An American Editor

August 26, 2015

House Guide Plus Style Guide: Why?

Last week’s essay, Style Guide Terrorism: A Formula for Failure (the “ACS essay”), was devoted to what I consider one of the worst style guides editors and authors may have to deal with, The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed., by the American Chemical Society. But there is a corollary problem with style guides that is not the fault of the style guides themselves: the (often, usually) contradictory companion house exceptions (style) guide.

I work with publishers and packagers (packagers being the full-service third-party service providers that contract with publishers to provide all of the production needs for a particular project). Publishers use packagers as a way to reduce costs; the same work is needed and required, but because the packager is often based in a developing country, the packager prices the services at a price that reflects the packager’s lower costs and then finds freelance editors to provide editing services at a price even lower than the already low packager quote to the publisher. It is a way for a publisher to still get a book edited by an editor from a higher-priced country, which is desired, but without paying that higher price.

When I receive a project, I also often receive a lengthy house style guide that contains the exceptions to the style guide I am supposed to apply. For example, not too long ago, I received instructions to follow the AMA Manual of Style, 10th ed., which is, roughly 1,000 pages, and my client’s client’s 105-page house style. Where the guides conflict, the house style controls. Of course, there is another style guide lurking in the background, because both the AMA Manual and the house style say to check The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., for items not covered (or sometimes even for items covered) in the AMA Manual or the house guide.

It is not enough to be a great editor; one needs to also have a near photographic memory so as to keep the rules, the exceptions, the exceptions to the exceptions, and a third style guide’s strictures in mind.

And what do you do when a usage guide like Garner’s Modern American Usage contradicts the older house style or one of the powerhouse style guides?

What greatly bothers me are those house style guides that tell you to follow a specific style manual except where the house guide contradicts. Why bother telling me to follow the specific manual? Why not just give me a comprehensive house guide? Or, better yet, why not just scrap the house style guide altogether and let me follow the standard style guide?

The answer lies in the belief that each publisher needs to have its own distinctive and recognizable style. When a book published by Oxford is picked up, it believed that it should be immediately recognized as being an Oxford book. The reality is that very few, if any at all, readers recognize the publisher of a book by the style applied to the text. Not only do readers not care, but, much more importantly, it is the very rare book that actually faithfully follows any firmly recognizable style.

That’s because of the ultimate style and usage instruction given editors: “Follow the author’s style!”

I mentioned in the ACS essay the problem with references. Here is what a journal reference conformed to the ACS style would look like:

Hesk, D.; Delduca, P.; Koharski, D.; McNamara, P.; Magatti, C.; Saluja, S.; Thomas, L.; Shapiro, E. L.; Gentles, M. J.; Tiberi, R. L.; Popper, T. L.; Berkenkopf, J.; Lutsky, B.; Watnick, A. S. Synthesis of Tritium Labeled Mometasone Furoate. Med. Chem.: Immunol., Endocr. Metab. Agents 1993, 33, 439–442.

Here is that same reference but in my project author’s style:

Hesk, D.; Delduca, P.; Koharski, D.; McNamara, P.; Magatti, C.; Saluja, S.; Thomas, L.; Shapiro, E. L.; Gentles, M. J.; Tiberi, R. L.; Popper, T. L.; Berkenkopf, J.; Lutsky, B.; Watnick, A. S., Synthesis of tritium labeled mometasone furoate, Med. Chem. Immunol. Endocr. Metab. Agents, (1993), 33(5), 439-442.

The difference is even greater with a chapter-in-book reference. A conformed chapter-in-book reference would like:

Barnes, P. J. Glucocorticoids: Pharmacology and Mechanisms. In Advances in Combination Therapy for Asthma and COPD; Lotvall, J., Ed.; Wiley-Blackwell: London, 2012; Vol. 2, pp 16–37.

whereas in the author’s style it looks like this:

Barnes, P. J., Glucocorticoids: pharmacology and mechanisms, in Advances in Combination Therapy for Asthma and COPD, (Ed. Lotvall, J.), (2012), (Wiley-Blackwell), vol 2, 16-37.

