An American Editor

January 28, 2022

On the Basics — A new reminder about emergency planning

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:13 am

© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

A couple of recent social media conversations bring me back to my frequent topic of emergency planning.

• A colleague recently asked about what happens if a freelancer is unable to complete work they have started. How easy is it for someone to send work-in-progress to your clients (assuming they’ve paid something down on the job already) if something happens that keeps you from finishing a project — or just communicating with clients at all? The original post was primarily about whether nonrefundable upfront payments or deposits really are nonrefundable no matter whether you finish the job, but there’s more to it than that.

• A friend whose husband died recently posted in social media about all the work involved in figuring out accounts — online, bank, retirement and more, including a few he opened without her. One of the comments said something about a spouse handling all of the couple’s family matters, and that poster not knowing what’s what and where.

The first item is one excellent reason to participate in a professional association — not just join, but be visible. Membership gives you a way to find colleagues you can partner with before there’s a crisis, to see how well their work style and quality meshes with yours, and to have names you can give to whoever will look after your business if you’re incapacitated or, well, dead. It’s also an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge and experience, because that will make colleagues think of you if they need backup and be more likely to help if you need them. Your clients might want to find their own replacements for you, but you will be doing them a huge favor by having someone, or several someones, you can recommend to step in and wrap up anything currently under way. 

The same goes for participating in social media groups for and of colleagues: You become known, and you get to know people you might feel comfortable recommending to your clients.

Side note: The possibility of being referred or contacted about, or needing to participate in, partnering or subcontracting is a reason to make sure your posts to a group or discussion list are as professional and letter-perfect as possible.

This isn’t just about finishing a single project, though. You want to be sure that someone can contact current, recent and upcoming clients if you do become incapacitated, even temporarily. You want that someone to know about your business policies, including what you mean by nonrefundable.

The scary possibility of your own illness, injury or death is why someone should have access to your business information: passwords, current client list with contact info, project status, contract language/business policies, recurring subscription payments, bank accounts and payment systems, etc. This includes social media accounts.

From the other side, now is a good time to make sure that both partners in a couple, or at least one other person in a family, have that information about joint and individual accounts, whether business or personal, along with insurance policies. It’s hard enough to deal with the emotional aspects of an injury to or a loss of a partner; not knowing about accounts makes it even harder. You could be in either position. Think about what you both would need to know if anything bad were to happen.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your family right now is to make a will. Every state has its own laws; in some states, if you don’t have a will, everything goes to the state. Having a will protects you, your assets and your family. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to draft one; you can get forms online or at office supply stores.

In addition to a will, put together a letter of instruction that says where to find all of this information, along with where to find things like safe deposit box keys, cemetery plot deeds and life insurance policies. The letter should also outline your funeral wishes, what to do about any pets and any other details your heirs/executors will need to handle if you become incapacitated or die.

Leave the letter and your will where they can easily be found, and make sure you know the same about a partner’s important documents; tell the people who need to know where they are. Don’t put them anywhere that isn’t immediately accessible. 

Some colleagues keep a Word document on the desktop of their computers titled something like “In Emergencies” with details such as where all the important files are on their system and in real life, both client and personal information, so partners or other contact people can find what they would need in the event of an emergency.

Consider creating a binder in which to centralize all your information — passwords, insurance documents, financial accounts, friends to be notified, a health directive, mortgage and other creditors, your last wishes, and so on.  Ask your bank about converting your business account(s) to name someone as transfer on death (TOD), so funds can be transferred immediately to the person of your choice — no probate involved. 

Remember that keeping such records on your computer and on paper will be useless if you don’t leave a list of passwords and instructions about where to find these records with someone.

No one wants to think about the possibilities of traumatic injury or death happening to ourselves or the people we love, but they are real. Accidents happen, illness happens, pandemics happen. And even relatively non-fatal or temporary conditions, such as a bad sinus attack or minor injury, can interfere with getting our editorial work done. I hope everyone here has their business and personal information organized and accessible to a trusted other person, just in case. Because “just in case” will happen, at some level, to all of us.

© An American Editor. Content may not be recirculated, republished or otherwise used without both the prior permission of the publisher and full credit to the author of a given post and the An American Editor blog, including a live link to the post being referenced. Thank you for respecting our rights to and ownership of our work.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and owner of An American Editor. She created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( and sponsored by An American Editor. She also owns A Flair for Writing (, which helps independent authors produce and publish their books. She can be reached at or

January 24, 2022

On the Basics: The Future of Editing

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:58 am

© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Colleagues both in-house and freelance may have reason to worry about the future of editing, in large part because of social media posts and groups claiming that editing is unnecessary and editors are ripping off authors who don’t need their services. Contributing to our angst is the consolidation of publishing outlets, mostly in newspapers; apparent trend among publishers to cut way back on editing and proofreading; and proliferation of low-budget entities that claim to provide editing services but have not real skills or training in our art.

It does seem scary. But it isn’t the end of the world as we know it. There are still people who aspire to be skilled editors, and there are still clients who value skilled editing.

