with onlist, we rewrote the phrasing:

Avoid complaining, either on the list or in private e-mail conversations [was: onlist or offlist], about colleagues, listmates, and clients.

In addition to the places I noted above, consider checking industry publications similar to yours and a news database, such as Google News. The first will tell you if the jargon is common in your industry, and the second will tell you if the jargon has become familiar to a wider audience. If the jargon appears in either place, you can feel comfortable keeping it in your manuscript.

Copyeditors don’t have to spend a great deal of time trying to determine how mainstream a piece of jargon is. It took me about 10 minutes or so to research all three terms in a light way and decide that the issue my copyeditor had raised was valid. I saw enough evidence for me to advise the author and seek her preferences.

_________________

Do you  have “rules” that you apply to determine whether jargon should be deleted? Are they the same as Erin’s four questions or something different? Some professional editors work in niche subject areas, for example, medical books written by doctors for doctors or computer programming books written by programmers for advanced-level programmers. Are the rules about jargon and the questions to be asked about jargon outlined by Erin applicable?

Perhaps most important: Does eliminating jargon really matter in today’s Internet and Twitter age?

What do you think?

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