An American Editor

April 18, 2016

What One Fool Can Do

by Daniel Sosnoski

In at item titled “Against Editors” at the website Gawker, Hamilton Nolan writes:

In the writing world, there is a hierarchy. The writers are on the bottom. Above them are editors, who tell the writers what to change. This is backwards. How many good writers has Big Edit destroyed?

Nolan’s view is not entirely exceptional. You can find similar sentiments elsewhere on the web, and you’ll sooner or later find yourself working with a writer who views their relationship with you as being purely adversarial.

The two chief routes by which writers come to detest editors are either a misunderstanding of the two parties’ respective roles, or bad experiences at the hands of editors who are unprofessional or uncaring in their approach to the craft. To that end, I advise my colleagues to be kind to authors because all of us are, arguably, representing our profession and we ought to present our work in the best possible light.

If you’re dealing with the first type of writer, one who thinks you are “the enemy,” then you might have a chance to reset their perception of the relationship and get things back on an even keel. Inexperienced writers sometimes think fighting with the editor is a normal part of the job. The second type of writer, who’s had bad experiences being edited, will be bringing that history along and you might have to address it head on.

Getting back to “Against Editors,” a key passage in Nolan’s article is as follows:

Go find a story published a few years ago in The New Yorker, perhaps America’s most tightly edited magazine. Give that story to an editor, and tell him it’s a draft. I guarantee you that that editor will take that story — well-polished diamond that it presumably is — and suggest a host of changes. Rewrite the story to the specifications of the new editor. Then take it to another editor, and repeat the process… You would never find an editor who read the story, set down his pencil, and said, “Looks fine. This story is perfect.”

The gauntlet is thrown

It is a point of pride in my office that we have a tag for documents that says, simply, “Clean.” The meaning is “I have read this document and have no changes.” Admittedly, it isn’t used often, but it is used, and it reassures me that we aren’t fiddling with text merely for the sake of imprinting our own voice on it.

Still, Nolan’s words nagged at me. Could he be right? How could his proposition be tested? Could I make an educational lesson from it? When we reached the end of the workweek, I called an editorial meeting and gathered five editors (in addition to myself) and passed out to everyone a page of raw, unedited copy — 12 point, triple spaced — and red pens.

Here is a sample of that text:

The smaller the office the larger the scope of your influence and the more you will see the direct correlation between your mood and theirs or your attitude toward a patient and how they treat that person. In this sense, leadership and the impact yours has, is all about you. But, isn’t it always?

For the next 20 minutes, we worked in silence. The instruction was to edit freely, but to make no edits that could not be fully justified — “it just looks better to me this way” was off the table.

Three of the editors were fairly new, and three were trained and seasoned. At the end of the time allotted I called halt and most had gotten through two to three pages of the text. We went around the table and each editor read the first sentence (as shown above) and indicated what they marked up and why. For example: “The smaller your office, the larger the influence of your mood and that of your staff upon patient care.” (My edit.)

As we went along, sentence by sentence, a pattern began to emerge: The junior editors were unpredictable. Some rewrote heavily, others lightly, none making the same changes. The experienced editors tended to seize upon the same faults and make similar — but not identical — edits in some cases, and in others the suggested fix was nearly identical.

For example: “I deleted ‘But, isn’t it always?’ as being extraneous to the flow of the text. It was a rhetorical question.”

Most made the same edit. There was disagreement about placing a comma after “office,” but in general you could see that the problem of “theirs” having an undefined referent in the original required a fix. Exactly how that problem should be corrected differed from editor to editor.

In this, I would say that Nolan had a point worth making. In text that is seriously flawed (but correctable), two editors might make different changes, but — and this is key — they will tend to repair the same problem. Much as two mechanics might approach the diagnosis and repair of a vehicle in slightly different ways, the end result will be functional transportation.

About that title

A phrase that Richard Dawkins likes to use in his writing is, “What one fool can do, so can another.” His meaning is that if someone can accomplish something, so can you. The task of editing, however, seems to be special in that, while any competent editor can spot and correct typos, punctuation errors, and adjust copy to meet house style, with text of the sort presented by the problem I assigned my colleagues, I see a clear divergence.

Junior editors see clumsy text but aren’t always sure how to fix it or why. They tend to make changes that could not be readily explained to the author (even if sensible). Experienced editors seem to agree on the same problems and find similar solutions to them. While in my exercise we didn’t all make identical corrections, the act of verbalizing our thoughts was a step toward harmonizing our approach to editing.

