An American Editor

January 27, 2016

The Business of Editing: Creating Multiple Journals Datasets Simultaneously

I have written in past essays (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars and The Business of Editing: Cite Work Can Be Profitable) about the Journals macro and how useful it is in my editing work. But the usefulness of the macro has always been tempered by the size of the dataset I am using. For example, the sizes of my current datasets are: American Chemical Society (ACS), 30,922; PubMed/American Medical Association (AMA), 98,669; Chicago/American Psychological Association (APA), 1981; and Harvard, 349. Clearly, my PubMed/AMA dataset is the most useful and reflects the type of projects I usually edit.

The other Journals datasets are increasingly being called on, yet at the moment, with the exception of the ACS dataset, they have too few names to be very useful.

The key to many of the macros in EditTools is the dataset; the larger the dataset, the more powerful the macro that uses the dataset. Consequently, how fast a dataset can be built is important.

Over the different versions of EditTools, changes have been introduced to the Journals Manager that were designed to increase the speed and efficiency with which Journals datasets are built. Originally, each entry variation to the dataset had to be made individually. To speed things up the Multiple Entry process was created. It allowed you to enter multiple variations at one time.

But you were still limited to dealing with a single dataset.

Journals version 7 changes that — now you can add entries to as many as five different datasets simultaneously. In addition, you no longer have to manually create each variation; many variations can be created automatically.

Switching to the Multiple Datasets Entry Screen

The first time you open the Journals Manager in EditTools v7, you will see the same Manager you have seen before (shown below) with one exception — the addition of the checkbox (circled in image):

Original Journals Manager Screen

Original Journals Manager Screen

Version 7 offers the Switch to Enhanced Journals Screen checkbox (#1 above). When you check the box, the dialog changes to the enhanced dialog shown here, which becomes the default:

New Enhanced Journals Manager Screen

New Enhanced Journals Manager Screen

If you do not need the multiple-dataset capability, you can return to the original single-dataset capability by checking the Switch to Original Journals Screen (#2), which will become the default journals entry screen again.

The enhanced screen allows journal entries to be added concurrently to as many as five different datasets. When you first open the enhanced screen, the available files are labeled Custom #1 through Custom #5 (#A and #B in above image). However, you can rename these to whatever you would like by double-clicking on the current name in the Always Correct Journal column to open the renaming dialog. For example, double-clicking PubMed/AMA (#3) opens the renaming dialog shown here:

Renaming Dialog

Renaming Dialog

Enter the new name in the provided field (#4), and click OK. The name will be changed immediately to the new name, both in the Always Correct Journal column (#3) and at the corresponding name in the File Data to Show fields (#5).

The enhanced screen can be used to enter a single title, just as in the original screen. In the example shown below, the journal name being entered is Physiol Meas (#6). That form is fine for PubMed/AMA (#7), but not for the other datasets. So, in the fields for the other datasets, the correct forms are entered (#8 to #10). When Add (#11) is clicked, all four datasets are updated simultaneously — a significant timesaver.

Example Journal Entry

Example Journal Entry

It is not necessary to make use of all of the dataset fields. You can use one, five, or any number between. Only those in which the Correct to field has an entry will be updated. In other words, if only the PubMed/AMA dataset is to be updated with the information in #6 and #7, then #8 through #10 are left empty. Clicking Add (#11) updates only the PubMed/AMA dataset — even though three other datasets are identified.

It is important to note that the journal names that appear in #7 through #10 are what the entry in #6 (and the multiple entries that will appear in #8 in the “Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog” image below) will be changed to. In this example, when Add (#11) is clicked, the Chicago/APA dataset will have added to it the instruction to change Physiol Meas to Physiological Measurement in a document when the Journals macro is run and the Chicago/APA dataset is chosen. Similarly, the ACS dataset will gain the instruction to change Physiol Meas to Physiol. Meas. when the Journals macro is run and the ACS dataset is chosen.

The New Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

When the Multiple Entries button (#12 in the “Example Journal Entry” image above) is clicked, both the original and enhanced screens give access to the new Multiple Journal Name Entry dialog shown here:

Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

This dialog is different from the dialog that appears in in earlier versions of EditTools. The new Multiple Journal Name Entry dialog offers new options, many of which can be preset as default options, that are designed to make entry of multiple items into a single or multiple datasets quick and easy.

Previously, you had to manually enter trailing punctuation; now you can either individually set the trailing punctuation each time or preselect some (or all) (#1) as the default (#2). (If you copy text and paste it in the Text to Add field [#6], and in doing so include ending punctuation, you can tell the macro to ignore that trailing punctuation by checking the Ignore punctuation at the end of entry string box [#5].) Also in earlier versions, if a journal name began with “The” and/or included either “and” or “&”, you had to manually change them. For example, if the journal name was The Journal of Rise & Shine, to enter The Journal of Rise & Shine plus Journal of Rise & Shine, The Journal of Rise and Shine, and Journal of Rise and Shine, you had to enter each variation manually. Now you just need to add checkmarks to the Variations (#3) options.

The same is true for the different capitalization options (#4), except that the Title Case option also has options that are accessed by clicking the Edit button (circled in the above image), which opens this dialog:

Journals Title Case Manager

Journals Title Case Manager

Here you tell the macro which words, when the Title Case option is checked, should always be lowercase unless they are the first word in the journal name. Consider the example shown below (#10). Note the option choices made (#11, #12, and #13). Clicking Add (#14) automatically adds the title and the variations to the main field (#15).

Journals Manager Multiple Entry Options

Journals Manager Multiple Entry Options

More than 50 variations are being added concurrently. You can see all of them at the Journals page at the wordsnSync website; we would need to add four additional images here to display them all.

Once you have generated the variations on a journal name that you want, you can add them to one or more of your journal datasets. The combination of the changes in the generation of variations and the ability to concurrently update up to five datasets makes creation of journals datasets a quick, efficient, and easy process.

The new enhanced Journals screen and the improved Multiple Journal Name Entry screen will enable you to build Journals datasets quickly. One thing to note: If a journal name (or variation) already exists in a dataset, a duplicate will not be added. Only unique names are added. Consequently, it does not matter if one of the Journals datasets already has, for example, The Rise & Shine Journal in it; that particular entry will be ignored for that dataset and the remaining variations that are not duplicates, such as The Rise and Shine Journal and Rise & Shine Journal, will be added.

Building datasets in EditTools is easy; building multiple journals datasets simultaneously in EditTools is also easy.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 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.

