An American Editor

January 27, 2016

The Business of Editing: Creating Multiple Journals Datasets Simultaneously

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switching to the Multiple Datasets Entry Screen

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

Original Journals Manager Screen

Original Journals Manager Screen

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

New Enhanced Journals Manager Screen

New Enhanced Journals Manager Screen

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

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

Renaming Dialog

Renaming Dialog

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

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

Example Journal Entry

Example Journal Entry

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

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

The New Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

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

Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

Multiple Journal Name Entry Dialog

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

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

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

Journals Title Case Manager

Journals Title Case Manager

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

Journals Manager Multiple Entry Options

Journals Manager Multiple Entry Options

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

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

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

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

Richard Adin, An American Editor

___________________

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

January 20, 2016

Business of Editing: Dealing with Reference Renumbering

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

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

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

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

Reference # Order Check dialog

Reference # Order Check dialog

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing to Renumber

Preparing to Renumber

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

The First Renumbering

The First Renumbering

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

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

The Second Renumbering

The Second Renumbering

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

Checking the Count

Checking the Count

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

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

The Exported File

The Exported File

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

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

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

Richard Adin, An American Editor

____________

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

January 13, 2016

The Business of Editing: Using Click Lists to Increase Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

Click List Manager v7.0

Click List Manager v7.0

and Click List like this:

Click List v7.0

Click List v7.0

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

Symbols Definitions Tab in Click List Manager v7.0

Symbols Definitions Tab in Click List Manager v7.0

Symbols and Click List

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

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

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

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

References and Click List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

became this (as per the client’s style)

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

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

Alphabetizing and Click Lists

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

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

Click List and Toggle Word

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

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

Richard Adin, An American Editor

_________________
Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

 

January 11, 2016

Thinking Fiction: Making Copyediting Decisions

by Carolyn Haley

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

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

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

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

Scope of work

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

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

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

Contextual variables

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

So, back to the original questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It depends” as a standing condition

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

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

January 6, 2016

Should Editors Give Trigger Warnings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or about the contents of a book discussing history?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015

Filed under: Editorial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am

At An American Editor, we are taking some time off to celebrate the holidays. We will be back on Monday, January 4, 2016.

In the meantime, we hope these will entertain you.

First up is Abba, my most favorite group of all time, with Happy New Year —

One of my favorite groups is the a capella group Pentatonix. Here are two songs from them. The first is The First Noel —

The second is A Little Drummer Boy

Okay, here’s a third Pentatonix for those who enjoyed the previous two videos. This is their Coming Home Tour: The Complete Concert. It takes about a minute for them to appear, so be patient. It is a great concert —

Finally, Mariah Carey and Auld Lang Syne

Best wishes for a happy holiday from all of us
at An American Editor to all of you!

Happy Holidays!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Louise Harnby

Ruth Thaler-Carter

Jack Lyon

Carolyn Haley

December 2, 2015

Market Magic: The In-Tandem Duo — Declining Price & Declining Quality

There is a disconnect in the editorial marketplace. The disconnect occurs at several levels but is most prominent when a publisher outsources production and editorial work to a single provider (a packager), often an offshore provider, that promises to deliver high-quality editing at a price lower than the publisher itself can get directly in the editorial market it wants tapped (e.g., a U.S. publisher wanting a U.S. editor).

The disconnect occurs because the packager has not first determined that, when tapping the publisher’s desired editor market, it can obtain and deliver the promised quality for a price even lower than the price it promised the publisher. The disconnect also occurs because the publisher has misbudgeted for a manuscript’s editorial work on the basis of the packager’s representations.

There is a line below which quality and price decrease as one, and packagers have been embracing that downward trajectory for short-term gains, at the expense of long-term survival and growth. If the reports are correct, many packagers are facing revenue and growth problems — the long-term penalty is now starting to be paid for their having focused on the short term. They have entered that cycle in which they must continue to promise low editorial costs (sometimes even lower than previously promised) in exchange for more short-term business. However, the packagers increasingly find that they cannot hire the better editors and so return to the publisher lower-quality editing (often, much lower quality) than was promised. The editorial members of the publisher’s staff are unhappy, but the accounting staff remains unmoved.

