An American Editor

March 20, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V

I am now nearly at the point where I actually begin editing the manuscript itself. I’ve created a stylesheet and cleaned the document (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II), and tagged the manuscript by typecoding or applying styles (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III), and inserted bookmarks for callouts and other things I noticed while tagging the manuscript (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV). Now it is time to create the project- or client-specific Never Spell Word dataset and then run the Never Spell macro.

Never Spell Word (NSW) lets me create project- or client-specific datasets. If I know, for example, that the client prefers “distension” to “distention,” I can, using NSW mark every instance of “distension” with green highlighting, which tells me that this is the correct spelling, and change every instance of “distention” to “distension,” which change will be made with tracking on and then highlighted in cyan to visually clue me that a change has been made (I can choose to make the changes with tracking off, but that is not something I ever do).

Tip: It is important to remember that the tab names, such as “Drugs,” in the Never Spell Manager, and in nearly all managers, can be changed to whatever name best suits your editorial business. Use the Change Tab Name button. The tab names that show when you install EditTools are placeholder names.

Highlighting is integral to EditTools. Highlighting attracts the eye and by using different highlight colors, I can, at a glance, tell whether I need to review or check something. Because of the types of books I work on, it is not unusual for Word to put a red squiggle under a word or phrase that is actually correct — it just isn’t in Word’s dictionary. Most editors would stop and check the squiggled word, but, for example, if I see it is highlighted in green, I know that it is correct and I do not have to check it — I know I have already checked the word and then added it to a tab in the Never Spell Manager.

The point is that NSW enables me to mark (via highlighting) items that are correct, items that need to be checked, items that are correct but may not be capitalized correctly, items that should never be spelled out, and items that should always be spelled out according to the stylesheet and client instructions. Some examples are shown in the image below (you can make this image, as well as other images in this essay, larger by clicking on image):

A Dataset in Notepad++

The datasets are text files. The above image shows a project-specific dataset that was opened in Notepad++ (Notepad++ is an outstanding free text editor that is a replacement for Microsoft’s Notepad). The * and $ preceding an entry indicate case sensitive and whole word only, respectively. For example (#1 in image above),

*$ms | cyan -> msec

means: find instances of “ms” as a lowercase whole word (in other words, “ms” but not, e.g., “forms” or “MS”) and change it to “msec.” What I will see in the manuscript is this:

Change Example

The cyan tells me at a glance that this has been changed by NSW. If the change is incorrect for some reason, I can reject the change, which is why I do it with tracking on.

I use NSW as a way to implement stylesheet decisions, as well as client preferences. An example is “F/M” (#2 in above image). The nice thing is that I do not need to format the entry. The Never Spell Manager, shown below, makes it easy — I just fill in the blanks, and if appropriate check one or both checkboxes, and click Add. I can easily correct an erroneous entry by double-clicking on it, correcting it, and clicking Update. And the Manager stays open and available until I click Close. With this Manager, I can make additions to any of the tabs.

The NSW Manager

I also use NSW as a way to mark things I already know are correct or incorrect and need changing so that I spend less doing spell checking tasks and more time doing higher-level editing. When I come across a new term, such as the name of a new organism, if appropriate I add it to one of the NSW datasets after I verify it so that next time it will be highlighted and, if necessary, corrected. For example, authors often type ASO3 rather than the correct AS03 (the first is the letter O then second is a zero). Having come across that mistake often, I added the instruction to change ASO3 to AS03 to my Commonly Misspelled Words dataset. Another example is the word towards. The correct spelling in American English is toward, so I added the word towards and the correction (toward) to an NSW dataset.

When I run the NSW macro, I am actually running more than what is contained in the Never Spell Words dataset — I can choose to run one, some, or all of the datasets represented by the tabs in the Never Spell Manager shown here:

Choosing Datasets

In this example, I am running all of the datasets except the Confusables dataset.

Tip: Using only the datasets that are applicable to the project allows the NSW macro to complete faster. This is especially true as your datasets grow.

I run the NSW macro over the main text; I do not run it over the reference list. My habit is to move the reference list to its own document after I style/code and do cleanup, but before I run NSW. The NSW macro requires the placement of a bookmark called “refs” at the point in the manuscript where I want the macro to stop checking text. Consequently, I do not have to move the reference list to a separate file if the list is after the material I want the macro to go over — I can just put the bookmark in the reference list head or in a line that precedes the list. I move the reference list to its own file because my next step will be to run the Journals macro, and that macro works faster and better when the reference list is in its own file, especially if the dataset is large as mine are (e.g., my AMA style dataset runs more than 212,000 entries).

As I said earlier, I keep the Never Spell Manager (shown above) open while I edit. Doing so lets me add new material to the various datasets as I edit the manuscript. The idea of the multiple tabs is to be able to have specialized datasets that are usable for all (or most) projects; for me, only the Never Spell Words dataset is project/client specific. When I come across the name of a study, for example, such as AFFIRM (Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management), I enter the information in the Studies/Trial tab dataset, because that is information that is neither project nor client specific.

I also keep open the Toggle Managers because when I come across something like the AFFIRM study I want to enter it into the appropriate Toggle dataset, too. But the Toggle macro is the subject of a later Roadmap essay (The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VIII).

After running NSW, it is time to turn attention to the reference list. The Journals macro and the Wildcard Find and Replace macro are the subjects of The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VI.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 15, 2017

The Business of Editing: A Page Is a Page — Or Is It?

When editors speak of how to charge for a project, they are referring to one of these three methods: by the page, by the project, or by the hour. Although editors speak in these terms (page, project, hour), the truth is that every calculation comes down to the page.

Editing is based on the page

Regardless of an editor’s method of calculating a fee, a fundamental question that every one of them must answer — consciously or subconsciously — is this: How many pages can I edit per hour in a project like the one proffered? The number of pages you can edit in an hour sets the basis for your rate and establishes your profitability. (I am guessing that your client does not have an unlimited editing budget; in 33 years of editing I have yet to be told, “My editing budget is unlimited, so take as long as you need.”) Thus the question: What is a page?

Even if you charge by the hour, you are assuming that you can edit a certain number of pages per hour. You might assume, when estimating a project, that you can edit 10 pages an hour and price the project accordingly, but if you soon discover you can only edit two pages an hour, you are likely to find that you are losing your shirt on the project. (It is to “prevent” this scenario from happening that editors claim they charge by the hour. It is the rare client, however, who will pay you for an unlimited number of hours, even if you explain the project’s difficulties. Charging by the hour often does not prevent the described scenario. In my experience, it is smarter to charge by the page or project, and when you are enmeshed in a money-losing project, you should figure out how to make it and subsequent similar projects profitable.)

Pages are the basis not only for the fee but also for the schedule. Editors want to know a “page count,” even if they are charging by the hour, so that they can calculate how much time a project will take — a critical consideration for scheduling purposes. That brings us full circle to the assumption that the editor can edit x pages per hour.

Pages are the foundation of editing.

What is a page?

Defining a page is critical to editor–client communication. Experienced editors know that; less-experienced editors soon learn it. Yet rarely is there a true discussion of what constitutes a page. Defining a page is also critical to an editor’s profitability. The defined page forms the foundation on which many further decisions, such as what to charge, are based.