January 25, 2016

The Proofreader’s Corner: Knowing and Showing Your Strengths (or Being Interesting)

by Louise Harnby

I’ve read plenty of convoluted and inaccessible definitions of marketing over the years, none of which would give confidence to a new entrant to the editorial field. I developed what I believe is an easier-to-understand definition of marketing, comprising only four words: being interesting and discoverable.

  • Being discoverable is how you enable your clients to find you.
  • Being interesting is how you make your customers want to hire you, and retain you, after they’ve found you.

There are, therefore, three different issues to contend with, and all do need attending to for the following reasons:

  • Someone who is interesting but undiscoverable will have no work because their potential clients don’t know they exist.
  • Someone who is discoverable but uninteresting will have no work because their potential clients don’t care that they exist.
  • Someone who has been discovered and hired in the past but failed to maintain that long-term discoverability and interestingness will have no work because they haven’t kept up to date with the requirements of the market – what their customers want and the latest platforms they are using to source their editorial freelancers.

This essay focuses on the challenge that the editorial freelancer faces of being interesting in such a competitive market. (For more information about being both interesting and discoverable, see my book Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business). An identification of self-strengths (and weaknesses) is key to differentiating oneself and thus being interesting.

An editorial freelancer may not have much experience of editorial work but this “weakness” can be ameliorated when she focuses a potential client’s attention on what she does know a lot about, and then targeting those clients who appreciate that knowledge and see it as part of a solution to the problems they have.

Be practical…

When I first started thinking about going freelance, I had dreams of being paid to proofread books in the genres that I most often read for pleasure: crime, mystery, and sci-fi novels. I scouted the major UK publishers of these genres (paying particular attention to web pages that give advice to prospective freelance editors and proofreaders) and my worst suspicions were confirmed: the chance of me picking up work with no prior experience in the field was poor.

It’s hardly surprising — many of us looking for trade publishing clients are attracted by the idea of being paid to read the works of our favorite authors (even if the fees on offer are not always competitive, and the definition of “proofreading” confounds those of us who have been professionally trained). The field is, thus, very competitive, and the publisher clients are very picky.

Certainly this wouldn’t have precluded me from working for self-publishing authors writing in these genres, but I was a new starter back in 2006. The self-publishing market wasn’t as developed as it is now. But even if it had been, my website’s search engine optimization was so poor that it’s unlikely that I would have been discoverable to those clients. In the startup phase, I was building my business by going to clients, not expecting them to come to me. I needed to put my practical head on.

Focus on what’s gone before

Instead, I decided to focus on the experience I did have. Having got myself trained by the highly regarded Publishing Training Centre, and paid my membership dues to an equally well-respected national editorial society (the Society for Editors and Proofreaders), I took stock of my background. The questions I asked were:

  • What educational qualifications do I have?
  • What work experience do I have?
  • Do I have hobbies that make me an informal specialist in a particular field?
  • Do I have domestic skills that give me particular strengths?
  • Do I lack certain skills and thus have particular weaknesses?


I have a degree in the politics. I’d spent three years in higher education, reading social science texts; I understood the way they were structured as well as the language and style of the books. This wouldn’t make me attractive to a fiction publishing client, but perhaps it would give me a chance with social science presses.

If you have a scientific background, science, technical, engineering, and medical (STEM) publishers will be much more interested in you than me – indeed, many editors/proofreaders I know who are working in STEM have scientific qualifications of some type. If you have a legal qualification, consider focusing on legal societies, law and criminology publishers, and law students. In my article “Does Training Matter?”, several publishers commented on how much they valued their freelancers having knowledge of the subject matter in which they publish. So, selling your educational background is a critical marketing tool. It differentiates you, and differentiation is interesting to your clients.

Past career

If you’re targeting publishing clients, and you’ve worked in publishing, make sure you use this as a key selling point. It shows that you understand the business of publishing: the importance of deadlines, the diplomacy involved in author liaison, the challenges that your in-house contacts will be facing, the standards required, and the financial margins they are working within.

If you don’t have publishing experience, consider what work you have done and target clients who are publishing material in your field of expertise. If you’ve been a nurse, focus on clients with a strong nursing and allied health list; if you’ve been a social worker, initially target clients who are publishing in the areas of social work, social policy, and administration.

A few years ago, I had a discussion with a new proofreader who wanted to get into fiction proofreading. He’d been a military police officer and a teacher prior to starting out on his freelance journey. My advice to him was to focus his marketing efforts on (a) publisher clients with lists in military security studies, political science, and international relations, as well as educational publishing houses, and (b) self-publishers writing military science fiction and alternative history.

Using your previous career as a tool in your marketing arsenal is vital to helping you to stand out from the crowd.

Armchair specialisms

Hobbies are not to be ignored. Using them as a focus for your initial marketing strategy may well turn out to be fruitful. There are many independent and niche publishers who will be happier turning their manuscripts over to you if you can demonstrate a high level of knowledge in a niche area.

Domestic skills

One of my regular clients once asked me if I felt comfortable proofreading a book about baking. I’m not interested in cooking and don’t know a huge amount about the subject, and that makes me uninteresting to cookery publishers. We mutually agreed the project should go elsewhere – they needed someone who understood the catastrophe that might ensue if “3 tsp baking powder” had been typeset as “3 tbsp baking power”.

The things that some people do in the home, and that may be considered simple to them, are highly prized by some clients. If you’re a fine cook, then search for those publishers with a strong list in food and cookery books. The same goes for gardening or do-it-yourself (DIY), just to give two examples. There are scores of books that are published in these fields, and taking some time to research those presses with relevant lists in any given area could help you to differentiate yourself from your colleagues.

Selling your current know-how

Editorial practice is not the same as it was 30 years ago. If we are to retain long-term interest, we need to demonstrate to our potential clients that we are equipped to use the tools of choice for twenty-first-century editorial work. That means not just being able to proofread or copy-edit, but being able to do those things in ways that our customers now prefer. Consider the following:

  • How likely are you to secure work from independent fiction authors who want to send you Word files if you still only copy-edit on paper?
  • How likely are you to secure proofreading work from a business in another country if you don’t have the skills and equipment to annotate a PDF?
  • How likely are you to continue securing work from publishers who want you to edit efficiently onscreen if you are unable to use their house macro suite or use a style palette to code the different elements of the text?
  • How likely are you to retain work from clients who want you to use the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) when you insist on amending texts based on outdated usage preferences?

Telling our potential clients upfront that we are fit for purpose to carry out editorial work according to present, rather than past, preferences is key to retaining interest. Your marketing materials should reflect your ability to use, with confidence, the likes of Word or InDesign, Acrobat Reader or PDF Xchange, macro suites, and consistency checkers.