As a result, the publisher continues to budget low prices for high-quality editing because the packager continues to represent that it can provide that level of editing using the publisher’s preferred editors at the lower price, a price that the publishers themselves cannot get in the editorial marketplace for high-quality editing. (One publisher, for example, budgets $1.25 per manuscript page for high-level editing and lesser amounts for “normal” editing; a second publisher budgets less than $1 per page based on promises from its packagers. In both instances, the publishers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of editing their books have received, making the relationship with the packager less secure than the packager requires, and sometimes the publishers will insist that the editing be redone at the packager’s expense using specifically named editors.)

What the publisher ignores is that if it pays the packager $2 per page for editing, the packager pays the editor significantly less as the packager retains some of the price for its own coffers. The publisher also ignores that it has required the packager to hire skilled editors from a certain editorial marketplace. For example, it is not unusual for a U.S. publisher to insist that “a U.S. editor” be hired, without considering whether a U.S. editor who delivers the level of editing quality the publisher wants can be hired for the amount that the packager will offer to pay. (A companion problem is that publishers will tell a packager that a particular manuscript requires a “high” or “medium” edit “by a U.S. editor,” but neither the publisher nor the packager adjusts the editing price so that it matches the editing expectations.)

The result is that between the packager’s actions and the publisher’s acquiescence in and promotion of the packager’s actions, neither the packager’s promise nor the publisher’s expectation of high-quality editing comes about. As the price paid to the editor declines, so does the quality of the edit. (We are addressing just the effect of pricing on quality and ignoring the effect of scheduling.)

Recently, I was discussing future projects with a publisher. The publisher needs — not just wants — the particular manuscripts to receive a high-quality edit. The problem is that we are a universe apart on fee. The budgeters at the publisher have become accustomed to the prices paid to packagers and have decided to reduce those already low prices by 15% as part of a cost-saving measure. Apparently, many of the packagers they work with have agreed to that price lowering. The result is that while the publisher is willing to pay me more directly, its “more” is what it was paying the packagers before the new lower fee. The budgeters consider those rates the “standard.” They are immune to complaints about the poor editorial quality from in-house editorial staff and from authors and purchasers of the publisher’s books.

The packagers have set marketplace expectations without having determined beforehand whether they can deliver. Those expectations have leaked so as to infect relationships with nonpackagers, and when publishers deal directly with editors so that they can ensure the quality they want and need, they are unprepared to face the cost.

Unfortunately for packagers, the expectations they have created are beginning to harm their businesses. In discussions with colleagues, I find that many of the better-skilled editors are resisting, preferring to pass on work that is too low priced. This is, I think, a result of editors becoming more businesslike and actually understanding what they require to run a profitable business. Over the years, packagers have been both a bane and a boon to editors: a bane because of the high demands for low pay, but a boon because they have forced editors to increasingly recognize that they are a business and must act like a business.

I am finding that packagers are increasingly, albeit slowly, becoming flexible about editing fees — although the range of flexibility is not wide — as long as the majority of projects are still undertaken at the “standard” price. But that there is any flexibility speaks volumes about the long-term problems of the packager industry’s business plan; not so long ago, a packager faced with a demand for higher pay would simply say “no” and move the project to another editor. What they have found is that, as with all things in life, some editors have better skills than other editors and are more appropriate for a particular project; that is, editors are not wholly interchangeable — an experienced medical editor is likely to do a better editing job on a medical tome than an editor whose experience has been primarily in historical romance fiction. Both may be excellent editors in their genres, but poor choices outside their genres. And within genres, there are levels of editors, levels based on experience, learned skills, editing methodology, education, and so on.

I have suggested many times to packagers that it is smarter, thinking long term, to take less profit and deliver higher-quality editing than to focus on the short term and seek higher profit at the expense of editing quality — a short-term focus may lead to having nothing on which to make a profit long term. The message may finally be getting through. It will be interesting to see which packagers survive. My bet is that the packagers who revert to more realistic pricing for high-quality editing, thereby changing unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, will be the survivors. They may struggle in the beginning, but survive in the end.

