An American Editor

November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

At An American Editor, we are taking a holiday break to enjoy Thanksgiving with friends and family. We’ll be back on Monday, December 1, with our usual informative articles.

To tide you over until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy —

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

and for those needing to review their history, a crash course:

When is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America: Crash Course US History #2

Happy Thanksgiving!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 24, 2014

Worth Noting: EditTools versions 5.9 & 6 Released

I am pleased to announce the release of new versions of EditTools. Version 5.9 for users who use Word 2003 and version 6 for users of Word 2007 and newer. (Note: Versions 5.9 and 6 are identical except that 6 uses the Ribbon feature of Word. However, version 5.9 will be the last version of EditTools for Word 2003; all future releases of EditTools will require Word 2007 or newer.)

The new versions are free upgrades for registered users of EditTools and are available at wordsnSync’s download page.

In addition to the usual tweaks and fixes, this release includes several new macros and improved macros:

Additional tweaks and additions have been made, increasing the power of EditTools.

Especially helpful to me in recent weeks have been the Remove & Reinstate Formats macros, the Style Inserter macro, and the Multifile Find macro. I have been working on a project that requires me to apply a client template to the files I have been given for editing and then styling the elements of the document by applying the appropriate Style from the template. Applying the Style is quick and easy once I set up Style Inserter, but the problem was getting the file ready for the Styles. The files came loaded with author-applied formatting; I needed to set the document to Normal without losing any of the bold, italic, bold-italic, or small cap formatting that the author applied. All other author-applied formatting had to go.

This is where Remove Formats came to the rescue. The macro lets me temporarily remove the formatting that I want to preserve. Once I ran the macro, I could select the whole document (Ctrl+A) and use Word’s Clear Formats command to strip out all author-applied formatting and set everything to Normal. Then I ran the Reinstate Formats macro and all of the formatting that I wanted preserved — the bold, the italic, the bold-italic, and the small caps — were reinstated. Now I could use Style Inserter to quickly style the document. What previously took a considerable amount of time to accomplish, now was done in minutes.

While editing, I realized that a decision I had made in earlier chapters was wrong and needed correction. Multifile Find came to my rescue. The macro gives me a choice: I can generate a report that tells me where the item I am looking for can be found — that is, in which documents and on what pages and the number of times on each page — or it can take me to each instance and let me decide whether to correct the shown instance or not. Using Multifile Find let me easily find and correct the erroneous material. No need to individually open each file and do a manual Find and Replace using Word’s features; instead, I let the macro do the work.

As I have written many times, time is money. The faster I can accomplish a task, the more money I can make. However, I cannot let speed be my master and sacrifice quality for speed. The idea behind EditTools and other macros is to make important but “rote” tasks go quickly so more time can be spent on editing. The enhancements in version 6 of EditTools do just that.

If you aren’t using EditTools, perhaps you should be.

Also, a reminder: There is a special package deal for EditTools, Editor’s Toolkit Plus, and PerfectIt that will save you a lot of money. For more information, see A Special Deal: Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 21, 2014

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing Holiday Special

Thinking of a holiday gift for yourself or your favorite freelancer? Why not a copy of The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper by Richard H. Adin, An American Editor. Waking Lion Press is offering The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper at a special holiday price through December 31, 2014 of:

paperback $20 hardcover $27

which includes shipping for U.S. addresses (non-U.S. addresses: please contact the publisher for shipping costs). To get this special price, go to this special page at Waking Lion Press.

November 19, 2014

The Proofreader’s Corner: Starting a Proofreading Business — Action vs. Inertia

Starting a Proofreading Business — Action vs. Inertia

by Louise Harnby

The thought of taking on all the responsibilities that come with owning and running a proofreading business can be daunting to the new entrant to the field, and to someone who’s technically experienced but who lacks confidence. One of two problems can arise:

  1. The business planning is inadequate. This results in the proofreader feeling capable of actually proofreading but having no one to proofread for.
  2. The proofreader gets so bogged down in the planning phase that she can’t move from thinking to doing.

This article focuses on the second problem. If you’re a new editorial business owner and need advice on editorial business planning, a list of valuable starting-out resources is provided at the end of the article. (It’s worth noting that although the focus is on the proofreading business, the discussion is equally relevant to starting any editorial business.)