It’s not just about digital tools. Even tools that were in use 30 years ago have been updated. We need to ensure that our clients know that we have the access to the latest edition of relevant style manuals, dictionaries, and guidance on industry-recognized markup language, for example. The advice from the British Standards Institution on how to mark a proof with the instruction “delete and close up” is not the same as it was prior to 2005. And regarding publication of the 16th edition of CMOS, “In a return to the 14th edition of the manual, the generic term in a proper noun is uppercased if used in the plural (e.g., Fifty-Fifth and Fifty-Seventh Streets, the Thames and Mersey Rivers, the American and French Revolutions)” (CMOS, “Significant Rule Changes in The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition”).

Editorial preferences are not static. New tools and platform are developed. Keep up to date with these changes and use them as key selling points to retain interest. For example, consider listing on your website the resources and reference materials you consult. In that way, current clients are less likely to become past clients, and potential clients are more likely to become existing clients.

Be strategic and be patient

Starting out as an editorial freelancer is all about focusing on what you already have that prospective clients will view as the wow factor. There’s no quick fix to building a strong client list – it takes time and hard work. Making the effort in the beginning to identify what makes you look different – interesting – will provide you with the foundation on which to build your business. As your experience increases, you will be in a stronger position to diversify your client portfolio.

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.

January 20, 2016

Business of Editing: Dealing with Reference Renumbering

Over the years I have had to deal with the unpleasant task of renumbering references. Perhaps the author updated the references by inserting “a,b,c” references, such as 57a, 62a, 62b, rather than renumbering. Perhaps the author inadvertently numbered two different references with the same number. Or, even more troublesome, made the reference list alphabetical, numbered the list, and inserted in the text the reference numbers but in a random order, depending on which reference needed to be referred to (e.g., reference callouts in the text might be in this order: 77, 23, 44, 45, 1, 5, 3, 88). In all instances, the client wants the references called out in order (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) and “a,b,c” references converted to the correct number (e.g., 57a would become 58, what was 58 would become 59, etc.).

This renumbering problem isn’t so bad when there are only a handful of references, but I have dealt with chapters requiring renumbering of 400, 500, 600 — even as many as 1100 — references. (Occasionally, the client would agree to leave the numbering as it was provided by the author when the number of references to be renumbered was more than a few hundred, but more times than not the client insisted that the references be renumbered regardless of the number involved.) The process meant that I not only had to renumber the in-text callout, but I had to renumber the reference itself and move it — plus I had to have some method of tracking the changes because of the ripple effect. For example, if the first in-text callout was 77, it had to become 1, and the reference had to be moved to the 1 position in the reference list. I had to have a method to note that what was 77 was now 1 in case 77 appeared in the text again (e.g., as part of a range, such as 74–79) and so that I knew that the number 77 could be assigned to another reference number.

Until EditTools 7.0, the method was pen and paper, a method that took time and invited errors, especially in chapters with many hundreds of references. The original version of Reference # Order check only tracked callout order (see “The Business of Editing: Keeping Reference Callouts in Number Order“); version 7 is greatly enhanced.

The References # Order Check macro (found in the References menu on the EditTools Ribbon) does not actually alter any document data. Unlike other EditTools macros, this macro is wholly self-contained and everything occurs in its dialog, shown here (click images to enlarge them):

Reference # Order Check dialog

Reference # Order Check dialog

Note that there are two “list” areas in the dialog: #1 and #9. Although each is used for a different purpose, they are complementary. The #9 list is used to track reference callouts; #1, combined with #2, is used to track renumbering.

You begin by creating a list of the reference numbers in the document. If the reference list has 50 entries, you enter 50 in the Update List field (#A) and click the Update List button. This will cause the lists at #9 and #1 to be populated with the numbers 1 to 50. If you happen to spot some a,b,c numbers, you add them by entering them one at a time using the Value to Insert (#B) field and either the Insert Before or Insert After field, and clicking the Insert button. For example, if you need to add 39a and 39b, you would enter 39a in the Value to Insert field and either 40 in the Insert Before or 39 in the Insert After field. Once 39a is inserted, you would repeat the process for 39b except that you would use 40 in the Insert Before field or 39a in the Insert after field. Clicking Insert adds the a,b,c references to both the #9 and the #1 lists.

If no renumbering is needed, you use the #1 list to track references to ensure they are called out in number order. When you come to the first callout, if it is number 1 as it is supposed to be, you click on 1 in the #9 list. That will remove the 1 from that list, but not from the renumbering list (#1). If the next called-out number is a range, such as 2–15, you can either click on each number individually in list #9 or you can delete the entire range at once by entering the 2 in first Delete Range field (#7) and 15 in the second field and clicking Delete.

The Count (#8) tracks the number of references in the document at the start and how many remain to be checked. The Next Renumber (#4) serves as a reminder of the next renumber to use. The Renumber Dataset Information file (#6) allows you to save the renumbering information.

Using this macro to track callouts is certainly better than using pen and paper, but the real value comes in the event of renumbering. List #1 is the original number; list #2 shows the new number. An example is shown here:

Preparing to Renumber

Preparing to Renumber

If the first reference called out in the chapter is 5, it needs to be renumbered as 1. To do so you enter 5 in the Original field (#11) by either typing it in or by clicking on the 5 in the list (#10). Then you enter the 1 in the Renumber field and click Modify. The result is shown here:

The First Renumbering

The First Renumbering

In the renumbering fields, 1 appears next to the 5 (#14), indicating that former reference number 5 is now reference number 1. In addition, because the Remove renumbers from main list is checked (the default) (#5 above), the number 1 has been automatically removed from the main list (#16). And, the Next Renumber (#15) shows 2 (compare to #13 where it was 0), meaning that if you have to renumber the next callout, it is to be renumbered as 2.

If the next callout is 2, then it needs to be removed from the main list (#16 above). If then the next callout is 7, it is renumbered as 3 following the same process (#17 shown below) and the Next Renumber becomes 4 (#18). Note that the Counts at #20 have not changed from the original numbers; it still shows that there are 50 references in the document, none of which have been called out.

The Second Renumbering

The Second Renumbering

That is because we have not manually removed a number from the Reference Order list (#19). When we click on the 2 to remove it (#21), the Count updates automatically (#22), as shown below. The Count now tells us that 47 of the original 50 reference callouts have yet to be checked.