When people in the editing business ask how a page is defined, they usually ask the question obliquely — What should I charge? How should I calculate what to charge? — instead of directly: What constitutes a page and why? A common response to the charge question is to ask how long the manuscript is, with the expectation that the response will be x words. No one questions whether counting words is the best method for calculating length. (The most common response is simply to toss out a number such as $25/hour, citing some survey as authority — without anyone ever wondering about or questioning the legitimacy of the survey — or $1/page, without any discussion of what constitutes a page or of the legitimacy or basis of the stated per-page price. The most financially successful editors have calculated their required effective hourly rate and have based their pricing on that, not on what colleagues claim is “standard” pricing, or on what some very unscientific survey claims is “standard.” [For information on calculating your required effective hourly rate, see the series Business of Editing: What to Charge. Some other essays on pricing are So, How Much Am I Worth?, The Business of Editing: Why $10 Can’t Make It, and Business of Editing: The Quest for Rate Charts.])

When the discussion does get to the question of calculating a page, the most common response is 250 words = 1 page.

This equivalency has been around for decades, and its continued legitimacy is based on that longevity. The equivalency came about in the days of typewriters. Editing was done on paper, and manuscripts were required (unless, of course, the author ignored the requirements, as authors so often do today) to be single-sided, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. The typewriter font was universally Courier 12-point, a monospaced font that ensured that all spacing between words and characters was uniform. Unlike today’s word-processing programs, authors couldn’t create all the little variations that currently haunt manuscripts and editors (such as adjusting kerning to squeeze more words on a line, or using multiple font sizes to “format” the manuscript). Most manuscripts were straight text as far as the editor was concerned. (There was often a separate editor who dealt with figures and tables.) So, for decades 250 words = 1 page was a good equivalency.

Personal computers and word-processing software began taking over in the 1980s, and things likewise began to change for editors. A job that was once divided among specialists became a unitary job to be done by one editor. Where previously a typesetter would clean up files, that task became the editor’s job. Everything changed except the equivalency. Authors tried “typesetting” their manuscripts so that editors and publishers would “know” what the author wanted the text to look like. And editorial headaches became more frequent and more enduring.

Even as the workload increased and the pay stagnated, the equivalency carried on. It is still a living, breathing thing — just ask on any editors’ forum what constitutes a page and their answers will predominantly be 250 words = 1 page.

It does and it doesn’t

Let’s begin with this: Regardless of what the formula is, the equivalency is arbitrary. It isn’t, today, scientifically based. It is, however, a method to increase or decrease the amount a client pays an editor.

Consider this example: According to Word, the chapter before you, as submitted by the author, is 118 manuscript pages, has 26,967 words, 161,167 characters without spaces, and 187,327 characters with spaces. Few clients or editors will accept the 118 manuscript pages as the chapter size. After all, who knows, for example, what spacing and font sizes are used throughout the chapter? And either (and both) of those can affect true count. Using the standard equivalency, this chapter is 108 manuscript pages. Most editors would go no further. But suppose the page count were based on 1600 characters with spaces? The page count is now 118 (rounding fractional page results [117.08] up); and if it were based on 1600 characters without spaces, it would be 101 manuscript pages.

The key

Note that the number (250 words, 1600 characters) used is, today, somewhat arbitrary. The 250 words formula has historical precedent, but not necessarily modern-day relevancy. It is not unusual to find publisher and packager clients, for example, who define 1 page as 300 words or 1800 characters without spaces. There is no magical method for determining the number. The key to this discussion and to the equivalency is to determine the factors, including profitability, that you consider in deciding what should constitute a page for your particular type of work. And then you should select a number — and method of counting — that will represent those factors and that you can articulate and defend to the client as best corresponding to the intricacies of the manuscript.

There are two noteworthy points. First, how a page is defined affects the page count. Second, the method used counts only the text items that Microsoft Word can count; for example, it does not include the 22 graphic images that accompany the chapter, nor does it take into account the difficulty of the edit (the light vs. medium vs. heavy concept), and it doesn’t include in the count all the formatting and unformatting tasks the editor is expected to perform.

And another problem is…

Another problem with the word count method — and a major problem for me because of the type of books I generally edit — is that Microsoft Word counts words such as N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide as being the same as pain; that is, Word counts N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide as one word, just as it counts pain as one word. But the two are not, wordwise, equivalent — at least not to my thinking. A character count, however, treats N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (29 characters) and pain (4 characters) equivalently — that is, 1 character = 1 character.

If I were editing a text-only novel, the 250 words = 1 page equivalency might work fine. From my perspective, everything would balance out; the fact that the average English word is five characters would probably offer a fair equivalency. But when a manuscript is more complex and the tasks are more involved (e.g., the chapter has 600 references that need to be formatted and checked; reference callouts need to be changed from inline to superscript; dozens of compounds have to be checked against The Merck Index), then the equivalency falters in its purpose and a different formulation of the equivalent of one manuscript page has to be devised.

(It is worth noting that many editors will respond that these factors and problems should be, and are, addressed by the rate rather than the count. That works well is your clients are amenable to paying a high rate; my experience has been that it is significantly more difficult to get a client to pay a higher rate than to get the client to accept a method of counting pages that differs from the standard equivalency. It is also important to understand that not all factors are equal and that the weight to be given a particular factor can vary from manuscript to manuscript. Finally, it is easier to set a variety of rates when an editor’s clientele are individual authors rather than publishers and packagers. Publishers and packagers expect a long-term many-project relationship and a single rate and method of calculating a page for all projects without regard for complexity or other factors.)

Don’t get me wrong. If you are editing chemistry textbooks, have investigated page equivalencies, and are satisfied with the “standard” equivalency formulation, use it. The key is that you have considered whether the “standard” equivalency sufficiently accounts for the types of problems you encounter.

There is no single, set equivalency that works well in all situations. In my editing, I deal with words of the N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide type and with lots of references and figures. Consequently, a character-based formula works best for me. This I have documented many times over the years. I have also learned that I can ignore graphic images when doing my count because the formula I use is sufficient to account for them; no additional assessment or count is needed. I also know, from experience, that using a character count gives me a more accurate idea of how many pages I can edit in an hour than a word count does.

The bottom line is…

Editors need to act like good businesspeople. They must evaluate how best to calculate a page equivalency for their type of work. Editors should not automatically assume that the “standard” equivalency is the fairest option for them. When determining the equivalency they’ll use, they need to keep in mind all the variables that are missing from Word’s count, and also all the tasks they will be expected to perform in addition to content editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 13, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV

I ended The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III with a discussion of Style Inserter and with my repeating an earlier comment about how the smart editor creates the wheel once and reuses it instead of recreating the wheel with each new project. (I do understand that if you are doing one-off projects it is more difficult to create a reusable wheel, but there is a lot to editing that is repetitive across projects, even across one-off projects.)

One of the tools that I tried to use in my early years of editing was Word’s bookmarks. I would come across something that I thought I was likely to need to relook at as editing progressed and I would add a bookmark. The problem was — and remains — that Word’s bookmarking is primitive and not all that helpful. Of what value is a list of dozens of bookmarks that are nondescriptive, can’t be organized, and are so similar that it is hard to tell which is the one you need to go to? Before EditTools’ Bookmarks, I found using bookmarks to be very frustrating. (For previous essays on bookmarks, see The Business of Editing: Using & Managing Bookmarks and Bookmarking for Better Editing.)