Do you turn down work because of price? Are you finding that packagers are making changes for the better in your relationships with them?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 30, 2015

Thinking Fiction: Editing Tools in Action

by Carolyn Haley

We’ve talked a lot about tools on this blog — my own “Fiction Editors’ Resource Kit,” Jack Lyon’s many essays about wildcards and macros in Word, Amy Schneider’s quartet on style sheets, and Rich Adin’s articles on productivity macros (see, e.g., “The Business of Editing: Keeping Reference Callouts in Number Order”) — all to make editing a more efficient process and profitable business.

This essay discusses how different software tools can be applied at specific points in copyediting or line editing fiction. The example used is my own process, with the caveat that it is one of many approaches, no better or worse than someone else’s; and it is dynamic, constantly being refined as I learn more. (For another view, see the three-part series “The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage,” “II — The Copyediting Stage,” and “III — The Proofing Stage”). The point is to share ideas with editors unfamiliar with the tools, and invite editors who do use them to share their own ways. Noneditors, meanwhile, can gain a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

The tasks for which I use software tools divide into pre- and postediting, which I call preflight and cleanup. The preflight pass removes minor errors and inconsistencies that cause distraction during content editing, while the cleanup pass lets me catch anything left over or introduced. In both, the tasks are global sweeps using applications selected from packages designed for editors: Editor’s ToolKit, EditTools, Computer Tools for Editors, and PerfectIt (described below), plus some of my own. During the editing pass, however, I stick with Microsoft Word’s internal features: Track Changes to show content revisions and queries, and find/replace to make any global changes that result from editorial decisions as I go. Simultaneously I use an Internet browser for reference checks and lookups.

Preflight tasks

When a manuscript arrives, I immediately make a new copy for editing, leaving the original file intact. Occasionally a client will submit the book as separate chapters, in which case I consolidate them into one file, because I find it easier and faster to work with the book as a unit. Then I employ the following tools:

  1. Editorium’s FileCleaner — This does exactly what its name suggests: cleans up extraneous elements in the text, such as extra spaces, tabs, and carriage returns; errors such as mistyped numbers (e.g., lowercase L for numeral 1); and incorrect characters, such as straight quotation marks instead of “smart” or typographer-style quotes. I don’t allow the automatic fixes for dash style, small cap usage, and italics, because I deal with those separately on a manuscript-by-manuscript basis.
  2. EditTools’ Never Spell WordI’ve customized this tool to flag terms I frequently misread: lets/let’s, its/it’s, woman/women, vice/vise, form/from, awhile/a while, lead/led, and the like. Never Spell highlights these terms so you can’t miss them. Either I review them in a dedicated pass, making corrections then clearing out the highlights, or I review them individually while editing, and unhighlight one at a time.
  3. Paul Beverly’s ProperNounAlyse This macro from Beverly’s Computer Tools for Editors collection generates a list of words starting with a capital letter. I like this tool because it identifies different kinds of terms I use to build my style sheet (along with misspellings thereof). It gathers not only character and place names, but also unusual proper nouns that might appear in genre fiction, such as titles and honorifics, peoples, magical systems, planets, ships, autos, and firearms. As well, ProperNounAlyse grabs words that may be capped in one context, lowercased in another (e.g., Hell, Christ, God — are they exclamations or religious places/figures?) and OK (which I change to okay). If the author has provided a list of names and special terms, I combine it with the list generated as a second way to uncover spelling variants or term omissions. Unfortunately, ProperNounAlyse includes every word that starts a sentence, plus other information, so manual pruning must be done before the desired words can be transferred to the style sheet. The labor is tedious but relatively swift and saves me from oversights. As I come across the words while editing, I color-code them on the style sheet. That makes the leftovers stand out so I can investigate them. Without fail, this cross-check identifies something I missed or forgot to address.