Why Working for Yourself Is Different

Many people come to editorial freelancing after years of successfully working for other businesses. When we are employees, someone else takes care of actually owning and running the business in which we work. I was like that — I was one cog in a large engine. My cog was an important part of the business’s machinery but I only had to worry about me and the bits of my cog that touched the cogs nearby. Someone else owned the engine and worried about how it worked as a whole. Then I set up my own business and I was in charge. I had to make the whole engine run smoothly. Taking charge of the whole thing meant acknowledging 4 truths about owing my own business.

4 Truths About Editorial Business Ownership

Truth 1: The starting point for any new entrant to the field of freelance proofreading is this — you’re setting up a business, so you need to think and act like a professional business owner.

Truth 2: It’s your business — not my business, not your friend’s business, but your business. The services you offer, the customers you target, the fees you charge (or accept), and the way you communicate the solutions you offer to a customer will all be personal to you. For example, no one else can decide for you what you need to charge to make your business viable.

Truth 3: Being a technician is not the same as being a business owner. Having the technical skill to proofread is not the same thing as running a proofreading business. Having the technical skill to proofread is just one part of running a proofreading business — albeit a crucial one.

Truth 4: There’s no rule book that can offer you a blueprint to developing your editorial business. Established editorial pros can give advice on concepts to think about and tools to utilize, but after you’ve digested all of the rich guidance, you have to take action.

Business Owners Take Ownership of Their Businesses…

It’s important to ask questions and seek advice about the big picture. The key is to not get stuck in a position where we’re incapable of moving forward without seeking validation about the detail. If I ask 50 colleagues how many pages a website should have I will end up with 50 personal answers. Some of the information I glean from 50 people will overlap but some of it won’t. There won’t be consensus.

An inability to make your own decisions, based on your business model and your customer’s needs, can paralyze you. Paralysis means you’re not in a state of mind where you’re making the final decisions about your business, but hoping instead that someone else will do it for you. That’s potentially disastrous because other people’s decisions are based on their business models and their customers’ needs. You’re the best person to make the detailed decisions about your business precisely because it’s your business, and your business serves your customers. A business owner, by definition, needs to take ownership, and that means finding the courage to act.

Effective Advice-Seeking vs. Inertia-Inducing Thinking…

Here are 2 simple case studies that demonstrate the difference between effective advice-seeking and inertia-inducing thinking. These are fictional but are based on conversations that I’ve had with real new starters.

Effective advice-seeking: Ali has decided to set up a proofreading business. Let’s assume that he’s completed high-quality training, and followed through with a mentoring program. In the course of his business planning he has recognized the value of having a website that can operate as his shop front. In the process of building the website he reaches out to editorial colleagues whom he’s met via his national editorial society and online editorial forums. He asks them about their experiences of website building and the choices they’ve made:

  • Which host do you use and have you found it reliable?
  • Have you paid for a custom domain name and email address, and if so why?
  • Can you recommend specialist articles on effective webpage layout that helped you to maximize the impact of your message?
  • Did you hire a professional designer or did you use predesigned templates? If the latter, were you able to customize them with little or no technical knowledge?
  • What are your favorite plug-ins and widgets?
  • Do you blog? If so, is your blog separate from or connected to your business website?

Ali’s colleagues provide a range of responses.

  • Several different self-build hosts are discussed (e.g., WordPress and Weebly). Some hired specialists to do the design for them; others felt more technically competent to customize inbuilt templates. Ali feels confident in doing some basic customization and so elects to use a WordPress theme.
  • There is consensus that having a custom domain name is good professional business practice but there are diverging opinions on custom email addresses. Ali considers his budget and decides that the value added by having a custom domain name is well worth the annual fee. And although there is no consensus about having a custom email address, the additional cost that the host charges for the custom email address is marginal and within his budget, and he believes it will consolidate his branding.
  • Ali has been offered several useful links to online articles about effective webpage layout. He reads this guidance and applies some of the key learning points to his web copy.
  • Many different widgets and plug-ins are talked about, and initially he selects two free ones that are not included in his predesigned template but which he feels will enhance his visitors’ ability to navigate his site.
  • The blogging discussion is lengthy and insightful thread that gives him much food for thought. The responses show that a properly asked question can lead to the acquisition of even more important information than direct answers to the original question. In this case, one theme emerges: it takes a lot of effort to maintain a dynamic blog. Ali finds this instructive and makes a note to put the issue on hold until he has completed the task of building the service element of his website.

Overall, the answers to Ali’s questions supply him with insights into his colleagues’ experiences. And although the decisions he makes are influenced by these experiences, his final choices need to be based on his business requirements. These might be the same, similar or different to any one of the colleagues who contributed to the discussion.

