An American Editor

July 29, 2015

The Business of Editing: Clicking for Profit with Click List

As you know, my mantra is that every second counts and the more seconds I can save by increasing efficiency, the more profitable my editing will be. One drag on time is typing — the more typing I do, the more time is spent doing it and correcting it.

Toggle Word vs. Click List

One way I have decreased the amount of time required to edit was to devise and make extensive use of the Toggle Word macro. Toggle Word lets me replace, for example, an acronym with its full name with a single click. (Time yourself: How long does it take you to change T2D-GENES to Type 2 Diabetes Genetic Exploration by Next-generation sequencing in Ethnic Samples (T2D-GENES)? It takes me the time to select T2D-GENES and mouse click on Toggle Word — about 2 seconds.)

But Toggle Word only changes exact existing text; I can’t put my cursor in a blank space and have Toggle Word insert the correct text nor can I use Toggle Word to change a word or phrase that doesn’t exactly match what is in its dataset (e.g., if the dataset includes “about” but not “About,” Toggle will only change “about”). To remedy this omission, Click List was created. Click List is a complement to Toggle Word: Toggle Word replaces text, Click List inserts text or replaces selected text (see “An Example From a Recent Project” below).

Click List & Click List Manager

Click List and its Manager are found on the EditTools tab (A). Like other, macros in EditTools, it can be assigned to a Hotkey combination either from the EditTools ribbon (B) or by Clicking Setup Hotkey… on the Click List Manager (see #1 in the Overview below).

Click List on the Ribbon

Click List on the Ribbon

Overviews of Click List (#10) and its Manager (#1) are shown in the below image:

The Click List overview

The Click List overview

Like many of the macros in EditTools, Click List can be a general list that you use all of the time or it can be a specialty list, for example, one for a specific project. You either open an existing Click List file or create a new one (#2), just as with Never Spell Word, Toggle, and other EditTools macros. In fact, the Click List Manager works much the same way as the other Managers do, with a few exceptions.

Text is entered in the Text field (#3). However, in addition to the usual text insertions, you can choose to bold or color the text (#4) (for an example of text that is bold and colored, see #7 and #11). (The bolding and coloring are only for display in Click List so that there is a way to make certain items quicker to spot in a long list; the text is not inserted in your document with the formatting.) Your text and your format choices are shown in preview (#5). When you are ready, click Add or Update (#6) to add the text to Click List (#7). Be sure to Save or Save & Close. (Clicking Save saves the file but does not close the Manager.)

When you Save (or Save & Close), Click List (#10) is updated and your addition appears in the display area (#11). Click List remains open by default until you click Cancel (#12). However, you can have it automatically close after each use by dechecking the Keep open checkbox (#12).

Click List enables you to insert items into your document with a single click. It can be a word, a short phrase, or even a paragraph of text. Click List is intended to make editing a document quicker, easier, and more accurate.

You enter the text you want added to Click List in the Text box in the Click List Manager. In the example below, a sentence is being added (#13). When the text is ready to be added to Click List, click Add (#14).

Adding text to Click List via the Manager

Adding text to Click List via the Manager

The text appears in the Manager’s display field as shown below. Here a sentence was added, “You can write whole sentences and have them be part of a click list” (#15). However, to add the sentence to the Click List so that it can be inserted into your document, you need to click either Save or Save & Close (#16). Clicking Save saves the Click List file and makes the new text available in the Click List but also keeps the Manager open so you can add additional text later; clicking Close & Save does the same but closes the Manager. In addition, you can move text up or down the list using the Move buttons (#17); the Manager also tells you how many items there are in your Click List (#18).

Click List Manager

Saving text

As this image shows, the sentence has been added to our Click List (blue arrow) and is ready for use in our documents:

Adding a sentence to Click List

Adding a sentence to Click List

Using Click List While Editing

To see how Click List works, we begin with the below image which shows a portion of a manuscript. Note the location of the cursor.

Note the cursor location

Note the cursor location

A single mouse click on the sentence we added to Click List (#19) inserts the sentence text into our document at the location of the cursor (#20).

Single-click insertion of sentence

Single-click insertion of sentence

As indicated earlier, you can move text up and down the list in Click List by making use of the Move option in the Manager. You may wish to move text so that it is easier to locate or because it is more frequently used, the same reasons why you might use bold or color. The image below shows the movement process. To move our example sentence (#1) up or down, click on the appropriate arrowhead in Move (#2). When the sentence is relocated where you want, click Save or Save & Close (#3) so that the movement is saved to the Click List. Once Save is clicked, the relocation will be shown in the Click List (see #1 in both the Click List and the Manager).

Reordering entries in Click List

Reordering entries in Click List

As we have discussed many times here on AAE, the faster and more accurately we can edit, the more profitable editing can be for us. The more we have to compete for business, the more important speed becomes. The same is true as schedules become increasingly tighter. The key is to be more productive, which means more efficient, which means less typing. The more typing we do, the more errors we can introduce into a document. Consequently, the more automated we can make editing, the more accurate it will be and the greater the profit.

An Example From a Recent Project

A recent project had many peculiarities. But one thing I discovered early in the project is that the author used certain phrases and references repeatedly. (The reference style was “relatively” consistent throughout the text and although it didn’t conform to any established style, because of schedule constraints, the client decided to “follow the author’s reference style but make it consistent.”)

The problem was that the phrases and the references were not Toggle Word candidates because there was almost always an inconsistency or two from a previous use. The image below are samples I extracted from one chapter.

Samples form a Recent Project

Samples form a Recent Project

Correcting these would be time-consuming if not for Click List. What I did was add the correct wording to Click List, as shown here:

Click List with Book References

Click List with Book References

Now to correct the incorrect, all I needed to do was select the incorrect phrasing and click on the correct phrasing in Click List, as shown here:

The Changes

The Changes

By using Click List, I was able to save a significant amount of typing time (and thus increase profitability), but, more importantly, because of the unique styling used, I was able to ensure that each instance of the book and phrase was identical to every other instance. Speed and accuracy are two components of profitability and Click List improves both.

Click List on My Desktop

Click List is one of the three macros I keep open on my desktop as I edit, the other two being Bookmarks and Reference # Order Check.

Click List can save time and can increase accuracy — it is another important tool in the editor’s armory.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

____________

Looking for a Deal?

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

July 27, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Editorial-Business Marketing — The 4 Ps of Persuasion

by Louise Harnby

Promoting an editorial business has never been easier — and it’s never been harder. The internet provides us with access to a global marketplace; that means each of us is discoverable to a much greater number of clients. The internet also provides our clients with access to a global supply base; that means each of us has a greater number of competitors. So how do you stand out in a world where anyone can say they’re a proofreader, editor, indexer, or copywriter? How do you persuade your potential client that it would be worth their while to contact you and ask you for a quotation?

The issue is one of instilling trust. It’s about persuading the client — making them really believe — that you are who you say you are, and that you can do what you say you can do.

Trust versus truth

Trust and truth aren’t the same thing. Truth is defined by Oxford as “That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” Trust is belief in that reality. Without evidence, potential clients can’t know the truth of the phrase “I am a professional proofreader”. The best that I can hope for is that they believe it to be the truth — that they trust it to be the truth.

Instilling trust is therefore key when we are creating our marketing messages, whether online or in print. Potential clients, who will often be complete strangers to us, are more likely to get in contact if they believe the content of our websites, brochures, and résumés.

The 4 Ps to instill belief

There are tools we can use to persuade our potential clients that we are worthy of their trust — these tools are the 4 Ps: pictures, praise, portfolios, and professional practice.

