An American Editor

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 samples.

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 them to review them 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 than 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, what are the correct spellings, and 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 so that the client needs 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, that 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 setup 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, changing soft returns to hard returns or spaces, and the like. 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 is 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, 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 there are fewer styles I need to deal with.

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

The types of items fixed are 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 the types of 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 (see the future essay in this series, 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 6, 2017

The Cusp of a New Book World: The Sixth Day of Creation

(The first part of this essay appears in “The Cusp of a New Book World: The First Day of Creation;” the second part appears in “The Cusp of a New Book World: The Fourth Day of Creation.” This is the final part.)

Donald Trump is late to the game. Reshoring of industry has been happening, albeit quietly, for the past several years. Also late to the game are publishers, but increasingly reshoring is happening in the publishing industry. The problem is that publishing-industry reshoring is not bringing with it either a rise in editorial fees or relief from the packaging industry. If anything, it is making a bad situation worse. It is bringing the low-fee mentality that accompanied offshoring to the home country.

Reshoring in the United States has meant that instead of dealing with packagers located, for example, in India, editors are dealing with packagers in their home countries. Yet professional editors continue to face the same problems as before: low pay, high expectations, being an unwitting scapegoat. Perhaps more importantly, the onshore packagers are not doing a better job of “editing” — the publishers are offering onshore packagers the same editing fee that they were offering the offshore packagers, and the onshore packagers having to pay onshore wages have the same or lower level of editorial quality control as the offshore packagers.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the packager system; there is something inherently wrong with the thinking of publishers as regards the value of editing, with the system of freelance editing, and with packager editorial quality control. These problems are not solvable by simply moving from offshore to onshore; other measures are needed, not least of which is discarding the assumption that high-quality copyediting is available for slave wages.

Publishing is in a simultaneous boom–bust economic cycle. Profit at Penguin Random House in 2015, for example, jumped by more than 50% from its 2014 level to $601 million. Interestingly, print revenue in the publishing industry overall is rising (+4.8%) while ebook revenue is declining (−20%). Gross revenue from print is expected to remain steady through 2020 at $46 billion per year while ebook revenue continues to decline.

The key question (for publishers) is, how do publishers increase profits when revenues remain flat in print and decline in ebooks? This is the question that the Trumpian economic view ignores when it pushes for reshoring. Trumpian economics also ignores the collateral issues that such a question raises, such as, whether it does any good to reshore work that does not pay a living wage. The fallacy of Trumpian economics is in assuming that reshoring is a panacea to all ills, that it is the goal regardless of any collateral issues left unresolved; unfortunately, that flawed view has been presaged by the publishing industry’s reshoring efforts.

My discussions with several publishers indicates that a primary motive for reshoring is the poor quality of the less-visible work (i.e., the editing) as performed offshore — even when the offshore packager has been instructed to use an onshore editor. Consider my example of “tonne” in the second part of this essay and multiply that single problem. According to one publisher I spoke with, the way management insists that a book’s budget be created exacerbates the problems. The budgeting process requires setting the editing budget as if the editor were an offshore editor living in a low-wage country and without consideration of any time or expense required to fix editorial problems as a result of underbudgeting. After setting that editorial budget, the publisher requires the packager to hire an onshore editor but at no more than the budgeted price, which means that the packager has to seek out low-cost editors who are often inexperienced or not well-qualified.

Packagers — both onshore and offshore — try to solve this “problem” by having inhouse “experts” review the editing and make “suggestions” (that are really commands and not suggestions) based on their understanding of the intricacies of the language. This effort occasionally works, but more often it fails because there are subtleties with which a nonnative editor is rarely familiar. So the problem is compounded, everyone is unhappy, and the budget line remains intact because the expense to fix the problems comes from a different budget line. Thus when it comes time to budget for the next book’s editing, the publisher sees that the limited budget worked last time and so repeats the error. An endless loop of error is entered — it becomes the merry-go-round from which there is no getting off.

Although publishers and packagers are the creators of the problem — low pay with high expectations — they have handy partners in editors. No matter how many times I and other editorial bloggers discuss the need for each editor to know what her individual required effective hourly rate (rEHR) is and to be prepared to say no to projects that do not meet that threshold, still few editors have calculated their individual rEHR and they still ask, “What is the going rate?”

In discussions, editors have lamented the offshoring of editorial work and talked about how reshoring would solve so many of the editorial problems that have arisen since the wave of consolidation and offshoring began in the 1990s. Whereas editors were able to make the financial case for using freelancers, they seem unable to make the case for a living wage from offshoring. The underlying premise of offshoring has not changed since the first Indian company made the case for it: Offshoring editorial services is less costly than onshoring because the publisher’s fee expectations are based on the wage scale in place at the packager’s location, not at the location of the person hired to do the job. In the 1990s it was true that offshoring was less costly; in 2017, it is not true — and editors need to demonstrate that it is not true. The place to begin is with knowing your own economic numbers.

Knowing your own numbers is the start but far from the finish. What is needed is an economic study. There are all sorts of data that can be used to help convince publishers of the worth of quality editing. Consider this: According to The Economist, 79% of college-educated U.S. adults read only one print book in 2016. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many editors were part of that group and how many books, on average, editors bought and read? Such a statistic by itself wouldn’t change anything but if properly packaged could be suasive.

When I first made a pitch to a publisher for a pay increase in the 1980s, I included in the pitch some information about my book reading and purchasing habits. I pointed out that on average I bought three of this particular publisher’s hardcover titles every month. I also included a list of titles that I had yet to buy and read, but which were on my wish list. I explained that my cost of living had risen x%, which meant that I had to allocate more of my budget to necessities and less to pleasures like books. And I demonstrated how the modest increase I sought would enable me to at least maintain my then current book buying and likely enable me to actually increase purchases. In other words, by paying me more the publisher was empowering me to buy more of the publisher’s product.

(For what it is worth, some publishers responded positively to such a pitch and others completely ignored it. When offshoring took hold and assignments no longer came directly from the publisher, the pitch was no longer viable. Packagers didn’t have a consumer product and insulated the publisher from such arguments.)

With reshoring, imagine the power of such a pitch if it is made on behalf of a group. Reshoring in publishing is occurring not primarily because costs can now be lower with onshoring rather than offshoring, but because of editorial quality problems. And while it would be difficult to gain the attention of a specific empowered executive at an international company like Elsevier or Penguin Random House, it is easier to establish a single message and get it out to multiple publishers.