Because of the number of references in the project and the schedule that had to be met, it was decided to follow the author’s style and make the references consistent. So what was the value in telling me to follow the ACS style?

What we end up with is a mishmash of styles. It also means that the editor spends more time styling than editing, because form has become more important than substance. Don’t believe me? Time how long it takes to conform the two author-styled references above to ACS style, including looking up the journal abbreviation. Multiply the time it took by 5,000 (the number of references in the project) and add 50% to that number. That is approximately how long it will take to conform all of the references. (The 50% addition represents the time that you will need to spend looking up each reference for the missing information and the correct ACS journal abbreviation as found in the American Chemical Society’s CAS Source Index [CASSI] Search Tool.) How much time is left for editing of the text in a 30-day schedule?

Also think about how much time is added for deciding whether something is a house-style exception to the style guide’s rule governing the item.

The point is that we have lost sight of the purpose of styling, of style guides, and of editing: to enhance the author’s communication with the reader. Instead, editors are increasingly being sidetracked to deal with mechanical issues (is styling references really what an editor should spend his time doing?) that often do not make communication between the author and the reader more effective.

For the most part, there is little reason for a house style guide as opposed to simply endorsing the use of a standard independent style guide. Sure there is a need to list certain preferences, such as capitalization of heads and whether, for example, “since” and “because” or “about,” “around,” and “approximate” are synonymous. But those preferences should be few; there should be no need for a lengthy exceptions document, especially when those exceptions are rarely strictly enforced, are often set aside because the author wants something different, and because trying to keep straight all of the nuances of the conflicts between standard and house style guide requirements often leads to mistakes.

Perhaps it is time to return to the original purpose of editing. What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 21, 2015

Worth Reading: Is Wikipedia Reliable?

Need to know whether a “fact” is really a “fact”? A lot of editors turn to Wikipedia. Is that what an editor should do?

A recent study, written by Adam Wilson and Gene Likens, regarding Wikipedia’s reliability was published August 14, 2015 in the journal PLoS ONE and is well worth reading:

Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale

I admit I rarely look at Wikipedia and have never been comfortable with crowd-sourced “research”, but I attribute that to a generational hangup. Yet perhaps there is some reason to be cautious.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 19, 2015

Style Guide Terrorism: A Formula for Failure

Maybe the headline exaggerates a little — but not a lot! I am nearly, finally, happily, finished with a project that has been the most difficult project I have worked on in years if not all of my 31 years as an editor.

The problems begin with English not being the native language of the authors. If that was the extent of the problems with the project, then there really wouldn’t be a problem; the project would just be difficult, but not extraordinarily so.

What makes this particular project so difficult is the style guide that is to be followed: The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed. by the American Chemical Society (ACS) (Anne E. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson, editors) — especially when you combine its strictures with the American Chemical Society’s CAS Source Index (CASSI) Search Tool for bibliographic information.

The purpose of a style guide should be to simplify communication between an author and a reader by making it easy to comply with a group’s style preferences and easy for a reader to have all the necessary information that the author wishes to communicate. Although I have my quibbles with The Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed., Council of Science Editors’ Scientific Style and Format 7th ed. (the 8th edition has been available for a year but I haven’t had need for it yet), AMA Manual of Style 10th ed., and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th ed., none of these publications seem to go out of their way to make an author’s and editor’s work destined to fail as the ACS does.

I take pride in the quality of the editing I provide my clients. I believe one of the reasons I have been as successful over the years as I have been is that I am a topnotch editor who delivers well-edited manuscript in a timely fashion. I do know that I am offered many more editing jobs than I can handle, which I take as an indication from my clients that they perceive great value in my editing skills.

Yet even providing a client with a well-edited manuscript, I am able to maintain a decent rate of pages edited per hour. Those of you who have been long-time readers of An American Editor know that I charge on a per-page basis, which means that I have to be able to edit at a decent rate in order to be profitable.

But I have met my waterloo with the ACS style.