Checking the Count

Checking the Count

One of the problems with the pen-and-paper method was that it was difficult to save a copy of the renumbering for future reference in case a client had a question and, more importantly, to give a client comprehensive information about renumbering when there was a lot of it.

Now, when the document’s editing is complete, I export the information to a text file. To export the data, click Export (#23). The data will be saved to the file shown in the Renumber Dataset Information field (#23). The file is saved as a text file (.txt) and if you open the text file using a program like Notepad, you will see the following format:

The Exported File

The Exported File

Everything you see is automatically generated, including the first line that explains the numbers (#25). In this example, all of the references were renumbered except for 7. I rename the file to reflect the filename of the file it relates to (e.g., “Jones Disorders 011 Renumbering.txt”). I keep a copy with my copy of the edited project files and send a copy to the client along with the edited document. This way the client and the proofreader can track the renumbering, and should a question arise, I have a copy to review.

One key to being a successful freelance editor is providing clients with services they cannot easily get elsewhere. A second key is being able to do tasks efficiently and accurately. The Reference # Order Check 7.0 macro provides both keys. If used, the macro can make an otherwise problematic task easy to accomplish.

If you aren’t using EditToolsReference # Order Check 7.0 to track and renumber references, how do you do it efficiently and profitably?

Richard Adin, An American Editor


Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 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.

January 18, 2016

The Zen of Editing: Tales of the Pen Master

by Jack Lyon

If you’ve ever read much about Zen Buddhism, you’re probably aware of its strange but wonderful stories of masters, monks, and enlightenment. Here is an example:

The Emperor asked Zen Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes,” Gudo said, “but not a dead one.”

In that spirit, here are some tales not of the Zen master but rather of the Pen master, whose job is to open the minds of editors everywhere. As is usual in Zen tradition, each story is followed by enlightened commentary.

Following the Precepts

An assistant editor went before the Pen master, saying, “Lo, these many years I have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style. Why am I not yet enlightened?”

“Because,” said the master, “you have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style.”

In true Zen spirit, this story illustrates the importance of following the rules and not following the rules. Editors have “rules” for an important reason — to make sure that the author’s intended meaning is clearly communicated to readers in a consistent, coherent way. But blindly following the “rules” can also result in miscommunication. That is why, since its initial publication in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style has included the following disclaimer: “Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.”

Editing Is More Than Mechanics

One day the Pen master was passing an assistant’s cubicle.

“Oh, master,” said the assistant, “I’m so glad you came by. Look at this wonderful new editing software. It flags incomplete sentences, finds dangling modifiers, and much more. With this software, the manuscript practically edits itself!”

“Interesting,” said the master. “How does it know when a paragraph should be deleted?”

Editing is not simply a matter of mechanics; if it were, a computer could do it. Fortunately for editors, a human mind is required. At the Editorium, I create and sell Microsoft Word add-ins to help editors do their work. These add-ins, to some degree, automate parts of the editing process. But in the end, cognitive judgment is needed to decide which parts should be automated and which should not, and if any of the automated parts should in some cases be overridden. In addition, there are many parts of the process that simply cannot be automated. Language is complex and subtle, and something as small as a misplaced comma can literally make the difference between life and death (as in a medical journal).

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

An assistant editor was reading a manuscript that had already been gone over by the Pen master. To her surprise, the manuscript contained not a single correction.

Questioning the master about this, the assistant remarked, “You said you had edited this manuscript, but it contains no corrections at all.”

“Nevertheless,” said the master, “now that I’m finished with it, the manuscript is perfect.”

What if you went completely through a manuscript without making a single correction, because, as far as you could tell, no corrections were needed? Would you have done your job? I believe that you would have. An editor’s job is not to make corrections; an editor’s job is to make sure the writing is clear, and if it is, no corrections are needed. Of course, in real life, that is probably never the case. But it’s an interesting thing to think about.

Something Is Always Broke

An assistant brought a new book, hot off the press, to the Pen master. “Master, look!” she said. “The book is beautiful! The cover is bright and attractive, the marketing copy is appealing, the typography is excellent. Surely this is the finest book we have ever published.”

The master opened the book to a random page. “Read the first line,” he said.

“‘When this matter came to the attention of the pubic …’”

These are the things that haunt our lives. I started my publishing career as a proofreader at a university press. On prominent display in our office was a book on whose cover the title had been misspelled — a reminder of the need for constant vigilance on every part of the book during every part of the publishing process. At a later job, thousands of copies of a publication ended up being shredded because of a photograph that should not have been included. So pay attention! As a famous Zen story (a real one) teaches:

A student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.”

Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.”

The student said, “Is that all?”

The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.”

The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.”

In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.”

In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word attention mean?”

Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”

(Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen. [New York: HarperCollins, 1993], 168.)

Editing Reveals Meaning

After receiving his edited manuscript for review, the author was furious. “How dare you!” he said to the Pen master. “This manuscript is covered with corrections.”

“You must not look at the corrections,” said the master. “You must look at the meaning behind the corrections.”

Here we have the opposite case from the one above, where nearly everything needs fixing. Again, however, the process is not about correcting “errors”; the process is about making sure that the author is clear — and not just to the reader. An editor is not out of place to say to an author, “You seem to be saying this, but what I think you really mean is this. Is that right?” It’s all about meaning.

It is not the editor’s place, however, to add meaning, to “improve” the author’s ideas. Editors who feel the need to do so should write their own books.

Context Matters

An editor and a designer were arguing about which was more important, layout or words.

“The layout is finished,” said the designer. “You’ll need to edit the wording to fit.”

“The editing is finished,” said the editor. “You’ll need to change the design to accommodate.”

Finally, they took their argument before the Pen master, who looked at them severely. “What matters is neither the design nor the words,” he said. “What matters is the meaning.”

“And how does one know the meaning?” asked the editor.

“By looking at the design and the words.”

And this is what makes publishing so interesting — and so difficult. The meaning of a word or a sentence or a paragraph always depends on what’s going on around it. Ideas are not fixed; as we change the words or design of a publication, meanings change too, so we must be constantly on our guard.

A student once asked Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, “Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” His reply was spontaneous and profound: “Everything changes.” (David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki [New York: Broadway Books, 1999], xii.)

Here’s another of my Pen Master stories that illustrates the same principle:

One day an assistant came to the Pen master for help with an awkward sentence.

“No matter what I do, I can’t seem to fix this sentence,” he said. “If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

“If fixing the sentence doesn’t fix it,” the master replied, “perhaps it doesn’t need fixing.”

The next day, the assistant came to the Pen master for help with another awkward sentence.