Inertia-inducing thinking: Josh, too, has set up a proofreading business. Like Ali, he’s completed the requisite training and believes he has the technical know-how to provide a high-quality service. Josh is seeking similar guidance to Ali, but he frames his questions differently and in a way that could lead to inertia.

  • Which host should I use? Which is the most reliable?
  • Should I pay a designer and how much will it cost? Or should I do it myself?
  • How many pages/tabs should I have, and how should they be labelled?
  • How much information should be on each page?
  • Which subject specialisms should I list?
  • Which plug-ins are essential and which are the best?
  • Which color scheme should I use?
  • How long should my portfolio be?
  • Must I have a blog and, if so, what should it be about?

The answers to Josh’s questions are just more questions because:

  • No one knows which host would be most suitable for him; they only know which host worked best for them. Several are mentioned, but there’s no definitive answer.
  • No one knows whether Josh should hire a designer or self-build because they don’t know anything about his technical skills or budget.
  • How many tabs he will need, and how they should be labelled, will depend on what he’s selling, what he wants to say, and to whom he is communicating.
  • Which subject specialisms he lists will depend on the clients he wants to target and his own particular knowledge base.
  • Preferences for color schemes are highly subjective.
  • Decisions about portfolios will depend on what he wants to communicate and to whom.
  • Whether he should blog or not will depend on the time he has available, the information he wants to share, and the readership he wishes to attract.

Because Josh’s questions focus on the detail of his business requirements, which are known only to him, he doesn’t receive any definitive answers. As a result, he is paralyzed by indecision. While Ali’s website is now live, and operating as a shop front that he can link to via a number of other online platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter,, and several specialist editorial directories), Josh is still digitally undiscoverable because he’s waiting for other people to make the decisions for him, decisions that are based on a business that isn’t theirs.

Too Many Cooks…

Even a well-asked question that generates lots of responses can be problematic for the new entrant to the field because he or she doesn’t have enough experience to evaluate the usefulness of the responses. In Ali’s case, 15 colleagues could advise having a separate blog, and 15 could advise attaching a blog to his business website. But how does he work out which is the best approach for his editorial business?

Professional networks are fabulous resources, often rich in content, but we need to recognize that the responses we receive to well-asked questions are still dependent on who’s online that day, who bothers to join in the discussion, and what their particular experiences are. Sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen; sometimes the best cooks aren’t even in the kitchen. This can lead to confusion rather than clarity.

If you’re a new entrant to the field who’s asking lots of good questions but feels overwhelmed by the diverse opinions on offer, consider consulting a business coach or mentor who can spend time focusing specifically on your business requirements and help you sift through the all the advice you’ve received.

There’s No One True Way to Furnish a House…

As the two examples above demonstrate, there’s no single way of building and designing an effective website. When we look at various successful editorial professionals’ websites, we see that there are a hundred different ways to do it. None of these is right or wrong; they’re just different ways that people choose to express the information they want to communicate to a customer. We each have to work out what we want to say and decide whether the information looks appealing, is easily navigable for our readers, and communicates a clear message that says we can provide solutions to our customers’ problems. In Josh’s case, it’s not about what I think or like — it’s about what Josh thinks and likes, and what Josh believes his customers will think and like. My website layout reflects what I think works for me and my customers. Josh’s should do the same for him and his customers.

This applies to all aspects of editorial business ownership. The editorial business is like a house. More established editorial pros can give us sensible advice on how to locate a plot, dig the foundations, construct the walls, and lay on a roof to prevent us getting wet during rainy days, but only we can furnish our individual houses in a way that suits our financial requirements, our particular skills, our backgrounds, and our customers.

Seek advice by all means, but don’t wait for others to make decisions about the detail of your business. Research, ask, learn; consult a business coach/mentor if you’re struggling to clarify your thinking. Then place information within the framework of your own editorial business needs and act.

Further Reading for New Starters:

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

November 17, 2014

On the Basics: Discovering and Benefiting from a Tech Tool

Discovering and Benefiting from a Tech Tool

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

I don’t think of myself as a significantly technical person, so I was nervous about doing an editing project for our colleague Rich Adin because it meant using his wordsnSync Max Stylesheet. I was flattered that someone of Rich’s stature in our field would think enough of me to give me an assignment, and I was confident of my editing skills, but afraid I wouldn’t be up to the technical demands of the Max Stylesheet system.