The big variable: Formatting

Because I get manuscripts from many different publishers and authors, I’ve opted to format them myself rather than try to get everybody to conform to a standard. By formatting I mean making the presentation uniform and professional-looking, using Word’s Styles feature. All formatting is done with Track Changes turned off to avoid overloading the document with markups.

How much formatting I do influences my rate and turnaround time. With publisher jobs, formatting is a nonissue, because their manuscripts come in with Styles already applied, customized to house preference. All I have to do is adhere to their preferences while editing.

Indie author jobs, in contrast, often arrive in a messy state. A minority of authors understand how to use Styles or even do basic word processing, and many are as creative in their presentation as they are with their stories. For those manuscripts I turn on the hidden characters view to see whether paragraph indents are tabs or spaces, chapters are separated by page breaks or extra carriage returns, and so forth. I tidy things up using find/replace, then start at the top and set Styles for chapter heads, body text, epigraphs, and anything else relevant to the novel.

When I know in advance whether the author will be traditionally or self-publishing, I tailor ellipses and dashes as part of formatting. Print books commonly use ellipses with spaces between points and before/after ( . . . ); plus em dashes without spaces on either end ( — ). Ebooks, conversely, often use the ellipses character with no spaces between points (…), and maybe spaces before/after; plus en dashes with spaces on either end ( – ). Adjusting these via find/replace takes little time, though it expands if I add hard spaces to link the symbols to adjacent words to prevent bad line breaks. At present I’m testing different combinations in EditTools’ F&R Master to gain a quicker way to achieve the same end.

Recently I’ve added a separate styling pass for italics. Italic use, like dialogue, can be heavy in novels, and it’s a nightmare for everyone when italics vanish from a document during its passage between hands. Assigning a character style to italics preserves them from draft to publication. At the same time I can check that any punctuation following italics is properly italicized or roman.

Yes, formatting is extra work. But it makes life easier for both me and the people who follow. For me, Styles allows a one-step adjustment of the typeface for optimum onscreen reading, which I can then return to the client’s preference before delivery. For authors, a formatted file lets them just plug in their revisions and move on. For production folks, a consistently styled manuscript uploads into a page layout or ebook conversion program with fewer headaches.

Cleanup tasks

Being human, I err; therefore I use electronic tools to check my work before delivering the manuscript. But not before creating a fresh copy of the edited file. Then I run:

  1. Paul Beverly’s TestQuotes to catch unpaired quotation marks. His macro collection in Computer Tools for Editors also includes CheckParens to find unpaired parentheses, which I’ll run if the story contains parenthetical material.
  2. Manual searches for inverted quotes and apostrophes, leftover or introduced straight ones, incorrect or missing punctuation inside the quotes, extra spaces before and after all punctuation, missing periods at ends of lines, et cetera. I do these searches manually instead of rerunning FileCleaner, because there are just enough exceptions that I don’t dare do a background or global process. For the same reason, I haven’t bundled these individual searches into a custom macro.
  3. Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIt to catch mismatches in hyphenation, spelling, capitalization, and number usage. I turn off the tests unrelated to fiction; for instance, checking table and figure heads, abbreviations, and bullet lists. I also skip the test for contractions, having already checked for troublesome ones like it’s and let’s, you’re and we’re.
  4. Word’s spellchecker. This is the final task for every job. It always catches something I missed or change my mind about.

A final proofread always catches something, too, but not every job allows that, owing to constraints in scope of work, schedule, or budget. Electronic tools are doubly important in such cases. When I do proofread my edit, I change the manuscript’s appearance through type size, font, and line spacing (made easy when Styles have been applied) and turn off Track Changes. I also alter my physical setup, moving the file from desktop to laptop and myself from chair to couch. The combination makes the material seem new and lingering errors more visible.

One size does not fit all

As mentioned above, this system isn’t the be-all, end-all for manuscript editing. (“Your mileage may vary,” colleagues regularly say.) I offer my system to illustrate how and where in the process different tools can be used. And there are so many more to investigate! Just adopting my current set has been an investment that keeps paying back with increased speed and accuracy. Other combinations work better for other editors; we’d love to hear about yours.