  • Pictures: images of the editorial freelancer’s face
  • Praise: testimonials from previous satisfied clients
  • Portfolios: lists of completed projects (and/or client lists) that reflect the editorial freelancer’s experience and specialisms
  • Professional practice: this includes professional-society memberships, relevant training and continuing professional development (CPD), and related educational qualifications and career history

P1: Pictures (smiley ones!)

It’s not uncommon for the new entrant to the field of editorial freelancing field to be horrified by the idea of including a mugshot of themselves on their website, brochure, or résumé. “I’m not photogenic”; “I don’t have any nice photos of myself”; “I hate having my picture taken!”

So you’re shy! Me too. Maybe you don’t have the kind of face that will have Vogue clamoring to put you on its front cover. Me neither. Do it anyway. Your client isn’t trying to hire a new sociable best friend, nor do they need a supermodel; what your client needs is a proofreader (or editor/indexer/copywriter). They don’t just want any old proofreader, though. They want someone then can trust when they hand over the manuscript they sweated over. They want a real individual, not some anonymous person they’ve never met working for a huge, faceless corporate agency whose website, while attractive, looks somewhat impersonal. “I’ve wept over this novel, literally torn hairs from my scalp as I tackled draft after draft. I needed to feel that the person I was hiring gave a damn and would treat me and my book in a way that respected that,” said one self-publishing novelist who contacted me for a proofreading quotation some time back.

One key word from the above quote is “person.” She wanted to hire a person, not an agency, not a machine. The other key words are “gave a damn.” She wanted to feel that the person she hired would care.

Providing evidence that you are a real person, one who is prepared (for a fee) to invest professional commitment (care) in your client’s project, is difficult when you don’t have a face. If you don’t include a picture of your face on your website, for example, all you have is words. Even if they’re great words, they won’t show your smile. Smiles are powerful — when you smile at people, you make them feel good. “Genuine smiles (the ones that involve the muscles surrounding the eyes) induce positive feelings among those who are smiled at” (“Want to Increase Trust in Others? Just Smile,” G. Greengross, Psychology Today, 2015). And Samuele Centorrino et al. published a study early in 2015 suggesting “that smiles perceived as honest serve as a signal that has evolved to induce cooperation in situations requiring mutual trust” (“Honest signaling in trust interactions: smiles rated as genuine induce trust and signal higher earning opportunities,” S. Centorrino et al., Emotion & Human Behavior, 2015). In other words, smiles create belief. So when you complement the great words on your website with a picture of your smiling face, you appear more trustworthy to your client. Compare that with the impact your faceless competitor is making, and then get out your camera.

P2: Praise

If you feel embarrassed by the idea of asking satisfied clients to write a few words in praise of the work you’ve done for them, consider the following points that I address in Chapter 24 of Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business:

  • Testimonials provide social proof that you can do what you claim. They help the potential client to feel confident in putting their money where a previous client’s mouth is. According to Kissmetrics, “social proof is the marketing tactic for easing the minds of worried customers” (G. Ciotti, “7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts,” Kissmetrics).
  • It’s standard business practice, so it won’t come as a surprise to your client when you ask. And, anyway, in my experience clients are delighted to publicly go on record and help to spread the word when they’re happy with the help you’ve provided.

Social proof builds trust — again, we’re talking about providing evidence that enables a potential client to believe that you can deliver on your promises. Testimonials from third parties provide social proof because “people tend to believe what other people believe, especially people they respect. So if you can assemble a group of people, especially opinion leaders, who rave about you, you build credibility … that’s how we humans work” (A. Neitlich, “The Importance of Testimonials,” Sitepoint, 2004).

P3: Portfolio

The third piece of evidence that helps our clients to believe what we are saying is found in the portfolio. I’ve already written a 1,500-word article about the power of the portfolio here on An American Editor. Rather than repeating myself, I’d ask you to read it in full (The Proofreader’s Corner: The Power of the Portfolio, 2015).

In summary, I argue that the portfolio instills trust because it shows the potential client not just what I say I can do, but also what I have already done. As I contend in The Power of the Portfolio, “Anyone can set up an editorial business and write (or hire someone else to write) great copy that tells the customer what they want to hear. The portfolio takes things a step further, anchoring the message in a have-done practice-based, rather than could-do promise-based, framework.”

Your portfolio shows your client that you have already practiced what you preach. It builds confidence in your client’s vision of you as a supplier who can deliver on his or her promises. That’s a powerful emotion to induce in a client because you’ve already placed your professionalism ahead of money in the client’s mind before they’ve even contacted you.

P4: Professional practice

Finally, summarize those key points that reflect your professionalism — these are the things that show that proofreading or editing isn’t a hobby. Rather, you are a skilled professional who has relevant training and qualifications that make you fit for purpose and deserving of the fees you charge for what you bring to the table.

  • Educational and career backgrounds: Your target markets will determine which elements of professionalism you want to focus your customers’ attention on. I began my professional proofreading career by specializing in the social sciences. It was therefore important to communicate to clients that I was familiar with the language of the field. My degree in Political Science played a part in this; so did the fact that I’d worked for over a decade in an academic publishing house, marketing their politics, economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and research methods journals. If you want to instill trust in, for example, independent academics submitting to engineering journals, and you have an engineering background yourself, you’d be foolish not to take the opportunity to show them that you understand the discipline.
  • Editorial training: Have you completed professional editorial training that demonstrates competence in your field? If so, summarize it. Anyone can set up an editing or proofreading business, but not everyone will take the time to engage in training and other forms of continuing professional development. These things help to make you stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your willingness to learn to do the job to industry-recognized standards.
  • Memberships: If you used to be a member of the American Bar Association, and want to make yourself attractive to legal clients, you’ll have an advantage over me if you tell the client this! If you live in a country that has a national editorial society (in which membership requires meeting rigorous criteria), you might appear to be a better bet to some clients (such as publishers) than someone without such an affiliation. And scientific and medical clients are more likely to trust an editor with, for example, a BELS accreditation, than one without.

Finally, think, too, about what your target client groups want. Marketing materials aimed at publishers might focus on attributes that an independent fiction author isn’t interested in; for example, ability to use industry-recognized proof-correction markup language. And academic clients looking to publish in scholarly journals may be more trusting of an editor who claims she knows how to work with particular styles of referencing and citation.

Summing up

Successful marketing isn’t about truth, but about trust — telling the truth is important (though that’s beyond the scope of this article), but a nervous client who’s never worked with you before can’t possibly know whether your claims are truthful. Rather, we need to do things that will help our clients believe that our claims have truth to them. Pictures, praise, portfolios, and summaries of professional practice are four tools that will help build this belief.

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.

July 22, 2015

The Business of Editing: Using & Managing Bookmarks

When speaking about the editing process with colleagues, I am always amazed that they so rarely use one of the most valuable tools that Microsoft provides — bookmarks. It’s not that I don’t understand why, but rather that because the Microsoft way is so cumbersome, colleagues simply don’t make much use of bookmarks.

Bookmarking is, for me, a valuable way to navigate the long documents I edit. They enable me to pinpoint locations quickly. With EditTools’ new Bookmarks macro, which allows me to make use of easy-to-read and more logical navigation-oriented bookmarks, I make even greater use of bookmarks.

Bookmarks the Microsoft Way

Microsoft (using Word 2010 as the example) requires me to take these steps to use bookmarking:

  1. Switch to the Insert ribbon.
  2. Click Bookmark.
  3. Type a name for the bookmark
  4. Click Insert.

That doesn’t seems so bad unless you want to manage your bookmarks. The first problem is with the bookmark name. I like meaningful names, such as EMMA software 1st use. Try to use that in Word’s system; you can’t because it has spaces and mixes letters and numbers — both unacceptable to Word.