For me, it’s more nerve-racking to work for someone I know than for a client who’s a stranger — I hope everyone I work with thinks well of me, but the opinion of someone I know matters to me more than that of someone I’ve never met. Using Max felt like a great opportunity to look like an idiot to someone I respect and whom I very much wanted to respect me as well. I was very worried about letting him down.

I did misunderstand one aspect of the process — I thought I was supposed to use Max to check on the style or versions of items in the project manuscripts, when the point was for me as the copy editor to actually create the style sheet as the project went along. Once that was clear, though, I found myself actually enjoying using Max — in fact, I loved it!

I knew what a style sheet was. I’ve made style sheets or notes for other projects, using Word. But that was like etching on stone tablets compared to the ease and functionality of Max.

Among other practical aspects, Max automatically alphabetizes entries for you, but my favorite function is how it handles names and acronyms or initialisms. You can enter a name with its acronym in parens as one step, and Max places each element — the name and the acronym — in its own column but together, so you can easily double-check for the right ones and don’t have to enter them as separate items or search to see what a given acronym stands for. The name comes first in the right-hand column and the acronym is first in the left-hand column, but the two elements stay together. For example, if the text I am editing has “World Health Organization (WHO),” I can copy the name directly from the text and paste it into the entry field in Max. When I click Add Entry to Stylesheet, Max automatically enters the phrase in the W/W (acronym) sections of the stylesheet as shown below — I don’t have to manually (1) type the phrase, (2) alphabetize it, nor (3) reverse it.

W W (acronym)
World Health Organization (WHO) WHO (World Health Organization)

When you enter a new item, Max shows you similar listings, so it’s easy to check for redundancy. Since you have to confirm each new entry (Max will automatically assume confirmation after 45 seconds), you also have a chance to change your mind if needed. And it won’t allow repeat entries of identical information; Max automatically rejects duplicates.

Max also permits super- and subscripting, italicizing and bolding, underlining and strikethrough, and small caps and symbols. Max has no predetermined size, so it works equally well for small projects with short stylesheets and large projects with extensive stylesheets. Searching is also easy.

Rich says that the real beauty of Max is demonstrated when a project has coeditors. All coeditors can access the same stylesheet, add to it, and see the changes made by a coeditor in real-time. Max promotes consistency in multieditor projects. I haven’t yet been part of an editing team to experience using Max in such an environment, but I hope to have that experience in the not-too-distant future.

Max also has advantages for clients. According to Rich, clients are given access to the stylesheets for their projects. The client can’t make changes to the stylesheet, but can review it during the editing and advise the editor of things to be done differently (e.g., use distension rather than distention or use an en-dash rather than a hyphen in a particular circumstance). In addition, the client can download a copy of a current-to-the-minute stylesheet at any time to share with proofreaders and authors — including years later when it is time to prepare a new edition.

There’s far more to this program, but these aspects alone make it worth using. I’m hoping that Rich can and will make Max available to colleagues who don’t work with him, because it’s definitely a valuable tool. There’s even something cozy and personal about a program called Max.

And now that I’ve mastered Max, I may feel up to trying macros!

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.

November 12, 2014

Lyonizing Word: Formatting with Macros

Formatting with Macros

by Jack Lyon

Most users of Microsoft Word format text by selecting a paragraph and then applying a font. More advanced users apply a style. Here’s why:

  1. Styles are easier to use than direct formatting. Once you have the style set up (with, say, 12-point Arial bold, condensed by 1 point, left justified, with 24 points of leading above and 12 points of leading below), you can apply that style with a single click. But if you apply the same formatting without using a style, you’ll have to make a dozen clicks for each heading. If your document has 50 headings, that’s hundreds of clicks—versus 50 clicks if you use a style.
  2. If you need to change the formatting of, say, level-2 headings, you can simply modify the style rather than tediously selecting each heading and applying a different font. Modify the style, and the formatting of all those headings is automatically changed.

But there is a way to handle formatting that is even more powerful—by using macros.

Suppose that you’ve dutifully applied styles to the various parts of a document, but then your client asks you to change the font—everywhere in the document—from Times New Roman to Adobe Garamond. (No, you should not just select the whole document and apply Adobe Garamond. Why? Because that simply “paints over” the real formatting that is still there in the styles, and it will almost certainly lead to inconsistent formatting somewhere down the line.) You could manually modify each style, but if there are dozens of styles in use, there is a better way. That way is a macro, like this one:

Sub SetFontInAllStyles()
Dim aStyle As Style
For Each aStyle In ActiveDocument.Style
aStyle.Font.Name = “Adobe Garamond”
End Sub

Well, that was easy. Let’s look at each line of the macro (excluding the first and last lines, which simply define the beginning and end of the macro).