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

November 18, 2015

Lyonizing Word: Why Computers?

by Jack Lyon

Dan A. Wilson, of The Editor’s Desktop, once advised editors that a computer is “far and away your most valuable tool, your ultimate enabler, your brain’s second-in-command. A brain with a pencil in its hand cannot compete — indeed, cannot even credibly challenge — a brain with a computer and computer-sophistication at its disposal.”

Why would that be so? After all, even under the guidance of the most brilliant programmer, a computer can’t ensure that a manuscript has accuracy, clarity, or elegance of expression. But a computer can fix hundreds of mechanical problems that editors shouldn’t have to worry about, and it can do it quickly and consistently.

If something can be automated, then automate it! Let the computer do the heavy lifting. Why is that important? Because it enables you to do more work in less time, and it frees your mind to concentrate on the things that a computer can’t handle (like accuracy, clarity, and elegance of expression). If you’re working for a corporation, that makes you more valuable as an employee (making raises more likely and layoffs less likely). If you’re working for yourself, it enables you to earn more money for the time you put in (as long as you’re charging by the job, the word, or the page, which you should be [see, e.g., On the Basics: Dealing with the Perennial Question of Setting Rates for Our Work]).

Editors working on a computer almost always use Microsoft Word. Love it or hate it (I do both), it is unquestionably the de facto word processor in the publishing world. So how can you use Word to automate whatever can be automated? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn to use the full power of Word’s find and replace feature, including wildcards. My Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word will teach you everything you need to know. (No brag, just fact, as we used to say in grade school.)
  2. Learn to record and run macros to automate repetitive editing tasks. My Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word is a good starting place.
  3. Use Microsoft Word add-ins (like the ones I create at The Editorium) that expand Word’s features to automate various editorial tasks. Let’s look at what some of those add-ins can do to ease your workload.

FileCleaner

We’ll start with one of my most popular add-ins, FileCleaner, which cleans up some of the most common problems in electronic manuscripts, including:

  • Multiple spaces in a row
  • Multiple returns in a row
  • Spaces around returns
  • Double hyphens that should be em dashes
  • Hyphens between numbers that should be en dashes

And much, much more. Here’s a screen shot of the options available:

FileCleaner Options

FileCleaner Options

Want to try it? All of those options are included as part of my Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 add-in, which I highly recommend that you download and try. The program offers a 45-day trial period so you can make sure it does what you need before deciding to buy. And if you need help using it, I’m always available by email.

I’d like to point out one special feature of FileCleaner that is frequently overlooked. See that option (under “Formatting”) to “standardize font formats (remove overrides)”? It removes all those odd, inconsistent uses of different fonts that authors like to use, but at the same time it leaves italic, bold, superscript, and styles intact. You won’t believe what a difference this can make in cleaning up a manuscript!

FileCleaner also offers to clean up the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder, which means you can run the program on a whole batch of files at once while you go back to reviewing manuscripts (or spending time with family and friends).

Document options

Document Options

Remember all of my talk about automating what can be automated? This is what I’m talking about. Instead of manually doing dozens of find-and-replace routines on dozens of documents, let FileCleaner do the work.

MegaReplacer

FileCleaner is great for cleaning up common problems, but what if you have uncommon problems that you need to clean up? What if you need to go through three dozen documents and change millenium to millennium in all of them, along with dozens of other misspellings (manger to manager, rarify to rarefy, and on and on and on)? That’s what MegaReplacer is for. Again, it works on the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder. But unlike FileCleaner, it allows you to define your own find-and-replace items and then run them en masse. You start by creating a list of the items you want to find and replace, with the find item on the left and the replace item on the right, separated by a pipe symbol (|), which you’ll probably find under your backspace key. Your list will look something like this:

millenium|millennium
manger|manager
pubic|public

Save the list as a Word document, and you can use it over and over again.