Repeating this exercise is definitely in my game plan for staff development. Listening to one another explain our approaches and rationale is valuable in that it gets us thinking the same way about editing. If you work with one or more other editors, I highly recommend trying this for yourself and gauging the results.

In the event you are presented with clean copy, by all means mark it “clean” and know that you did your job properly. Some might argue that not making any changes to a text could potentially raise problems regarding what is being paid for, but that’s a subject for another column.

Daniel Sosnoski is the author of Introduction to Japanese Culture and editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics magazine. He has been the staff editor for numerous medical associations and is the founding editor of the PubMed-indexed Journal of Clinical Lipidology. He currently belongs to the American Copy Editors Society.

April 13, 2016

The Business of Editing: How Many Pages an Hour Do You Edit?

This question was asked, probably for the umpteenth time, on another editorial forum. I wondered then, as I wonder now, what the value is of a response like “4 to 6 pages an hour” or “10 pages an hour” — or any number.

I find surfing editorial forums interesting in so far as doing so reveals how colleagues think. Both questions and answers are revealing. Editorial colleagues want to be helpful to one another. Consequently, no matter the question, someone, if not many someones, will respond. I think that sense of community is heartening and helps make editing a great profession to be in. That surface impression of community helpfulness, however, begins to slip as the answers pile up.

A Great Question But of Little Value

“How many pages an hour do you edit?” is a great question that elicits a world of responses, the majority (possibly all) of which are valueless. While seeming to be a good way to measure one’s own efficiency and productivity, it isn’t. If my own speed is slower than the reported average and I consequently think I need to speed things up, I’ve simply elevated the responses to a status they do not deserve. If my speed is faster, must I be more efficient and productive? And if my speed is slower, must I be less efficient and productive? In reality, no.

Editing speed in itself is not indicative of anything, largely because the number leaves out myriad bits of necessary qualifying information. If I tell you that I edit, on average, 12 pages an hour, what have you learned about my editing? Nothing. Among other things you haven’t learned are what types of projects I handled; what the parameters were for those projects; what tools I use to speed up (or slow down) my editing; or, most importantly, how good an editor I am. I may be the greatest of all editors but only edit 4 pages an hour, or I could be the worst of all editors and edit 25 pages an hour. Conversely, I may be the worst of all editors but only edit 4 pages an hour, or I could be the best of all editors and edit 25 pages an hour.

The number of pages I edit each editing hour is a statistic with no meaning or value, even though colleagues and clients are intrigued by it. After all, if you can edit 20 pages an hour and I only edit 5 pages an hour, isn’t the client going to be better served economically by you than by me?

Type of Editing Matters

It matters whether my speed is reflective of my copyediting or of my developmental-editing speed. It also matters how I define the type of editing. For example, does copyediting include more than one editing pass over the manuscript? Does it include coding or styling of the manuscript? Do I include fact checking? What about references — are they APA or AMA style or some other convoluted style that requires a significant amount of work? And do I include formatting and verification of those references? The bottom line is that there are a number of variables in what we include and exclude as part of our definition. In the absence of having a uniform definition for editing type, the number of pages an hour that I can edit has no relevance in a discussion about how many pages an hour you should be editing.

What Makes a Page?

Another vital element that needs to be known is: What makes a page? Is it number of words, characters without spaces, characters with spaces, formatted pages, something else? And once the measure is chosen, how much of the measure makes a page? For example, is it 250 words, 300 words, or 350 words that make a page? Suppose there are a large number of words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Do words like that count as one word? Two words? Three words? If you count characters, how many characters make a page?

Type of Manuscript Matters

It matters greatly whether my statement that I edit 12 pages an hour refers to editing advanced physics textbooks or cookbooks or illustrated children’s books or western novels. It matters whether the book is laden with photographs or with statistical tables. Without knowing what I am editing, how can you determine whether my speed is fast, slow, or middling?

Client Instructions Matter

Also relevant to determining the value of an editing speed are client instructions. It matters greatly whether I am instructed to simply run spellcheck and look for misspelled words or if I am asked to do a comprehensive edit that includes verifying Latin names for organisms against a particular database or to convert the form of measure the author uses to a more universally used measure. It matters whether there are 50 references or 1,000 references in a chapter and whether my instructions are to check each for accuracy and then format them, or accept them as accurate but format them, or just look for missing information and provide it but not format the references. (If you think a chapter cannot have 1,000 references, let me assure you that I often edit chapters with that number of references and more; I have edited chapters with nearly 2,000 references. Of course, such chapters tend to be “book length” in and of themselves.)

How Well Written Is the Manuscript?