Dim aStyle As Style

This line defines (dimensions) a variable, aStyle (which name I just made up), as a style. At one point as the macro runs, aStyle might represent the style Heading 1. At another point it might represent Heading 3. But it will always represent a style.

For Each aStyle In ActiveDocument.Styles

Here’s where things start to get interesting. That line tells the macro to cycle through each style (represented by aStyle) in all of the styles in the active document (the document in which your cursor is currently sitting).

aStyle.Font.Name = “Adobe Garamond”

And that line tells Word to set the font for the style currently being represented by aStyle to be Adobe Garamond.


The “Next” line tells Word to go to the next style in the document.

When you run the macro, it will cycle through each style in the document (For Each…) and set Adobe Garamond as the font used in that style.

But what if you want to change the font only in heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on)? Try this:

Dim aStyle As Style
For Each aStyle In ActiveDocument.Styles
If InStr(aStyle.NameLocal, “Heading”) Then aStyle.Font.Name = “Adobe Garamond”
End Sub

Here’s the line of interest:

If InStr(aStyle.NameLocal, “Heading”) Then aStyle.Font.Name = “Adobe Garamond”

That line uses a macro command we haven’t seen before, InStr, which checks for specific text in a larger string of text. In this case, it checks to see if the text “Heading” appears in the name of the style (for example, “Heading 4”). If it does, then the macro sets the font for the Heading style as Adobe Garamond.

Armed with that little beauty, you can pull off all kinds of formatting marvels. Here are just a few of the options available:

If InStr(aStyle.NameLocal, “Heading”) Then aStyle.Font.Bold = True

If InStr(aStyle.NameLocal, “Heading”) Then aStyle.ParagraphFormat.Alignment = wdAlignParagraphCenter

If InStr(aStyle.NameLocal, “Heading”) Then aStyle.NoSpaceBetweenParagraphsOfSameStyle = True

You can even specify the exact name of the style (rather than using InStr):

If aStyle.NameLocal = “Normal” Then aStyle.ParagraphFormat.Alignment = wdAlignParagraphJustify

If aStyle.NameLocal = “Heading 3” Then aStyle.Font.Italic = True

All of Word’s formatting options are at your disposal.

So yes, if you’re formatting a Word document, you should always use styles. But if you need to modify styles en masse, now you know how.

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.


How to Add Macro to Word & to the QAT

Here’s how to put this macro (or any other) into Microsoft Word so it will be available when you need it:

  1. Copy the text of the macro, starting with the first “Sub” and ending with the last “Sub.”
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Type a name for the macro in the “Macro name” box — probably the name used after the first “Sub.” For this macro, that’s “______________.”
  5. Click the “Create” button.
  6. Delete the “Sub [macro name]” and “End Sub” lines that Word created in the macro window. The macro window should now be completely empty (unless you already have other macros in there).
  7. Paste the macro text at the current insertion point.
  8. Click “File,” then “Close and Return to Microsoft Word.”

To actually use the macro:

  1. Place your cursor ___________________.
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Click the name of your macro to select it.
  5. Click the “Run” button. (If you wanted to delete the macro, you could press the “Delete” button instead.)

Here’s how to put the macro on Word’s QAT (Quick Access Toolbar):

  1. Locate the QAT (it’s probably on the top left of your screen either above or below Word’s Ribbon interface).
  2. Right-click the QAT.
  3. Click “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
  4. Under “Choose commands from:” click the dropdown list and select “Macros.”
  5. Find and select your macro in the list on the left.
  6. Click the “Add” button to add it to the QAT.
  7. Click the “OK” button to finish.

November 10, 2014

Thinking Fiction: The First Pass — Just Read It!

The First Pass — Just Read It!

by Amy J. Schneider

After I write this blog post, the next item on my agenda is (surprise!) copyediting a novel (a cozy mystery, if you’re curious). And the first step is one of my favorite parts of fiction editing: simply reading the manuscript. And why wouldn’t it be my favorite? It’s the pleasure reader’s dream: getting paid to read a novel. You might envision being snuggled up on the couch with your laptop and a pillow and blankie, a snoozy dog (or cat, if you swing that way) at your feet, a bowl of bonbons at hand. But the truth is…well, actually that is pretty much how I do the first read. But, as always, other tasks are involved. Let’s take a look.