EditTools’ Bookmarks are much more powerful and usable than the standard Word bookmarks. A detailed description of the Bookmarks macro is available at the wordsnSync website; here I want to address how I use bookmarks in editing.

My first use is to mark callouts of display items in the text. It is pretty easy to recall that Figure 1 was called out in the text when a manuscript has only one figure, but if a chapter is 50 pages long and has ten figures and six tables (and perhaps other display items), using bookmarks makes it easy to confirm that all are called out in the text. I insert a bookmark at the first instance of an in-text callout of a figure or table (see arrows [#1] in figure below) (you can make this image, as well as other images in this essay, larger by clicking on the image).

EditTools' Bookmarks dialog

EditTools’ Bookmarks dialog

When I get to the section of the manuscript that has, for example, the figure legends, I match the callout bookmark to the figure legend — that is, when I am styling/coding the legend to Figure 3, I make sure that there is a callout in the text for Figure 3 by looking at the above dialog to see if there is a bookmark fig 003. If there is, I use Move Bookmark (#2 in above figure) to move the bookmark from the callout to the legend. I do this is so that when I am editing the manuscript (rather than styling/coding), I can go from a figure’s callout to its legend (I insert a temporary pause bookmark at the callout so I can easily return to that spot), edit the legend and make sure the figure and the text are aligned (addressing the same issue), and then return to where I had paused editing. If there is no bookmark for the callout, I search the text for it; if it remains unfound, I query the author. Using bookmarks at this stage of the editing process gives me an easy way to check that all display items are called out in the text.

I also use bookmarks to mark something that I think I may need to check later. For example, if I see that references are going to be renumbered and that Table 1 includes reference callouts, I can insert a bookmark similar to that shown here (#3):

Descriptive bookmarks

Descriptive bookmarks

I keep the Bookmarks dialog open while I edit, so reminders like this are always visible and it is easy to add a bookmark. If a bookmark will be used repeatedly, like the “fig” bookmark, I create a custom button (#4) so that I can insert it with a single click, rather than repeatedly typing. (See Bookmarks at wordsnSync for more information about the custom buttons.)

There are two other things I do with bookmarks that help with editing. First, when I have edited a display item, such as a table, I rename the bookmark — I do not delete it because I may need to return to the item and this is an easy way to navigate. Renaming is easy and I have chosen a default naming convention as shown below (#5).

My default renaming convention

My default renaming convention

This renaming convention tells me that I have edited the display item, which I would not have done if the display was not called out in the text. It also leaves me a bookmark that I can use to navigate to the item in case there is a need to make a correction or add a comment that surfaces after additional editing. (You can create your own default naming convention or manually rename the bookmark using the Bookmark Rename dialog shown below. Using the Rename dialog you can create standardized renaming conventions and choose among them which is to be a default. You can choose a prefix or a suffix or both, as I did. The advantage to creating a default is that in three mouse clicks the renaming is done: one to select the bookmark to rename, one to click Rename, and one to click OK — quick and easy. Try renaming a bookmark using Word’s Bookmark function.)

Bookmark renaming dialog

Bookmark renaming dialog

Bookmarks that I no longer need, I delete. I like to keep lists that I need to check to a minimum. Thus, for example, once I have rechecked the reference numbering in Table 1, I will delete the bookmark that acts as both a reminder and a marker.

In my editing process, I use bookmarks extensively, especially as reminders to do certain tasks before I decide that the editing of the manuscript is complete — essentially a to-do list for the document I am editing. Unlike Word’s Bookmarks, EditTools’ Bookmarks lets me use plain-English descriptive bookmarks and organize them. Note that the bulleted “Recheck” bookmark appears as the first entry and the “x” (to signify edited) renamed bookmark has moved to the end of the list.

The next step in my editing path is to create my project-specific Never Spell Word dataset. When I first begin a project, this dataset may have only a few items in it, but it grows as the project progresses. Never Spell Word is the subject of The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V. Never Spell Word is a key item in my editing roadway.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 8, 2017

The Decline & Fall of Editorial Quality

Three events occurred in the past several weeks that started me thinking about the decline and fall of editorial quality. One was a job offer I received; the other two were book reviews I read. I begin with the book reviews.

The first review was in The Economist (February 18, 2017, pp. 69–70). It was a review of the soon-to-be-published biography Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel by John Stubbs (W.W. Norton, 2017). What alarmed me was this:

However, Mr. Stubbs’s account has a few surprising factual errors — the battle of the Boyne, arguably the best-remembered event in Irish history, is dated as 1689, a year early, and the medieval town of Kilkenny is placed “60 miles to the south-east” of Dublin (which would put it smack in the middle of the Irish Sea). [p. 70]

A few days later I was reading the essay “Can We Ever Master King Lear?” by Stephen Greenblatt (The New York Review of Books, February 23, 2017, pp. 34–36), which was reviewing The One King Lear by Sir Brian Vickers (Harvard University Press, 2016). Greenblatt wrote:

…But perhaps something else is occurring here, some dark nemesis signaled in this book perhaps by the absence of a bibliography, or by the scanty index, or by the startling number of errors made by someone who excoriates careless printers and proofreaders. Why did no one catch “schholar” and “obsreved”? Who allowed the book’s stirring peroration to assert that Shakespeare “had no reason to go back to his greatest pay”?

These typos, like tiny pebbles, are foretastes of the rocks that have come crashing through Vickers’s glass walls. For three weeks last May, Holger Schott Syme, a professor ay the University of Toronto, undertook…a detailed scholarly critique of The One King Lear….Syme’s appalled accumulation of entries…details an array of fundamental contradictions, misstatements, and errors throughout the book, including a disastrous miscounting of the number of pages in a text Vickers trumpeted as one of his crucial pieces of supporting evidence for Okes’s paper crisis. [p. 36]

On and on the review goes, highlighting the editorial problems.

The third event, the job offer, was a request that I personally edit a 3500-page medical manuscript that requires a “very heavy edit” and that I do so for less than 75% of my standard rate, calculated in a way that reduces that 75% to closer to 60%, and that I meet a tight deadline that would require editing 300 to 350 pages per week. (I suppose I should add that I was also required to typecode the manuscript and that there were lots of references, nearly all of which were in the wrong format and often incomplete, thus requiring me to look them up.) Of course, there was the admonition that I was “being asked to do this job because a high-quality edit is required” and the claim that the proffered fee was a “premium” rate.

I do not understand the thinking. Here are three separate events, three completely separate publishers, and three prestigious projects — two of which have editorially failed, the third of which will be an editorial failure. Thousands of books are published each year; only a handful are reviewed by The Economist or The New York Review of Books, both selective and well-respected book reviewers. The importance of these books to the literature of their fields is emphasized by their selection to be reviewed. The medical book, when published, will be a very costly book to buy and will serve as a reference for the subject matter area. All three books deserve and even require professional, high-quality editing, yet none received (or, in the case of the medical book, will receive) such editing because of the deadly combination of inadequate pay (which makes it difficult to hire a cream-level editor), too short a schedule (which pressures an editor to edit speedily, which means sacrificing quality; the shorter the schedule the greater the required quality sacrifice), and too many mechanical requirements that have to be performed by the editor, along with the editing, within the too short schedule and for too low pay.