Experienced editors know the importance of this bit of information. A poorly written manuscript slows editing to a crawl, whereas a well-written manuscript often means faster editing. Yet using terms like light, medium, and heavy to describe the difficulty of editing is not helpful because there are no universal definitions of these terms. In addition, there are gradations within each category — one editor’s medium-level edit may be another editor’s heavy edit.

Did You Consider This?

Okay, you tell me you know the answers to all of the previous questions and therefore are in a position to assign value to my being able to edit 12 pages an hour. But did you consider this? Do you know how many errors I create or miss as I edit that at the 12-page speed? This is important information. If I introduce an average of three errors per page or miss three errors per page, perhaps I need to slow my speed down because I am making/missing too many errors. Perhaps editing at 12 pages an hour is inappropriate for the material. On the other hand, if I am not introducing any errors and I am missing, on average, one error for every 5 pages, perhaps I am editing an appropriate speed or maybe can even edit a little bit faster.

Of course, there is the problem of what an error is.

The Universe of Editors

Another problem with the numbers generated by the main question is the representativeness of the responders. Getting 20 responses out of a universe of many thousands of editors is not very representative. The 20 responders may be the 20 best editors or the 20 worst editors or the 20 most middling editors. Or they may be a mix. But unless the responders are a match for you, their numbers are of no value. And even if they are a match for you, their number is too small to be statistically meaningful or indicative of average speed of editors irrespective of any other criterion.

The Bottom Line

Some questions we ask our colleagues will provide valuable information, but asking how many pages a colleague edits is not one of them. In the absence of universally agreed-upon terms and definitions to describe what we do, comparing my editing speed with your editing speed simply produces two unhelpful numbers.

When asked why they think this information is useful, editors often reply that if the majority of responders give a number that is faster than their number, then it is an indication that they are going too slow and need to take a look at how they can improve their number. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it is false reasoning. Because others are faster (or slower) than you is not an indication that there is anything wrong with your speed. There are too many variables.

Whatever my speed is, it is my speed and it is the speed at which I can produce a high-quality edit for a particular project. I keep detailed records and I know that over my 32 years of editing, I was able to edit some projects at what I think of as grand prix speeds and others at slower-than-turtle speeds. Speed was governed by the particular project, by my editing peculiarities, and by how much I could automate certain functions. This number was/is unique to me and meaningless to colleagues.

The One Thing Never to Do!

The one thing that no editor should ever do is estimate a project based on editing speeds claimed by colleagues. Estimates should always be based on your editing speed, your editing day, and your editing workweek. What a colleague does is at best anecdotal, not anything to use as a foundation for your work and business.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

April 11, 2016

Thinking Fiction: The Subjectivity of Editing Fiction II

by Carolyn Haley

Part I of this two-part essay described the experiment I conducted to learn more about the weight and importance of subjectivity in editing fiction, and to satisfy my personal curiosity about how different editors might handle the same material. Part I covered the experiment parameters, general results, and types of technical errors that occurred in the work of seven volunteer professional editors.

Part II continues the description of results, shifting to areas where errors are harder to define and recognize, and where individual backgrounds come more strongly into play.

Debatable errors

All the volunteers addressed the debatable items I inserted into the test samples, though no two editors addressed the same number and combination of them. This is where I expected the greatest variation between editors, and I was not disappointed.

Example debatable items were hyphenated or solid prefixes and suffixes; hyphenation of compound adjectives; one-word or two-word spellings that could vary according to dictionary; use or not of the serial comma; treatment of ellipses and dashes; treatment of dialogue tags and thoughts; words or numerals for numbers; location of paragraph breaks; casualness versus formalness of characters’ speech; spelling of common expressions (all right vs. alright, OK vs. okay); and the like.

These represent what I expect to see itemized on a style sheet. I deliberately did not request style sheets from the volunteers, because I wanted to see whether providing one with a copyediting job is a default practice, and what form the style sheet took if provided. Note that some editors, as a matter of policy, do not provide style sheets for tests but will provide them for live book-length projects. As this exercise resembled a short test, and I did not request a style sheet, I expected that not everyone would include one.

And not everyone did—just three of seven editors. Two of the submitted style sheets were organized and detailed, reflecting the editors’ long experience with traditional publishers. These greatly helped my review of those editors’ samples. The select debatable items they put on their term lists affirmed that they had spotted the variants and made decisions about them. I also knew what reference resources they were drawing from so had context to understand their choices. The thorough and professional presentation of the style sheets positively influenced my opinion of the editors’ knowledge and capability. While the editors who did not provide a style sheet might have done as good a job on the sample exercises as those editors who did provide one, I had to guess what they noticed or not, based on what I saw changed and unchanged. (Sometimes an editor removed the guessing game by deleting or rewriting a debatable item.)