Receiving the Manuscript

I edit fiction for major New York publishing houses, so of course they have the process well in hand. When a manuscript comes to me, it has already been accepted for publication and undergone substantive and/or line editing, and the publisher has applied its template and the associated styles for front and back matter, chapter openers, space breaks, letters, place and date markers, and so on. So even the unedited manuscript is pretty clean (with some variation, of course). One client helpfully includes a form with information and instructions for the copyeditor, listing items such as genre, setting, audience, and publication date; the level of editing the project editor believes it needs and what levels of changes require a query (generally, lighter edits such as transposing words can be made without a query, whereas queries are requested for heavier edits such as minor rewriting); specific instructions about how to handle things such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, and any unusual choices the author has deliberately made; how receptive the author is to queries (this is helpful for knowing when to put on an extra pair of kid gloves); and any other notes. If a previous style sheet for the same author or the preceding book in the series is available, I receive that as well. (Quite often it is a PDF of my own style sheet with handwritten annotations that the publisher added after the previous edit: additional words, corrections/changes, and so on. Fortunately I always save my style sheets from previous projects, which is especially handy for maintaining consistency across a series or preserving an author’s preferences across unrelated novels. I just pick up the old Word files and use them as a starting point for the new book.)

But at this point, these associated documents are for review only. I look over the copyeditor instructions and mentally note anything that stands out, as well as anything that’s business as usual. (If you are editing for an individual author, you will want to discuss these points with the author ahead of time and agree on the details.) I review the previous style sheet, if one is supplied, and note anything that I may want to begin addressing during the first pass. For example, does the style of the book call for the serial comma? Most do, but some authors prefer to omit it. I’m a fan of the serial comma myself, and it’s very nearly a knee-jerk action for me to apply it. So for books that do not use the serial comma, I run a quick search and replace to flag all occurrences of “, and” and “, or” so I don’t accidentally leave in a serial comma or neglect to take an errant one out. The previous style sheet will also alert me to any other deliberate or unusual style choices as I do the first pass.

Finally, I apply my version of the publisher’s template, which changes the text to a font that is comfortable for screen reading (my preference is 14-pt. Verdana) and gives me access to my other working macros, and we’re off!

Time to Read!

Blankie, check. Doggie (or kitty), check. Bonbons, check. It’s time to get started.

As I mentioned earlier, this is when you simply read the story to familiarize yourself with the author’s style, the characters, the setting, the plot, and so on. No style sheets are required at this point, except perhaps for quick reference. Don’t get bogged down in making and noting style decisions while you are acquainting yourself with the story. In fact, this pass is the only time (except when I’m traveling) that I use my laptop for paid work, because I can do it on one screen, whereas I do the rest of my work on my mighty desktop, HARV (named for the Harvard Mark I; see “IBM’s ASCC Introduction (a.k.a. the Harvard Mark I)”), and its four screens. (I’d like to point out that this is one more monitor than Rich Adin has, heh heh.) I find the multiple monitors especially useful for fiction, because I keep five documents (plus browser and e-mail) open as I edit: the manuscript plus my four style sheets for characters, places, timeline, and general style. (See Rich’s discussion of the increased efficiency of multiple monitors at “The Commandments: Thou Shall Be Efficient”.)

So, no style sheets, just you and the manuscript. Ready, set, read! Enjoy the story. Make mental notes, but do not make style decisions or write queries at this point. You’ll probably notice things that you want to check in more depth later: wasn’t this character’s name different before? Note to self: pay attention to Melvin/Marvin on second pass. (Flag it with a note to yourself, if you like.) And you may also find that your questions are answered later as you read on. Get an idea of the level of detail, so you know how much to note on the style sheets. I’ve edited books where very little description of characters, objects, places, and time was given; it was all plot, and thus the style sheets were very simple. In other books, the level of character description is enough for a police sketch artist to do a pretty good job, and we learn addresses, brand names, car models, exact times of day, and myriad other details. For these books the style sheets will be more complicated to compile.

But you will also start cleaning things up so you can concentrate on the big stuff during the second pass. Go ahead and fix (using Track Changes) things that are outright errors: wrong word choice (e.g., hoard for horde), punctuation errors (e.g., deleting a hyphen after an adverb ending in -ly: newly returned king), and so on. At this point I don’t correct anything that might need a query, even an “AU: OK?” because I don’t want to derail myself. If anything, I flag it and move on. At this stage, I also correct silently (untracked) typographic glitches that the author does not need to approve, such as deleting extraneous spaces, moving commas and periods inside quotation marks (for American punctuation style) and converting multiple hyphens to en dashes.