The biggest obstacle to making reshoring be advantageous for freelance editors is the reluctance of freelance editors to abandon the solo, isolated, individual entrepreneurial call that supposedly drove the individual to become a freelance editor. That used to be the way of accountants and doctors and lawyers, among other professionals, but members of those professions are increasingly banding together. In my view, the time has come for editors to begin banding together and for editors to have full knowledge of what is required to make a successful editorial career.

This sixth day of creation can be the first day of a new dawning — or it can be just more of the same. That reshoring has come to publishing is an opportunity not to be missed. Whether editors will grab for that opportunity or let it slip by remains to be seen. But the first step remains the most difficult step: calculating your rEHR, setting that as your baseline, and rejecting work that does not at least meet your baseline.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 1, 2017

The Cusp of a New Book World: The Fourth Day of Creation

(The first part of this essay appears in “The Cusp of a New Book World: The First Day of Creation;” the final part appears in “The Cusp of a New Book World: The Sixth Day of Creation.”)

The world of publishing began its metamorphosis, in nearly all meanings of that word, with the advent of the IBM PS2 computer and its competitors and the creation of Computer Shopper magazine. (Let us settle immediately the Mac versus PC war. In those days, the Apple was building its reputation in the art departments of various institutions; it was not seen as, and Steve Jobs hadn’t really conceived of it as, an editorial workhorse. The world of words belonged to the PC and businesses had to maintain two IT departments: one for words [PC] and one for graphics [Mac]. For the earliest computer-based editors, the PC was the key tool, and that was the computer for which the word-processing programs were written. Nothing more need be said; alternate facts are not permitted.)

I always hated on-paper editing. I’d be reading along and remember that I had earlier read something different. Now I needed to find it and decide which might be correct and which should be queried. And when you spend all day reading, it becomes easy for the mind to “read” what should be there rather than what is there. (Some of this is touched on in my essays, “Bookmarking for Better Editing” and “The WYSIWYG Conundrum: The Solid Cloud.”) So who knew how many errors I let pass as the day wore on and I “saw” what should be present but wasn’t. The computer was, to my thinking, salvation.

And so it was. I “transitioned” nearly overnight from doing paper-based editing to refusing any editing work except computer-based. And just as I made the transition, so were the types of authors whose books I was editing. I worked then, as now, primarily in medical and business professional areas, and doctors and businesses had both the money and the desire to leave pen-and-paper behind and move into the computer world. Just as they used computers in their daily work, they used computers to write their books, and I was one of the (at the time) few professional editors skilled with online editing.

The computer was my salvation from paper-based editing, but it also changed my world, because with the rise of computers came the rise of globalization. How easy it was to slip a disk in the mail — and that disk could be sent as easily to San Francisco as to New York City as to London and Berlin or anywhere. And so I realized that my market was no longer U.S.-based publishers; my market was any publisher, anywhere in the world, who wanted an American editor.

But globalization for me also had a backswing. The backswing came with the consolidation of the U.S. publishing industry — long time clients being sold to international conglomerates. For example, Random House, a publisher with a few imprints, ultimately became today’s Random Penguin House, a megapublisher that owns 250 smaller publishers. Elsevier was not even in the U.S. market, yet today has absorbed many of the publishers that were, such as W.B. Saunders and C.V. Mosby. This consolidation led to a philosophical change as shareholder return, rather than family pride, became the dominant requirement.

To increase shareholder return, publishers sought to cut costs. Fewer employees, more work expected from employees, increased computerization, and the rise of the internet gave rise to offshoring and the rise of the Indian packaging industry. So, for years much of the work that freelancers receive comes from packagers, whether based in the United States, in Ireland, in India — it doesn’t matter where — who are competing to keep prices low so work flow is high. And, as we are aware, attempting to maintain some level of quality, although there has been a steady decline in recent years in editorial quality with the lowering of fees. (One major book publisher, for example, will not approve a budget for a book that includes a copyediting fee higher than $1.75 per page for a medical book, yet complains about the quality of the editing.)

The result was (and is) that offshoring turned out to be a temporary panacea. The offshore companies thought they could do better but are discovering that they are doing worse and their clients are slowly, but surely, becoming aware of this. One example: I was asked to edit a book in which the author used “tonne” as in “25 tonnes of grain.” The instruction was to use American spellings. The packager for whom I was editing the book, had my editing “reviewed” by in-house “professional” staff who were, according to the client, “experts in American English” (which made me wonder why they needed me at all). These “experts” told me that I was using incorrect spelling and that it should be “ton,” not “tonne.” I protested but felt that as they were “experts” there should be no need to explain that “tonne” means “metric ton” (~2205 pounds) and “ton” means either “short ton” (2000 pounds) or “long ton” (2240 pounds). After all, don’t experts use dictionaries? Or conversion software? (For excellent conversion software for Windows only, see Master Converter.) Professional editors do not willy-nilly make changes. The client (the packager) insisted that the change be made and so the change was made, with each change accompanied by a comment, “Change from ‘tonne’ to ‘ton’ at the instruction of [packager].”

This example is one of the types of errors that have occurred in editing with the globalization of editorial services and the concurrent rise of packagers and lesser pay for editors. It is also an example of the problem that existed in the paper-based days. Although there is no assigning of fault in the computer-based system, when an error of this type is made, the author complains to the publisher, who complains to the packager, who responds, “We hired the editor you requested we hire and this is their error.” And the result is the same as if it had been marked CE (copyeditor’s error) in flashing neon lights. The editor, being left out of the loop and never having contact with the publisher becomes the unknowing scapegoat.

And it is a prime reason why we are now entering the sixth day of creation — the reshoring of editorial services, which is the subject of the third part of this essay, “The Cusp of a New Book World: The Sixth Day of Creation.”

Richard Adin, An American Editor

January 30, 2017

The Cusp of a New Book World: The First Day of Creation

The world of business is an ever-changing world. When I began my publishing career, offshoring was not in the business vocabulary — publishers looked for local-market solutions to local-market problems. Of course, helping to maintain that local tether was that most editorial problems and solutions were paper-based — copyediting, for example, was done on a paper printout.