So far, so good. But you’re not limited to finding and replacing individual words; you can find and replace whole phrases that you’d ordinarily have to fix manually while editing:

at this point in time|now
alright|all right
an historical|a historical
a large number of|many
a small number of|some

To give you even more flexibility, MegaReplacer allows you to specify Match Case, Whole Words Only, both Match Case and Whole Words Only, or Use Wildcards by appending a code to the items on your list:

“+c” for Match Case
“+w” for Find Whole Words Only
“+&” for Match Case and Find Whole Words Only
“+m” for Use Wildcards

Here’s an example of each:

Department|department+c
per|according to+w
Chief|chief+&
p ([0-9]@.\))|p. \1+m

To get you started, MegaReplacer comes with a long list of useful corrections that you can modify to meet your needs.

Editor’s ToolKit

The most basic functions of Editor’s ToolKit Plus reside in the section called “Editor’s ToolKit”:

Editors ToolKit Menu

Editors ToolKit Menu

In particular, they automate some of the most common editorial tasks:

Text Features

Text Features

Furthermore, Editor’s ToolKit assigns these tasks to the function keys on your keyboard. Need to italicize (or romanize) a word? Press F8. Want to transpose two words? Press F11. To lowercase a word, press F10.

Please note that these keyboard assignments are the default setting for Editor’s ToolKit, which Rich Adin has correctly pointed out should not be the case (and will not be the case in the next version of the program). You can easily go back to Word’s original settings, however, by clicking the Editor’s ToolKit Plus icon and then clicking “Clear Keyboard Shortcuts.”

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts

But if you find that you like the Editor’s ToolKit keyboard assignments, you can activate them by clicking “Set Keyboard Shortcuts.” The program download includes a keyboard template that lists the default shortcuts; print it out and place it above your function keys, and you’ll have a handy guide to which key does what (remember WordPerfect 5.1?).

The keyboard shortcuts for Editor’s ToolKit are not arbitrary, by the way. I’ve tried to arrange them so that the most common editorial tasks are right at your fingertips. For example, F7 toggles italic on and off. Yes, CTRL + I does the same thing, but after you’ve used F7 a few times, CTRL + I will seem clunky and annoying. Something that small does make a difference in how easily and smoothly you’re able to work in Word (see Lyonizing Word: The Right Tool for the Job and Lyonizing Word: Assigning Macro Shortcut Keys).

Many other features are available from the keyboard, but my favorite is Cap Title Case. To use it, select the text you want to put in title case and press F9. But doesn’t Microsoft Word already have that feature? Yes, it does. But take this example:

The call of the wild

Microsoft Word will turn it into this:

The Call Of The Wild

Editor’s ToolKit will turn it into this:

The Call of the Wild

In other words, Editor’s ToolKit properly handles common articles and prepositions. (The next version of the program will allow you to specify those you want to use.)

All of these are small things, but in the pressure-cooker of day-to-day editing, small things make a big difference in the ease and even the pleasure with which these tiny tasks can be accomplished. I’ve been a working editor since 1978, so I’ve been doing such tasks a long time. I created these tools (and the many others included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus) so that my computer can handle the boring, repetitive, mechanical tasks, allowing me to do the more enjoyable and important work that a computer, no matter how sophisticated, simply cannot do. That, right there, is the reason for computers.

How do you use your computer to make your work easier and faster? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Looking for a Deal?

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

November 11, 2015

The Business of Editing: A Fifth Fundamental Business Mistake That Editors Make

Profit & Business Model

A business has to either be profitable so that its owners can earn a living or it has to have investors who are willing to fund the business for years and let the business lose money during those years because of greater future profit expectations or the business has to go out of business.

The first option is usually the option of the freelance editor. We rarely can convince people to invest in our business and let us generate losses for years (the Amazon model), because of the type of business editing is — personal and hands on. Amazon sells goods; the goods are not unique and buyers of the goods do not care whether Jeff Bezos has ever touched the goods. Amazon sells to us based on customer service and price.

Editing, as we know, is different. We are usually hired because of our skills (there are semi-exceptions as in my business model in which clients hire me because of my skills and because of the skills of the editors who work for me) and those skills are hands-on skills. We are hired to read each and every word and pass judgment on the words, the sentence structure, the grammar, and so on. Editors are hired to exercise judgment and improve a product; we do not expect Amazon to edit the book we buy from it.