The reference styling requirements are illustrative. Most styles tell you, for example, to list only the first few authors of a journal article followed by et al. Not ACS. ACS style is to “Include all author names in a reference citation” (p. 291) unless a specific publication says otherwise in its in-house style manual. That wouldn’t be too terrible (until you hit the articles with a large number of named authors) except that author names are punctuated like this:

Cotton, F. A.; Rose, T. J. P. A.; Blinker, J. P., II; Muskrat, E. P. S., Jr.; …

Note the punctuation. And the spacing. And think how easy it is in a reference list of 200 entries to miss a space or a punctuation mark, especially when many of the references list more than five authors. This is a design for failure.

Complicating the problem is that the journal names, which are abbreviated, often do not adhere to the common abbreviations found in databases like PubMed. In addition, punctuation is required. For example, the journal Acta Crystallographica. Section C, Crystal Structure Communications‘s PubMed abbreviation is Acta Crystallogr C and its CASSI abbreviation is Acta Crystallogr., Sect. C: Cryst. Struct. Commun. Combine the CASSI abbreviation with the instruction in the Style Guide that essentially says you can ignore the approved abbreviation, and chaos reigns.

Consider the publication Science. According to CASSI, the approved name is Science (Washington, DC, U.S.) (note how U.S. is punctuated but DC is not). However, because CASSI doesn’t list another journal by the single name Science, it is OK to omit the place of publication. (My immediate question was: “Suppose I know of another publication by that name but CASSI’s database doesn’t yet list it. Do I keep the place of publication?” The Style Guide doesn’t say.)

What all this means is that the chance of error increases and the editor needs to check every entry in CASSI (you can also check Appendix 14-1 of the Style Guide for “CASSI Abbreviations for the 1000+ Most Commonly Cited Journals”). Fortunately, as I did each chapter I built my Journals dataset so that I could run EditTools’ Journals macro, which reduced the number of journal names I needed to lookup and/or correct. (See The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars for more information about the Journals macro.)

ACS reference styling has many more quirks that make the system so different from other styles. But the real question that is not answered (and I don’t really expect to see it answered directly in any style guide) is this: Do all of these requirements actually help the reader or are they make work that, because of complexity, are likely to lead to author and editor errors?

That is the real crux of a style guide. Every rule, every pronouncement, every decision made by the editors of a style guide needs to be weighed against this standard:

Does it actually help the author and reader or does it add a layer of complexity that is likely to lead to error?

Complex, difficult-to-master requirements not only greatly slow the authoring and editing processes, but also make it easy to “err” by violating the requirement. I view this as style guide “terrorism” largely because the style is difficult for no clear betterment of readability and because too often a style guide’s “rules” are too rigidly applied, with adherence to the “rule,” rather than readability, being the measure of editorial competence.

Unfortunately, The ACS Style Guide‘s complexities, of which the reference requirements are just one example, serve no purpose that I can discern other than to be different from other style guides. To my way of thinking, such a purpose — to be different so one can claim to have one’s own style guide — is unworthy. As I said above, it would be better to make readability the test. The current edition of The ACS Style Guide was published in 2006; perhaps a fourth edition will rethink the guide’s approach.

Have you found other style guides similarly overly complex for no clear betterment of readability?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

 

August 12, 2015

The Business of Editing: Keeping Reference Callouts in Number Order

One of the most tedious and troublesome tasks for me when I edit is making sure that references are called out in number order in the text. In past years, I used a pen-and-paper system. I wasted a lot of paper and — much more importantly to my editing business — I wasted a lot of time having to move my hand from my mouse or keyboard to take up the pen-and-paper number order checking system material.

Because I tend to work on long documents, many with a large number of references, the time the pen-and-paper system took really added up. With the Reference # Order Check macro I have been able to reduce the time significantly, as well as increase accuracy.

Reference # Order Check is found on the EditTools ribbon in the References (A) submenu (B), where it is listed as Ref # Order Check (#2).