The general course of events went something like this:

  1. The paper manuscript was shipped by the in-house production editor to the freelance editor for copyediting;
  2. After copyediting, the copyeditor shipped the marked-up physical copy to the in-house production editor for review;
  3. After review, the in-house production editor shipped the finalized version of the marked-up manuscript to the typesetter; in some procedures, before shipping to the typesetter for setting into pages, the edited manuscript would be sent to the author for review and approval of the editorial changes. Which fork was taken depended on the publisher and on the author;
  4. The typesetter created a master copy of the final edited version and produced physical page proofs for author review;
  5. The authors received as little as the page proofs or as much as the page proofs, the original unedited manuscript, and the finalized copyedited version of the manuscript to review and make any final adjustments that were needed, especially the addressing of any queries;
  6. The author then returned the manuscript to the in-house production editor who would review the author changes, do any final accepting or rejecting, ensure that all queries had been addressed, and then send the manuscript to the typesetter for creation of a master file for printing.

Not mentioned in the foregoing are the rounds of proofreading done by freelance proofreaders, which also added to shipping costs.

Of course there was some variation in the foregoing procedure, but there were two notable things that did not change regardless of the exact procedure: (a) the process was very labor intensive and thus very expensive and (b) the process incurred a lot of shipping costs — somehow the physical manuscript had to get from person to person in each step.

For some publishers the answer was local-local; that is, if you wanted to be hired as a freelance editor, you had to be able to come to the publisher’s office to pick up the manuscript and return it the same way. In my earliest days, for example, Lippincott’s New York City office would not hire a freelancer who wasn’t a subway ride away from its offices. The problem the publishers faced was that book sales were growing and the way to earn more money was to sell more books, which meant more books had to be published, which meant more editors were needed. The solution was hire more editors but you had to have a labor pool from which to draw, so even companies like Lippincott had to broaden their geographical boundaries.

The other labor-related problem was that even the best editors had weaknesses and even the worst in-house production editors had weaknesses. These weaknesses were minor stumbling blocks in the early years of publishing, but then authors became less “wowed” by editorial expertise and publisher demands and began asserting their ownership of their words. It is important to remember that most books in the very early years were “owned” (i.e., the copyright was in the name of) the publisher. That put publishers at the top of the power chain. There were always authors who retained copyright, but for most authors, giving the publisher the copyright was an acceptable trade for getting published. The tide began changing after World War II but accelerated in the 1970s with the instant megahit authors; ultimately, what started as a gentle wave of change became a tsunami until the moment when calm returned because it became standard for authors to retain copyright.

But during this changeover, which occurred over decades, costs began rising. Where before publishers simply absorbed the costs, now the pressure to increase profits required an allocation of costs between those who caused the costs to be incurred. Thus the assigning of “fault” became more important — the assigning of something as a PE (printer error), AA (author alteration), or CE (copyeditor error) became an important tool in deciding who would be responsible for the cost of correction once the manuscript had been put into master proofs. A certain number of errors and changes were expected but once that number was exceeded, the costs were allocated and the responsible party was expected to “pay.”

The author usually had a “debt” deducted from royalties earned; the copyeditor, if the number was large enough, “paid” by not being hired again; the printer (typesetter or compositor) paid by not being able to bill for the costs incurred to make the fixes necessitated by PEs. Yet this was where the weakness of the system stood out.

We have had discussions before about grammar, copyediting, what is or isn’t error, the “authority” of the “authoritative sources,” and the like. What I consider to grievous editorial error, you may well think is so minor that it isn’t even worth mentioning. Which of us is right? The answer is that we can both be right, we can both be wrong, or one of us can be right and the other wrong — it all depends on the standards to be applied, who is to apply them, and whether the foundation of the standards is recognized universally as strong, weak, or crumbling. This is the discussion we often have as regards the authoritativeness of books like The Chicago Manual of Style and Garner’s Modern English Usage. It is the traditional argument whether prescriptivism or descriptivism should dominate.

And that was the problem of the AA versus CE assignment of fault. More importantly, it was even more so the problem of the world that had but three possibilities: AA, CE, and PE. There was no possibility that the error was an in-house (IH) error, because just as some editors today always respond with “Chicago says…” or “Garner says…” and whatever Chicago or Garner says is inalienable, unalterable, infallible, so it was true of in-house staff. At no point was there a discussion regarding why the CE was not a CE; it was marked a CE and so it was a CE — now and forever.

There was another wrinkle to this process. Quite often the initial designation of CE, AA, or PE was made by the freelance proofreader, who often was a copyeditor who was doing this particular project as a proofreading job rather than as copyediting job. This, of course, meant that what we really had was a spitting contest between copyeditors. Once again, there was no designation for proofreader error because the proofreader couldn’t make an error. By definition, the proofreader was supposed to only correct and mark objective errors such as a clear misspelling, or the failure to have sentence-ending punctuation, or other indisputable errors. And so that was true on the first day of creation, but by the third day the role had expanded and proofreaders expanded from pure proofreading to a hybrid proofreading-copyediting role. This became by creation’s fifth day the expected standard.

And so we have come full circle — it was not unusual for a strong copyeditor to find that she was being “graded” by a weak proofreader or in-house production editor. As between the proofreader and the copyeditor, both were trying to impress the client with their skills because they both were freelance and both dependant on gaining more business from the client. The in-house editor had to assign fault because accounting demanded it. In addition, the IH was becoming swamped with work and so had to increasingly rely on the proofreader’s judgment calls.

All of this worked because everything was kept local, that is onshore as opposed to offshore, because it was a never-discussed-but-well-understood system, and, most importantly, because once the book was published, there was no customer complaint system. How many readers (or reviewers, for that matter) were concerned with the finer points of editing and the production process. Rarely was a book panned because of poor editing as opposed to poor story, dull writing, factual error — none of the things that those outside the production process would ever associate with poor editing.

This world began changing not long after I became a freelance editor with the introduction of computers, word-processing programs like XyWrite, Word, and WordPerfect, and, ultimately, globalization — the material for the second part of this essay, “The Cusp of a New Book World: The Fourth Day of Creation.” (The third part of the essay is “The Cusp of a New Book World: The Sixth Day of Creation.”)

Richard Adin, An American Editor

January 23, 2017

Bookmarking for Better Editing

In the paper beginning…

When I began my career, most editing was done on paper; online editing was just starting to peek out of its birth canal. One of the disadvantages to paper-based editing is that it requires excellent memory — especially on long projects — and on lots of colored paper. Each of my publisher clients had different requirements for marking queries.