What I don’t understand is why otherwise savvy business people are unable to grasp the idea that a high-quality edit is no different from any other high-quality artisanal job that cannot be performed by a robot or computer: to get a high-quality result you have to pay a fee commensurate with the quality level desired and allow the time needed to reach and maintain that level. In addition, you need to let the artisan focus on the quality edit and not sidetrack the editor with nonartisanal requirements.

Of particular concern, however, is that one of the problem books is from Harvard University Press. I have purchased books from Princeton University Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, to name but two university presses, that I have thought greatly overpriced for the poor editorial and/or production quality of the books (imagine, e.g., a $50, 168-page [including front and back matter] hardcover that comes without a dust jacket, along with other problems), but I also thought the books were outliers. Yet I am discovering that the more “prestigious” the university press, the more careful I need to be when buying a book published by that press.

Is it that these presses have grown too large and are under pressure to produce a profit as a consequence of their growth? When I first joined the editing ranks, university presses paid editors roughly 15% less than the commercial publishers paid and expected a higher-quality edit than the commercial presses. The lower compensation was balanced by a looser schedule and a true commitment to quality. In those days, editors sought to work for university presses because editors were more concerned about the artisanal aspects of editing than about the financial aspects.

That outlook changed as commercial publishers consolidated and began lowering/stagnating their fees and university presses tried to maintain the fee disparity. Editors by necessity became more oriented to business and less focused on being artisans. Where before an editor might edit three or four commercial projects followed by a university press project, as fees equalized (or came closer to equalization), the financial ability to take on university press projects lessened — the fees earned from editing commercial press projects no longer could carry the lesser fee of the university press because the spread was no longer sufficient.

We are beginning to see the fruits of these trends as an increasing number of error-riddled books are being published by both university and commercial presses. We are also beginning to see editors who have calculated and know their required effective hourly rate, and because they know their required rate, are turning down editing projects that do not offer sufficient compensation to meet that rate. Unfortunately, we are also seeing a parallel trend: the number of persons calling themselves editors is increasing and these “editors” advertise their willingness to work for a rate that is far too low to sustain life.

For publishers — university or commercial — this increase in the number of “editors” willing to work for a life-denying wage creates a problem. The problem manifests as a conflict between the requirement to minimize production costs — especially of “invisible” tasks like editing — and the desire to produce a high-quality-edit product. The conflict usually resolves in favor of cost-cutting, which will ultimately hurt the publisher’s bottom line, especially if the publisher begins to develop a reputation for poor-editorial-quality books, as the pool of book-buyers grows smaller and more discerning.

As long-time AAE readers know, I buy a lot of books (for an idea of how many I buy, take a look at the On Today’s Bookshelf series), but I have become wary of buying books from certain presses. Because of poor editorial quality, I certainly won’t be buying Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel or The One King Lear. Would you buy books from publishers known to skimp on editorial quality?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 6, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III

A manuscript is generally “tagged” in one of two ways: by applying typecodes (e.g., <h1>, <txt>, <out1>) or by applying styles (e.g., Word’s built-in styles Heading 1 and Normal). My clients supply a list of the typecodes they want used or, if they want styles applied, a template with the styles built into the template. Occasionally clients have sent just a list of style names to use and tell me that, for example, Heading 1 should be bold and all capitals, leaving it to me to create the template. The big “issue” with typecoding is whether the client wants both beginning and ending codes or just beginning codes; with EditTools either is easy. Some clients want a manuscript typecoded, but most clients want it styled.

Typecoding

If the client wants typecoding, I use EditTools’ Code Inserter Manager (shown below) to create the codes to be applied. Detailed information on Code Inserter and its Manager is found at wordsnSync. I will focus on EditTools’ Style Inserter and its Manager here because that is what I use most often. Code Inserter and Style Inserter and their Managers work very similarly. Describing one is nearly a perfect description of the other. (You can make an image in this essay larger by clicking on the image.)

Code Inserter Manager

Code Inserter Manager

Style Inserter

Style Inserter relies on a template. Usually the client provides a template, but if not, the client at least provides the names of the styles it wants used and a description of the style (e.g., Heading 1, All Caps, bold; Heading 2, title case, bold; etc.) and I create a template for the client. Occasionally the client uses Word’s default styles. Once there is a template, I open Style Inserter Manager, shown below, and create styles that the Style Inserter macro will apply.

Style Inserter Manager

Style Inserter Manager

As you can see, Style Inserter Manager gives me a great deal of control over the style and what it will look like. When styles are applied in Word, one has to go through several steps to apply it. Style Inserter is a one-click solution. The information I entered into the Manager is translated into the Style Inserter macro (shown below). I organize the dialog how it works best for me and keep it open as I style the manuscript. A single click applies the style and can move me to the next paragraph that requires styling.

Style Inserter

Style Inserter

(If you do typecoding, you can tell the Code Inserter Manager whether you need just beginning codes or both beginning and ending codes. Like Style Inserter, once you have set up the coding in the Manager, you only need a single click to enter a code. As shown below, the macro looks and acts the same as Style Inserter. You do need a second click to enter an ending code because it is not always possible to predetermine where that end code is to be placed.)

Code Inserter

Code Inserter

Take a look at the Style Inserter Manager shown earlier. There are several formatting options available but there are two I want to especially note: Head Casing (#A in image) and Language (#B).

I am always instructed to apply the correct capitalization to a heading. It is not enough that the definition of the style applied to the head includes capitalization; the head has to have the correct style applied and the correct capitalization. If None is chosen, then however the head is capitalized in the manuscript is how it remains. If the head should be all capitals, then I would choose Upper from the drop down list (shown here):

Head Casing dropdown

Head Casing dropdown

Whatever capitalization style I select will be imposed on the head as part of applying the style. No extra steps are required once the capitalization requirements are made part of the style in the Manager. Title case capitalization is governed by the Heading Casing Manager, which is found in the Casing menu on the EditTools toolbar.

Head Casing

The Heading Case Manager (shown below) has two tabs: Head Casing and Words to Ignore. In the Head Casing tab you enter words or acronyms that are to always be all capitals or all lowercase. In addition, you indicate if that “always rule” is to be ignored. The Words to Ignore tab is where you list words that should be ignored when casing is applied, such as Roman numerals and symbols or acronyms like “miRNA”. Thus, for example, even though the instruction is that the head is to be all capitals, the “mi” in “miRNA” will remain lowercase. This works the same in the Code Inserter Manager.

Head Casing Manager

Head Casing Manager

Setting the Language

The Language option (#B in the Style Inserter Manager image above) is also important. One of the frustrating things for me is when I am editing and I realize that the authors (or some gremlin) set the paragraph’s language as Farsi and when I correct a misspelling it still shows as a misspelling because I am using American English. The Language option lets me choose the language I want applied (see image below). Selecting the language from the dropdown (here “English U.S.”) and also checking the Language box, will incorporate into the style that will be applied by Style Inserter the instruction to set the language to what I have chosen — overriding the language attribute that is present in the manuscript.