Reference # Order Check on the EditTools Ribbon

Reference # Order Check on the EditTools Ribbon

Clicking on Ref # Order Check (B) brings up the dialog for the macro, shown here:

The Reference # Order Check dialog

The Reference # Order Check dialog

If you work on multiple projects concurrently, you can track the references in each project by saving each project’s reference number list to its own file and then opening that file when you next work on the specific project (#1).

To populate Reference # Order Check, you enter the last reference number in a document in the # of references field (#2) and click Update List (#3). For example, if your document lists the last reference number as 123, you would type 123 in the # of references field (#2) and then Update the List (#3). The numbers 1 through 123 will appear in the display field (#4).

If your document has “a,b” references (e.g., 57a, 62a, 62b, 62c), you can add them to the list using the Insert feature (#5). You would enter the “a,b” value to be inserted in the Value to insert field, then indicate either the number it should be inserted before (Insert before field) or the number it should be inserted after (Insert after field) in the list. The “a,b” number will then appear in the list. For example, to insert 62b, you would type 62b in the Value to insert field and then type either 62c in the Insert before field or 63 in the Insert after field — assuming you had already entered 62a but not 62c in the list. To enter the number, click Insert (#5).

The Count (#6) gives you a total count of the number of references and, as with other EditTools macros, you have the option to Save, Save & Close, or Close (#7) the dialog.

Let’s assume that in our sample document there are 117 references. We would click on Ref # Order Check (B above) to open our dialog in which we would type 117 (#8) and click Update List (#9).

Setting for 117 references

Setting for 117 references

Clicking Update List populates the reference number list field (#9).

Populating Reference # Order Check

Populating Reference # Order Check

If the reference list also has a reference numbered 102a, that number would be added to the list by typing the number in the Value to insert (#10) and typing either 103 in the Insert before (#11) field or typing 102 in the Insert after (#12) field and then clicking Insert (#13).

Insert after

Insert before

Insert after

Insert after

As shown here, the number 102a is automatically entered (arrow). Clicking Save & Close (#14) saves the number list.

102a inserted

102a inserted

When Reference # Order Check is reopened, the saved number list appears (as demonstrated by the inclusion of 102a in our example [#15]) and the count now displays the total number of reference numbers as 118 (#16), which is our original 117 plus the addition of 102a.

The count

The count

In the excerpt from our sample document, the reference callouts have been highlighted. The first called out reference is 1 (#17), which we long ago came across; the next is 43 (#17).

Reference callouts in text

Reference callouts in text

A look at the Reference # Order Check dialog tells us that 43 is the next reference number that should be called out (#20), so we single-click on number 43 in the number field (#20) to remove it from the list. That will move the number 44 to the top of the list (#21), indicating that it is the next expected-to-be-found-in-the-document number.

Next reference number is 43

Next reference number is 43

After removing 43

After removing 43

However, the next reference number in our document is 47 (see #18 above), not the expected 44 (#21). This tells us that reference callouts 44, 45, and 46 are not called out in number order or may not be called out in the document at all. As editors, we would take the next necessary steps to deal with this problem.

Some other points: Using our example, if you Save & Close Reference # Order Check at this point (after having had 43 deleted from the number field) and reopen Reference # Order Check, your number list still begins with 44 as the first number (#22) but your count (#23) now indicates the number of numbers remaining in the number list. If you just Save, then the file is saved but the count (#23) does not change. The count changes when the file is refreshed as a result of its being closed and reopened.

After reopening the Reference # Order Check dialog

After reopening the Reference # Order Check dialog

Finally, numbers can be removed from the number field in any order; just click on a number. If you accidentally delete a number, reinsert it using the procedure outlined above for inserting a number (#10 to #14).