One wanted author queries on yellow flags, editor queries on pink (or red) flags, compositor queries on gray flags, permission queries on green flags, and illustrator queries on blue flags. Other clients used the same colors but changed who they were for (e.g., editor queries on green flags). It was a great system for enabling quick, visual overview and for someone in the production chain to identify those items directed to her. But some manuscripts were buried in flags and there still was needed one more flag for reminders to me. (It was this flag system that led to the color highlighting system now used in EditTools.)

I often had to note where something was in the manuscript so that I could easily come back to it once I found an answer. For example, the each time I came across “central nervous system,” which I knew was commonly referred to by its initials (“CNS”), I needed to flag it so I could determine how many times the phrase appeared in the chapter because the client wanted it changed to “central nervous system (CNS)” at first chapter appearance and subsequent appearances changed to “CNS” — but only if the term was used more than three times in the manuscript. Paper-based editing didn’t offer an easy way to do a search for “central nervous system” or for “CNS.”

The transition to online editing made that particular task easier (although still time-consuming and still not so easily done without using EditToolks’ Enhanced Search, Count, and Replace [ESCR] macro), but didn’t really solve the bookmarking problem.

Then came electronic bookmarks…

It is true that Microsoft Word’s native Bookmark feature (Insert > Bookmark) was an improvement but it has some major limitations that make it less useful than it could be.

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks can be very useful; they let you move easily from place to place in a document and they can help you track things to ensure that some things are not missed. But the value of bookmarking is limited by the bookmark style that is permitted — which is where Word’s bookmarking is weak and unhelpful.

Using the CNS example from above, let’s take a look at Word’s Bookmark feature. There are several important limitations to bookmarking that make it less useful than it could be. As these next images show, you cannot make a bookmark easily readable.

Creating a bookmark in Word (1)

Creating a bookmark in Word (1)

 

Creating a bookmark in Word (2)

Creating a bookmark in Word (2)

There are two ways to help readability. The first is to have words separated by spaces and the second is to combine numbers with words so that you can ascertain at a glance the information you seek. In the first image above, I wanted to add a readable phrase as a bookmark (#1) but Word doesn’t like that so it doesn’t make the Add button accessible (#2). In the second image, I wanted to replace “first” with “001” (#3) because that would let me order the bookmarks as well as give a readily seen count of the instances. But, again, Word doesn’t like that option (#4).

What Word wants is a single entry (#5). When I remove the spaces in the phrase so the words run together (#5), Word tells me that is a good bookmark and gives me access to Add (#6). (Trivia note 1: Word does not let you keep the Bookmark dialog open. Each time you want to add a bookmark, go to a bookmarked place, or delete a bookmark, you need to reopen the Bookmark dialog.)

A proper Word bookmark

A proper Word bookmark

As #7 shows, Word is happy to accept as many similar mashed-together phrases as I want to use as bookmarks. But note that the bookmarks are not easy to read and imagine locating one particular bookmark in a document with a significant number of bookmarks — especially if you cannot remember the exact wording of the bookmark. (Trivia note 2: Word limits bookmarks to a maximum of 40 characters.)

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks in Word

If you try to combine numbers with letters, Word doesn’t permit it (#8) and shows its displeasure by not making the Add accessible (#9).

Mixing numbers and letters in Word bookmarks

Mixing numbers and letters in Word bookmarks

In addition, Word’s Bookmark feature offers only three options: Add, Delete, and GoTo (#10). You Delete each bookmark individually; there is no option for deleting multiple bookmarks concurrently. And the only way to rename a bookmark is to delete it and create a new one.

What this means is that bookmarking in Word is like unripe fruit — tempting but not yet ready for use.

The answer is to use EditTools’ Bookmarks and make use of bookmarking’s potential.

Letting the sunshine in…

When you open EditTools’ Bookmarks (#11), the dialog displays all of the existing bookmarks in the document (#12). In addition, you can choose to keep the dialog open (#13). I find this particularly handy as I like to be able to quickly add bookmarks, move them, and travel amongst them.

The EditTools Bookmarks interface

The EditTools Bookmarks interface

The bookmarks I created above are not very useful to me, so I can select all (or some) of them (#13) and click delete (#14) to remove all of them simultaneously.

Selecting multiple bookmarks and deleting them altogether

Selecting multiple bookmarks and deleting them altogether

That leaves me with a bookmark-free document (#15) that is just waiting for me to add bookmarks (#16). Not only can I mix numbers with letters, I can also use spaces (and even insert a symbol from Word’s Symbol dialog) so that the bookmark is intelligible. Note that Add (#17) is accessible.

Creating a bookmark in EditTools

Creating a bookmark in EditTools

The next image shows some of the power of bookmarking and the power of using EditTools’ Bookmarks macro. The “central nervous system” bookmark (#18) was readily accepted. But it is the other bookmarks that really show how useful bookmarking can be. There are two reminders of things I need to do before completing editing of the document. The first is to check a particular reference (#19) and the second is to recheck a table (#20). There are other ways of making these kinds of reminder notes, but with this method, I not only get the reminder not but the note also acts as a location bookmark. When I am ready to recheck the table, I can select that bookmark and click GoTo to go to the table.

Making bookmarks work for you

Making bookmarks work for you

Trivia note 2 earlier indicated that Word bookmarks had a 40-character limit; EditTools’ bookmarks does not, as #20 shows. Although it is rare to need more characters, there are occasions, I have found, when it is useful. With EditTools’ Bookmarks, I can use bookmarks as more than just location points — bookmarks are now extremely useful during editing.

That I can keep the dialog open (#13) makes the Bookmarks macro useful for navigating the document and tracking elements. For example, depending on whether I have to style (e.g., apply a template and style headings and text) then edit the document or just edit it, I have two methods for tracking that each table and figure is called out and exists. If I have to style, as I come to a table of figure callout in the text, I insert a bookmark (#21). Because tables and figure legends appear at the end of the documents I usually edit, when I get to them I move the bookmark from the callout to the legend or table by (a) inserting the mouse cursor where I want the bookmark placed, (b) selecting the bookmark I want moved, and (c) pressing Move Bookmark (#23). That will move the bookmark from the text callout to the legend or table. If I don’t have to style, I just insert the bookmark in the figure legend or table before I begin editing.

Doing that serves two purposes. First, it enables me to verify that (if styling) if there are seven tables at the end of the document, there are matching in-text callouts. Second, it provides an easy way for me to edit the legend or the table when I come to the callout in the text; this lets me check that the figure or table is called out in an appropriate place.

One more thing that EditTools’ Bookmarks lets me do is easily rename a bookmark to something meaningful. I select the bookmark I want to rename (#24) and click Rename (#25).