Including a style sheet in an actual test for a publisher might give an editor a competitive advantage, based on the positive impression it gave in my experiment. And including a style sheet for an author is always a good idea. A style sheet shows that the editor really did examine the manuscript closely and think about fine points. It also gives organized information to the author during later revisions or expansion in a series, making the next round cleaner. At the same time it gives context and detail for any subsequent editors, as well as for the proofreader at the end of the line.

For more information about creating and using style sheets, see Amy Schneider’s four-part series starting with “Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets Part I: General Style.

Fact checking and formatting

Whether fact checking should be included in copyediting is a scope-of-work item determined between editor and client. Commonly, copyeditors who work for publishers aren’t asked to do fact checking or don’t provide that service, whereas copyeditors who work for indie authors might include it. I did not instruct the volunteer editors on fact checking because I wanted to see if there was any pattern in who did and who didn’t provide the service. I tested it by inserting errors that could be found by simple online lookups, such as whether a mountain range’s formal name included “Hills” or “Mountains,” and the wrong manufacturing date for a vintage car. Four of the seven editors found one or more of these, although none reacted to them all, and I saw no correlation with anyone’s particular background.

At the same time, three editors queried subtle verisimilitude issues that would have embarrassed the author had the details gone through to publication. I had been aware of two of those bloopers but blind to the others; so, as the author in question, I would have been deeply grateful to those sharp editorial eyes (and as the test creator, I was duly embarrassed).

Formatting a manuscript is also considered a scope-of-work variable in copyediting. Here again I did not instruct the volunteers, wanting to see what they did on their own. The majority left the text as they found it, in terms of font, type size, and line spacing. I put one sample in 1.5 spacing instead of industry-standard double spacing; nobody changed it. I set the other one in Courier font; two editors changed it to Times New Roman, and one who let it stand apparently had trouble telling the difference between straight and “curly” apostrophes and quotation marks in that font, for that editor had the highest miss rate in those details.

I also inserted manual tab indents for paragraphs in one of the samples. Only one editor replaced them with automatic indent, as is required for production. A different editor inserted a note advising that they had spotted the tabs and other deviations from industry standard but left them in place, while another editor went for no-indent first paragraphs then auto-indented the rest without remark. Most of these changes were manually applied; only two editors used Word’s style feature on whole text.

Comments and queries

Everybody was polite, professional, and helpful in their comments. Some were so gentle and politically correct in their phrasing that, in my eyes, it undermined their authority. Somewhere there’s a happy medium between bullying and babying, and although everyone in the experiment found that middle ground, some conveyed their expertise and confidence better than others. If I were an author shopping for an editor based on these samples, it would have been easy to determine who best suited my preferences and needs.

At first the number of comments and queries for so little text seemed disproportionately high. Then I realized that some of the editors’ remarks covered subjects I ordinarily put on a style sheet. For instance, I list my grammar/style/spelling resources and operating premises together at the top of my style sheet, whereas some of the editors who did not include a style sheet used comments to explain, for example, that a change was supported by a particular style guide or dictionary.

I’m guessing that the editors made more queries than might be normal because the test was done in a vacuum. In a real job they would have more information than I provided about the story premise, client, and other parameters of the project. For example, the full novel one of the samples came from was loaded with telepathic communication between psychics, which I set in italics. To distinguish telepathy from private thoughts, I kept thoughts in roman type. But I did not give this information to the volunteer editors. One of them, when encountering the direct thought in roman text, selected it and applied italics:

“…but I can still make the autocross on Sunday.” Two hours in the other direction, I didn’t add.

This distraction led the copyeditor to miss the inverted close-quote mark immediately preceding the sentence. If editor had known that thoughts did not have to be italicized, then the editor would not have paused to change or query the sentence and likely would have noticed the punctuation error.

That example was not the only evidence of editors being distracted by adjacent problems. It appeared during highlighting text for comments, too. One editor was so focused on typing up a remark about writing style that they didn’t see this error lying inside the selected text: No more hazy envelop of pulsing bruises; instead, a bright, boundless world begging to be explored. I saw several oversights of that sort among the editors who commented heavily. The lighter-touch editors caught more mechanical errors, presumably because their eyes and minds weren’t bouncing back and forth as much between places on the screen.