Try moving a bookmark from location A to location B using Word’s system. A bookmark I regularly use is editing stopped here to indicate where I am in a manuscript when I stop because I need to go to another section of the manuscript. I use it to tell me where I was and to give me a method for getting back to that place. In Word’s method, to move the bookmark, I need to delete the bookmark and reenter it.

The other thing I like to do is rename a bookmark. Renaming bookmarks lets me use bookmarks to track whether figures and tables are called out in order and whether I have edited a figure or table legend. In Word’s system, renaming can only be done by going to the location of the bookmark, deleting the existing bookmark, and adding a new-name bookmark in its place.

Another problem with Word’s system is that to resume editing of my document, the bookmark dialog has to be closed. To make any change to any bookmark — whether that means adding, deleting, renaming, or moving — I have to open and close the dialog. Not only does that take time, but it makes for poor management efficiency for someone who likes to use bookmarks.

Basically, Microsoft is costing me money because every second counts in editing for profit. EditTools’ new Bookmarks macro makes bookmarking much more efficient and less time-consuming, which means more profit.

EditTools’ Bookmarks

As I said, I make extensive use of bookmarks. I bookmark every figure and table, for example. Not the in-text callouts, but the located-at-the-end-of-the-document figure legends and tables that I need to edit. If a document has five figures, then I have five figure bookmarks: figure 1, figure 2, etc. Same with tables. And as I edit I add bookmarks to things I think I might need to return to from later in the chapter, such as a formula, an acronym, a particular “term of art,” or a name, whether of a person or a study. I sometimes have 50 or more bookmarks in a document — now that I have EditTools’ Bookmarks macro and can use easy-to-read-and-meaningful names.

The Bookmarks dialog looks like this (click on images to enlarge):

EditTools Bookmarks

EditTools Bookmarks

The Bookmarks dialog shows a list of already inserted bookmarks in a document. When you open a document in Word and then open Bookmarks, Bookmarks will populate itself (#3) and list whatever bookmarks are already in the document. You can either keep them, delete specific ones, or click Delete All to delete bookmarks from the document — and it doesn’t matter whether it was you or someone else who originally inserted the bookmarks.

Inserting a bookmark

To insert a bookmark, enter its name in the Bookmark Name field (#1). As shown (#3), you can use spaces and mix letters and numbers; a name can be up to 30 characters long. After entering the name, click Add (#2) to add the bookmark to your document and to the list of bookmarks (#3).

Before editing, I go through a document and insert the “primary” bookmarks, that is, one for each figure and table legend, and one for where I want the “refs” bookmark used by Never Spell Word and other macros located. “Secondary” bookmarks are added as I edit. For example, if the author calls a software program EMMA, when I first come across it, I will insert a bookmark such as EMMA software 1st use. If I discover later that the author defines the EMMA acronym, I can easily move the definition to the first-use location. If the document is fiction, I might bookmark Jason blue eyes or Konowitz 1st use or Katydid Gorylla spelling.

Moving a bookmark

Moving a bookmark from page 3 to page 55 is easy — just two mouse clicks: select the bookmark to be moved and click Move Here (#4); the bookmark will be moved from wherever it is in the document to where your cursor is currently located in the document. Unlike with Word’s system, there is no need to delete the bookmark and retype the name and add it again. This is particularly useful for my editing stopped here bookmark. I use that bookmark to indicate my current location in the document when I need to go to another location, for example, to table 5: I move the editing stopped here bookmark to my current location, select the table 5 bookmark, and click Go To. When I am ready to return to where I had been in the document before going to table 5, I select my editing stopped here bookmark and click Go To. (A bookmarking tip: I have learned that the best way to number tables and figures is to use two digits, such as table 05, rather than the single digit shown in the image. The reason is that if there are 10 or more figures or tables, using the leading zero ensures that the tables and figures are listed in number order.)

PerfectIt users

If you are a PerfectIt user, Bookmarks offers you an easy way to set the area that PerfectIt should check: beginning and ending bookmarks (#6). Click on PSTART to insert a bookmark where PerfectIt should begin and PEND to insert an ending bookmark. When you run PerfectIt, it will search and report on the text between the two bookmarks. For more information, see PerfectIts’ Help files.

Keeping the dialog open

Another features of EditTools’ Bookmarks is the ability to keep the dialog open (#5). In Word, the bookmark dialog closes automatically. In EditTools, you have a choice (#5). I like keeping the dialog open because I am constantly accessing bookmarks (I keep the Bookmarks, Click List, and Reference # Order Check dialogs open; they fit side-by-side on my portrait-oriented monitor). But if you prefer closing and reopening the dialog as needed, you have two choices: You can click Bookmarks on the EditTools tab (black arrow below) or you can assign Bookmarks to a “hotkey” combination by clicking Hotkeys on the EditTools tab (red arrow).

Bookmarks on the EditTools Ribbon

Bookmarks on the EditTools Ribbon

Renaming a bookmark

I use bookmarks to track callouts of figures and tables (and anything else that needs special attention, such as formulas). With Word’s bookmark system, this was doable but time-consuming and prone to error. Of course, another way to do it is the old-fashioned paper-and-pen method, but Bookmarks is much more efficient and reduces the chance of error.

As mentioned earlier, I assign a bookmark to each figure and table legend before I begin editing. When I come to the first callout for table 1, for example, my procedure is as follows:

Renaming a Bookmark

Renaming a Bookmark

 

 

  1. I move (or insert if it hasn’t been previously created) my editing stopped here bookmark (green arrow) at the location of the callout in the text.
  2. Next, I select the appropriate preassigned bookmark, table 1 (red arrow), and click Go To (blue arrow) to take me to table 1.
  3. I edit table 1.
  4. When I am done editing table 1, I select the table 1 bookmark (red arrow) and click Rename (black arrow) to open the Rename dialog, shown here:

 

Changing the Name

Changing the Name

The Rename dialog shows the current name (#1) and includes that name in the To: (or rename) field (#2). I have chosen for the name to reappear in the To: field by choosing No (#3). If I had chosen Yes as my default, then the To: field would be blank.

After editing table 1, I want to rename the bookmark so that I know (a) I have edited it and (b) it has already been called out in the document. However, I may need to look at the table again, so I want table 1 to keep a bookmark. Consequently, what I do is add an x as a prefix to the current name, as shown here (#4); however, the bookmark’s renaming is not limited to the x I use — it can be anything that works for you:

 

The New Name

The New Name

When I click OK (#5), the bookmark remains in place in the document but is renamed to x table 1 as shown in the image below (blue arrow). The bookmark now moves to the end of the list and from looking at the Bookmarks dialog, I can tell that table 1 has been called out in the text and has been edited, and that the next table callout in the text should be for table 2.

 

In the Bookmarks dialog

In the Bookmarks dialog

To return to where I was in the document before going to table 1, I select editing stopped here (black arrow) and click Go To (#6).

For a better idea of how I make use of the Bookmarks macro, look at the image below. I can see that the next table callout should be for table 3 (#1), that tables 1 and 2 (#2) and figures 1 to 3 (#4) have been edited and called out, and that figure 4 (#3) and tables 3 to 8 (#1) have yet to be called out.

 

Using Bookmarks to track

Using Bookmarks to track

If the next callout I encounter is for table 5, I can see at a glance that table 5 is not being called out in number order, which allows me to renumber or query, depending on my client’s instructions. If I renumber, I can move or rename the bookmarks.

As you can see, EditTools’ Bookmarks makes bookmarking easy. Because it is an efficient way to use bookmarks, I can make more and better use of a valuable editing and navigating tool. Most importantly, because it is efficient and a timesaver, Bookmarks saves me time, which means enhanced profitability. Bookmarks is one of the three macros I keep open on my desktop as I edit, the other two being Click List and Reference # Order Check.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

____________

Looking for a Deal?

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

July 16, 2015

Worth Noting: New Macros, New Version — EditTools 6.2 Released

EditTools 6.2 has been released.

The new release has a much speedier Journals macro (thanks to a suggestion from Shmuel Gerber). Recall that in The Business of Editing: Cite Work Can Be Profitable, I mentioned how I had just finished working on a reference list of 1,827 that took the Journals macro, with my then dataset of 78,000 entries, not quite 4 hours to complete. With the improvement suggested by Mr. Gerber, it took less than 2 hours with a dataset of 98,000 entries. A more typical reference list of about 75 references takes a little less than a minute to check against the dataset.

Version 6.2 also has several new macros and one significantly improved macro.

The new macros are Bookmarks, Click List, Comment Editor, and Reference # Order Check. The Insert Query macro has received a great new addition called Categories. Categories lets you organize your standard comments for quicker access. Each macro is described at the EditTools website and will be the subject of an upcoming in-depth essay here at AAE. The AAE essays will discuss not only how the macros work but how they can increase your profitability.

The Bookmarks macro has one additional feature aimed at PerfectIt users. It provide a quick-and-easy way to insert special bookmarks in a Word document that tell PerfectIt what text you want checked.

EditTools 6.2 is a free upgrade for registered users. Go to the downloads page to obtain your copy. If you aren’t using EditTools, try it. Go to the downloads page and download the trial version.

(NOTE: EditTools 6.2 requires 32-bit Word 2007 or newer. If you are currently running EditTools 6.x, you can run version 6.2.)

Rich Adin, An American Editor

July 13, 2015

The Keys to High-Quality Editing

The one thing every professional editor strives to produce is a high-quality edit. This is more difficult today than it was 30 years ago; client demands have made production of high-quality editing increasingly difficult.

Yet there are “keys” to producing high-quality editing.

Accept or reject a project

The keys begin with the decision whether to take on a particular project. A few days ago, I turned on my computer to find five job offers waiting for me. I only accepted one. The one I accepted came with much less onerous demands than the others, which means that I will be able to provide a high-quality edit.

The job I accepted asked me to suggest a schedule based on what the client wanted and the manuscript needed; the others gave me a fixed schedule. After reviewing the manuscript for the accepted job, I suggested that a nine-week schedule was reasonable. The other jobs were for much shorter manuscripts but still required at least a two-week and more likely a three-week schedule; the schedule on offer was one week with no flexibility.

However, there were still problems that had to be addressed with what ultimately became the accepted job. For example, the references and how they were to be formatted. The author used what is for me a rarely seen style for the references: American Chemical Society style. If the manuscript had a handful of references, changing them to Harvard style would not be a problem, but the manuscript has a lot of references and there are a lot of stylistic differences between Harvard and ACS. The client wants the manuscript sooner rather than later, and so it was decided that because the author was consistent, we would use ACS style for the references.

In contrast, a couple of the manuscripts that I rejected didn’t have a single reference style, but the predominant style would have required many hours of work to restyle to conform to the client’s style. Yet the client was unwilling to compromise.

The keys to high-quality editing begin with the decision whether to take on a project or not. Many editors are simply thankful to be offered work and accept jobs without vetting them. This approach leads to a low effective hourly rate and questionable editing quality because it can be a struggle to meet short schedules — especially if the manuscript is not well written.

Effective hourly rate

Another key is ensuring that a project leads to a decent effective hourly rate and a profit. I have noted over the years that many colleagues take on a new project expecting it to go smoothly only to find that it does not. And when it does not, they are faced with the dilemma of ensuring a decent effective hourly rate versus the high quality of editing they prefer to provide. This is the eternal struggle — what to do when the compensation is inadequate.

Of course, it is difficult to know in advance, even if you sample a manuscript, how easy or hard a manuscript will be to edit. But there are certain things one can look for as clues. I have found that authors who very inconsistent and sloppy with references are often the same with the main text, which means more editing work. I have also found that if I see a lot of Word’s squiggly red lines, which indicate possible misspellings, that a manuscript may be problematic. In this case, however, because much of what I edit is medical, I recognize that the built-in spellchecker will mischaracterize a word, indicating it is misspelled when it isn’t. This clue requires familiarity with the subject matter.

Subject-matter familiarity

Which brings us to yet another key: knowledge of the subject matter. It is not that the editor needs to be an expert in the subject matter, it is that the editor needs to be comfortable with the subject matter. In my case, for example, I stopped editing fiction after about 6 months of editing — more than 31 years ago. I stopped for several reasons, including to provide a high-quality edit I had to be able to keep a sharp focus on the novel’s text. What I found was that when faced with a poorly written manuscript, my focus would begin drifting and I would have to reread the same paragraphs perhaps multiple times. I also discovered that for me, nonfiction was both more interesting and more profitable.

Fiction editing is difficult because it requires familiarity with a wide range of topics that I am not normally either interested in nor familiar with. I have never been particularly interested, for example, whether Bucharest’s weather is closer to that of London or New York City, but that could bin important in a novel whose action takes place in Bucharest. As a fiction editor, it was my responsibility to know whether or not the author’s description of Bucharest was plausible (actually, accurate). My fiction reading has always been limited; I tend to read vast amounts of nonfiction. Consequently, I was better “educated” about things that the nonfiction I was editing was concerned with than the fiction editing needed.

Pattern recognition

The ability to recognize writing patterns is another key. Every author has a writing pattern and in a group of collaborating authors, one pattern dominates. Identifying early in the editing process this pattern leads to greater consistency and accuracy in editing, which can lead to higher-quality editing. When you can identify these patterns, you can take advantage of tools such as EditTools. These types of tools, if properly used, lead to higher-quality editing.

Resources

The final key to be discussed in this essay is resources. Having the right resources available is important. For example, knowing that Garner’s Modern American Usage is the leading usage guide for American English is not enough; you need to have it available. Similarly, being told to follow a particular style manual by the client is of little use is you are not familiar with it and have it readily available. It does no good for a client to ask you to follow AMA style if the only style guide you can access and are familiar with is Chicago.

It should be clear that many things go into producing a high-quality edit; consequently, a lot of things need to come together. Yet an editor’s skill is not just objective things such as available resources; the skillset an editor needs to meet client limitations and still produce high-quality editing is sharpened over years of education and editing. Knowing one’s current limitations is an important part of providing high-quality editing. The professional editor works diligently to minimize those limitations, and one way to do so is to knowingly evaluate an offered job by the keys to high-quality editing.

What do you think?

Rich Adin, An American Editor

July 8, 2015

The Commandments: Thou Shall be Businesslike

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The value of presenting an editorial services entity as a business has been discussed here several times. A dreary, rainy day of doing more business tasks than actual editing, writing, or proofreading led me to think about what it means to be, and be seen as, a business.

As has, again, been said before, many freelance editors see ourselves as individuals providing services to clients and value our image as individual, independent, freelance workers. We see ourselves as professionals in terms of our training, experience, skill level, and ability to do what our clients need to make their publishing activities better. Many — maybe even most — of us, though, don’t want to be seen as companies or even formally as businesses. There’s a sense that our individualness is something to cherish and that it doesn’t quite fit with the idea of being “a business.”

But being an individual freelancer doesn’t have to mean appearing to be unbusinesslike. And being businesslike, or presenting ourselves as businesses, doesn’t have to mean being a company with employees or subcontractors. You can be an individual editor and still have a businesslike image.

Rich Adin, An American Editor, has laid out several of the factors he considers essential to being seen as a business: regular work and access hours, a formal phone greeting, etc. (For additional views, see the list of select related AAE essays at the end of this essay.) Here are some of the factors I see as helping an individual, whether freelance writer, editor, proofreader, indexer, whatever, present a businesslike front to the world.

  • Business name: Even if you function as a sole proprietor, it probably looks better to have a company name. I’ve been doing this so long as an individual that I can usually get away with being seen simply as Ruth Thaler-Carter, Freelance Writer/Editor, especially because I started out more as a writer than an editor or proofreader. If I were to start out today, though, I’d use something other than my own name as the identity of my business. I have had a couple of clients request that I provide a business name, so my business checking account has one so I can deposit checks regardless of how they’re made out.
    Your business name should say something about what you do. Poetic names like “Blue Horizons” are all very well, but they don’t tell prospective clients what services you offer, so they won’t help you gain new projects or be visible on the Internet. Blue Horizons Editorial Services, sure.
    Opinions vary on what to call ourselves. I have no problem with being called a freelancer, but some colleagues prefer to use consultant, contractor, entrepreneur, or even (business) owner.
    Opinions also vary about whether to incorporate. This is something worth discussing with an accountant or tax professional.
  • Website: A businesslike editor will have a website, and it will look polished and professional. No amateur snapshots of the editor with kids, cats or dogs, messy desks; no photos of someone other than yourself pretending to be you. No irrelevant information. Easily navigable. Information about your background, training, experience, skills, and why someone should hire you. Whenever possible, examples of your work or, if that isn’t doable, strong testimonials from clients.
  • Work samples: A businesslike freelancer will have a way to present work samples to potential clients without violating the confidentiality or egos of past and present clients. This is more of an issue with editing and proofreading services than with writing; after all, most writing work is meant to be published and seen, while much editing or proofreading work is meant to be invisible. The finished product is what matters, and most clients don’t want the world to see what a mess their original versions were before we made our improvements. Always ask before making editing/proofreading samples accessible; use only excerpts that don’t identify the client; look for other ways to present your skills, such as testimonials and references from clients who have been happy with your work.
  • E-mail address: A businesslike editor will have a domain-based e-mail address. Using Ruth@writerruth.com or owner@FreelanceWhatever.com looks more professional and more businesslike than Ruth@gmail.com or FreelanceWhatever@aol.com. Sending e-mail from your domain-based account also might get messages through when major servers like AOL, Hotmail, Juno, etc., experience blockages for some reason. Having such an e-mail address also means you can change service providers every other day without having to notify dozens, if not hundreds, of colleagues and clients of a new address.
  • E-mail signature: Every e-mail message you send should include a signature (sigline). Opinions vary about what it should include; mine has my full name, business name, e-mail address, website URL, Twitter handle, reference to a booklet I’ve written and self-published, and a separate line with the name of the business through which I host an annual conference for freelancers. My e-mail program includes it automatically in every message I send. The only time I have to think about it is when I want to use variants, also stashed in the appropriate area of my e-mail program, that relate to my roles with organizations or clients/projects. Some colleagues include phone numbers in their siglines; I don’t do that much phone contact with clients, so I don’t include my number, but it is on my website and in directory information (yes, I still have a landline), so it’s easy to find when needed.
  • Phone: A businesslike freelancer can have either a landline or a cellphone/smartphone, but whichever you use, will answer it in a businesslike manner. I usually say “Good morning/Good afternoon, this is Ruth,” but some colleagues swear by “I can write about anything®, this is Ruth. How may I help you?” Either way, go beyond a plain “Hi” or “Hello” to let callers know whom they’ve reached when they call you. A businesslike editor also makes sure that their adorable five-year-olds or clueless spouses don’t answer their business phones; that callers don’t have to strain to hear them against background noise of barking dogs, loud TVs, clinking dishes being washed, or intrusive music.
  • Queries, job-listing responses, proposals, and pitches: A businesslike freelancer takes a little extra time to make every query, response to job-list opportunities, proposal, and pitch as perfect as possible. That starts with doing at least nominal research on the publication or potential client before pitching/querying ideas for articles so all are relevant to that publication, and only responding to job listings for which the freelancer actually is qualified. It also includes proofreading all such items before sending them; if necessary, having a friend or colleague take a look at them first.
  • Tools: We’ve talked here several times about the importance of having the right, and many times the most-current, tools for the freelance or editing job. This includes soft- and hardware; backup systems; style manuals to back up editing decisions; even business cards that go with you everywhere. Backup in the sense of equipment or files is one thing, by the way; in terms of coping with a crisis is another. A businesslike editor has colleagues to turn to if illness or injury — your own or that of a child, spouse, sibling, parent, or good friend — interferes with meeting a deadline.
  • Finances: The businesslike editor sets rates appropriate to the editor’s experience and skill level; has a business checking account and credit card for business-related expenses and payments; and has a savings cushion so the editor doesn’t have to beg to be paid earlier than usual or accept projects at rates well below the norm. It’s also important to present requests to resolve late payments in terms of being paid because of having done the work, not needing the money to pay the mortgage.
  • Invoices: A businesslike editor will have invoices that look official and go out promptly on completing a project. They will have all the necessary information to make it easy to get paid — an invoice number; your name; your mailing address and e-mail address so clients can choose between sending checks or paying online; your payment terms; any late fee terms you choose to use; perhaps a statement that the edited version of the work belongs to you until you’ve been paid.
  • Memberships: The businesslike editor will belong to associations or organizations that offer useful benefits such as job opportunities, educational programs, interaction with colleagues, and more — all aspects of being a lifelong learner and professional.

What all this boils down to is that, regardless of whether you want to be a sole-proprietor freelance editor or the owner of an editing company, Thou Shall Be Businesslike in all you do. What else do you do to present a businesslike persona?

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.

Select Related An American Editor Essays:

June 24, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Using StyleWriter4 Professional as a Proofreading Tool

by Louise Harnby

This month I’d like to share my experiences with StyleWriter4 Professional, a piece of software I purchased some months ago. I use this as a proofreading tool, though that’s not solely what the developers designed it for.

It complements the work I do with my eyes, increasing (1) the efficiency with which I work and (2) the quality of my output. Efficiency increases keep me happy because I can do certain tasks more quickly, thus improving my hourly rate; improvements in output quality keep my clients happy because they want as high a “hit” rate as possible.

What is StyleWriter4?

Essentially, StyleWriter4 is software that aims to help users with proofreading, editing, and plain-English writing. It comes in three versions:

  • Starter: the “cut-down” edition for those on a budget. It concentrates on plain-English proofreading and editing, searching the text, line by line, for long sentences, passive voice, and potential spelling errors. Style categories can be selected that enable the writer or editor to amend complex words, overwriting, abstract phrases or foreign words.
  • Standard: All the features of the Starter edition with additional functions to aid written communication, including identification of “high glue” and “high bog” sentences. (“High glue” sentences contain words that hold a sentence together, for example, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns. “High bog” sentences contain words that detract from a comfortable reading experience.) There are options for customization such as the ability to create categories for words or phrases that you want to ban or suggest.
  • Professional: All the features from Starter and Standard, plus the Editor’s List. This includes lists of all full words (alphabetically sorted), word frequency, spelling (unknown, questionable, or unusual words), bog (specialist words or words that may detract from readability), wordy (including passive verbs and word phrases), jargon (including abbreviations and jargon words), and pep (unusual or interesting words, and names).