Renaming a bookmark (1)

Renaming a bookmark (1)

The rename dialog opens with the default choice highlighted. In this case it is just an indicator that I have edited Table 1 (#26).

Renaming a bookmark (2)

Renaming a bookmark (2)

But I could rename it to indicate something else, for example (#27):

renaming a bookmark (3)

Renaming a bookmark (3)

Note that I was also able to insert a symbol (arrow) so that I could force the bookmark to appear at the top of the list (#28).

Renaming a bookmark (4)

Renaming a bookmark (4)

Again, because the Bookmark dialog can be made to remain open, this note to myself is always visible and I can get to the correct location quickly.

And with references…

The Bookmarks also help me manage references. Most of the references I work with are in numbered lists at chapter end — and there are often a lot of them (usually somewhere between 300 and 750). Invariably, the authors list a reference more than once in the reference list. I discover it after I have edited the references (which I do before I edit the main text) and run the Duplicate References macro (coming with EditTools version 8, scheduled for release in the next few weeks).

What I do is insert bookmarks similar to those shown here (#29):

Bookmarks for duplicate references

Bookmarks for duplicate references

The bookmarks not only tell which are duplicate pairs (e.g., reference 12 is a duplicate of 122), but it provides an easy way to renumber and locate them. In addition, I can mark a reference for special reference in case it is likely to be referred to in the main text multiple times but not necessarily marked with a reference callout (see “CDC vaccination schedule” bookmark at #29).

Bookmarking’s future…

If you looked carefully at EditTools’ Bookmarks interface, you probably noticed some new features that we haven’t discussed in this essay. If you didn’t notice them, here is a hint (#30, #31, and #32):

A sneak peek

A sneak peek

These new features, which are in the soon-to-be-released version 8, are the ability to create custom bookmarks (#30) that can be used repeatedly at the click of a button (#31) and auto bookmarks for the Duplicate References macro (#32). A discussion of them is for another time.

In conclusion…

Bookmarks can be very helpful and very powerful editing tools if you can get around Microsoft’s built-in limitations. They are also tools that can help increase your productivity and efficiency, and thus make your business more profitable. There may be other ways around Word’s Bookmark limitations, but the best tool I know is (of course!) my EditTools’ Bookmarks macro.

As an editor I want to be able to focus on the author’s words, not on mechanical things. I have always believed that the difference between the average and the great editor is the amount of time that can be devoted to dealing with the author’s words as opposed to those mechanical tasks we need to do

As mechanical-task demands have increased over the years, the gap between so-so editing and great editing has gotten wider. It is the making use of tools like EditTools to narrow that gap that has allowed great editing to continue to exist. Expanding the use and capabilities of bookmarks is just one tool in narrowing the gap.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

(P.S. I will announce here and at AAE on LinkedIn when EditTools 8 is released. As it has been for previous releases, upgrading from an earlier version of EditTools will be free to registered owners.)

January 18, 2017

The Battle of the Familiar

I was discussing with a colleague the merits of a particular approach to editing when it occurred to me that what we ultimately were discussing was whether an editor should have some expertise in the subject matter being edited. For example, if you are editing a medical tome on arthritis, how much knowledge about arthritis should you have before you edit the first word?

The question arises from the idea that in the absence of subject-matter knowledge (expertise), the editor cannot do justice to the manuscript or to the author. Broadly speaking, there may be some validity to this argument if you are responsible for the content’s accuracy, as might be the case with a developmental editor. But what about the copyeditor?

Fundamentally, the matter circles the questions “What is the role of the copyeditor?” and “What are the editor’s responsibilities?” The matter also embraces the issue of “What is the copyeditor being paid (amount) and expected to do in exchange for that pay?”

I have been editing manuscripts for 33 years. During that time, at least 95% of my work has been medical (written by doctors for doctors) or educational (written by teachers for teachers); in the past few years, 99% has been medical. Yet, I am neither a doctor (or other trained and degreed medical professional) nor a teacher (i.e., accredited/licensed)—in fact, my education is more generalist (political science and law). The reason I am sought after to edit medical tomes is that I am an excellent editor who understands his role and limitations.

I am not hired for my subject-matter expertise; I am hired because of my command of the role of an editor and because I possess the knowledge and skills required to fulfill that role. More importantly, I think, I am hired because I am not a subject-matter expert.

Not so long ago I was discussing a colleague’s newest published book with him. I had some questions because I found myself confused by some of the statements in the book. The explanations I received certainly answered my questions but I then wondered why I was asking these questions to begin with; that is, why didn’t the book answer them before I asked them? The answer was obvious to the author, because the audience for whom the book was written would already know the answers and would not ask the questions.

What my colleague really was saying is that neither he nor his editors (a) thought these were points that had to be addressed because they already knew the answers and thus assumed that every reader would also know the answers and so would not ask the questions, and (b) assumed that no one outside the small group for whom the author knowingly wrote would have any interest in the book. Unfortunately for readers, my colleague and his editors were only 95% right, and thus were wrong on both points.

This experience highlights the problem of misunderstanding expectations and expecting that editors with subject-matter expertise are better editors than those without that expertise.

The Bible is a good example. When a book refers to the Bible but doesn’t identify it further, is that a problem? To me it is, but to many colleagues it is not. If the book is about Christianity and the reference is to the Bible, many colleagues would let that slide. After all, from context the reader should be able to identify the Bible. But can the reader? How many versions of the Bible exist in Christianity? Most people would think one but in fact there are as many as 50 different English versions, let alone versions in other languages. (For a good, brief answer and a list of the Bibles, see “What are the different English Bible versions?” at gotQuestions.org.) The point is that the editor with subject-matter expertise may well not ask for the Bible to be identified because the editor and the author are on the same page—which is not necessarily the same page as the reader.

If I am hired as a developmental editor, then I may need subject-matter expertise. After all, my role as developmental editor is to focus on content and organization, which are things that require an understanding of the subject matter. But if I am hired as a copyeditor, my focus is on grammar and readability (which includes communication to the reader), but not on content and organization. As copyeditor, I need to make sure that all the information the reader needs to follow the argument, to draw the conclusion the author seeks to have drawn, is present. In the above example, that would include identifying the version of the Bible being referenced.