You probably won’t catch all of the glitches on the first pass, and that’s OK. It’s not meant to be a heavy edit pass. This is one case where you’re actually doing what many laypeople think we editors do: reading the latest potboiler and fixing typos. You and I both know that the heavy lifting comes later. But that’s a topic for upcoming posts.

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.

November 5, 2014

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

by Erin Brenner

In Part I, I reviewed Google+ and Goodreads as two lesser-known social media sites that you can incorporate into your marketing plan to spread your brand message. You don’t have to give up the Big Three — Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter — but you can be more visible on a smaller site, and that’s worth something.

Today, I look at three more sites to consider using: Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.


Storify works beautifully with a professional communicator’s talents. We know how to tell and edit stories, and this site allows you show off those skills by curating of others’ social media postings, giving them context, and then sharing them with your audience. You’ll also demonstrate your knowledge of your industry, as Adrienne Montgomerie does with her links of the week posts.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Gather postings from various social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  2. Add text, images, and URLs to your story to give it context.
  3. Publish your story.
  4. Share the link on your other social media sites.
  5. Embed the link into your website to keep on sharing it.

Storify Pro Tips

That said, collecting and curating stories takes time, so approach them as you would original stories, because in a way they are:

  • Research the main commentators and the hashtags being used. Use the most reliable sources.
  • Consider how to best tell the story. Should you tell it chronologically? As a Q&A?
  • Edit, edit, edit! Choose the comments that best highlight the points you want to make.
  • Keep the story at a reasonable length. It should be long enough to tell the story, short enough to keep the reader’s attention.
  • Add words, links, and pictures to help tell the story.
  • Write headlines and introductions for readers and search engines.


SlideShare is just like it sounds: a social media site that allows you to share your PowerPoint decks. Visitors can look through your slides, comment on them, share the link, even download the presentation as a PDF (if you let them).

Although SlideShare gets only about 4 million visitors a month, it offers a targeted audience: businesspeople, many of whom work for B2B companies. So while you won’t reach individual authors on the site, you can reach companies you want to work for or be associated with. A large portion of the audience are the decision makers themselves: the business owners.

Most users post slides from presentations they’ve given. But you needn’t have given a presentation to post something. Create a slideshow just for the site. Short decks, consisting of 10 slides or less, do really well. You can also share videos, infographics, and documents to share with an audience.

SlideShare Pro Tips

  • Skip the animation. Animation can be great in a live presentation, but it doesn’t work on SlideShare. You can fake animation if you have to, but consider whether that’s necessary.
  • Make your links live. Take advantage of the fact that viewers can click on links within your presentation. Don’t forget to link to your site!
  • Include a call to action. Encourage people to take the next step, whether it’s to visit your website or call you or just share your presentation. Put the slide in the middle of the deck.
  • Make the presentation useful. Slides need to be more than just images. Ensure that some give tips viewers can use.
  • Write good titles and descriptions. Make them accurate, and include keywords. Many views will come from viewers searching on keywords.


Pinterest is essentially a pretty bookmark-sharing site. You collect web pages from around the web and save them using an image from the page or one of your own images. Visitors to your Pinterest page will see the images and can click on them to get more information.

You can post your own content, share others’ content, approve of someone’s posting, and comment on the posting. Pinterest a very visual site that packs a lot of punch.

Use it promote your own writing or your author’s. Pin your articles. Pin links to books and other materials you’ve edited, using the book covers as images. Use others’ pins to enhance your collection and make it more useful to your audience.

As with all curating efforts, you want to add a good description (context) and be particular about what you collect. Remember: your audience is looking for useful information. Provide it, and they’ll remember your brand positively.

Pinterest Pro Tips

  • Create a board others can pin to. Get folks involved!
  • Don’t just pin the first image you see. Look at your options and choose the best one.
  • Spread out your pinning activity. When you pin, your followers receive a notice, so avoid pinning a lot all at once. It can look spammy and feel annoying.
  • Tag your content. Utilize Pinterest’s Guided Search categories and subcategories. This will help people find your pins.
  • Embed board URLs on your website page. Lead website users to your Pinterest account, where they can get useful information.

Social media is a great opportunity for freelance editors, allowing us not only to market to millions of people for the cost of our time but also to demonstrate our creative skills. As with most marketing tactics, however, results take time. You build your audience one person and one click at a time. Have patience and keep at it!