As a result of this difference, Amazon can go years without making a profit, but freelance editors cannot. And Amazon can get people to invest money in it based on a not-written-in-stone promise of future rewards; outside editors themselves and immediate family, it is the rare person who will invest in an editor’s business with the expectation of a future profit.

Yet there is something in our business model and in Amazon’s business model that is identical (aside from the need for stellar customer service): We both need data to determine how we are doing and what we should be doing. The types of data we need are different, but we both need data.

Why Collect Data?

And this is where editors make a fundamental business mistake. Many editors simply do not collect data or if they do collect data, they make no business use of it. Yet data can tell us lots of things about our business. For example, data can tell us whether

  • a client should be kept or fired
  • certain types of projects should be avoided or sought
  • we are charging too little or too much
  • our focus is wrong or right
  • we need to start a marketing campaign now or can wait
  • our marketing campaign is a success or failure
  • making an investment is likely to increase or decrease our profitability
  • subcontracting would be a smart or dumb direction to go
  • and myriad other things

— all we need to do is gather and explore the data.

We’ve discussed several times how to calculate what to charge (see the five-part series, Business of Editing: What to Charge), but knowing what you need to earn and charge does not necessarily equate to profitability. It is not difficult to have calculated the rate you need to charge, charge that rate, yet be unprofitable. That’s because knowing what to charge is only part of the necessary information.

Consider the type of editing you do. I focus on long manuscripts, the longer the better, preferably 1,000 manuscript pages or longer. Offer me a manuscript that runs 15,000 pages and you will make me happy. Over the years I have been professionally editing, I have collected data on hundreds of projects — in fact, on every project that has passed through my office. Among the information I collected was project subject matter; whether single author or multiauthor; number of manuscript pages (which was calculated using my own formula); the time it took to complete the project; the number of projects I was offered, indicating the number I accepted and the number I turned down; the reason for acceptance or rejection; and the fee I was paid. (I gathered other data, too, but for our discussion, this list is sufficient.)

Analyzing Data

From this data, I learned what manuscripts were likely to be profitable for me. It is important to remember that we are not all alike; that is, what is profitable for me may be highly unprofitable for you. What is important, however, is to know whether what you are doing is, in fact, profitable for you.

Editors focus on editing — it is what they know best and what they feel most comfortable doing. But freelancers wear multiple hats. Not only do they wear an editing hat, but they wear the business owner’s hat. When wearing the business owner’s hat, editors need to assess their business objectively. It does not matter whether they love or hate editing; what matters is whether they are running a profitable business. To make that determination, editors must objectively collect and analyze data about their business.

One of the most important bits of data is time. How long a project takes to edit — not approximately, but exactly — is key information. It is information that is used to determine your effective hourly rate as well as the number of pages you can edit in an hour. It also is information that is needed when giving a client a quote. An editor needs to know whether, as a general rule, a heavy edit means 2 pages an hour or 6 pages an hour, because that helps you determine the likelihood of profitability at different price points.

The Excuses

I have heard editors say that data collection isn’t all that important for them because they bill by the hour, not by the page or project. Contrary to such sentiment, it is equally important to collect data regardless of how you charge, unless your clients have unlimited budgets (and I have yet to meet a client who does). It is also important because in the absence of data, it is not possible to determine whether you are making a sufficient profit.

Editors have told me that they know they are making a sufficient profit because they are able to pay their bills, put a little bit away in savings, and have money for entertainment, and that they are doing this without collecting and analyzing data about their business. Accepting that as true, data collection is still necessary because you may well discover, for example, that you can earn the same but in less time and with less effort. Or you might discover after analyzing the data that although you are making a profit, you are spending more time and effort to do so than is warranted and that making some changes in your business would increase your profit but require less effort.

The Reason

Data collection is key to business growth and profitability. Data inform decisions; data provide a foundation for action. It is a fundamental business error to not collect as much data as you can about your business.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays include:

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