A caveat on this proofreader’s usage

I bought StyleWriter4 because I wanted quick and easy access to the information in the Editor’s List – that, and nothing more. It’s important that I emphasize this straight away.

I’m not an editor, so I’m not in the business of worrying about passive voice, sentence length, overwriting, or overall style. Even though the Professional Edition enables me to use the tools to make amendments in relation to these issues, I’m not interested in them (because that’s not what my clients are paying me for) and I haven’t used the functions. I therefore can’t comment on the degree to which the software is effective in its claims to address these issues effectively.

So, what’s so great about the Editor’s List?

Why I use the Editor’s List

Sometimes we see what we want to see rather than what’s actually on the page. Being an experienced and professionally trained proofreader doesn’t make me immune to this problem. Rather, my experience and my professional training have made me alert to it.  That’s why I always generate a word list to flag up potential inconsistencies that my weary eyes might have passed over. Such a list allows me to make sure I check spelling errors (e.g., poofreader), consistency issues (e.g., Francois and François), context-dependent errors (e.g., behaviour and behavior). Not every issue will need to be attended to, but it will need to be checked. This is where the Editor’s List comes to the fore.

Running StyleWriter4 Professional on a Word document quickly and cleanly generates lists of words that I can use to spot potential problems I want to check, prior to reading the text line by line with my eyes. Generating word lists is all about spotting possible serious snags (e.g., inconsistent spelling of character or cited-author names) before the in-context proofreading starts. Looking through such lists gives me piece of mind and allows me, later, to focus my attention on context and layout.

Step-by-step summary

The following is a step-by-step summary of how I generate the information I need from the Editor’s List:

  1. Create a Word document. If I’ve been contracted to work directly in Word by my client, I’m good to go. If I have a PDF, I copy the text from the PDF proof and paste it into a Word file. (I choose not to use Acrobat’s built-in conversion tool because I’ve found it leads to problems with text flow, and I have to devote even more time to fixing these before I run any Word-based tools, such as macros. However, this is a personal choice.) I remove unnecessary word breaks from the document by using Word’s Find and Replace tool (find “-^p” then “- ^p” then “ -^p”); always leave the replace box blank. You may have a macro that does this for you more efficiently.
  2. Go to the Add-Ins tab and click on the StyleWriter icon. (Click on images to enlarge them.)
Word Menu with StyleWriter

Word Menu with StyleWriter

  1. Click on the arrow next to the Editor’s List icon: that’s the little picture of the chap wearing Men-in-Black shades!
StyleWriter Menu

StyleWriter Menu

  1. Select the list you want to look at. The lists I usually focus on are “All” (which includes the following separate lists of interest to me: “All words” and “Odds and ends”); and “Spelling” (which includes the following separate lists of interest to me: “Unknown words,” “Questionable words,” and “Unusual words”).

In the image below, I’ve highlighted the tabs of interest as they appear in the Editor’s List window, and the option at the bottom of the window to order the chosen word lists alphabetically or by frequency.

Editor's List Sample

Editor’s List Sample

I then scroll through the lists at my leisure, checking any problems I detect. In the image above, I’ve highlighted an inconsistent spelling issue that I’d need to check (behaviour/behaviour) in order to identify whether there is an error in the text. If I was working for a client directly in Word, I could use the “Trace in Text View” button highlighted at the bottom of the window. If I was working on hardcopy or PDF, I’d search for the problem in the PDF and then mark up on paper or on screen, as per the client’s wishes.

Why not use TextSTAT?

I used to use TextSTAT for creation of word lists for my proofreading work. I loved this software. I still love it! See “Revisiting an old favorite: TextSTAT, word lists, and the proofreader,” for more information about how I’ve used this tool in an almost identical way.

And TextSTAT is free, whereas StyleWriter4 Professional costs US$190 (or £123).

So, before buying, I decided to do a cost­-to-benefit analysis. If I was going to spend over a hundred quid on software, I needed to know how quickly I would get a return on my investment. I compared how long it took me to work through all the little bits and necessary to generate full-word and spelling lists using TextSTAT and StyleWriter4 Professional.

With StyleWriter, the process is a one-stop shop. I open and run the software in the Word file. I then click on Editor’s List and choose what I want to look at.

With TextSTAT, things are more fiddly. I have to upload the Word document, create full-word list, export the list into Excel, copy the Excel version into Word, alphabetize and check. Then I run a separate macro to generate possible list of potential spelling errors.

Using StyleWriter4 Professional saved me only five minutes for a 150,000-word file. However, when it comes to productivity in editorial work, marginal gains always count.

  • Cost: £123 (US$190)
  • Value of five minutes of my time based on my average hourly rate 2014/15 financial year = £3.34 (US$5.19) per job
  • On average, I do five large proofreading jobs a month = 5 × £3.34 (US$5.19) = £16.70 (US$25.95)
  • £123 (US$190)/£16.70 (US$25.95) = just over 7 months to pay for itself
  • I decided to buy StyleWriter4 Professional purely for the Editor’s List and haven’t regretted it. The choice for me was about the speed of the functionality, and its fit with my particular business model.

Considerations before you buy

Use the trial version before you buy. The website currently doesn’t indicate which version is available for download. It’s therefore worth emailing the developers to check which edition you’ll be experimenting with. If you’re a proofreader like me, and are considering the software primarily to access the Editor’s List, you’ll need to trial the Professional version.

View the video demos on the StyleWriter4 website, so you can see how the various features work.

Cost – it’s not free. If you are using alternative free software (such as TextSTAT) to generate checkable full-word and spelling lists, do your own cost-to-benefit analysis so that you can work out whether and when you will earn a return on your investment. You’ll need to know the value you place on X minutes of your time in order to do this. You may recoup your investment in a shorter or longer period of time than me because there are differences in our hourly rates, our fee structures, the services we offer, the speed at which we use alternative software, how many separate jobs we do per month, the word count in the files, and so on.

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.

June 15, 2015

On the Basics: Newsletters as a Writing or Editing Service

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

At some point in the recent past, predictions were that newsletters would become defunct as people and organizations turned to the World Wide Web to promote their services, products, and activities. But newsletters continue to not only exist but thrive. Some may now be produced in electronic formats only, but print editions are still alive and well in many instances. With both businesses and entrepreneurs looking for ways to engage regularly with past, current, and prospective clients, and companies and not-for-profit organizations aiming to stay connected with employees, retirees, donors, and other important audiences, newsletters aren’t going away any time soon.

With that in mind, it’s worthwhile for publishing colleagues to think about writing for or editing newsletters as a business niche, as well as publishing our own newsletters to promote our freelance services.

Voice and scope

Writing for a newsletter is a skill like any other — it has its own conventions beyond good grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation, and even beyond good writing in general.

What many people forget when they prepare to put a newsletter together is that a newsletter should focus on news. Not fluff; news. Not weddings, babies, bowling scores, etc.; news (although some newsletters do find a rationale for including some levels of such fluff — small chapters of larger organizations, for instance, might include personal news about members as a way to build connections and closeness, but a lot of professionals will find such information a little off-putting).

There are times when longer articles are appropriate for a newsletter, but the other key characteristic is that most newsletter stories are short. If a topic deserves more depth, it might make sense to keep the newsletter version short and tight and use the publishing entity’s website to provide additional details, insights, quotes, charts, and other material to flesh out the topic.