“Again,” he said, “I can’t seem to fix this sentence. If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

The master picked up his pen and deleted the sentence entirely. “There,” he said. “Now the fixing is fixed.”

The following day, after a sleepless night, the assistant came again to the Pen master.

“The first day, you said the sentence didn’t need fixing. The next day, you simply deleted the sentence. How does one know when to fix, when to stet, and when to delete?”

The master looked at him shrewdly. “It doesn’t depend on the sentence; it depends on the sentences around it.”

Thinking to outwit the master, the assistant replied, “And what if there are no sentences around it? Then how does one know what to do?”

The master gave a great sigh. “One doesn’t,” he said.

Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter

An assistant came to the Pen master for advice about reconciling proofs.

“One proofreader fixes an error one way; another fixes the error another way,” said the assistant. “Which way is right?”

“Neither is right; neither is wrong,” said the master. “What matters is that the error was fixed.”

Editors sometimes argue about the “right” way to fix something. But in the end, it may not matter as long as the meaning is clear. There are other considerations, of course, such as elegance, euphony, and even beauty. But these are in the realm of enlightenment beyond enlightenment.

What Is Perfection?

An author brought her manuscript to the Pen master. “This new book is my masterpiece,” she said. “It needs no editing at all; it is perfect just as it is.”

“Truly the book in your mind is perfect,” said the master. “But this is not the book in your mind.”

The real job of an editor is to capture what an author means to say and convey that meaning intact into the mind of the reader. This, of course, is impossible in reality, but that doesn’t keep us from trying, and sometimes we may come close. As the Zen masters say, “Practice itself is enlightenment.”

Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.

One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

“We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,” the gods whispered to him.

“But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

“You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,” responded the gods. “This is true emptiness.” And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.

(Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, comps., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones [Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1985], 53.)

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

January 13, 2016

The Business of Editing: Using Click Lists to Increase Efficiency

One of Word’s features with which I have a love–hate relationship is the Symbol dialog. I am sure there must be a rationale for where symbols are placed in the various categories, but it escapes me.

Dealing with the Symbol dialog was one of the impetuses for the creation of the original Click List macro in EditTools. Needless to say, although the original Click List was helpful, it was problematic to remember that [*8214*] meant a double vertical line. And as my list of symbols grew, it became apparent that some other system was needed — I was neither saving time nor making money by using Click List (in its original incarnation) for symbols.

Then I had a project where the author kept reusing the same basic references (134 of them) but didn’t style them the same way twice. So, I thought, this could be a great use for Click List. And I started adding the references in their correct form to Click List.

The result was unusable if efficiency was my goal — I was trying to add to a single Click List too many disparate items, which made it hard to find specific items. This approach was contrary to the approach I was using in other EditTools macros, which was to have multiple tabs so that data could be better organized and managed; consequently, it became evident that I needed to add tabs to Click List.

Consequently, significant changes have been made to Click List in the recent EditTools 7.0 release. Version 6.2 provided a single tab and essentially no options. Version 7.0 has added tabs and expanded the options. The new Click List Manager looks like this (clicking on the images will enlarge them):

Click List Manager v7.0

Click List Manager v7.0

and Click List like this:

Click List v7.0

Click List v7.0

Instead of one tab for everything, there are now four tabs (#1 in above images) — three of which can be renamed (the Click List tab cannot be renamed) — one of which, Symbols Definition, is specifically designed to deal with Word’s Symbols. Each tab has its own dataset (#C above and below), so each list is independently maintained.

Symbols Definitions Tab in Click List Manager v7.0

Symbols Definitions Tab in Click List Manager v7.0

Symbols and Click List

The Symbols Definitions tab in Click List Manager is shown above. The Symbols tab in Click List is shown in the Click List image above.

The Manager has two information columns (#A and #B), which correspond to the Symbol Name field (#6) and the Symbol field (#5), respectively. I click the Insert Symbol button (#E) to open Word’s Symbol dialog. I locate the symbol I want to add to Click List and double-click it. That both inserts the symbol in the Symbol field (#5) and closes the Symbol dialog. Then I enter a name for the symbol in the Symbol Name field (#6). The name can be the any name you choose. (Hint: If certain symbols are rarely used and you use the alphabetize option [#2], start the name with an x and a space — for example, “x euro” [no quote marks] for € — to put the symbol at the end of the list. Similarly, if there are a few symbols that are often used, start the name with a hyphen and a space — for example, “- section” [no quote marks] for § — to put the symbol at the beginning of the list, and reduce the time to access it.)

Note that there are 30 entries in the list (#D). Under Word’s system, it would be difficult to access some of these symbols quickly. In addition, Word requires multiple clicks each time I want to access a symbol: (1) to switch to the Insert menu, (2) to open the Symbol dialog, (3) to open the More Symbols dialog if the symbol I want is not on the short “quick access” list, (4) to scroll (or to select the group, if I know which group it is in, from the dropdown) to find the symbol I want, (5) to select the symbol, and (6) to insert the symbol into my document.

In contrast, with Click List, once I use the Manager to add the symbol to Click List (the Manager can be opened from the EditTools toolbar or by clicking the button in Click List [#11]), it takes three steps: (1) a click to go to the Symbols tab if it is not already showing (assuming Click List is already open; the way I work, I open it when I start Word and keep it open until I close Word or click Cancel [#F]), (2) scroll to locate the symbol by the name I have given it, and (3) click on the name to insert the symbol in my document. Half the steps plus significant time saving in locating.

References and Click List

As I noted earlier, I had a project in which the author repeatedly cited the same sources but never the same way twice. That project was the impetus for the Reference tab. The References Click List and Manager are shown here:

References Tab in Click List and Click List Manager v7.0

References Tab in Click List and Click List Manager v7.0

The Reference tab is the same as the Click List and Miscellaneous tabs, but if you compare it to the Symbols Definition tab above, you will see some significant differences. For example, the Format Options (#G), the Text Color option (#17), and the ability to add a Return to an entry by typing ^p (#18) are not available in the Symbols Definitions tab.

In the project, the author would cite a book or a chapter in a book, but do so inconsistently. So when I initially came to a reference, I corrected it and I then copied the “fixed” portion (i.e., the portion of the reference that would remain the same in any future use of the cite) of the corrected version into the Text field (#14) of the Manager and added it to the list (#15) by clicking Add. I did not apply any of the Format Options (#G) because they apply to the whole text string, not just to select words in the text string.