Reference # Order Check replaces the pen-and-paper method of tracking reference callouts. It is a more efficient method and allows me to keep my hand on my mouse, thereby reducing the time necessary to track the references. Like other EditTools macros, Reference # Order Check saves me time each time I use it, thereby increasing my profits. Reference # Order Check is one of the three macros I keep open on my desktop as I edit, the other two being Bookmarks and Click List.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

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August 10, 2015

On the Basics: Step Away from that Project — Professionally and with Class

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The Background

Ten years ago, the three-person team responsible for editing an association newsletter quit for reasons never explained, with no notice, and without providing any material for a successor — no formatting or style information, no backlog of unused material, no contact information for vendors or past contributors; nada. The organization’s board of directors was gobsmacked, to quote our British colleagues.

That was a textbook example of how not to step away from a project, client, or job. No matter how badly you’re treated or how much you hate the project (and it was never clear that there was a reason for that team’s move), it’s always smart to take the high road on leaving. That even goes for being laid off or fired. You never know when such behavior will come up in a future workplace, freelance, or volunteer setting. You don’t want to be known as the unprofessional, even childish, person who took her toys and went home in a huff, leaving everyone at a loss in her wake. You want to be remembered as someone who behaved in a professional manner that made the transition smooth for your successor.

I stepped up to take on editing that publication and kept it rolling for more than 10 years. When I was ready to let it go and give someone new a chance at the editor’s role, I was reminded of how I came into the project. I also remembered starting a couple of new in-house jobs and feeling somewhat at sea because a predecessor didn’t provide much of a roadmap for what to do and how. I was determined to handle this transition very differently from my predecessors. I felt that I owed that to myself as a professional, but also to the organization and to whoever was next to serve as editor — perhaps most to my successor.

6 Tips

Here are a few of my tips on how to hand off a project gracefully and professionally.

  • Give decent notice. That seems obvious, but it can be tempting to throw a hissy fit and just walk off the job if it has become onerous or unpleasant. Professionals, though, don’t do that unless there’s genuine provocation, and sometimes not even then. Publications and projects don’t run themselves, and it can take time to find a replacement. The standard is usually two weeks, but it might be smart to give a month’s notice, especially if the publication or project you handle is on a monthly publishing schedule. Take the high road, be the better person, and give the employer, sponsoring organization, or client a chance to find a replacement before you leave.
  • Put it in writing. Create or update a job description that details what your replacement will be expected to do, when, how, and with whom. There might have been one when you started the job or assignment, but you may have put your own stamp on the role or taken on additional responsibilities, so add those details to the original description. In many instances, especially for freelance projects, there is no job description. Providing one will make it easier for the client or employer to find an appropriate replacement and for your successor to handle the work.
  • Help a replacement out. Some may say that this is more appropriate for a volunteer project than a paid one, but I think it’s a good idea to provide as much information as possible about the publication or project, from the preferred or house style manual to the look of the book, whether you’re an in-house employee, a freelancer, or a volunteer. I know I appreciate that kind of information when I begin a new project. Prepare a list of relevant details: publishing schedule and deadlines; programs or applications used; formatting — typefaces and sizes; columns numbers and widths; character styles (headlines and subheads, body text, captions, indents, bullets, etc.); vendor roles, names, and contact information; contributors for writing, artwork, and any other roles; budget details if that is part of your responsibility. Have at least a couple of unused articles in place to hand over so the new person doesn’t have to start with a totally empty quiver of material. A new person might want to do a wholesale redesign of that newsletter or magazine that you’ve loved editing, and may want to use all new contributors and freelancers, but probably will need to know how to put together at least one first issue based on the current version. (This might seem like a lot to do to help out a replacement, but it can also be seen as an organizing function for oneself.)
  • Offer insights. Don’t be a gossip and don’t badmouth colleagues, but — if appropriate — let your replacement know something about the hierarchy of the organization; most importantly, any chain of approvals and command to follow, along with who is likely to be the most helpful to a newcomer. If a client or supervisor has certain unpredictable quirks, consider sharing that information informally. For instance, new editor or freelancer might think that “due on Monday” means they have until 5 p.m. to finish an assignment or prepare material for collegial review, but the client or supervisor might be expecting it at 9 a.m. that day.
  • Suggest a successor. If you know someone in or outside the organization who would be your ideal replacement, recommend that person. You’ll do a favor to both the organization and the individual, and they’ll remember it. This is especially important if you’re a freelancer and decide to leave a project for some reason. Good freelancers can be harder to find than good employees.
  • Be available. Let your contact, supervisor, or colleague know how to reach you in the case there are questions that only you can answer. You won’t want to be taken advantage of once you’re out the door by spending a lot of time on helping out the organization or your replacement, but you do want — again — to leave with the image of someone who is professional, responsible, and helpful. Within reason, of course.