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

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

November 3, 2014

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

by Erin Brenner

Almost every editor — heck, almost every person — is familiar with the Big Three of social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you use social media at all to market your business, you likely use at least one of them.

And why not? These sites have lots of users, offering you a big pool of potential clients. Even better, companies with big marketing budgets are spending large chunks of those budgets on studying how to use the Big Three, and results are published in reports and articles all over the web. There is no shortage of ideas for how to use these sites.

The downside is with so many people on these sites, how do you get heard over the din? How do you stand out from among all the other freelance editors in the crowd?

There’s something to be said for being on a smaller site, with less competition.

This time and next, I will review five social media sites that you should use in addition to the Big Three: Google+, Goodreads, Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.


Google+ was created to be a Facebook killer. Three years in, it hasn’t caught the social media giant yet. There’s a perception that on Google+ you can hear the crickets because there’s so little going on.

Yet Google+ has 359 million monthly active users (MAUs). 359 million. I don’t know about you, but if the smallest percentage of that audience hires me, I’ll be very successful. True, the numbers don’t compare to Facebook’s 1.3 billion MAUs, but they do to LinkedIn’s 300 million monthly active users. What’s more, Google+ is growing 33% each year, while Facebook is growing at a mere 3%.

Let’s forget about MAUs, though, because what really matters is whether there are enough users who would be interested in your services and who would engage with you to warrant spending time on the site.

So who hangs out on Google+? According to Adjust Your Set:

  • 63% of the audience is male
  • 35% of users are ages 25–34 years, 15% are 35–44 years, and 11% are 45–54 years
  • Tech workers are a strong presence

If any of these demographics describes your audience, you should consider using Google+.

Google+ Pro Tips

  • Set up a Google+ Page for your business. You’ll get free data, and it’s one more place to be found.
  • Follow people on Google+. Because users are still trying to find their audience on the site, they will more likely follow you back than they would on other sites.
  • Make use of circles to target your content. Create circles that make sense for your audience, such as topic, client type, or job title. Share content specifically to one of these communities.
  • Participate in relevant communities. There are plenty of writing and publishing communities to join. Look for one with recent activity. Also check out the Copy Editing community (no connection to the newsletter). Because there’s less bloat, your comments are heard more clearly. Be sure to follow those members who comment frequently.
  • Participate in a Hangout. Hangouts are real-time conversations (with or without video) and can be a great way to network.
  • Host an Event. Events are Hangouts that have been scheduled. Invite others to join you for a conversation on a topic important to their business. Try interviewing your published authors on the publishing process or a designer on the importance of book design. Record the video and share it on your site later.


Owned by Amazon, Goodreads is a site for listing, reviewing, and sharing the books you read. What better way to show an author that you know what’s what in horror books than by talking about them intelligently?

How big is the Goodreads universe? According to Quantcast, each day Goodreads has:

  • 950,000 unique visitors
  • 1.1 million visits
  • 5 million page views

That means most folks (83%) visit once a day and look at five pages while there.

Other stats from Quantcast:

  • 22% of users are ages 25–34 years; 20% are 35–44 years, and 16% are 45–54 years
  • 28% of users earn $50,000–$100,000, and another 12% earn $100,000–$150,000
  • 42% are college grads, and another 22% have graduate degrees

Sound like your audience? Here’s how you can use Goodreads better.

Goodreads Pro Tips

  • Create custom bookshelves. Goodreads gives you three standard shelves: read, currently reading, and to read. Create your own shelves to organize books in a way that helps potential clients. How about a shelf of books on your chosen subject matter or books you’ve written, edited, or reviewed?
  • Write professional, useful book reviews. Book reviews follow books, so you can attract new followers or potential clients with your reviews.
  • Share your reviews and books with your other social media audiences. Connect your Goodreads profile with your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Amazon account, and then share your activity, such as publishing a new book review. Not only are you creating content for the other sites, you’re drawing people to your Goodreads account, inviting them to know you better.
  • Recommend books to your top influencers. “Top influencers” are your biggest fans, the people who love to spread the word about you. By sharing something exclusively with them, you’re making them feel special and getting your content out to more people.
  • Participate in Groups. There are Groups for writers and editors. When I last checked, Goodreads had a list of 1,000 tags used to categorize Groups. Choose a Group with recent activity, and follow those you talk with in the Group.

Coming up in Part II: an overview of Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.

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

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

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