Language Option in Style Manager

Language Option in Style Manager

I make it a habit to incorporate the language instruction in every style. It saves me from wondering why the red squiggly line appears under a correctly spelled word, thereby removing an obstacle that slows editing (and lowers profitability). This works the same in the Code Inserter Manager.

Bookmarking While Styling

As I style the manuscript, I also insert bookmarks using EditTools’ Bookmarks. The bookmarks let me track elements of the manuscript. This is especially true because with EditTools’ Bookmarks I can create meaningful bookmarks, which is where we will start in The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV.

Combo Click

But before we get to Bookmarks and the next essay, I want to mention another EditTools macro: Combo Click. I have found that when I do certain tasks I like to have certain macro managers open. Combo Click, shown below, lets me choose my combination of managers that I want open. Instead of having to click on each manager individually, I click on the combination in Combo Click and those managers open.

Combo Click

Combo Click

Creating the combinations is easy with the Combo Click Manager shown here:

Combo Click Manager

Combo Click Manager

Reusing the Wheel

The idea is to do as much work as possible quickly and with a minimum of effort. When I first set up, for example, Style Inserter, it takes a few minutes that I would not have to spend if I simply used the standard Word method. So editing chapter 1 may take me a few minutes longer than if I weren’t creating the Style Inserter dataset, but all subsequent chapters will take me less time than without Style Inserter. My point is that the smart businessperson looks at the macro picture, not the micro picture. EditTools works using datasets that the editor creates. Those datasets are the wheels — you create them and reuse them.

The next project I do for the client means I can load a previously created Style Inserter dataset and I can add those styles that are not already included and delete those that are no longer needed — a faster method than starting from scratch — and then save the new dataset under a new name.

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV picks up with Bookmarks and how I use them to help me remember to perform certain tasks and to navigate the manuscript.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 1, 2017

Copyediting and Line Editing Series Fiction

by Carolyn Haley

Series fiction is a boon for everyone in the publishing chain. Authors have a ready market for their work; independent editors can get repeat work from a single client; publishers have a steady flow of sellable material; readers get their fiction appetites regularly fed.

That combination is why I favor series fiction in my editing business. For independent copyeditors and line editors who may be looking to add series fiction to their roster of services, here are the main factors to consider.

Style sheets

The most important part of editing a series is building a comprehensive style sheet. While this is also true for standalone novels, it’s crucial for series to ensure continuity and consistency between volumes. Months or years may pass between editing each volume, especially if the author is writing and sending them for editing one at a time. Also, different editors might work on different volumes. In both situations, a style sheet constitutes the series’ connective tissue.

Editors working directly with indie authors are free to design style sheets according to their own parameters meshed with the author’s needs. An excellent quartet of essays on what to include on style sheets, and why these items need to be included, was presented here by the previous Thinking Fiction contributor, Amy Schneider. See Part I: General Style, Part II: Characters, Part III: Locations, and Part IV: Timeline.

When editors subcontract to publishers, they must follow the house’s lead on style sheets. The instructions could be as simple as to include character names in alphabetical order and follow Chicago Manual of Style, or as complex as to fill in a fancy-formatted template just so, for characters, places, timeline, and special terms.

Any time editors are hired to work on a series volume later in sequence than volume 1, it’s important to confirm with the indie author or the publisher’s production coordinator whether the editor is expected to make a new style sheet for each new volume or consolidate new material into the style sheet established for the previous volume(s) so that one sheet travels with the series.

Single vs. batch manuscripts

Publisher-provided series usually come to the editor one book at a time with long intervals in between. Series from indie authors, however, may come as either single books or a multivolume batch. While one-at-a-time is most common, batches may come when an author wrote an epic and decided to break it into volumes, or planned from the start to write a trilogy but wanted to complete the whole work before editing.

It’s easier and more efficient to edit a series as a unit than as single books spread out over time, but doing them all in one shot takes a big bite out of the calendar — a downside for editors who like or need to keep a diverse cycle going, but a plus for editors who like tackling large projects. Psychologically, immersion in one world and one author’s style can become grinding without a break. On the other hand, immersion may make the editor aware of slight nuances that change a character or story from what was previously described.

Even if such immersion is desired, editors need to be careful about putting an entire series into one contract. It makes sense to do so on the surface, because in essence the job is one really big novel instead of X number of individual novels, and the style sheet is created once instead of multiple times. But over the extended period of a series job, the risk runs higher than with standalone novels that difficulties might arise, such as:

  • the editor or author might have a change of circumstance and be unable to fulfill their end of the agreement;
  • the editor might recognize too late that they underestimated the scope of work, or the author might dramatically change the scope as the series develops, forcing the contract to be renegotiated and the editor to possibly lose the balance of the project if it gets appreciably more expensive or complex;
  • one party might become dissatisfied with the other’s personality, or the material, partway through and want to bail out.

Editors who haven’t prepared for such possibilities in the contract can get trapped in a bad deal for a long time, making it wise to have a lawyer review the contract before anyone signs. If nothing else, in an all-in-one contract, the editor should make certain there’s an escape clause after each volume.

I prefer to contract for volume 1 separately, then negotiate a rate or service change for the balance of the series after its qualities are understood. That opens the door to losing the subsequent volumes because the author and I can’t agree on what needs to be adjusted, but I’m more comfortable with that risk than those associated with an all-in-one contract. Usually by the time we’re done with volume 1, we’ve established a rapport that allows successful negotiation. When in doubt, I’ll treat each volume as a standalone novel and make a deal for them individually.

Series basics

Each volume in a fiction series must be a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and a character(s) struggling to resolve one or more conflicts. At the same time, each volume must advance an overarching story or theme that evolves during the series and is resolved at series end. In effect, a series author is writing two books simultaneously, for as many volumes as the series runs.

Some beginning authors believe that ending a volume on a cliffhanger will inspire readers to rush to the next volume to find out what happens. More often than not, this backfires, and frustrated readers feel cheated and may not continue with the series. The trick is to leave just enough of the overarching story unresolved in each book to draw readers onward. But the episode covered in a volume must conclude satisfactorily before the next one begins, even if the next episode opens immediately afterward in the timeline. In this regard, series novels follow the same pattern as series TV shows.

A major challenge in writing any fiction is determining how much backstory to include. The goal is to provide enough information to keep readers oriented, and the action and characters in context, without overloading the narrative with an “info dump.” In series fiction, however, the backstory not only has to be provided in the right measure to begin with, but then must be reiterated in subsequent volumes to a different degree. Ideally, readers start with volume 1 when it comes out and eagerly await the next one, and don’t need refreshers as they continue through the series. In reality, readers might discover a series at volume 4, so they must be given enough backstory to understand the basics of what’s going on, without the author having to set up the scenario all over again.

Broadly, volume 1 should establish the premise and key characters for the series, and subsequent volumes should unfold new developments and show character growth. All volumes should refer back to the first with a light touch wherever understanding the new story depends on knowledge of what came before. Some series authors open each volume with a preface covering the previous volumes, but that can get cumbersome after the second or third book and is not commonly done. Other authors may write a prequel to an existing series and provide full backstory for an established audience hungry for more detail.

Tough spots

A tricky situation is when an editor gets volume 2 from an indie author who has already self-published volume 1, and no style sheet comes with the volume 2 manuscript. This might happen if the author didn’t use a professional editor the first time, or if the author wants to switch editors and the original editor didn’t create a style sheet for the job. For the new editor to make the new volume consistent with the first, they need a copy of volume 1 as part of the job and to build extra time into the quote because every style point will need to be backtracked to create the style sheet for the book in hand and any that follow.

It helps the editor to read all volumes of the story that came before, to best understand what’s happening in the new volume — but somebody has to pay for the time it takes to do so. That somebody should be the client, not the editor, so the editor has to factor extra reading time into their quote. It’s less critical to read previous volumes when working for publishers who are on the ball with style sheets, and whose pay rate is low and schedule is tight, because the existing style sheet should have most of the information the editor needs to do the job without becoming upside-down financially. With novels by inexperienced indie authors, though, the backstory can aid an editor in doing their job well so the author will come back for more.

Sometimes what starts out as a standalone novel expands into a series. An editor might work with an indie author on the single title then be contacted later for an unexpected volume 2. Having done a detailed style sheet for the original project will pay the editor back when responding to the second opportunity. If their schedule can’t accommodate the new book, then they’ve at least made life easier for the editor who takes their place. That won’t fill the first editor’s wallet but will reflect positively on their reputation, and maybe bring back the author for volume 3 or lead to future referrals.

Author fatigue

It’s not safe to assume that editing a series will get easier with each volume. Sometimes authors get fatigued from thinking up new stories inside a fixed scenario, or bored by the whole thing, and the quality of their work may deteriorate instead of improve as they push on. Marketplace pressure also can influence an author, in that readers just want more of the same thing while the author itches to stretch in a new direction, or is obliged to turn out the next volume in less time than they need to write it well.

Most copyeditors and line editors aren’t involved in an author’s content angst, but if they’ve been working with the same indie author since volume 1, then they’ve probably established a personal relationship and care about the author’s growth and the series’ success. To help that relationship happen and help authors avoid fatigue before it starts, editors can suggest at the beginning of the series that the author plan a finite number of volumes and outline the primary plot of each one within the plot of the whole. That simple guideline can both direct the author’s energies and allow the editor to raise relevant questions during the series’ progress to help the author stay on task while being creative.

Editing series fiction can be both challenging and rewarding, especially for editors who themselves are series readers. From that habit they know how a series can thrive or pall, or vacillate in its quality, and be motivated to help authors start strong and continually improve. The bonding potential with authors adds a richness to the experience. When the business and technical sides are carefully arranged, then the creative side can bloom to mutual satisfaction and result in a series that delights the reading public and earns income for everyone in the publishing chain.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, 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.

February 27, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II

I rarely receive an entire manuscript in a single file. The manuscripts I work on are rarely single-author books; instead, each chapter is written by a different author or group of authors, and so the files are chapter oriented.

The Online Stylesheet

Even before I open the first chapter file, I begin preparing for the book. My first step is to create the online stylesheet (see Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets [note: access to my online stylesheet is no longer available to the general reader]). I insert into the stylesheet any specific instructions for the project that I receive from the client. An example of specific instructions is shown here (you can make an image in this essay larger by clicking on the image):

Stylesheet Sample

Stylesheet Sample

I also add to the stylesheet any specific spellings or usages. For example, both “distention” and “distension” are acceptable spellings. If I know the client prefers one over the other, I add that spelling to the stylesheet. I also note the reference style to be used (usually with a quick note such as “references: follow AMA 10”). If there are variations, I will insert a note regarding the variations along with examples.

It is important to remember the purposes of the stylesheet. First, it is to help me be consistent throughout the project. It is not unusual to encounter a term or phrase in chapter 2 that I do not see again until chapter 10. Second, it is — at least in my business — a way for the client to observe my decision making. My stylesheets are available to my clients 24/7/365 and I encourage clients to review the stylesheets early and often. Most do not, but there have been occasions when a client has done so and has noted that they would prefer a different decision from the one I made. When the client takes the time to look at the stylesheet and advise me of a change they would like, it is easy to implement the change.

Third, the stylesheet is for the author. A well-done stylesheet can subliminally tell an author how good an editor I am. The author can see my diligence, and if the author has a preference (e.g., “distension” rather than “distention”), the author can communicate it and see that the change is made. Fourth, the stylesheet is for the proofreader. It tells the proofreader what decisions have been made and what are the correct spellings, and it gives myriad other information — depending on how detailed I make the stylesheet. It does neither the client nor the author nor me any good if the proofreader comes upon something the proofreader flags as an error because the proofreader doesn’t have a copy of my latest stylesheet in which the answer as to whether it is an error can be found (which is why my clients can both review the stylesheet online 24/7/365 and download the latest version — current to within 60 seconds of an entry having been made — 24/7/365).

Fifth, and finally, should I be asked to edit the next edition of the book, I can open the archived copy of the stylesheet and merge it into the stylesheet for the new edition. This enables consistency across editions, should that be something the client desires. And if the client’s schedule doesn’t accommodate mine, requiring the client to assign the new-edition project to another editor, either I or the client can access the archived stylesheet and provide a copy to the new editor. The importance here is twofold: first, it may give me a head start in the running to be the editor of the next edition; and second, it is good customer service and makes it easy for the client to think of me for other projects.

Once I have set up the stylesheet, it is time to tackle some of the other preediting tasks.

Cleaning Up the Manuscript

The first preediting tasks performed directly on the manuscript are aimed at cleaning up the manuscript. I do the cleanup before I do anything else on the manuscript. Cleanup means doing things like eliminating extra spacing and line breaks, and changing soft returns to hard returns or spaces. To clean up the manuscript, I use some of the macros found in The Editorium’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014. For my methodology, I only use three of the Toolkit’s macros: FileCleaner, NoteStripper, and ListFixer. The only Toolkit Plus macro I use on every manuscript is ListFixer to convert Word’s autonumbered/lettered lists to fixed lists; the other two macros I use as needed.

EditTools has several macros that I use during the cleanup phase. The first macro I run is Delete Unused Styles. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t permit some styles to be deleted, but this macro reduces style clutter. (Caution: If you are applying a template to the manuscript, do not run this macro after the template has been applied. Doing so may cause template styles to be removed.) I have found that running this macro first makes it easier to deal with the often myriad author-created styles, especially the ones that are attributes. A major shortcoming of Microsoft Word is that it encourages users to use styles but doesn’t make it easy for most users to understand how to use styles properly.

Another significant problem with Word styles occurs when a compositor has taken a typeset file and converted it to a Word document for editing. Every time the typesetter modified line or word spacing, for example, the modification shows as a new style. Similarly, when applying attributes like bold and italic to an already-styled word or phrase, Word creates a new style that is identical to the already-applied style except that it incorporates the attribute. Consequently, the manuscript has dozens of overriding styles that need to be removed. Although Delete Unused Styles won’t remove these types of styles (because they are being used in the document), by eliminating unused styles, I need to deal with fewer styles.

After Delete Unused Styles, I run EditTool’s Cleanup macro. The Cleanup macro lets me customize what I want done and also enables me to create a project- or client-specific cleanup dataset that complements the master Cleanup dataset.

The Cleanup macro is intended for those things that I would cleanup in every manuscript. Look at the following image of the Cleanup Manager:

Cleanup Manager

Cleanup Manager

Fixes include changing two spaces to one space (in the image: [space][space]->[space]) and changing a tab followed by a paragraph marker to just the paragraph marker (in the image: ^t^p->^p). In other words, the routine cleanup. The macro also lets me link to a project-specific (“specialty”) cleanup dataset that contains less-generic items for fixing, such as replacing “ß” with “β”. (It is not necessary to have a project-specific cleanup dataset; anything that I would place in the specialty dataset I could put, instead, in the general cleanup dataset. I use the specialty datasets to avoid the problems that can occur if one client wants, for example, “ / ” [i.e., a space on each side of the slash] and another wants “/” without spacing.)

As we all know, different authors tend to have their own “peculiarities” when it comes to how something is styled. Those are the little things that one discovers either during a scan of a chapter or while editing. For example, in a chapter an author may style a measure inconsistently, first as “> 25” and then as “>25.” These are the types of things for which I previously used Word’s Find & Replace function. Because I scan the material before styling/typecoding, I often catch a number of these types of problems. To correct them, I use the Sequential F&R Active Doc tab of the Find & Replace Master macro, shown here:

Sequential F&R Active Doc

Sequential F&R Active Doc

This macro lets me do multiple find-and-replaces concurrently — I can select some or all of them. This macro lets me mix and match and I can save the find and replace items in a dataset for repeat use. The difference between the Sequential F&R Active Doc and the Cleanup macro is that the Cleanup macro is intended for things that are found in multiple manuscripts, whereas the Sequential F&R Active Doc is intended to replace Word’s Find & Replace.

After running Cleanup (and possibly Sequential F&R Active Doc), I may run Wildcard Find and Replace. It depends on what I noticed when I scanned the manuscript. I have created dozens of wildcard strings that I can run individually or as part of a script that I created. And if one of my already-created strings won’t work, I can create a new one. (Wildcard Find & Replace is discussed in this series in the future essay The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VI.)

After doing the cleanup routine, I then style/typecode (discussed in the next essay in this series, The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III) and insert preliminary bookmarks (see the future essay in this series The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV). Then it is time to turn to Never Spell Word (which I’ll discuss in The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V).

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 20, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap I

Over the years, I have been asked by “young” editors (by which I mean editors new to the profession or who have only a few years of experience) about how I approach an editing project. Also over the years I have discussed with colleagues how they approach a project. What I have learned is that as our experience grows and as we adapt to the types of projects we edit, each editor creates his or her own methodology. But that is an unsatisfactory response to the question. Consequently, with this essay I begin a series of essays that discuss how I approach an editing project — that is, my methodology.

The Basics

As I am sure you can guess, much of my methodology is wrapped up in making as much use of methods focused on efficiency and productivity as possible, which in my case means a large reliance on my EditTools set of macros (for those of you who are unfamiliar with EditTools, you can learn about the macros that make up the package by visiting the wordsnSync website) and my online stylesheet (see Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets [note: access to my online stylesheet is no longer available to the general reader]). I also rely on parts of The Editorium’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014, primarily ListFixer and NoteStripper.

It is also important to keep in mind the types of projects I work on. Most of my projects are large medical books, ranging in size from 1500 to 20,000+ manuscript pages. This is important information because what works for nonfiction doesn’t necessarily translate well — in terms of efficiency or productivity — for fiction editing. As you read about my methodology, do not dismiss what I do by thinking it won’t work for you; instead, think about how it can be adapted to work for you — and, more importantly, whether it should be adopted and/or adapted by you for your editorial business.

Recreating the Wheel

No matter what type of manuscript you edit, the objective is (should be) to edit profitably. Profitable editing is possible only when we can make use of existing tools and adapt them to our needs. It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel with each project and it makes no sense to dismiss tools that others have created because the tools were created to work in a different environment. What does make sense is to create the wheel once and reuse it repeatedly and to take already-created tools and adapt them to what we do.

A good example is marketing. Smart marketers make note of what ads are the most effective at pushing a product or business and then think about how such ad can be adapted to promote their business or product. Years ago, when I was planning marketing campaigns for my editorial business, I would indirectly, as part of a conversation, ask clients (which included potential clients) about ads I had seen and thought effective. A positive response from clients would have me think about how to adapt the positively viewed ad for my business.

Looking at Tools

Which brings to mind another point. A common failing among editors is to look at a package of tools, decide that of all the tools in the package the editor can only make regular use of one or two of the tools, and thus the editor decides that the package is not worth buying. This, however, is faulty thinking.

In the early days of my editing career, I, too, thought like that. Then I kept seeing the same types of problems popping up in many of the manuscripts I worked on and it dawned on me that a package of tools I had dismissed had a tool in it that could solve some of these repeating problems in seconds. I realized that the package would pay for itself after just a very few uses of the one or two macros that I could use (thinking that the other macros had no value for me), and thereafter each time I used one of the macros, the package was making me a profit. I had to address the problems whether I used the package or not; the difference was the amount of time and effort I needed to solve the same problems with each new manuscript. By not using the package, I was reinventing the wheel for each project; by buying the package, I created the wheel once and reused it.

I also discovered something else. That tools I had dismissed as not usable in my business because of how I worked needed to be relooked at. Usually I would find that with a little tweaking in how I worked additional tools in the package would save me time and make me money. The lesson I learned was that the stumbling block may be how I work, not the package, and that sometimes it makes sense to modify my methods, that the “tool” knows better than me. By not using the package, I was not learning to tweak my methodology to make my business more profitable.

Artisan vs. Businessperson

Editors like to view themselves as more artisans than businesspersons. There is nothing wrong with such a perspective as long as one does not forget that editing is a business and must be approached as a business. The artisanship is the bonus we get for having a smooth-running business. We have discussed in multiple essays the ideas of being businesslike and profitability (see, e.g., The Commandments: Thou Shall be Profitable; The Twin Pillars of Editing; The Business of Editing: A Fifth Fundamental Business Mistake That Editors Make; and The Business of Editing: The Profitability Difficulty; for additional essays, search An American Editor’s archives), so I won’t rehash the idea again other than to say that if you are not profitable, you will find it difficult to be able to afford the artisanship aspects of editing — and the key to profitability is to reuse, not recreate.

Back to the Basics

The other important point to note about my business is that, with rare exception, I work only with publishers (either directly or indirectly through packagers); that is, I do not work directly with authors. The importance of this point is that publishers generally have set rules they expect to be followed by the editor. For example, I rarely have to ask whether it should be one to nine or 1 to 9 or whether it should be antiinflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Publishers follow established style guides, like the AMA Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style, and if they deviate from the manuals, they do so in written form that is applied across a particular line. Working with publishers brings a high degree of consistency (although a packager can have its own additional twists) to the “mechanical” aspects of what editors do, something that is hard to achieve when working directly with authors on a one-off project.

Coming Up Next

With these caveats in mind, The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II will begin the discussion of how I approach to a manuscript.

(For an alternative approach to copyediting, watch Paul Beverly’s video “Book Editing Using Macros.” Paul’s approach is also macro reliant, but, I think, less efficient. Paul makes his macros available in his free book Macros for Editors.)

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 14, 2017

EditTools 8 Released

EditTools 8 is now available for download.

EditTools 8 is a free download for current registered owners of earlier versions. To download EditTools 8, click this link and click on the head: Download EditTools v8.0. EditTools is Windows only and does not work with 64-bit Word. EditTools 8 is works with any Windows version of Word — 2007 and newer. It does not work with Word 2003 or any MacOS versions of Word.

If you do not already have EditTools, EditTools 8 can be purchased for $69 directly from wordsnSync or as part of the Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate special package that includes the latest version of EditTools, PerfectIt, and Editor’s Toolkit Plus (for more information on this package, click this link).

Also available is a new starter dataset package for EditTools. The EditTools Datasets package contains multiple starter datasets, such as Drugs (5800+ entries), Organisms (10,600+ entries), and Journals (215,500+ PubMed/AMA style; 212,000+ AMA with Periods style; 120,000+ APA/Chicago style entries; 149,000+ ACS style; and 118,500 Harvard style). Also included are starter datasets for commonly misspelled words, “confusables” (e.g., complement and compliment), symbols, language, and more. The datasets give you a quick start toward creating your own comprehensive datasets. They are not comprehensive datasets themselves — they are starter datasets. The starter datasets are available for $29.

You can learn more about EditTools, including what is new in version 8, by clicking on the links found in the Read More box.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 8, 2017

Lyonizing Word: Editing by Computer

by Jack Lyon

AlphaGo is a computer program developed by Google DeepMind in London to play the board game Go, which originated in China and is far more complex than chess. In March 2016, it beat Lee Sedol, one of the world’s best professional players, in a five-game match. I was interested because I’ve been playing Go since 1980. And why should you, as an editor, be interested? Because AlphaGo was not programmed to play Go; instead, it learned to play by “watching” and playing millions of games. (The same kind of learning lies behind the recent radical improvements in Google Translate.)

Now consider what the result might be if we fed Google’s computer thousands of raw manuscripts with their edited counterparts for comparison. Could the computer learn how to edit? I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before someone tries the experiment. (Although, as the Pen Master asks, “How does it know when to delete a paragraph?”)

In the meantime (while we’re dusting off our résumés), let’s look at some of the not-so-intelligent editing apps that are popping up on the internet. Do they really work? Are they a threat to our livelihood? Or are they tools we can use to enhance our productivity?

AutoCrit

AutoCrit, aimed mainly at writers of fiction, might also be useful for editors of fiction. It claims to check dialog, writing strength, word choice, repetition, and much more. It also compares your manuscript to other works of fiction to see how yours stacks up. You can take the tour and explore the features. AutoCrit allows you to check a writing sample online but, as far as I can tell, it won’t provide a full report unless you sign up for a monthly subscription of $29.97. You can cancel at any time and receive a full refund within your first fourteen days of use.

Wanting to see what the full report includes, I signed up and then submitted a short science-fiction story, “Nippers,” that I wrote about a million years ago and which you can at The Editorium if you’re interested. AutoCrit’s analysis was interesting, but I found it a little difficult to navigate, as it discusses each area on a separate web page. AutoCrit does give you a lot of stuff to consider, including:

  • Pacing & Momentum
    • Sentence Variation
    • Pacing
    • Paragraph Variation
    • Chapter Variation
  • Dialogue
    • Dialogue Tags
    • Adverbs in Dialogue
  • Strong Writing
    • Adverbs
    • Passive Voice
    • Showing vs. Telling
    • Clichés
    • Redundancies
    • Unnecessary Filler Words
  • Word Choice
    • Initial Pronoun and Names
    • Sentence Starters
    • Generic Descriptions
    • Homonyms
    • Personal Words and Phrases
  • Repetition
    • Repeated Words
    • Repeated Uncommon Words
    • Repeated Phrases
    • Word Frequency
    • Phrase Frequency
  • Compare to [other] Fiction
    • Overused Words
    • Combination Report
  • Readability
    • Readability Statistics
    • Dale Chall Readability
    • Complex Words
    • Uncommon Words in Fiction

Here’s what the AutoCrit Combination Report looks like:

autocrit-combination-report

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to download a complete report all in one file.

Grammarly

Grammarly looks useful for general editing, providing a fairly thorough online analysis and even an add-in for Microsoft Word. I fed it the first paragraph of Paul Clifford, the Victorian novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton that begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Here are the results:

grammarly

And now, I’m impressed. After I typed the paragraph above, the Grammarly add-in informed me that Bulwer Lytton should be hyphenated: Bulwer-Lytton. And that’s right, of course, so the program is much smarter than I anticipated. On the other hand, the add-in disables Word’s Undo feature (CTRL-Z), which to me is unacceptable. Grammarly gives you a partial analysis of your text at no charge, but for “advanced issues” it requires a monthly subscription of $29.95. You can get a full refund within the first seven days of use.

I also fed it my short story “Nippers,” which purposely uses bad grammar in its first-person narration. You can see the results at The Editorium.

Hemingway

Hemingway’s website claims that “Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It’s like a spellchecker, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” Again, I fed it the first paragraph of Paul Clifford. Here is the result:

hemingway

 

 

When I first visited the Hemingway website, I had a hard time understanding how to use it. Fortunately, the “Help” page explains what to do: “Begin your document by clicking the ‘Write’ button. This will fade out the editing tools, transferring Hemingway into distraction-free writing mode. Here, you can work out your first draft free from our highlighting. Once you’re finished, click ‘Edit’ to transition back to editing mode. Now you can make changes with real-time Hemingway feedback. Tighten up your prose, clear the highlights, and then share your work with the masses.” The online version is free to use. The desktop app (both Mac and Windows) is $19.99. After using the app, you can save your work as a regular Word document.

For the sake of comparison, Hemingway’s analysis of “Nippers” looks like this:

 nippershemingwayreport

You’ll notice that Hemingway has color-coded the text:

  • Cyan = adverbs. I have 32, and Hemingway is recommending 17 or fewer.
  • Green = passive voice. I have just 5 uses, well below the recommended 37 or fewer.
  • Magenta = phrases that have simpler alternatives.
  • Yellow = sentences that are hard to read.
  • Red = sentences that are very hard to read.

The idea is to keep editing until all of the colors are gone. In actual practice, you won’t want to do that, unless you enjoy lots of short, choppy sentences.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to download Hemingway’s results as a separate file, as Hemingway is designed as an online writing tool. However, the Hemingway desktop app does make this possible.

You can learn more about Hemingway here.

I think out of AutoCrit, Grammarly, and Hemingway, the one program I might consistently use is Hemingway, just because it’s simple yet offers some useful observations, although I would feel free to ignore them.

Also-Rans

I also tried Orwell and Ginger, but neither seemed to work well for me. Orwell seemed clunky and buggy, while Ginger seemed rather basic, although its ability to rephrase an awkward sentence is impressive. If you’ve seen other editing programs I’ve overlooked, please let me know.

Here is another roundup by the NY Book Editors, which includes additional editing tools. It seems everyone is trying to get in on the act.

The Future

The programs I’ve featured here are useful in their own way, but they still require the educated eye of a human editor to decide which of their suggested changes make sense—something that I don’t think will change anytime soon.

What do you think? Will computers ever be capable of editing on their own? If so, how could we turn that to our advantage as editors? And how can we take advantage of the tools that are already available? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

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.

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