Because Alphabetize (#2) is the default, clicking either Save or Save & Close added the cite to Click List (#16) in alphabetical order. When I came to a reference entry in the document, I checked for it in the Click List using the ability to go to a particular letter in the alphabet by clicking on the letter in the Alphabet (#13). If it was present, I then selected the incorrect “fixed” portion of the cite in the document and clicked on the correct “fixed” form in Click List to replace the selected text.

This was a great time-saving method for fixing citations. It took much less time once the entry was in Click List than it took to manually correct the cites. With a click, this author-supplied cite

Dunn, P. J., The chemical development of the commercial route to sildenafil citrate, (Ed. Gadamasetti, K.; Braish, T.), Proc. Chem. Pharmaceut., Ind. (2008), 267-277.

became this (as per the client’s style)

Dunn, P. J., The chemical development of the commercial route to sildenafil citrate, Process Chemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry, Volume 2: Challenges in an Ever Changing Climate, (Ed. Gadamasetti, K.; Braish, T.), (2008), (CRC Press), 267-277.

A lot of typing (and repeat typing) was saved by using the Reference tab of Click List. And because the reference list I created could be saved to a project-specific dataset, I can recall this list when I edit the next edition of the book. If the format had been a standard style, such as AMA or Chicago, I could have saved the list as a style-specific list, for example, as “Chicago Style Drug References,” and used it (and added to it) the next time I had a project calling for that style in the same subject area.

Alphabetizing and Click Lists

I always alphabetize my Click Lists, so I leave Alphabetize (#2) checked. If it is checked, it remains the default until you uncheck it, which then becomes the default until the box is rechecked. (In the case of Symbols, the alphabetization is by the name [#A] I assign the symbol, not the Unicode [#B] number.)

I found that as my Click List datasets grew, it became difficult to quickly find a specific entry. This was especially true with the Symbols and the References tabs. The result was the Alphabetize option (#2) on Manager and the Alphabet go-to function (#13) on Click List. Clicking on a letter of the alphabet takes you to the first entry that begins with the selected letter, eliminating a lot scrolling in long lists.

Click List and Toggle Word

The EditTools 7 Click List is an excellent way to save time and increase profits. I use it to insert specific text that a client requires (e.g., copyright lines or permission lines) and anything else that can be standardized.

Remember that Click List and Toggle Word are complementary. Click List inserts new text; Toggle Word changes existing text. Using both significantly increases efficiency and, thus, profitability.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 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.


January 11, 2016

Thinking Fiction: Making Copyediting Decisions

by Carolyn Haley

In a recent discussion with a colleague about editing fiction, I was asked the following questions:

  • How do you determine if the language level fits the readership?
  • If a phrase is properly worded but there is an alternative phrasing that might be better, how do you determine whether it is better for the target audience?
  • How do you decide how much explanation of events or characters is too much or too little?
  • How do you decide whether an allusion can be left without explanation?

In each case, my answer is, “It depends.”

It depends, primarily, on scope of work and who you’re working for. Secondarily, it depends on contextual variables, such as genre and vocabulary — and yourself.

Scope of work

The keywords in the above questions are how do you determine and how do you decide. In actuality, you might not have the luxury to do either. For instance, when copyediting a manuscript for a traditional publisher on a freelance basis, you might be barred from revising content. The manuscript already has been content-edited, and the project editor informs you of the parameters to work within for polishing the prose.

Such parameters could range from an admonishment to not touch anything unless it’s patently wrong, to a list of situations that are okay to change and not change. In these situations, if you exceed scope of work by broadly evaluating language level, phrasing, and explanation, and then make revisions pertaining to them, you could get tagged as a freelancer who doesn’t follow directions and not be hired again. Conversely, the project editor might be thrilled that you did so much and hire you again eagerly. But now you’ve established a performance standard disproportionate to your rate, and you may get stuck there for all future jobs.

Sometimes the publisher gives you a free hand as long as you query and justify any changes beyond mechanical details. While documenting so much extra can be annoying and time consuming, it gives opportunity to address issues on multiple levels. Again, though, you might end up with an imbalance between work and paycheck. But if you’re a copyeditor in a solid, long-standing relationship with an individual publisher, you may have more leeway.

Contextual variables

The how you determine/decide question mainly comes into play when you’re an independent copyeditor handling novels by independent authors, a situation in which you have more freedom to make choices.

So, back to the original questions:

(1) How do you determine if the language level fits the readership?

By understanding genre, and how it applies to an individual novel.

A young adult story, for instance, is structured with shorter sentences and leaner vocabulary than an adult book. Words that you think might be a stretch for the age group can still be acceptable; after all, none of us is too old (or young) to look things up and learn. As long as context gives a good sense of the word’s meaning, you can usually let it stand, though sometimes it’s a tough call. Authors are cautioned by writing gurus to not “write down” to younger audiences, but may not understand where the line is, which can make things fuzzy for the editor. Generally, in books for youth, too many occurrences of look-up words needs to be queried.

Adult novels allow wider vocabularies. Nevertheless, in some genres certain words are taboo. Take sweet romances and cozy mysteries. These rarely contain profanity or sexual terms, so if you encounter such elements in those genres, you need to query and suggest options. Similarly, science fiction commonly includes technical terms, which are fine for that audience but may confuse readers in, say, a dark mystery focusing on relationships. Fantasy novels often create words for magical systems and alien worlds, which, too, are fine for that audience. However, those words might be hard to read because of strange spellings, or character names might be confusing because so many start with the same letter to indicate variants of tribal names. That convention might make story sense but adds labor for the reader, making it something you should query.

Action-based stories normally use short or fragmented sentences; short paragraphs, chapters, and words; and are heavy on verbs, but light on adverbs and adjectives. Verbosity and passive construction defeat the story’s purpose and must be edited and/or queried and/or discussed with the author. Likewise with any contemporary novel that overuses brand names or fad language because the author is trying to be hip, or to slavishly follow someone’s advice to be detail-specific. These can date the story needlessly or overload it with minutiae, each of which can interfere with reader attention or interest.

In any context, language that doesn’t work usually draws attention to itself by making the reader stumble. I take my cue from stumbles to focus on the cause and consider alternative phrasing. Whether to edit, query, or talk with the author depends on the scope of work. Sometimes there’s more going on than either you or the author anticipated, and you have to renegotiate timeline and fee.

(2) If a phrase is properly worded but there is an alternative phrasing that might be better, how do you determine whether it is better for the target audience?