In the medical books I edit, a consistent “gap” seems to be in measures; that is, an author will write something like this: “In countries where it is recommended to the general population, the vaccination should be given starting at 6 months.” The question is: What is the 6-month measure? Of course, context might help. In a chapter on giving vaccinations to persons who undergo or are candidates for transplantation procedures, context might lead a reader to read the sentence as “In countries where it is recommended to the general population, the vaccination should be given to a child starting at 6 months after the transplantation procedure.” This “reading” might be correct, but it might be wrong. It is just as likely that the sentence should be read as “In countries where it is recommended to the general population, the vaccination should be given to a child starting at 6 months before the transplantation procedure” or “In countries where it is recommended to the general population, the vaccination should be given to a child starting at 6 months of age.” And not all these possibilities are mooted by the text that precedes the sentence in the manuscript.

Interestingly, although such a sentence stands out to me, when I showed it to subject-matter experts, none thought it required a query—until they were shown other reading possibilities. Each thought their interpretation was the only one that could be drawn, yet others drew different conclusions.

What this means to me is that an editor should approach a project as would a reader seeking to be educated about an unfamiliar subject; this may be easier to do if one does not have subject-matter expertise. With such an approach, the editor is more likely to query material that the author assumes all readers would immediately understand. Editors need to remember that how well we edit is defined by how well the reader with the least familiarity with the subject matter accurately understands what the author intends to convey.

Editing is the art of helping an author communicate effectively with readers whom the author does not include in the market of likely readers. Just because a manuscript is aimed at cardiologists does not mean that internists or lawyers or college professors or nurses or others will not also read the manuscript. The noncardiologists may make up a smaller portion of the market, but that does not mean they are not part of the market.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

January 16, 2017

On the Basics: Some Ideas for a Strong Start to the New Year

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

It’s a new year, so it’s time to stop for a moment and think about everything that we should or could do to start 2017 with fresh perspectives on what we do and how we do it as editorial professionals. Here are a few ideas.

  • Change your passwords.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to refresh and revise the passwords for all your accounts — email, social media, bank accounts, credit cards, website(s), memberships, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big change; even switching one letter or number will do — if you used 2016 or 16 in last year’s passwords, change the 6 to a 7. Hacking and security are such huge issues nowadays that changing passwords on occasion is the smart thing to do to protect your identity and accounts, and the new year provides the perfect opportunity to take steps to do so. Consider putting a reminder in your calendar to make another change every quarter. You might also take steps to enhance your computer’s overall security against malware and ransomware. Search AAE’s archives for suggestions.

  • Update your account contacts.

Check in with whoever you have designated to handle your accounts —especially social media and e-mail discussion lists — should you have a crisis of some sort, to make sure they’re still willing and able to handle this for you. No one wants to think about mortality, but having someone with access to those accounts who can notify communities (including clients) of illness, injury, or death is important. If you haven’t asked a relative, friend, or colleague to do this, now is the time to give someone trustworthy your account passwords so they can act on your behalf. (It’s also a good time to update your will and healthcare proxies.)

By the way, if you ask someone to handle your accounts in the event of a crisis, make sure to provide language for them to use — don’t assume they’ll know what to say. As an example, a friend’s Facebook account status recently said, “I passed away on date X. See you on the other side.” The immediate reaction of her friends and colleagues was shock and confusion, since this isn’t how someone’s death usually appears in that arena. Some thought it was a macabre joke, others thought her account had been hacked. Since the comment appeared on a holiday, it was difficult to confirm what had happened. It turned out that she had actually died and one of her relatives thought that was an appropriate way to announce it, but those two or three days of confusion were quite upsetting.

  • Change copyright dates.

Update the copyright date on your website, client newsletter(s), and related material to 2017. It may not be mandatory, but it’s good sense in protecting what you write or produce.

  • Budget for professional development.

Start now to set aside funds every month for conference attendance, memberships, training, new tools (whether books, updates for or new software and hardware, office equipment, business cards, etc.), so you have funds on hand when an opportunity arises and don’t have to scramble to cover it. (Keep the fall Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference in mind — and calendar September 15–16, 2017 — it’s a great way to meet colleagues and learn new professional “tricks.”)

  • Plan your promotions and marketing projects.

Even if you have plenty of work in hand, but especially if you don’t, use the first few weeks of the new year to set up a formal plan for promoting your business and marketing your services if you’re a freelancer, or working toward a promotion, raise, or change in assignments if you work in-house. Be prepared to meet new opportunities as they arise, rather than panicking because you haven’t thought about what you want to or where you want to go.

If promotions and marketing will require money, set something aside every month, just as you do for regular expenses or professional development.

Successful freelancers know to market their businesses constantly, because even the most reliable long-term clients can disappear in a moment. We can’t assume that any project or client will last indefinitely. We can’t even assume that high-paying clients won’t suddenly reduce their rates or the volume of work they provide to us. Companies and publications downsize, fold, are acquired, or change policies on using outside services; long-time contact people leave for new opportunities or retire. The classic Girl Scout motto “be prepared” is well worth adopting, and being prepared means doing something on a regular basis to bring in new business, or at least be visible to potential new clients in case the status quo suddenly changes.

  • Update your résumé.

Make sure your résumé reflects both your recent achievements and any new trends in design or structure. Keep it fresh and current so you can respond to requests for it immediately, so you don’t have to worry that you might have left something out or don’t appear up to date in terms of layout and content.

Even if you don’t make any changes, but especially if you do, ask a colleague to proofread it for any egregious or subtle errors that you might have overlooked, or anything worth including that you might have forgotten to add.

You don’t have to be job-searching for an up-to-date résumé to be useful. You might want it have it handy for freelance projects outside a regular job, if you’re asked to make a speech, as the basis for requesting a raise or promotion, as the starting point for an “About” page at your website, or as the foundation of a blog post about career development and progression. And, of course, for that lovely moment when a headhunter contacts you about an amazing, perfect-for-you new job that you weren’t looking for but are thrilled to be considered for. And be sure to update your LinkedIn and other bios, directory listings, and profiles.

  • Review your expenses and income.

Take some time to create a formal, written overview of your financial situation. List all regular/recurring expenses and when they occur. Ask yourself where you can cut back to build up a savings cushion or add to funding the projects mentioned above (professional development and promotions/marketing).

If you’re a freelancer, list current clients and how much income each one generates. If you work in-house, break down your salary into monthly segments. Compare the income numbers against the expense numbers to see if there’s a gap. Once you put those factors down in writing, it might be a little scary — but it’s a vital first step in getting those finances under control, reinforcing a need to generate more income, and reducing any stress you’ve been experiencing about making ends meet.