What else have you done, or wished someone had done for you, to make a professional exit from a project or position?

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.

August 5, 2015

The Business of Editing: Managing Comments with Comment Editor

We all know that Microsoft Word wasn’t designed by editors for editors. As good a program as it is, it is a compromise. The result is that some “features” aren’t really features for editing; instead, they are time-consuming and thus cost efficient editors money.

This is certainly the case when it comes to managing comments and queries (hereafter “comments” means both) we have inserted in a manuscript, regardless of whether we inserted them using Word’s method or EditTools’ Insert Query macro. For example, to delete a comment, Word requires us to locate the comment in the text, select it, and delete it. Similarly, to modify the text of a comment, we need to locate the comment and open it. I have had instances where a comment I inserted on page 3 of a document needed to be changed because of information on page 19. To edit the page 3 comment, I had to leave page 19, not my preference when the only reason to do so is to be able to edit the comment. But that is the Microsoft way.

EditTools’ Comment Editor changes the way I deal with comments and has reduced the time I spend “managing” comments — which, in my editing world, means more profit for me.

Comment Editor is an easy-to-use method for reviewing and modifying comments created using either EditTools’ Insert Query macro (A) or Microsoft Word’s method. Comment Editor is accessed from the EditTools ribbon as shown here (B). Comment Editor can also be accessed by keyboard combination. To assign a hotkey combination, go to Hotkeys (C) and choose Set Up Hotkey for Macro and choose Comment Editor.

Comment Editor on the EditTools Riboon

Comment Editor on the EditTools Riboon

When a comment is inserted, Word automatically numbers it as shown here (#1):

Comment in text

The Comment Editor dialog

The Comment Editor dialog is shown below. It is from this dialog from which anything that can be done to a comment is done. There is no need to locate the comment in the text or go to it; wherever you currently are in your document is where you will stay unless you choose otherwise.

Comment Editor dialog

Comment Editor dialog

 

When you open Comment Editor, the main text area (#2) is automatically populated with every comment present in your document. As you can see, in our example, the document already has six comments. Comment Editor gives you a few options. If you use Word’s method to edit a comment, you need to go to the comment — otherwise the comment is inaccessible. That means you need to leave your present location in the document. For example, if you are at the location where comment 5 is found and realize that because of the text at that location, you need to modify comment 2, with Word’s system, you need to go to comment 2. Word also doesn’t provide a way to automatically return to where you were in the document.

Comment Editor doesn’t work that way. Instead, Comment Editor offers you the option to go to the comment or not. If you want to go to the selected comment, you can click Go to Comment (#3) — the manual way of going to an individual comment — or if you prefer to always go to the comment, you can set your default to automatically go to a comment when it is selected (#4). When you are done, you can return to where you were in the document by clicking Return to Before (#3), the manual method, or make your default that you automatically return when Comment Editor is closed (#4).

Another difference from Word’s method is that to get to a specific comment in Word, you go to the Review ribbon and click Next or Previous. In contrast, with Comment Editor, you simply choose the comment you want to go to in the text field (#2).

When you select a comment in the text field (#2), you are given several bits of information: comment ID or number, a small amount of the comment’s text, and the text you attached it to (see, e.g., #1 above). More importantly, you are also shown the complete text of the comment in the Text field (#5). This Text field (#5) is where you edit the comment. If you make a change to the text, click Update (#6) to update the comment in Word. Want to delete the comment? Click the Delete button (#6) and the comment will be deleted from your document and the comments will be renumbered.