I talked about this in a presentation for the Colorado chapter of the Editorial Freelancers Association recently, and it turned into this post.

For those who say that the editing and proofreading of today’s books is at an all-time low, by the way, I say “Maybe not.” I read a lot of books published in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, and trust me: lots of errors! Of course, publishers in those days didn’t have spellcheck or grammar-checking computer programs to help their authors, copyeditors and proofreaders catch egregious errors — but many of us would say the editors and proofreaders of that era were better than many practicing our art today.

In writing, editing and proofing since high school, I’ve seen a lot of changes. I’ve written articles on a manual typewriter, a very basic electric one and one that could do macros before progressing to using computers to write, edit, proofread and do layout/production; I’ve edited or proofed manuscripts that were written on typewriters, stencils (AB Dick mimeograph machines), typesetting machines and computers — both PC and Apple/Mac. I’ve gone from using dictionaries and encyclopedias for reference resources to using the Internet and all its wonders — and issues — along with various software programs to enhance accuracy and consistency. I’ve worked with clip art and LetraSet stick-on lettering, proportion wheels, grease pencils, Rubylith and rule tape, so I love using InDesign and Quark for layout and production.

I’ve proofed laid-out projects in bluelines, so I enjoy proofing PDFs and the ease and reduced expense of adapting, correcting and updating documents in today’s computer programs and systems.

It’s been fun to see how typewritten résumés have become easily adaptable Word documents and PDFs, sent in moments by e-mail. And physical portfolios evolving into websites. And newspaper ads for editing jobs become e-mail lists, website areas, LinkedIn and other online elements, job-site platforms, etc.

It’s been fascinating to see these changes over the years; it’s a perspective that, of course, no one new to editing now might be aware of or appreciate.

What else has changed? Editing and proofreading on paper, now done in Word with Track Changes or Google Docs with Suggesting mode; slides as transparencies now created in PowerPoint and similar programs; bluelines as PDFs; print dictionaries, encyclopedias and style guides now available online, with Q&A functions and immediate, real-time updates and changes; teamwork and collaboration through Zoom and various online platforms …  

Our work has gotten easier and more efficient in many ways, although the demands on and expectations of editors has increased as well. We also often have to defend our training and skills against online programs that claim to do the work of checking or fixing grammar, spelling, usage and other aspects of the editing process — not all technology is a good thing, or at least, the human factor can’t be removed from the process, no matter what people say — and against platforms that offer supposed editing at bargain-basement rates. 

Many aspects have remained the same: the importance of basic skills in grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, attention to detail, being organized (for myself and my projects or clients).

There are fewer traditional in-house publishing jobs and outlets today — but new opportunities for editors. Self-publishing is expanding at every turn, and those independent authors need us; often more than they realize. It can be a challenge to make someone understand our value, but once an author recognizes that reality, the result can be a wonderful collaboration and relationship that lasts beyond a first book or other project.

The online environment is a boon in many ways. One is that short articles in publications can become longer, in-depth treatments at website and in blogs. Corrections and updates can be made in moments as needed. We can check for plagiarism far more quickly and easily than in the past. And we can work almost anywhere — at home, in coffee shops, on the road, wherever.

I firmly believe that editing is here to stay, and editors will remain needed and relied upon. What do you think?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is the owner and editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning creator of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide. She created the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues in 2006, now cosponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( and An American Editor. She can be contacted at or

© An American Editor. Content may not be recirculated, republished or otherwise used without both the prior permission of the publisher and full credit to the author of a given post and the An American Editor blog, including a live link to the post being referenced. Thank you for respecting our rights to and ownership of our work.

January 1, 2022

Were Hamlet an editor

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 4:38 pm

By Geoffrey Hart

Dear Colleagues, a hearty chuckle and thank you to the ever-brilliant Geoff Hart for this delightful ditty as a way to start what we hope will be a much better year in 2022. — Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

To stet, or not to stet, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the draft to condemn

The slings and arrows of outrageous grammar.

Or to take Word against a sea of typos,

And by spellchecking end them.

To let dangling participles lie, to sleep

Yet more; and by sleep, to say we end

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks

Editors are heir to? ‘Tis a redaction

Devoutly to be wished. To let lie, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to revise later;

Aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of reason, what infelicities may come,

When we’ve shuffled off this manuscript,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes Calamity of so long an MS:

For who would bear the publisher’s whips and scorns,

The authors wronged, the proud wordsmith’s contumely,

The pangs of despised advice, the proofing delayed,

The insolence of authors, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,

When we ourselves might their quietus make

With a bared Sharpie? Who would this burden bear,

To grunt and sweat beneath a weary edit,

But that the dread of something after publication,

The undiscovered typo, from whose bane

No editor returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those infelicities we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus proofreading doth make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of a monitor’s greater resolution

Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Word

And enterprises of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of perfection. Soft you now,

The fair Webster? Nymph, in thy etymologies

Be all my sins remember’d.

Geoff Hart (he/him) works as a scientific editor, specializing in helping scientists who have English as their second language publish their research. He also writes fiction in his spare time, and has sold 43 stories thus far. Visit him online at <>.

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