The writing voice of a newsletter is usually informal, although some organizations in the sciences and some businesses use a denser and more formal approach to newsletter content. The active voice is the best choice, and it’s fine to use the second person (you, we, us) to build connection with the readership.

Newsy and short: That’s the winning combination for newsletter writing.

Planning and process

If you are thinking about launching a newsletter, whether for your own business or someone else’s, plan to start small and to expand over time. If you aren’t sure there will be enough information to produce an eight-page monthly newsletter, start out with four pages every month, or four or eight pages every other month. It hurts reputation and credibility to have to scale back from an overambitious publishing plan, and it builds reputation and credibility to expand to more pages or a more-frequent publication schedule if the newsletter takes off.

If you have the opportunity to edit or produce a newsletter, fall back on one of our commandments for editors: Be prepared (see “On the Basics: A Fifth Commandment: Thou Shall Be Prepared”). If it’s for a client, ask for and read through everything about the organization you can find — old newsletter issues, if any; annual reports; the website; news clippings; grant proposals, etc. — both to see what’s been done before and to absorb something of the culture of the organization. Research the field or niche of the organization in general, and any national level if you’re working with a local or regional chapter. Talk to everyone — staff at all levels, clients, donors, volunteers.

Develop a story list for the first few issues — ideally, a year’s worth — and be sure to include a few “evergreen” or timeless topics that can be used if a planned article falls through for some reason. Popular evergreen topics include profiles of leadership, staff, volunteers, and clients/customers; trends in the appropriate industry or profession; new resources, from books to websites to events; unusual holidays; etc. Distribute the list to staff and other potential contributors — and invite them to add their ideas for articles.

In many organizations, a letter from the leadership is expected to appear in every issue of the newsletter — but the individual responsible for the column often doesn’t give the deadline much heed. Be prepared to draft a “from the president/executive director” column for approval; it will save you time and hassle, and should strengthen your value to the organization.

To put your stamp on the publication, look for people and topics that have not been covered recently. There is bound to be a pocket of people who feel left out and will be thrilled to be included in some way, whether you write about them and their programs or use their ideas for articles.

If employees or volunteers are expected to write for a company or organization publication, make sure they feel welcome. Provide brief style and writing guidelines. Give contributors bylines and consider including their photos, if they’re amenable. For those who are nervous about writing, assure them that you’ll make them look good in print by catching any errors. Suggest to management that contributing articles to the newsletter will be a factor in merit increases.

For a promotional newsletter of your own, keep the “me, me, me!” elements to a low roar, as the saying goes. Do let readers know of your recent achievements or news, but couch the information in ways that make it useful to others. Include how-to tips and resources of interest. And be sure to include an opt-out function so you don’t annoy people by sending something they may not want to receive.

The look of the book

Design is key to a newsletter being read and remembered, so don’t skimp on that element. There are plenty of template-based newsletter resources available these days, but the best course is to invest in having a graphic designer create a unique look for yours, whether it’s for a client or yourself. If you want to do the whole process, from planning to writing to editing to layout to proofreading, have the designer create a format you can replicate from issue to issue after the launch, so you only need the designer for that first issue. If you only want to do the writing and editing, and perhaps proofread the layout before posting or printing the newsletter, budget for someone to handle design and layout. A professional designer can provide a format that relates to the publishing entity, is easy and fun to read, yet still looks professional.

Newsletter design should be clean, uncluttered, and lively. That doesn’t mean a dozen typefaces, box styles, column formats, and other variables per page or per issue. It does mean an active writing voice and an interesting design that is easy to read and follow, with photos and graphics to brighten up pages.

The two computer programs best suited for designing, laying out, and producing newsletters are InDesign and QuarkXPress. Other programs may suffice, but aren’t considered professional-level publishing tools.

Version decisions

Producing and distributing an electronic newsletter is essentially free, while printing and mailing costs money, but don’t let that factor rule in dismissing the idea of a print edition. Keep in mind that many audiences have varying preferences for how they receive a newsletter. In any one company, association, or organization, some readers will still prefer a print edition while others will want an electronic one. Most organizations create one look and produce it in both formats. That’s easy to do; for my newsletter clients with dual format preferences, I work on the print version first, finalize that for the printer, save it as an interactive PDF, and provide the PDF for sending as an e-mail attachment or posting to a website.

Producing newsletters for clients can be a lucrative addition to a freelancer’s services; creating one to promote your business can lead to lucrative new clients while enhancing your reputation as an expert. Either way, the newsletter niche is well worth considering as you look for ways to expand and invigorate your freelance business.

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.

June 10, 2015

The Ethics of Distaste

It must be the season for distaste. On a couple of forums someone has asked about backing out of an editing job because they discovered that they dislike (choose one or more) the author’s religious views, the subject matter of the project (e.g., erotica, anti-something the editor likes, abortion, devil worship), the political views expressed in the manuscript, and so on. Surprisingly, for the first time in my lengthy career someone applied for an editing position and outlined a list of projects they would not work on as part of their application.

I do not think editors must take on anything that crosses their threshold. If a project offends your sense of morality, saying no is a kindness to both you and the client. Yet there is a but to that blanket statement. I do not think the rules are the same when you have agreed to undertake the project, have started editing, and only as you get into the project discover that the project makes you squeamish.

Let’s begin with endorsements. That you have edited a project does not mean you endorse the author or the author’s point of view. Editing a medical text that includes a chapter on euthanasia does not mean you believe or endorse the view that those who are dying should be helped to speed the process. Similarly, just because you edit a book on investing in Zimbabwe does not mean you support Robert Mugabe or because you edit a book on Catholicism that you endorse the Catholic Church over all other religious institutions.

I am an editor. I am hired because of my skill with language. My clients do not ask — and if they did ask, I would not answer — what my religious or political beliefs are. On the other hand, there is nothing illegitimate in a client saying upfront that he would like an active member of the Catholic Church to edit his book about Catholic ritual because such an editor is likely to better understand the content. In such a case, my answer would simply be that I am not the right editor for that book.

Because I am hired for language skills, I should be able to edit anything. Content is not the king, coherence is the king and that does not mean I need to endorse the views of the author; it does mean that I must have the skill to determine whether since and because can by used synonymously in the particular book.

It seems as if I am ignoring the repugnant and saying that an editor must accept repugnant projects. To the contrary, I am saying that before you agree to edit a project, you should freely turn away any project that impinges your sense of right and wrong, insists that you help someone who you would classify as a societal cockroach, demands that you set aside any sense of civilization and embrace barbarity, requires that you deal with language that you used to get your mouth washed with soap for repeating. The key is before you begin editing, you can reject a project for any reason, including because you are a hater of ______ (fill-in the blank with your own discrimination beliefs).

The difficulty arises after you have accepted the project and started editing, especially if you have spent a significant amount of time editing the project. At this juncture, I think your obligations and options have changed. You can no longer make that unilateral decision to not edit; now you need to discuss the project with the client.

At minimum you owe your client an explanation as to why you want to give up on the project. I do not think it is enough to say that “I find the material morally reprehensible.” I think you owe the client a more detailed and nuanced explanation. You need to detail how your distaste affects your editing and how this does the client a disservice. Whether you are entitled to compensation for the work you have already done is also on the table. (Suppose the project is a $5,000 project and the client has already paid you $3,000. Is the client entitled to a refund? Should you offer one?)