If you want to keep Comment Editor open until you manually close it, check the box at #7. Comment Editor also displays the total number of comments in the document (#8) should you not be able to see all of them in the main field.

Inserting a new comment

Note what is currently comment 6 in the list of comments shown at #2. In the image below, Insert Query has been used to insert a new comment (arrow), which is numbered 6 by Word.

Inserting a new comment

Inserting a new comment

If we reopen Comment Editor, you can see that there are now seven comments listed and the comment we added above is shown as number 6 (violet highlight and arrow).

Inserting a new comment in Comment Editor

Reopening Comment Editor

If you were to use Word’s method, you would see the new comment at the bottom of the page, as shown here. (In this image the numbers 5 and 6 correspond to comments 5 and 6 in Word’s viewing pane.)

Word's display

Word’s display

 Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Using Comment Editor, it is easy to modify a comment. As shown in the image below, we have selected comment 6 to modify (#9) by clicking on it to select it. Its text appears in the Text field at the bottom of the Editor (#10). The text we are adding to the comment is highlighted in yellow (for illustrative purposes; the highlighting is not part of Comment Editor) (#10). Clicking Update (#11) will add the text to the comment.

Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Before modifying the text, you will be asked to confirm that you want to update the comment, and the comment to be updated will be identified by its ID (circled text below):

A comment's identification

A comment’s identification

Clicking Yes results in the comment being updated as shown here:

Updated comment in Word's view

Updated comment in Word’s view

which we can see in Comment Editor when we reopen it:

Updated comment in Comment Editor

Updated comment in Comment Editor

The editing of the comment took place solely within the Comment Editor. Comment Editor lets us see the complete text of all comments in the document and lets us manage the comments as needed. Time is saved because we no longer have to travel around the document to find the correct comment to edit or to do the editing.

When there are a lot of comments

Dealing with comments in a long document that has many comments can be tricky. An example is shown in the image below, which shows the comments in the chapter I was editing when I was only two-thirds through the document. At this point in time, I already had 42 comments in the document (see #12). Because I could scroll through the comments in Comment Editor, I was able to locate the comment I needed to modify and change its text without moving from my present location in the document. A much easier and faster way to manage comments, especially when there are a lot of them.

Example of Comment Editor's Ease of Use

Example of Comment Editor’s Ease of Use

In my experience, it is not unusual for one comment to be dependent on another comment, or even on several other comments. Before Comment Editor, I had occasions when I had to go to and check several comments, modifying some of them, deleting others, which took time, especially to locate the correct comments. Comment Editor has made that process quick and easy.

Comment Editor is a much easier, quicker, and more efficient way to deal with inserted comments in Word than the method offered by Word itself. Most importantly, because it is efficient and a timesaver, using Comment Editor means enhanced profitability.

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.

August 3, 2015

Numbers in Sentences: Customizing PerfectIt to Find What You Want

by Daniel Heuman

PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences generates more questions from customers than any of PerfectIt’s other tests. Here are some (anonymized) questions that users have sent:

“When assessing inconsistencies in how numbers are handled, PerfectIt finds, say, 4 instances, when there are 10 it should have found.”

“My version of PerfectIt isn’t finding numbers. Is there a fix?”

“Why is PerfectIt missing the number ‘2’ in a sentence?”

What do all these queries have in common? They all assume that PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences should find every number in a document. But PerfectIt doesn’t work that way. To understand why, it helps to explain the philosophy behind PerfectIt.

How PerfectIt Works

PerfectIt is an add-in for MS Word. It checks documents in one of two ways:

  • It looks for inconsistencies. For example, if the number 3 appears in numerals in one sentence, but the number four is spelled out in another sentence, that’s an inconsistency.
  • It can be set to check user preferences. For example, you can set it to make sure that all numbers over 20 appear in numerals.

By default, PerfectIt checks consistency in three separate groups: 1-10, 11-20, and 21-100. PerfectIt checks for inconsistency within those groups, but not between them. So, for example, it would check if the numbers 1 through 10 appear in numerals and spelled out. It would not compare the appearance of the number 4 to the number 16 since those are in separate groups. Some style guides work 0-9, 10-19, and 20-99, so you can also set PerfectIt to look at those groups instead. In any case, PerfectIt goes through and alerts you to any inconsistencies. It shows each location and suggests one is likely to be wrong (leaving you to decide which).

If you set PerfectIt to enforce a preference, you can set the preference for each of the groups (1-10, 11-20 and 21-100). So, for example, you could set the numbers 0 to 9 to appear spelled out, then the numbers 10 to 19 and 20 to 99 could be set to numerals. PerfectIt will then go through and alert you to any instances that do not conform to that preference (and you can decide which to change). This video explains how to set those preferences.

What PerfectIt Finds

So going back to the users’ questions, the first thing to understand is that PerfectIt tests for numbers in sentences (not numbers in other parts of the document). If you want to find all numbers in a document, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars). PerfectIt, on the other hand, specifically focuses on numbers in sentences.

So let’s say we set PerfectIt to spell out numbers less than 20. With that preference, how many numbers would you expect PerfectIt to find in this paragraph?

As described in Chapter 4, we started our work in 1996 when we were just 18 years old. Since then, a simple experiment that takes only 7 seconds has been copied by over 3 million people.

What do you think? There are four numbers under 20, so should PerfectIt find all four and suggest spelling them out? The answer is none. PerfectIt doesn’t alert you to numbers in sentences that it “thinks” are intended to be that way. So it won’t check numbers following the word “Chapter.” It won’t check numbers that indicate someone’s age. It won’t check measurements. And it won’t check numbers before the word “million” or “billion.”

Before you write us a letter of complaint (we’ve had several about this), think about the advantages of that functionality. Why should PerfectIt show every number? If that’s what you want, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (the pattern to search for is “<[0-9]{1,}>”). But showing every number would slow users down. More importantly, the more false positives that PerfectIt displays, the more likely it is that users will skip results. So focusing on locations that are most likely to be errors is how good software should work.

Fine-Tuning PerfectIt

Not everyone works the same way. So with all the queries around this test, we decided to change things in PerfectIt 3. PerfectIt 3 gives users the ability to fine-tune the test of numbers in sentences to work in exactly the way the user wants.

The figure below shows the Fine-Tuning tab of PerfectIt’s style sheet editor (double-click on image to enlarge it). It gives four new options for customizing how PerfectIt treats numbers in this test.

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

The four new options are:

  • Skip Numbers Followed By: This is the list of words that PerfectIt will look at after each number. If any of these words appear, then that number will be skipped by PerfectIt. Each word is separated by the “|” symbol (as seen in the image). You can add words, take individual words out or even take all the words out.
  • Skip Numbers Preceded By: This is identical to the list of words after numbers, but it’s the list that PerfectIt will check that appear before numbers.
  • Skip Numbers Joined By: Because numerals are usually used for comparisons and ranges, PerfectIt skips instances such as “between 3 and 4.” It does that based on the word in between the two numbers. You can change, add to, or remove those in-between words.
  • Skip Extra Words Found Preceding Numbers: PerfectIt looks for words like “Chapter” that often precede numbers. It also scans for other words that frequently appear before numbers and attempts to automatically figure out what those words are (even if they are not listed above). Tick this box if you want it to look for similar words; untick it if you don’t.

With these options, you can set PerfectIt to find as many (or as few) matches as you want. But remember, just because you can fine-tune PerfectIt, it doesn’t mean that you have to! These are features that we added for the small minority who want to alter these settings. For everyone else, the best approach is not to even look at these settings. It just helps to understand what PerfectIt will find (and what it won’t).

Learning More

There are lots of other tests that you can customize in PerfectIt, and our series of video tutorials covers all of them.

Daniel Heuman is the founder and CEO of Intelligent Editing, and the author of PerfectIt. If you have a PC with MS Word, you can get a 30-day free trial of PerfectIt from Intelligent Editing.

_________________________

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 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 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

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