“Better” is a highly subjective term, so ensure that your judgment of “better” is a matter of clarity and comprehension, not just your personal taste. When editors start questioning or recasting too much of an author’s writing because they think it’s not good enough, they’re entering the realm of changing author voice. That’s a big no-no in fiction, which is why I use stumbling as my first decision-making criterion. I may not be the ideal representative of the target audience, but I’m well read enough to trip on something that doesn’t work. So when stumbles provoke me to consider alternative language, I review the choices in the context of the author’s audience and genre, and edit or query as suits the scope of work.

(3) How do you decide how much explanation of events or characters is too much or too little?

By stumbling while reading, or being pushed out of the story.

Most of us have encountered novels wherein the author presents so much detail or backstory that the narrative bogs down. Such “info dumps” are a frequent cause of readers skipping ahead or bailing out, and should be addressed. Part of storytelling finesse is to provide just enough information to let readers understand what’s going on and create a clear picture in their minds, while leaving out enough to lure them along. When authors fail to do this, you should draw their attention to it and suggest whether to condense, delete, or relocate the material.

Conversely, too little information leads to confusion. Unclear action, unreacted-to moments, unsubstantiated logic leaps, incomplete scenarios — all force readers to back up and figure out what’s going on. Most of these situations require queries, although sometimes simple edits like adding a pronoun or reversing a sentence can take care of the problem.

(4) How do you decide whether an allusion can be left without explanation?

This is a tricky call. Each editor brings a different knowledge base to a story, and some will understand certain allusions automatically and glide by them, whereas others won’t make the connection and will need it explained, and still others will be uncertain enough to ask. It’s safe to assume that readers will run the same gamut. Best practice is to flag any allusion that appears in a story and ask the author to confirm that it means what you think it means, and whether the author believes all readers will understand it. Perhaps suggest that the point will be better made by spelling it out.

“It depends” as a standing condition

Because so much of fiction editing is contextual and subjective, it’s hard to know where to draw lines between right and wrong. Yet many narrative moments have no concrete right or wrong presentation (which is why style guides are considered guides, not rule books). Copyeditors of fiction must have some tolerance for rule ambiguity so they can help authors keep ambiguity out of their voice and vision. That means editing with a light touch unless directed otherwise by the hiring party, and flagging anything that might raise a question in readers’ minds or generate confusion. “When in doubt, query” serves well in most instances. Every potential issue the editor points out is one that author can revisit and prevent becoming an issue for the reader. While “it depends” is often the answer to a question, copyeditors who know what “it” depends on can best convey to authors their choices and the advantages one has over another.

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

January 6, 2016

Should Editors Give Trigger Warnings?

I was catching up with some reading of magazines I haven’t had time to get to (for months), when I came across an article on trigger warnings at the university level (“The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015, pp. 42-52). I am surprised at how different the expectations are today on a college campus than when I attended college 50 years ago.

One example given in the article was a demand by some law school students that “professors at Harvard not […] teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in ‘that violates the law’) lest it cause students distress” (p. 44). Having gone to law school myself, I wondered how that would work. How could a professor ignore the subject of rape or abuse (spousal or child) in a class on, for example, criminal law, criminal procedure, or constitutional law? How will these future attorneys make it in the real-world practice of law where “violates” is a commonly used word? And what about their clients? How well would a rape victim (or a rapist) be served by a lawyer who doesn’t acknowledge the word rape?

But that got me thinking about editing. Not once in my 32 years of editing have I given a warning at the beginning of a manuscript. Have I been remiss? Have I neglected to take into account the sensibilities or sensitivities of my client or my client’s author?

Of course, I also have never received a warning that the manuscript contains explicit descriptions of things that would not make for everyday conversation in “polite” society. Have my clients or my clients’ authors been remiss by not warning me of the horrors to come should I proceed with editing their manuscript?

I am currently editing a book that requires a heavy editing hand, just the opposite of what I was told when I was hired (“It only needs a very light edit.”). Should I put a warning at the beginning of each chapter, one that says:

WARNING! Read the edited version of this chapter with caution. You may be offended by the number and type of queries added and corrections made to your manuscript. They might cause you undue stress, especially if you perceive it as an attack on your language skills rather than an attempt to help you improve your manuscript.

Okay, perhaps the warning needs a little work but the idea is conveyed. What if a person needs to be warned about literature?

WARNING: William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice contains blatant anti-Semitic text that may offend you. As this text is foundational to this course on works by Shakespeare, perhaps you should consider taking a different, potentially less-offending course.

Or a about a book that focuses on a genre of literature?

WARNING: In this book on 19th-century American literature of the South, words that are politically incorrect today and that might remind you of slavery and/or second-class status are common. If such words deeply offend you, perhaps you should consider reading a different, potentially less-offending book.

Or about the contents of a book discussing history?

WARNING: Since the beginning of recorded history, slavery has been a prominent part of history. Consequently, slavery is discussed in this book. If a discussion of slavery deeply offends you, perhaps you should consider reading a different, potentially less-offending book.

Perhaps, then, editors need to warn clients that the perfect manuscript the client submitted was found to be imperfect, so the client should be prepared to deal with the stress that the discovered imperfections may cause.

Then, again, perhaps clients owe editors a warning that editing a manuscript may be stressful.

I understand that the traumas some people have experienced are such that reliving those traumas can be exceedingly painful and that some subjects trigger that reexperiencing. The goal of trigger warnings is commendable; I just wonder how well those who require trigger warnings to deal with life on the college campus will be able to deal with work life after college, when the shelter college affords is no longer available.

I also wonder where the line is drawn. Are we not to talk about the Holocaust because it may trigger anxiety in someone who lost much of their family in the concentration camps? Do we not mention the Vietnam War because it may trigger posttraumatic stress disorder in a Vietnam veteran? Do we not discuss the march on Selma because it may trigger severe stress in someone by reminding them of the Ferguson events? Are we not to mention President Obama because it may cause severe stress in an ultraconservative Republican?

I know there are defenders of trigger warnings (see the comments to Trigger Warning: This Essay May Cause Mental Disturbance), but no one has yet defined the boundary beyond which trigger warnings need not be given. In addition, the argument always seems to be one-sided and focused on offering protection to the person that might be offended and ignoring everyone else. Yet the movement grows.

An article by Rani Neutill, “My trigger-warning disaster: ‘9 1/2 Weeks,’ ‘The Wire’ and how coddled young radicals got discomfort all wrong,” (Salon, October 28, 2015), and the video of a HuffPost Live discussion at the end of the article are worth reading and watching.

In the end, however, the question remains: Should I offer the trigger warning about the editing or not? For now my answer is no, but if the trigger-warning movement keeps its momentum, the trigger warning will become a necessary tool in the editor’s toolkit because the future generation of authors will have grown up in an academic environment where such warnings were routinely given and so they will expect them everywhere, including on edited versions of their manuscript.