Because you want to terminate a client’s business expectation, you probably should have another, equally capable editor already lined up and willing to takeover. I think it is wrong for editor at this stage to simply bow out and not have found or offered to help find a replacement editor. (Let me add a caveat to this: I am speaking of instances where the subject matter is the problem, not the client. If the problem is the client himself and not the subject matter, I do not think you are obligated to find another editor; if the problem is both the client and the subject matter, you need to try to determine whether your distaste for the client is because of a distaste for the subject matter of whether the distaste for the client stands on its own merits. If it is because of the subject matter, then you should find another editor; if it is the client on the client’s own merits, then you should not help find another editor. By the way, all of this presupposes that the client is amenable to releasing your from your agreement to edit his project.

Assuming the client is willing to free you, then it is my belief that you should refund any monies paid you by the client. As we all know, each editor is like her own island; switching editors midstream often means that the new editor starts from the beginning. Consequently, it strikes me that the ethical thing to do is refund payments you have received.

What if the client is unwilling to release you? Now the pot boils over because we are back to the question of whether the problem is the client or the subject matter or both. If the client is otherwise fine and the problem really lies with the subject matter, then I think the editor is obligated to continue editing as agreed. However, in this instance, I would ask the client to acknowledge that he has been asked to release you because you are repulsed by the subject matter, that as a result of his insistence that you continue you will do so as best you can but that you have advised the client that an editor who is not repulsed by the subject matter is likely to do a better editing job. Editing subject matter that is distasteful is difficult but not impossible. I have done it and I am sure many of you have too.

What is impossible, however, is to continue working with a client who you find offensive, ogreish. In this instance it may be unethical to continue editing the project if there is a chance that your dislike of the client will encourage you to make editorial choices that harm the project. In this instance, I would stand my ground and insist on terminating the agreement (and refund any payments I had received).

The difficult situation is where the client and the subject matter may be distasteful. As noted earlier, it is necessary to decide why the client is distasteful. Is it because the client himself is distasteful or because the subject matter encourages you to view the client as distasteful. If because the client is distasteful, then stand your ground; if it is the subject matter that is influencing your opinion, then continue to edit.

If you have strong views about what you are willing to edit and not willing to edit, state what you will do and won’t do on your website or in your initial contact with a potential client. Make clear, for example, that you will not edit books that approve of _________ or disapprove of ________ (fill in the blanks). Be upfront. But remember that once you have agreed to edit a project, it is unethical to unilaterally decide to stop just because you now find the subject matter or the client’s approach to the subject matter distasteful. With ethics, there is no such thing as no fault divorce.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

May 13, 2015

It’s Fundamental & Professional, Too

One of the more widely disseminated and read essays on An American Editor in recent times was “The Makings of an Unprofessional Editor” in which I stated that one sign of an unprofessional editor is inflexibility. As we all are aware, there are other makings, too. Some are more unprofessional than others, but all contribute to making an editor unprofessional.

Today’s makings are not only small signs of unprofessionalism, but they are contrary to fundamental principles of good business. Editing is a business, at least for me. I know that for some editors, editing is a part-time, second income job intended to bring in enough money to pay for next year’s vacation or a new car, but not intended to be the primary source for money to keep the family fed, clothed, and sheltered. But that’s not me.

I run my editing service as if it were Apple or Microsoft or General Motors — to bring in new clients and new projects, to be profitable, to earn for me a generous income. Consequently, I approach decisions that affect my business with all the care and caution that I can.

Fundamental to my “business plan” is to be seen as a professional editor. Clients may not like an editing decision I make, but there is never a doubt that I am professional. I can support my decisions if asked, and if I encounter a problem that will affect schedule, I address it head on and quickly — I do not wait for a manageable problem to become unmanageable before tackling it.

Which brings me to today’s makings of an unprofessional editor: replying to emails and answering the telephone.

Simmering in my thoughts these past few weeks have been my dealings with a couple of colleagues — or perhaps I should say “lack of dealings.” The quickest way to chase away a client is to ignore the client; similarly, the quickest way to lose an opportunity is to not grasp it when offered.

I had inquiries from a couple of potential clients for some good specialty work. By “good” I mean above the usual pay and for reliable clients. But the work was outside what I do; I have been at this long enough (31 years) and I’m old enough (“old” covers it) that I limit what I am willing to do and the types of clients for whom I am willing to work. So when these offers came in, I decided to send the clients elsewhere.

But when I send a client elsewhere, I usually contact the person to whom I want to send the client to make sure she is interested in the job and has the time to do it to meet the client’s schedule. My first contact attempt is by telephone, my second is by email — there is no third attempt.

The First Attempt: Telephone

When I telephone, I call during “normal” business hours; that is, during those hours that most of us consider business hours. I realize that my business hours do not match your business hours, and that is fine, but how about a return telephone call sometime this century? And that’s a sign that maybe I am not contacting a professional.

Every business owner understands, or should understand, that returning a telephone call is important if you want to keep current clients and gain new clients. There are several aspects to this “problem,” but two to focus on are these: (1) the call should be returned within a reasonable time, which in today’s world means no more than a few hours, and the quicker the better, and (2) you don’t return a telephone call by sending a text message or an email.

As for the reasonable time for returning a call, it strikes me that there is something amiss in one’s priorities when, instead of either answering the call or returning it within a short time, you respond to queries that aren’t directed specifically to you or that aren’t directly about either a job you are doing or want to do on lists like LinkedIn or make new posts on Twitter or Facebook. I know that when I call a colleague and leave a message that says I need to talk to her about a job but before I get a response I see her post messages in a forum, I lose interest in sending work to her. I wonder about her priorities.

If I have taken the time to telephone, does it not indicate that I wish to speak with you, not exchange emails or text messages? Explaining about a job or a client goes much faster by telephone than by texting, yet colleagues respond to telephone calls by texting.

I think not answering the telephone, not promptly returning a telephone call, and responding by texting/email rather than calling are all indications of a lack of professionalism. If there is a reason why you could not respond either quickly or by telephone, then an apology-explanation is appropriate.

Remember this: Editing is a person-to-person business that requires people skills. Being a good editor is not sufficient to be successful; interpersonal skills are important. Consequently, courtesy and good business sense as regards people are keys and indicators of professionalism. Do you like it when your doctor or your plumber doesn’t return your telephone call? How does it make you feel? Does it make you think they value you as a client?

The Second Attempt: Email

If time passes and I do not get a return call, I attempt contact by email. Sometimes I send an email immediately after leaving a voice message in which I ask the colleague to call me as soon as possible as I have a job to discuss with her. The email specifically asks for a telephone call.

I usually get a response — eventually and by email. By this time, I have decided not to pass the job on to this colleague because she didn’t respond as asked and offered no explanation for failing to do so. (There is also the question of how prompt her response was.)

This, too, is a business fundamental. When a client indicates a response method preference, a good businessperson adheres to that preference. It does not matter whether the client’s reason is silly or for national security — it is fundamental that it is the client who is in charge at this stage and the last thing that should be done is irritate the client.

I think not responding in the manner requested is an indication that the editor believes she is more important than the client, which bodes ill for the future business relationship. As I said earlier, courtesy and good business sense as regards people are keys and indicators of professionalism. Ignoring client requests and not responding promptly, in the absence of apology and explanation, is worrisome. How will my manuscript be treated if I’m treated as if my preferences matter naught?

The Professional Editor…

The professional editor cares about the impression she is making. She knows that everything she does communicates to her client (or potential client) her professionalism (or lack thereof). Most of us want to be viewed as professional. Consequently, we need to think about how we handle the mundane aspects of our business — are we communicating professionalism or giving signs of unprofessionalism?

We spend a lot of time and effort creating our presentation to the outside world — making sure our email signature is just right, that our website looks professional, that our forum messages demonstrate professionalism — so it seems foolish to let those efforts be undermined the little things.

Do you agree?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays —

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