  • Improve your health.

Among the potential challenges of the new political world in the USA will be health insurance coverage, so it might be smart to start the new year with a physical exam and a commitment to eating and behaving more healthily. The fewer medical services you have to use, the better off you’ll be — both physically and financially.

  • Think about service.

A new year is also a good time to look for opportunities to support a community, cause, or organization. It can be a challenge to fit volunteering in a busy schedule, but making time to do so can be rewarding on many levels (and might even lead to new projects or jobs!). If you can’t commit to personal involvement, at least try to put some money where your social conscience is.

  • Look ahead.

Depending on your age and career status, the first month or two of the new year might be a good time to think about, and do some formal planning for, the future. Younger colleagues might want to invest some time in formal plans for how you want to progress and set some specific, achievable goals for advancing your careers. Older colleagues might want to start planning for retirement — when you’ll be ready, what you’ll want to do with your time, how much money you’ll need, where you might want to live, etc.

  • Start something new.

A new year is also a great time to try something new, whether a hobby, sport, or project. This might be the year to try blogging, either as a contributor to someone else’s or on your own. You could try getting training in a new skill that you could offer in your freelance business or as the stepping stone to a new in-house job. If you’re single and want to meet new people, consider joining a dating site or a hobby group of some sort (participating in hobby groups, a church, or a social service project could lead to editorial work!). If you’re chronically disorganized, look into hiring someone to help you try to get things sorted out — whether files or your home — so you can feel more in control and less frustrated.

Doing something new can change your perspective, cheer you up, help you meet new people, make you feel better, get you unstuck. It’s worth a try!

  • Become active in online discussions.

We often forget how important it is to let people know we exist and that we really are highly skilled. Finding ways to get that word out means we can help others achieve their literary goals. One of the best ways to get referrals is to participate in online groups — actually participate, not just lurk. Make this the year to be more than what I call a “checkbook member” of a group or organization: one who joins but never contributes anything. Post to online discussions, offer to speak, write for an organizational newsletter or blog, etc. An American Editor has its own LinkedIn group — a great place to start making your voice heard!

  • Invest in tools for your business.

Investing in your business is a good way to make your career more rewarding. Who doesn’t feel better when cash flow improves? Investing in tools to make us more productive and efficient is but another method of improving that flow. Look into the resources of the Editorium and EditTools, for starters, as well as the offerings of various professional associations.

However you use these first few weeks of 2017, here’s wishing all of our readers good health, fulfilling work, high incomes, and happy home lives. Feel free to share your plans for making the most of the new year!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, which hosts an annual conference for colleagues, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

December 14, 2016

On Ethics: Do Ethics Matter Anymore?

I have discussed ethics on An American Editor in a number of essays (see, e.g., “On Ethics: To Out or Not to Out Clients” [Part I and Part II]; “A Question of Ethics: The Delayed Project Further Delayed”; “A Question of Ethics: If the Editing Is Running Behind Schedule…”; “The Ethics of Distaste”; “The Ethics of Editing: Padding the Bill”; “The Ethics of Editing: The Sour Job”; “Trolleyology and the Ethics of Editing”; and “Ethics in a World of Cheap”), but I am now wondering whether ethics matter.

Editors do not live in isolation, cut off from the world around us — or we shouldn’t. We need to be engaged with our surrounding world because it is our worldly experiences, along with our education and interests, that shape our editing. It would be difficult to provide a quality edit for a book on genocide if we did not know what genocide was and how it has appeared in history. We do not need to be experts in the subject matter, but we need to have some, at least rudimentary, knowledge about the subject matter. Thus we are engaged with our world.

In addition, we are engaged because we are citizens of our world and country. We cannot shut our eyes and pretend that what is happening next door, across the street, around the corner doesn’t have an impact on our own lives. And that is what makes me wonder if I have been wrong all along when I thought that ethics matter, that following an ethical path is important, that ethics is part and parcel of being a professional editor.

What I see around me is a vast change. A pebble was dropped in the ocean and the ripples it created are becoming a tsunami as the wave approaches the other side of the ocean. We have always had unethical members of the editing profession; every profession, every trade, every job type has workers who are ethical and workers who are unethical — except, we hope, for one very specific exception: president of the United States.

It is not that our presidents haven’t been ethically challenged on occasion; they are human and have human failings. It is the striving to be ethical that matters most and I cannot recall or think of a president who I would declare as wholly unethical — until now. Which is why I am concerned.

My reward for being an ethical business person, an ethical editor, is that I have work, I earn a decent wage, I have a place among my colleagues (i.e., they do not shun me for being unethical). And just as I sought to be ethical in my business, I expected others to be ethical in theirs. If they were not ethical, I expected them to not be rewarded for being unethical. Consequently, when we discuss questions of ethics, we discuss them in terms of balancing the scales of right and wrong and how, when we strike that balance, the answer affects not only ourselves but others. That is and has always been the foundation of ethics.

Until the Donald Trump run for and election to the presidency.

Now my world of ethics is being turned upside down. I get work and earn a decent living, but I am not a millionaire, let alone a billionaire, and I have not been rewarded with the power to set editing’s future direction. I am just an everyday schmoe of little influence and relevance.

In contrast, a man who appears to have no ethical boundaries, who doesn’t separate fact from fantasy, who is divisive, who steals from others and calls it business, is rewarded with election to the presidency of the United States and monetary wealth.

Sure I go to sleep at night with a clear conscience, but, I am willing to bet, so does Donald Trump.

So I ask the question: Based on the example of Donald Trump, do ethics matter? Would editors be better served to ignore questions of ethics and do whatever it takes or they can get away with? For example, instead of checking references, should the editor just style them and not care whether the cite information is correct, even though the agreement with the client is for the editor to check references for accuracy? Think of how much time and effort could be saved — time that could be spent on other, perhaps more profitable, pursuits.

When we discuss our fee and what it includes with an author, should we justify our fee by mentioning services that we will not really perform? Had you asked me on November 1, I would have said doing so was highly unethical and no, we should not only not do so but we shouldn’t even think about doing so. But today I waver.

I do not waver for myself; I know what path I will follow — the same path I always have. I waver on the question of whether or not ethics matter today. Does anyone expect ethicality? If we are willing to elect someone who wholly lacks an ethical and moral compass to lead us, why should we expect more of those who work beside us or for us?

I recognize that matters of ethics are personal. Each of us will choose our own path, just as we did on November 1. None of that is likely to change. What is changing — or, perhaps, has already changed — is the community compulsion to be ethical, however ethicality is individually defined. We are ethical because of personal traits and because of peer pressure. It is like stopping for a red light. We stop because of peer pressure and our desire to conform to community standards. (Yes, I recognize that there are laws, but laws are simply written expressions of community standards. They are written so that all community members can know them. But no law is enforceable in the absence of our personal beliefs, peer pressure, and community acceptance of the law.)

We are entering what is being called the “posttruth age,” a time when truth is whatever someone declares it to be. I think it might be better labeled the Trumpian Fantasy Age. It is an age when ethics are mutable, when ethics flow in all directions simultaneously, when ethics and honesty take a back seat to enrichment and fantasy. While the effect may be minimal on the current generation of editors, what will the effect be on future generations? Will anyone ask, will anyone care, whether a particular action is ethical? Does the future of editing lie in an ungoverned, undisciplined editing profession?

Has the political world of 2016 so upended the community’s moral compass that anarchy looks as if it is disciplined? Do ethics matter anymore?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 12, 2016

The Professional Editor & the Sacrificing of Contemplation Time

As I have noted many times on An American Editor, editing has changed greatly since I began my career nearly 33 years ago. Many of the changes are small and relatively inconsequential; others amount to sea changes. All have added to the burden of the job.

The most problematic changes for me are the triad of increased tasks to be performed in less time but for the same or less pay. This triad denotes a change in emphasis. Thirty-three years ago, budgets weren’t unlimited but priorities were different. The goal then was a better book (manuscript) even if the schedule had to be stretched, the budget increased, or some of the less-important tasks skipped. Today, it is the schedule and budget that reign supreme, especially the schedule.

The sacrifice being made today is that of time to contemplate. I used to have the time to puzzle over sentence construction. Consider, for example, this sentence fragment:

…after the speaker of parliament leaked a report on the crime by Kroll…

There really isn’t a great deal wrong with the fragment, especially in the Twitter age where people are increasingly thinking in 140-character fragments, except that given time to think about what we are reading should raise questions that are at war with an editor’s goals of making the language such that all readers receive exactly the same author message and of answering foreseeable questions before they are asked.

The questions that came to my mind when I read the sentence of which the fragment is a part are these:

  1. Was the crime report written by Kroll? or
  2. Was the subject of the report a crime that had been committed by Kroll?

(The complete sentence reads: “It was not until April that much information about the bank scandal became public, after the speaker of parliament leaked a report on the crime by Kroll, a security firm.” [“Moldova’s Economy Gutted,” The Economist, August 1, 2015.])

In context, my assumption would be that the first alternative (the crime report was written by Kroll) is the correct interpretation. After all, the complete sentence identifies Kroll as a security firm. But think about that interpretation. It is premised on the idea that a security firm (or a member of the firm) cannot (or would not) commit such a crime. Legitimately, the complete sentence could be written like one of these alternatives:

It was not until April that much information about the bank scandal became public, after the speaker of parliament leaked a report on the crime committed by Kroll, a security firm.

or

It was not until April that much information about the bank scandal became public, after the speaker of parliament leaked a report on the crime written by Kroll, a security firm.

Note the words in bold in each revision: committed and written. The addition of just the one word to the sentence enhances and clarifies the meaning. And because either word fits neatly within the confines of the sentence — with no other change to the sentence, just the insertion of the single word — it is clear that the sentence as originally written (i.e., with the omission of either committed or written) could mean either that the report was written by Kroll or the crime was committed by Kroll. All that context does is give some weight to the credibility of an unstated premise that many readers will unconsciously draw.

Thus, the importance of time to contemplate.

I know from my experiences as an editor and as a reader that the minimizing of an editor’s time to contemplate what the editor is reading in a manuscript has become a seismic change in publishing. Increasingly one cannot rely on, for example, a nonfiction book to be accurate, only that it approximates being accurate. Too many sentences appear in books of “fact” that rely on the reader drawing the correct premise from a well of premises.

It nearly goes without saying that the problem of lack of contemplation time, as brought about by the earlier-mentioned triad, is compounded by the increase in self-editing and in the expansion of the editor pool by the inclusion and use of un-/less-/underqualified or nonprofessional editors. Self-editors would not stumble over the sentence because they innately understand what their words mean; it is no different than writing their instead of there and not catching the mistake when you reread what you have written. Similarly, underqualified and nonprofessional editors would pass over the phrasing because of the subtlety involved in recognizing that there are not only two possible opposing meanings (committing a crime is opposite writing about a crime committed by someone else), but that interpretation of the sentence as written requires selecting the correct underlying premise — which itself may be a false premise — from the well of premises.

Consider this example:

Because of this, while intrastudy interpretations of serological data from clinical trials with Vi conjugates are possible, heretofore comparisons of different conjugates cannot readily be made as two different conjugates have not been used in the same randomized study for direct comparison.

The sentence has several problems, but the one I want to focus on is the phrasing “heretofore comparisons of different conjugates cannot readily be made.” Is the sentence intended to mean that previously the comparisons could not be made but they can now be made? Or that neither in the past nor now can such comparisons be made? The problem is the combination of “heretofore” with “cannot” — it should be either “heretofore” with “could not” or “cannot” without “heretofore,” that is:

Because of this, while intrastudy interpretations of serological data from clinical trials with Vi conjugates are possible, heretofore comparisons of different conjugates could not readily be made as two different conjugates have not been used in the same randomized study for direct comparison.

in which the notion that the comparisons can now be made is implied (which means it would be better to explicitly state that comparisons can now be made), or

Because of this, while intrastudy interpretations of serological data from clinical trials with Vi conjugates are possible, comparisons of different conjugates cannot readily be made as two different conjugates have not been used in the same randomized study for direct comparison.

Sentences like the above get passed over because of the pressure of schedule combined with low compensation and the increased number of tasks that a client expects an editor to complete within the allotted time for that low compensation. Something has to give, and what has given is the time needed to contemplate sentence structure and the order of words.

Professional editors do the best they can within the parameters forced on them by clients. But perhaps we — meaning both professional editors and clients — need to step back and rethink the sacrifices that are being made in order to meet the demands. Should we continue to sacrifice clarity upon the altar of schedule? Should we continue to sacrifice the author’s message to the triad?

These are the questions that editors and clients need to address before it becomes acceptable for every manuscript to look like it has been twitterized.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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