The question will be this: Will these new authors give warnings to editors that their manuscript might be poorly written and stressful to edit, or that it contains such potentially distasteful and stress-causing things as putting milk and sugar in tea or an allusion to sex between bees?

Richard Adin, An American Editor


January 4, 2016

On the Basics: A Tangible Expression of the Value of Editing

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Editors don’t always get to see acknowledgment of what we bring to the publishing process, but sometimes — oh, sometimes!

In November, I had the exciting experience of receiving a Big Pencil Award from Writers and Books, the literary center here in my hometown of Rochester, NY. The initial announcement said the award was for being “A teacher of adults who has inspired the creation and appreciation of literature” and someone who has “contributed significantly in the advancement, creation, and understanding of literature in the Rochester community.”

That surprised me a bit — sure, I’ve been presenting classes at Writers and Books for many years now, but I never thought of myself as in the literary side of the writing, editing, or publishing business in general. I see myself more as a journalist or a freelance generalist. I write nonfiction, and most of what I edit or proofread is also in the nonfiction realm. I did publish one piece of fiction way back in high school, in a regional magazine that no longer exists; I did launch and edit a literary magazine with friends at around the same time, after being turned down for the official school magazine; and I did get a 5 (the top score) on the AP English exam in part thanks to writing a poem in answer to one of the essay questions. The only “literary” project I’m involved with nowadays is “wrangling” the website of Gargoyle, a DC-based literary magazine, and its companion business, Paycock Press. Even there, though, my contributions are more on the practical side than the creative or literary aspect of the publications.

Then I thought, “Well, I do teach classes at Writers and Books on the basics of editing and proofreading, and on grammar (in addition to ones on freelancing and websites for writers), and those are essential to good literature. Maybe I’m entitled to this recognition after all.”

Going to the award presentation event was exciting, but I had no idea what to expect. I assumed the presentation itself would involve the head of Writers and Books repeating that language of the award that I had seen up to that point and handing each recipient — there were six of us altogether — a framed certificate. (A literal Big Pencil would have been neat, but I knew ahead of time that that wouldn’t be the expression of the award.)

To my surprise and delight, the presentation included this, from the director of education at Writers and Books: “Good grammar, editing, proofreading: these are practices that we often take for granted, but are also a necessary part to crafting our stories. For years, Ruth Thaler-Carter has been the generous, guiding hand that has helped individuals develop these habits.…Ruth has given writers the tools they need to succeed, and does so in a way that is clear and accessible.…She has been an important part of the writing community, providing essential services to so many people.…”

Rest assured, I’m still blushing over this, but I use it here not to brag. It illustrates how some people see the value of editing, so I present it in appreciation of having that value recognized; not just for myself, but for everyone who labors in this particular vineyard. So often, what we do is not acknowledged, even when we catch and fix what would have been our clients’ horribly embarrassing typos, turn sludge into interesting reading, make the difference in whether a piece of writing gets published, and more.

These words say it for me — the skills and knowledge that editors bring to publications in any and every genre are essential to work that is readable and publishable. Of course, plenty of garbage gets published nowadays, thanks to many factors, including the ease of digital self-publishing; decisions by many publishers and publications to dispense with copy editors; changes in the academic rigor in the editing “arts”; and the ability of just about anyone to hang out a shingle as an “editor” these days. A lot of self-publishing authors, as we’ve discussed in various posts here, don’t use professional editing services, either because they don’t understand our value or because they have no idea of how that value translates to the quality of their work or to dollars. I’m hoping that the wording accompanying my award may help open the eyes of potential clients in a variety of fields — not just ones for me to work with, but ones for any of us.

There’s more to this than the feel-good glow for me, or any colleague who gets a gratifyingly warm thank-you from a client. For those of us who do editing, obtaining and promoting compliments or testimonials from our clients is especially important, because we often can’t show prospective new clients the work that we’ve done. Many clients don’t want anyone to see the “before” versions of their material, and some ask us to work on projects that involved protected, proprietary information that can’t be shown to a general public as either before or after. We need to constantly remind current and prospective clients of our value, not just by participating in conversations about the importance of editing (and proofreading) but by our sharing the complimentary things that clients say about our work.

Our websites and other promotional material should emphasize that value — not just list our skills and the software programs we can use, but explain what we bring to a project and why it’s worth hiring someone with professional skills and solid experience. Compliments from satisfied clients can help bolster such information, so we also have to make sure to ask our clients for feedback that we can post as testimonials at our websites and recommendations at LinkedIn. I know that it can be hard for the more introverted of my colleagues to ask for testimonials, but doing so is important if we want to establish our editorial credibility and show the world that editing does have value and is valued.

Recognition of the value of editing serves another important purpose: It helps us justify higher fees. The more valuable a service is perceived as being, the more willing someone will be to pay a higher price for that service. Think of it like an automobile: We perceive that a Cadillac is more valuable than a Chevy Spark, and thus are willing to pay more for that Cadillac than for the Spark, even though both can take us from Point A to Point B at 65 miles per hour.

Because recognition of the value we provide can be rare, I’d like to see examples of how colleagues here have been complimented on what they brought to a project. Please feel free to share your kudos and compliments, how that praise came to you — whether spontaneously or by request — and how you are using it to enhance current and future clients’ understanding of why editing is important.

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.

January 1, 2016

Worth Noting: EditTools Version 7.0 Released

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

Happy New Year!

EditTools 7.0 is now available!

With the new year, wordsnSync Ltd has released EditTools version 7.0. Significant enhancements have been made to many macros in EditTools. EditTools macros are designed by and for editors to make editing more efficient and accurate.

The release is a free upgrade for registered users. If you haven’t yet tried EditTools, now is a good time to do so.

To obtain version 7, click or paste this link: Alternatively, go to the Downloads page at wordsnSync ( and click on “Download EditTools v7.0”.

To discover which macros have been improved, go to the EditTools product page ( or at the website, click in the main menu Products > EditTools) and look for the . Information about the enhancements is found on each macros’ description page. More in-depth information will be coming to An American Editor in the coming weeks.

The most extensive improvements have been made to the Journals Manager, the Toggle Managers, and to Reference # Order Check and Click List. However, be sure to check the other improved macros, too.

NOTE: EditTools requires Windows (either 32- or 64-bit) and Word (32-bit only). To use on a Mac, you need to use a program like Parallels to run Windows and Word for Windows.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: