An American Editor

February 28, 2022

On the Basics: Thinking about retirement

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 3:51 pm

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

© 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.

For many of us, it might be time to start thinking about retirement from our publishing-related lives, whether we work in-house or have our own businesses. Some things to consider are relevant either way, while some are more relevant to one or the other.

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the Girl Scout motto “Be prepared.” I’ve written often about being prepared for emergencies. Retirement, ideally, should be pleasant, but it can become an emergency if we don’t think about and prepare for it ahead of time.

About the money, honey

The first and probably most important aspect of planning for retirement is to start saving money now, whether you’re 25, 35, 45, 55 or 65. One of my clients is an institute that studies retirement financing, and the statistics about retirement preparedness in the reports I’ve edited for them have been scary: Far too many people don’t save for that day, and then find that Social Security and Medicare aren’t enough to maintain the lifestyle they’re used to. If health problems crop up, the situation can get even worse.

And don’t get me started on the dangers of relying on expected pensions. My beloved Wayne-the-Wonderful retired from Bethlehem Steel with a decent pension and  excellent related benefits — and the company went out of business, after 100 years, the next year. His pension was slashed; his monthly bonus for taking what had looked like a generous early-out option (retiring a few years early because of his combined age and number of years with the company) disappeared; and our medical coverage went from free to so much per month to nothing, so we had to pay for health insurance. We were lucky because I was still working and we had very few expenses to worry about, but co-workers who had worked there even longer — 30, 40, even 50 years to his 27 — saw their pensions slashed in half or by even more, and many of their spouses had never worked outside the home. It was awful, and Beth Steel employees are not the only ones to suffer such treatment in recent years. The Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp. is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t cover all of what most people have earned and expect to receive.

For those who are single and worried about money, retirement might offer an interesting option that I just read about in the Washington Post: communal living — several friends or relatives sharing a home to save money and feel safer about the potential of needing help in a crisis. It isn’t for everyone, but that model might be a great way to make retirement feel less lonely and isolated. (The same model could be used for those who become widowed and don’t want to live alone.)

Identity issues

A big issue is preparing for the emotional aspects of being retired. Be prepared to feel at least a little disoriented and need some time to adjust to this new version of life, even if you’re stepping away from work you don’t enjoy. Many people feel lost when they don’t have a job to go to or do every day. Your identity, as well as the pattern of your days, also can be so wrapped up in the work you do that you no longer know who you are when you stop doing that work.

For people in various aspects of publishing, this might be easier to manage than for those in other careers or professions, because we can often keep writing, editing, proofreading, indexing, designing, photographing, etc. — for pay, as volunteers or for our own enjoyment — long after other people who do other kinds of work. We might even find new pleasure in doing the same kinds of editorial work on our own terms. If you never want to look at a blank page or someone’s manuscript again, though, that sudden gap in how to fill the hours of the day, and identify ourselves, can be hard to handle.

My mom was very worried when Wayne retired; she thought he might feel lost and confused when he couldn’t call himself a steelworker any longer. But he was thrilled! He was dedicated to his job, but delighted to retire and catch up on all the reading he didn’t have time or energy for when he was working; run errands whenever he felt like it (he loved going to the grocery store, of all places), rather than have to use his rare days off; spend more time with me; and plan trips longer than his official vacations allowed for … He had no interest in finding another job, either part- or full-time — he was the happiest retired person I ever saw.

Communicating before crises

If you’re part of a couple or family, retiring can change also the dynamics of how you interact with each other, especially if you’re suddenly home all day instead of at an office, warehouse, job site, station, whatever. You might have to reassess and rearrange some of the routines and relationships with the people around you, especially anyone who’s used to running the home. Those sit-com and advice column instances of a retired person driving their still-working or accustomed homemaker spouse nuts by reorganizing everything or wanting to change how everything gets done aren’t clichés; they’re real.

This might require formally sitting down to talk about the new life and its impact on everyone in the family. Communication is key. I had to do that when Wayne retired; he had never really seen me working and didn’t realize that I might not always be able to drop everything for the day trips, grocery runs and other adventures that he could take when he no longer had to go to work. We had to establish a new routine of my letting him know when I was on deadline and had to stay put for the day; in the past, that never arose because I got my projects done while he was at work. We still had unplanned, impulsive adventures, but sometimes I had to say no.

Alternative activities

Once you’ve figured out the financial side of retiring, think about not just how to spend your retirement income or cushion but how to spend your time. There might be hobbies, crafts or adventures you’ve been putting off because work was taking up all of your time and energy. Don’t be surprised if some of those “I’ll do it when I retire” options aren’t quite as fulfilling as you expected them to be, but don’t be surprised if you find a new identity and excitement about life when you try them.

For years, I’ve only traveled for business, other than vacations with Wayne. I often stay with or see friends and family when I’m out of town at a conference, but the event is the primary reason for the trip. My plan for if and when I ever retire is to travel for pleasure — to visit friends around the country and family outside the country just for fun.

Retirement might also give you the chance to try new creative outlets. I already have some hobbies (ceramics, glass art, sewing) that I expect to spend a little more time on now and a lot more time on then. And I plan to take up some new creative projects; maybe painting, maybe some other craft I’ve never tried before. I expect to write, edit and proofread indefinitely, but I might do more on a volunteer basis than I do nowadays.

Think ahead, but enjoy the now

I’m a big believer not just in being prepared, but also in living for the moment, because we never know when illness, injury or family issues can arise and derail even those best-laid preparations and plans. By the time you do retire from editing or other publishing work, your or a family member’s health and funds might not accommodate big trips or projects you put on hold “until I retire.” Now is the time to take those trips and look around for new hobbies, interests, activities and adventures — while keeping that retirement moment in mind.

Are you thinking about retirement? If so, how are you preparing? How do you think it will feel?

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


February 21, 2022

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 12:46 pm

Creating AutoCorrect entries: a description of the thought process, and many examples

© Geoffrey Hart

Like your smartphone, most word processors provide a feature that lets you type a few characters and magically replace them with many more characters as soon as you type a space or press Enter. Microsoft calls this AutoCorrect, which is also known as automatic text, shortcuts, autocomplete, and other (some unprintable) names. Simply speaking, this is a tool that makes computers into the kind of tool they’re supposed to be — one that makes our work go faster so we can spend more time thinking about what we’re doing and less time actually doing it. The more often you use these shortcuts in a given manuscript, the more time you save. But even if you only type them once per manuscript, they can save you hours if you do this for many manuscripts.

In Effective Onscreen Editing and Write Faster With Your Word Processor, I provide a high-level overview of how automatic text works. However, given space constraints in these books, I provided only a few examples. To remedy that lack, I’ve written this article to make the recommendations more concrete by providing many more examples, along with an explanation of why (given the type of editing I do) I created a specific type of AutoCorrect category or a specific AutoCorrect within that category. For simplicity, I’ll refer to these timesavers as “shortcuts” henceforth.

Note: Although I’ve emphasized the time savings permitted by shortcuts, I also want to remind you of the “repetitive” part of “repetitive stress injury.” As we grow older, our bodies take longer to recover from hours of pounding on the keyboard. Anything we can do to limit that repetition reduces the stress on our bodies and improves our recovery times.

Although this article focuses on editing, the same thought process can be applied by writers. For example, if you need to leave yourself a recurring type of note, you can create a shortcut for that kind of note (e.g., “Research the cost of this thing in 1850”). If you need to leave a specific note to your future editor, create a shortcut for that too (e.g., “Yes, this is a deliberate error (by the character, not me); don’t correct it”). If you write about people with really complex names (e.g., Charles Philip Arthur George, prince of Wales and earl of Chester, duke of Cornwall, duke of Rothesay, earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland), create a shortcut for each name to speed the typing and reduce typing errors.

Some context that shapes my approach

To understand the shortcuts I’ve created, it helps to understand my context. I work as a freelance editor and specialize in scientific editing for authors who have English as a second or third language, but who nonetheless must publish in English. As a result, many of my shortcuts are specific to that context: they focus on the kind of manuscript I edit (usually for a peer-reviewed science journal), and they include problems that regularly appear in such manuscripts, such as descriptions of mathematical conventions or problems related to graphs and tables. If you work in a different genre, you probably won’t find those specific shortcuts useful. However, paying attention to the kind of comments or replacement text you repeatedly type will reveal your own genre-specific shortcuts you should be creating. For example, academic editors may need a handful of shortcuts that specifically relate to footnotes and endnotes.

In my case, I’m in the fortunate position of being near the end of my career, so freeing up more time for my own projects is becoming more important to me than adding an extra hour of billable work. Thus, one of my goals is to teach my authors to write better, and many of my comments are explanatory in the hope that the author will learn not to repeat a mistake in future manuscripts. Because many of my authors are on a tight budget and I’m fairly expensive, I commonly describe a correction that needs to be done throughout a manuscript and leave them to do the actual work. That’s a win–win solution, since it both gives me more free time at the end of a day’s work and gives them a lower cost. Several of my shortcuts describe formatting work or research (e.g., to check details of a citation) that I am not likely to do for a manuscript that will be published in a peer-reviewed journal or if an author needs to reduce the cost of my work, but that I will likely do when I’m editing an entire book.

If you’re still early in your career, and don’t yet have a full work week, you may not be able to afford to reduce billable hours. However, time you save by using shortcuts can be spent on improving the quality of your edits or performing edits you might not otherwise have time to do before a tight deadline, leading to little or no net change in your billable hours. And, of course, if you bill by the word or by the job, saving time by typing less increases your effective hourly rate because you finish the same amount of work in less time.

One point you’ll note when we get to the actual shortcuts I use is that although some of my shortcuts are likely to work, unmodified, in a range of situations, many require small modifications to account for the unique characteristics of a specific sentence, paragraph, or manuscript. It’s still faster to let Word do most of the typing and then revise the wording, if necessary.

A final note about these shortcuts: some of them may contradict your own preferences or the recommendations of a specific style guide that you follow. In most cases, this is because my shortcuts resulted from the kinds of problems my authors face with publisher style guides or from the conventions of a genre that I work in. The “standard” guideline about minimizing abbreviation use, and the associated shortcuts for describing this problem, are good examples of things you may not see in a standard style guide, but that nonetheless occur regularly in my work. These kinds of learned wisdom will be specific to your type of work.

Technology notes about shortcuts

• Microsoft Word requires a minimum shortcut length of 3 characters, and allows a maximum of 256 characters. If you need more, you can either use a different form of automatic text (e.g., Word’s “building blocks” and “quick parts”) or you can “daisy chain” shortcuts so the first shortcut types the first part of the long text and ends with a second shortcut that types the rest of the text.

• Choosing an appropriate shortcut for a longer phrase is always a balancing act between choosing something short but harder to remember versus something longer and easier to remember, but harder to type. Objectively, there’s no optimal length. Whatever works best for you!

• There’s also a tradeoff between crafting a longer, grammatically correct sentence and a shorter fragment that is sufficiently clear that adding words to create a complete sentence only increases the amount of text the author must read.

• I’ve typed my shortcuts in lower-case because Word does not distinguish between “shortcut,” “Shortcut,” and “SHORTCUT.” If you want the shortcut to produce specific capitalization, add “caps” or “lc” to the name. For example, sclc = “shortcut lower case,” sccap = “Shortcut capitalized,” and scallcap = “SHORTCUT all capitalized.”

• If you create a shortcut that contains formatting (e.g., italics, a special font), select “formatted text” in the AutoCorrect dialog box so Word includes the format and you won’t have to apply it manually.

How to use this article

One thing you’ll notice is that the nomenclature I’ve used is inconsistent; in some cases, I’ve used a whole word; in other cases, I’ve used an abbreviation based on a word or phrase, and in some cases I’ve used an initialism. This is because the shortcuts I use have evolved over a period of nearly 30 years, and my brain was in a different space at different points during this period. (This falls under the heading of “it seemed like a good idea at the time, and now it’s hardwired into my fingers.”)

An additional problem is that after 35 years of editing, my memory isn’t what it used to be, and the terse shortcuts I used to remember with no problem are becoming problematic. I now find that longer words tend to be easier to remember, particularly for shortcuts I use less often. Rather than developing a consistent system of nomenclature for this article, I’ve retained the actual shortcuts that I use on a daily basis. If you’re developing your own system of shortcuts, you’ll probably find it easier to start with a logical naming system. Or, like me, you may accept something more ad hoc and chaotic. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you can use the system you develop.

Note: In Microsoft Word, I start all of my shortcuts with the ] character (i.e., a right square bracket). This accomplishes two important goals: First, it ensures that I rarely type a shortcut by mistake. Although I can use Command/Control+Z to undo any shortcut that I triggered by mistake, that gets tedious when I’m having a bad typing day. Second, this groups all of my shortcuts together at the top of Word’s enormous list of shortcuts, making it much easier to find and revise my shortcuts. I’ve omitted this character from my shortcuts in this article.

Because reading a long list of someone else’s shortcuts is tedious, I recommend that you pick a specific category that relates to the type of work you do. Spend a moment considering whether one of my shortcuts applies directly to your work. If so, feel free to copy it exactly, or modify it so it’s a better fit for your communication style or genre. If not, does it inspire you to create something similar for a different purpose? So much the better! (If so, add your suggestion in the comments section that follows this article so that others may benefit.)

That being said, here’s a list of my current shortcuts, with explanations of why I created them and how I use them.

Abbreviation use

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
abbAbbreviations should only be used for variables and complex phrases. They should also be used at least 3 times to justify creating the abbreviation. I have deleted abbreviations that do not meet these criteria.A common guideline for peer-reviewed journals
abb0You don’t use this abbreviation again anywhere.Mnemonic: 0 = zero more uses
abb1You only use this abbreviation 1 more time, which is not enough to justify creating the abbreviation.Mnemonic: 1 = 1 more use
abbabYou don’t use this abbreviation again anywhere in the Abstract. (Abbreviations must be redefined in the main text.)Mnemonic: abbreviation in Abstract

Explanations about what I did and why

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
approveI have made this change without tracking it so that you will not need to approve each correction.Often added to another explanation, such as why I italicized certain words.
captionsI will only edit the captions on the pages that contain the figures. Please replace this list with the final edited captions.Journals often require a list of figure and table captions separate from the captions that appear below the figure or above the table. Editing the same text twice increases the risk of error (i.e., that the author will miss a correction); it’s faster for the author to simply copy/paste the final edited caption.
emPlease feel free to e-mail me an explanation and I will help you choose clearer wording.Mnemonic: em = e-mail me.   A reminder that makes explicit what most authors already know implicitly after working with me for years, namely that I’m happy to work with them interactively.
etc“Etc.” should only be used when the next item in the list can be easily predicted (e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc.).Not a firm rule, but my authors commonly create lists where it would be important to specify the “etc.” rather than leaving readers to guess.
familyCapitalizing Asian family names this way decreases the risk of errors by Western journals.English journal staff, even today, have difficulty recognizing the correct family name. If they use the wrong family name when they enter a manuscript into a library database, readers may be unable to find an author’s research by searching for the correct family name.
figsAs you requested, I have not edited your figure captions or the contents of the figures. Please note that some changes in the main text may require similar changes in the figures or their captions.Authors sometimes ask me to not edit captions or content to save money. It’s not a good choice, so I remind them to check carefully whether they need to change the figure too if they accept one of my suggestions in the text.
tablesAs you requested, I have not edited your table titles or the contents of the tables. Please note that some changes in the main text may require similar changes in the tables or their titles.Same note as for “figs.”


ShortcutReplacement textNotes
bracketIn general, you should add a space before brackets. I have added this space everywhere without tracking it so that you will not need to approve each correction.The exception is in the bibliography, where journals often format the volume/issue numbers as “2(3),” with no space before the brackets.
figlocPlease consult the journal’s author guidelines. Most journals ask authors to place the figures and tables after the References section. If the journal requires this, you should not submit your paper before you make this change.Mnemonic: figloc = figure location.   Where an author specifically wants me to fix formatting, I do the research myself and move the figures to the correct location.
figtextMuch of the text in your figures is too small to read easily, and will become unreadable when the journal is published. ]figtext2Daisy chain: If I want to provide advice, I simply press the space bar to trigger the figtext2 shortcut (see the next item). If not, I press Command/Control+Backspace to delete the second shortcut.
figtext2Please prepare all figures at their final size (to fit within 1 or 2 columns of text in the printed journal), then print a copy. If the text is even slightly different to read, increase its size until it is easy to read.After adding this two or three times as a comment, the author doesn’t have to be reminded of it.
gridI turned off the grid that is used to align Asian characters because this can cause serious problems for Western reviewers. In addition, I have added continuous line numbering to make it easier for reviewers to define the location of their comments.This is less of a problem than it used to be, but older versions of Word are sometimes unable to display Asian fonts legibly, even though the characters in those fonts are English characters.
pcPlease consult a recent issue of the journal. The guidelines to authors did not specifyMnemonic: pc = please consult.   Mostly used when I have been asked to ensure compliance with a publisher’s guidelines. I can simply start typing to explain what wasn’t specified, or delete the last sentence if they asked me not to check compliance.
snvThis symbol was not visible on my computer. If you can see it here ( ) in this comment, please copy it into the text to ensure that it will be visible to all reviewers. If not, please use the correct character from the Symbol font.Mnemonic: snv = symbol not visible.   This is increasingly rare; most times, I can see the symbol and I simply replace it.
symbThis character or symbol was not visible on my computer. Please replace it with the correct character from the Symbol font to ensure that it will be visible to all reviewers.Similar to the snv shortcut, but used when I can’t see the character on either my Windows computer or my Mac.
timesI have set the text to use Times New Roman 12 points because this is the standard required by most journals. (Other fonts can cause problems for some reviewers.)If a publisher’s guidelines require a specific font, I replace Times with the correct font name.

Literature citations and bibliographic entries

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
1pOnly 1 page?Authors sometimes don’t provide the full page range. However, in some cases, what appears to be one page is actually the article’s reference number. If they’ve asked me to fully edit their References section, I add the missing page number myself.
2refsThere are 2 papers by these authors with the same year, so I have added “a” and “b” after the year to distinguish between them. Please ensure that both are cited somewhere as ?a, ?b, or both years. 
chinFor all references published in Chinese, add “(in Chinese)” or “(in Chinese with English summary)” to indicate the source of the English title.A courtesy to readers who won’t go to the trouble of finding and downloading a reference if they can’t read the language.
edsIf editors are listed for this proceedings, add their names here, followed by “(ed.)” for 1 editor or “(eds.)” for more than 1. 
elssrefsI have confirmed that all references are correctly cited in the text, but have not checked their format or contents. Please ensure that the details are correct and that you have followed the journal guidelines.A note for a specific client (ELSS) who doesn’t pay me to edit reference contents or format.
engrefFor general principles, you should provide a literature citation from the English international research literature. Remember that most journal reviewers cannot read a Chinese reference.Sometimes research has only been done in the author’s native language, and that’s okay. But for general information, authors should provide the information in the language the journal’s peer reviewers and subsequent readers can read.
etalPlease confirm that the journal accepts the use of “et al.” in the References section, and the minimum number of author names that must be provided (usually the first 3 names but sometimes 6 or 8 names). 
everyFor all comments related to formatting, please make the necessary changes in all references, not just the one containing the comment.Even if I haven’t been asked to edit the References section, I’ll usually point out something the author should fix throughout this section. I may repeat this a couple times just to remind the author they need to check all references.
histI moved this sentence here to present the research in historical order.This one exists because Chinese authors tend to use what English authors would consider reverse chronological order, and most English publishers prefer “oldest first” chronological order.
ip“In press” is only acceptable if the year of publication has been confirmed. If not, replace this year with “manuscript in preparation” and delete the paper from the References section until the publication date is confirmed. ]ip2Daisy chain: I separated this shortcut into “ip” and “ip2” because sometimes only the second shortcut is necessary.
ip2If the year is correct, please add the journal’s volume number for that year, and provide a DOI if one is available.DOI is a “digital object identifier,” which uniquely identifies every manuscript (at least in theory).
japanFor all references published in Japanese, add “(in Japanese)” or “(in Japanese with English summary)” to indicate the source of the English title.A courtesy to readers who won’t go to the trouble of finding and downloading a reference if they can’t read the language.
lcPlease provide a literature citation.Mnemonic: lc = literature citation.
movedI have moved this reference into correct alphabetical order without tracking the change.I created this one because I never want an author to think I’m making changes “behind their back.” It also reminds them that I did actually review their References section. Compare “order.”
nd(no date) 
npPlease confirm the number of pages.Mnemonic: np = number of pages.
orderI have moved some references into correct alphabetical order without tracking the change so that you can see my other edits more easily.I use this one when there are many references in the wrong place. Compare “moved.”
order2The letter after the year changed after this reference was placed in correct alphabetical order.Used for reference systems in which two references in the same year would be cited (for example) as “Hart, et al. 2021a, 2021b.”
prevPreviously, you have . Which is the correct style for the journal that will review your paper?By pressing my keyboard shortcut for “move to previous punctuation,” this positions the cursor at the period, so I can simply type what thing the author did previously. This could also be done as a daisy chain, with the second shortcut beginning with the period.
pubPlease add the name of the publishers of the proceedings, followed by their city and country. 
reffieldI have converted your references into editable text so you can see my changes more clearly. Please copy all changes into your reference-management software, then regenerate the References section.Some citation or reference management software doesn’t let you select only a problem word or number (e.g., a year) and attach a comment; Word displays the comment as if it applies to the whole References section. This change makes it easy to clarify what the comment applies to. It also reminds authors how to implement the changes so that the same errors don’t keep reappearing. Yes, some of them need that reminder.
refsAs we agreed, I did not edit the format of the references, only the contents. Please do the formatting yourself following the journal’s guidelines; journal editors can reject a manuscript that does not follow their guidelines.Used to remind authors when we agreed that they didn’t want to pay me for correcting the reference formats.
refs2I have confirmed that all references are correctly cited, but have not checked their format or contents again.Used when an author returns an edited manuscript with a few questions. To save them time and money, I won’t check the references again until after peer review.
reinsertPlease reinsert this citation using your reference management software.One common error in literature citations is that the authors forget to use their software. As a result, the reference is not included in the References section.
rmIf this change is not correct, this reference is missing from your References. Please add it there.Mnemonic: rm = reference missing.   Used when I can edit the citation (e.g., add “et al.” or change et al. to “Name 1 and Name 2”) and probably be correct. Compare “rm2.”
rm2This reference is missing from your References section. Please add it there.Used when there’s no easy way for me to figure out which reference they’re citing. Compare “rm.”
rncThis reference is not cited in the text. Either insert a citation at the correct location, or delete the reference from your literature section.Mnemonic: rnc = reference not cited   Used for publishers (e.g., most journals) that don’t allow inclusion of uncited papers in the bibliography
rnpReport number and number of pages?Mnemonic: rnp = report number of pages.
sicIf this change is not correct, please add [sic] after the word to inform the journal that this error is present in the original title. 
spellThis is spelled . in the reference. Please confirm which spelling is correct, and make the necessary changes everywhere in the manuscript.Used for potentially incorrect author names in a literature citation. Pressing my keyboard shortcut for “move to previous punctuation” positions the cursor at the period, so I can immediately start typing the spelling indicated in the reference.
twoWhen two authors have the same family name, it’s helpful to add their initials to distinguish between them.Used for citation systems that would use “G.J. Hart 2021 and J.S. Hart 2021” instead of “Hart 2021a,b.”
wdThis date does not match the date ( ]wd2Mnemonic: wd = wrong date.   Daisy chain: This lets me use Command/Control+LeftArrow to move to the bracket so I can enter the mismatched year, press End to move to the end of the line, then press the space bar to insert the rest of the shortcut.
wd2) in the References. Please confirm the correct date, then make the necessary changes everywhere. (It is also possible the reference is missing and must be added.)See above for “wd.”


ShortcutReplacement textNotes
affilPlease provide the affiliation (e.g., university) for all people named in the acknowledgments.A common requirement for peer-reviewed journals.
corPlease indicate the corresponding author with an *, and for that author, provide the complete mailing address (including street or district name and building number), as well as the telephone, fax, and e-mail.Most of my authors can never remember to add these details on the title page of a manuscript. And they never remember to copy the edited details from a previous manuscript.
eg or exFor example,I probably type this scores of times in an average manuscript.
expcFor example (provide the correct details):Mnemonic: example (provide correct)   Used when I can guess the author’s meaning well enough to propose a sentence they can either copy/paste or or modify.
faxPlease provide your fax number too. If it is the same as your telephone number, change “Tel.” to “Tel./Fax:”Many journals still require authors to provide their fax number, even though most people use e-mail rather than a fax to transmit documents.
ghGeoff Hart ( / 
ghstcGeoff Hart, Fellow, Society for Technical CommunicationSame as “gh,” but used when I feel I need to assert my professional authority.
href<a href=” target=’blank></a>Useful for when I’m editing text in an HTML document and need to insert a link.

Response letters to peer reviewers

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
linesWhen you have finished reviewing my edits, please check the line numbers throughout this letter; some will change.Used in the response letter to the reviewers. Compare “lines2.”
lines2When you have finished reviewing my edits, please cite the new line numbers for this change in your response to the reviewer.Used in the manuscript where I added text in response to a review comment. Compare “lines.”
thankOnly thank reviewers one time, either at the beginning or the end of your replies.Repeatedly thanking the reviewer for a series of harsh criticisms begins to sound sarcastic. (“Thank you sir, may I have another?”)
titlePlease replace this with the final edited title.The author may or may not accept my suggested changes. Either way, it’s less error-prone if they copy the final title rather than making a series of corrections and missing one or more.

Science-specific shortcuts

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
absMost journals require an abstract of 200-250 words, so I have edited this one to reduce its length.I routinely need to shorten the Abstract by 25 to 50%. If a journal has a different limit, I can easily change the numbers.
asymmPlease confirm: 19 (not 20) bases, thus asymmetrical primers, not a copying error?Used only in genetics manuscripts that use “primers” in an analysis that identifies specific genetic sequences. I can easily move to and edit the numbers. When an author manually retypes a primer sequence, it’s easy to omit one of the bases, leading to a one-letter discrepancy. But it’s also possible they used asymmetrical primers, so I ask them to check.
boldAll matrix variables and vectors should be boldfaced, so I have applied this format for you without tracking the change (so that you will not need to approve each format change).A standard format for variables. Compare “ital.”
charFor a list of standard keystrokes to create symbols, please see the list of files available for downloading on my Web site: provide a list of these characters because it’s easier for authors to copy/paste a symbol, but if they want to learn the keyboard shortcut, it’s available.
colorColor is very expensive to publish, and most journals ask the author to pay this cost. Please consider redrawing this figure in black, white, and shades of grey.Usually followed by an explanation of details. This reminds the author that I’m trying to save them money, not just bill them for more work.
delcδ18CAn example of inserting a special character (the Greek lower-case letter delta) combined with a format (superscript). It’s painful to repeatedly type such hybrid formats manually.
editableTables must be submitted to the journal in editable form (i.e., Word tables or Excel files), not as graphics.For some reason, authors like to provide tables as graphics. Journals don’t accept that format.
equatSimple equations should be typed directly from the keyboard rather than inserted as graphics. I will do this for you wherever possible.Many journals require this. Even when they don’t, it makes no sense to use the equation editor to insert a single-character variable name using the equation editor.
genusGenus names should not be abbreviated at the start of a sentence.A common, albeit not universal, guideline.
greekGreek letters are traditionally not italicized. 
italAll variables should be italicized, so I have applied this format for you without tracking the change (so that you will not need to approve each format change).A standard format for variables. Compare “bold.”
keyTo avoid production problems at the journal, please delete the symbol definitions or descriptions from all figure captions and place them in the graph as a key/legend. This is also clearer for readers.It’s always clearer to show the symbol in the key/legend than to describe it in the caption. This is particularly true for colors, since even people who speak the same language often disagree on the correct color name.
key2In the key/legend, change 
kmPlease change “Kilometers” to “km” (K to k) in the scale bar.Nitpicky, but worth fixing.
manPlease provide complete model number and manufacturer information (name, city, state if in the U.S., and country).Some journals still require the address information for the equipment used in an analysis even though a Web site address would be more useful in most cases.
meanwith mean monthly temperatures ranging from ???°C in January to ???°C in August,This is the text I want to add to the manuscript. If I want to explain why I added this text, I select the text, insert a comment, then type the “mean2” shortcut (next item).
mean2The annual temperature range is much more biologically meaningful than the annual average. Please provide the missing values and the correct month names. 
millionMany international readers have difficulty remembering the difference between million and billion, so exponential notation is always clearer.One of my authors ignored my advice to make this change, and was harshly criticized for publishing a paper with the wrong word (he used billion instead of million) and introducing a large error in the literature.
multThe multiplication symbol you used was not visible on my computer. If you can see it here (´) in this comment, please copy it into the text to ensure that it will be visible to all reviewers. If not, please use the correct character from the Symbol font.I haven’t deleted this one, though nowadays I mostly just type the correct symbol for the author and tell them that I’ve done this everywhere without tracking the change.
noitalLetters and numbers that are not variables should not be italicized. I will make this change everywhere without tracking it. 
noital2Please remove the italics format from . in the equation.When an equation is inserted as a graphic, I can’t select a character and change its format. Here, I press the “move to previous punctuation” shortcut and type the name of the character or characters the author must reformat.
nsddid not differ significantlyMnemonic: nsd = no significant difference.   Slightly shorter but clearer than variations such as “showed no significant difference.”
numberIn English, there should be a space between numbers and units of measurement (except for % and ‰). I have added this space everywhere without tracking it so that you will not need to approve each correction.In hindsight, “space” would have been a better choice, but my fingers have memorized “number.”
percentMost journals will only accept 1 decimal place of precision for percentages. More precision may be accepted in tables.I see this criticism raised so often by journal editors and reviewers that I just automatically change all percentages to one decimal place. The only exception is for unusually precise analyses that justify an extra decimal place.
precValues calculated to the same level of precision should have the same number of decimal places.Simplistic but broadly accurate statement that I’ll modify if necessary.
samexPlease use the same x-axis scale in all graphs to avoid distorting the magnitude of the differences between the values.Using different scales in a graph makes it easy to misinterpret the data. This happens to my authors with dismaying frequency; I can only assume the problem is even more frequent for their readers.
sameyPlease use the same y-axis scale in all graphs to avoid distorting the magnitude of the differences between the values.See “samex.”
sigOnly use “significant” if you performed a test of statistical significance.A distinction that’s often relevant in a science manuscript.
smallMuch text is too small or is concealed by the background, and will become impossible to read when the journal is printed. ]small2Daisy chain: This lets me press the spacebar if I want to activate the “small2” shortcut (see next item). If not (e.g., if I have already said this several times), I simply press Command/Control+BackSpace to delete the second shortcut.
small2Please create the figure at its final size (to fit within 1 or 2 text columns in the printed journal), then print a copy; enlarge the text until it is easy to read. 
taPlease check the journal’s guidelines. Is it necessary to add a taxonomic author (e.g., L.) for each species binomial?Mnemonic: ta = taxonomic author.
unitsPlease provide the units for all parameters if changing the units changes a coefficient’s value or a conversion factor (e.g., calculations using masses in g produce results 1000 times greater than calculations using masses in kg). 
webPlease provide a Web address for this software.If I can find the address quickly, I’ll do so. Many of my authors would rather do such work than pay me to do it.
xaOn the x-axis, please change 
xa0Please start the x-axis at zero in both graphs.Starting a graph axis far from zero can greatly exaggerate the magnitude of a difference between adjacent data points. Authors frequently misinterpet their own data because they looked at the data points rather than the graph axis. I can quickly delete “in both graphs” if the comment only applies to one graph.
xyPlease italicize x, y, and R in the equation. Add the P level for statistical significance.Note that this shortcut contains formatting (italics), so I selected “formatted” in the AutoCorrect dialog box.
yaOn the y-axis, please change 
ya0Please start the y-axis at zero in both graphs.See “xa0.”

Substantive notes or questions

ShortcutReplacement textNotes
alreadyYou have already said this.Used to explain a deletion.
clarPlease clarify your meaning. Perhaps “…”If I can guess the correct meaning, I simply start typing. If not, I delete the “perhaps.”
clearThis is clear from what you have already said, and does not need to be repeated.Used to explain a deletion.
confirmPlease confirm that my revision of the rest of the sentence is correct.Obviously, I want authors to confirm all of my changes. I use this when I want them to pay particular attention to a change. Compare “dym.”
defA definition is required. Please modify my suggestion if necessary. 
dymDo you mean ” “?Mnemonic: do you mean.   Used when I’m not sufficiently confident to add my interpretation in the manuscript. If I am confident, I type the likely meaning and use the “confirm” shortcut instead.
fewIn English, “few” and “rare” mean that at least 1 example exists. If that is correct, provide at least one example or literature citation. If you found no examples or papers, change “few” to “no.”Sometimes non-English authors have learned an incorrect word definition that’s so common I assume that it exists in the standard translation dictionary they use.
mod or plmodPlease modify my suggestion if necessary. 
notIf that’s not what you mean, please change the wording to make the meaning clearer.If I can guess what the alternative is, I’ll suggest what it might be, then add this comment to ask the author to pay particular attention to my revision.
repeatThis repeats the information in the previous sentences, so I deleted it to eliminate the repetition. 
res “Respectively” is only used when you are presenting the variables separately from their values (e.g., 1, 2, and 3 for A, B, and C, respectively).Sometimes non-English authors have learned an incorrect word definition that’s so common I assume that it exists in the standard translation dictionary they use.
sameMake the same change here that you made earlier in the paragraph.Used when I proposed two or more different changes, and I don’t know which one they chose. If the change is fairly small or simple, I’ll simply repeat the replacement phrase in the comment. Compare “spc.”
sorryI’m sorry, but I don’t know what this means. Perhaps:Blaming myself for the problem, not the author, robs it of some of its sting.
spcPlease see my previous comment concerning this point. Use similar wording here.Mnemonic: spc = see previous comment.   Used when I explained a problem with the way an author did something (e.g., described an experimental result) and did not propose wording to fix the problem. Compare “same.”
specPlease be more specific. For example,Often used to ask the author to provide a number instead of a vague phrase such as “really big.”

Geoff Hart ( (he/him) works as a scientific editor, specializing in helping scientists who have English as their second language to publish their research. He’s the author of the popular Effective Onscreen Editing, now in its 4th edition, and of the well-reviewed Writing for Science Journals. He has been a frequent presenter at Communication Central’s Be a Better Freelancer® conferences. He also writes fiction in his spare time, and has sold more than 33 stories thus far.    

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