Conclusion

What does the experiment teach us? Not much more than we already know. And with a sampling of only seven editors, along with the number of variables being evaluated at one time and my personal bias, we can’t call this a scientific test.

The experiment revealed little insight into the question, “How good is good enough?” Some aspects of that question will be discussed in a future essay covering editorial subjectivity from the author’s point of view.

From my editor’s point of view, the experiment affirmed my expectations. I now feel confident stating that every copyeditor has a different approach and editing style; that most copyeditors will address most elements in a manuscript while never quite attaining perfection; that their understanding of the distinctions between editing tasks varies; and that in the absence of explicit instructions, copyeditors will likely return results different from what the hiring party might expect.

The experiment also supported two beliefs I’ve long adhered to: (a) that a successful editorial job comes from a compatible fit and good communication between editor and client, and (b) that journalist William H. Whyte had it right when he said, “The great enemy of communication…is the illusion of it.”

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.

March 28, 2016

Thinking Fiction: The Subjectivity of Editing Fiction I

by Carolyn Haley

Earlier generations of fiction editors were mentored by old pros at august publishing houses, learning the art and craft of storytelling and producing books to high standards. Things have changed; although there are still old pros cultivating younger editors at important, high-quality houses, their numbers have declined. The editing profession now contains many independent and small-press editors who have entered the field from diverse paths; who have different training; who may have incomplete knowledge of writing, editing, and publishing practices; and who, in some cases, are too naïve or unethical to be handling other people’s work.

Because of this shift, the subjectivity that characterizes editing novels has become more complex — at least for me, who was not educated and seasoned in the traditional book publishing business. Thankfully, my arrival in the industry coincided with the Internet, so I can tap into the collective editorial mind. But that has revealed so many different approaches that I often bog down in pondering choices, reversing decisions, consulting other people, revisiting style guides, and talking more thoroughly with clients in order to make the right judgment call about myriad details. This process might make me a better editor, but it also makes me a slower and more tentative editor. The question that never seems to go away is, “How good is good enough?”

The question may be unanswerable because of subjectivity. What seems to matter, ultimately, is the fit between editor and client and between a novel and its audience.

Objectifying subjectivity

I remain curious and concerned about the weight and importance of subjectivity, and have long wanted to see how different editors would work the same material. So I devised an informal experiment. Emulating a publisher who needs to test editorial candidates’ skills, I created an exercise loaded with traps. Then I called for volunteers among my editorial colleagues. Seven responded, and I sent them the opening pages from two manuscripts (each sample approximately 1,680 words), with the instruction to copyedit either or both samples according to their own understanding of what “copyediting” means. This provided ten samples total.

The sample text came from early drafts of my own novels, now published, and for which I own the rights. I chose this material to avoid any potential problems that could arise from using disguised client text in a public forum. My goal was to see similarities and differences in individual copyeditors’ techniques and accuracy, such as how many and what types of errors were caught, and how comments and queries were handled. I hoped, too, for some single characteristic to emerge that would lead to a profound discovery or conclusion.

The volunteers’ professional editing experience ranged from five to 25 years, representing a mix of fiction and nonfiction; copyediting, line editing, and developmental editing; and working for publishers and independent authors. Although some of the volunteers specialize in copyediting fiction, others aspire to that or prefer a balance of fiction and nonfiction work.

The traps I planted in the exercises were split between technical errors (spelling, grammar, punctuation, factual accuracy, and consistency) and debatable errors (usage, punctuation, and style). By “debatable” I mean items that are open to interpretation or could result from the editors’ adherence to different dictionaries and style guides.

My instructions to the volunteers intentionally did not mention style guides, style sheets, fact checking, and software tools, because I wanted to see what turned up unprompted.

Summary of results

In three areas the editors performed identically:

  1. Everyone used Microsoft Word and its Track Changes feature. All edits were visible, save for global formatting or corrections. And each editor found reasons to use Track Changes’ Comments feature, whether as margin balloons or inline insertions.
  2. Everyone caught almost all (95+ percent) of the technical errors I inserted into the text.
  3. Everyone responded to some percentage of the debatable items.

No one caught every technical error I inserted, although five of seven found errors I hadn’t noticed when I made the tests.

The strongest overall performance came from the most specialized copyeditor who has been working in fiction the longest and for publishers only. The weakest overall performance came from an editor with more than a decade of mixed fiction/nonfiction experience for publishers and indie authors.

Interestingly, an editor with a high miss rate on one sample performed fine on the other sample. This points to state of mind, timing of work session, nature of material, and attention span as variables in the subjectivity equation.

In either test sample, there was no one section where every editor changed or commented on the same thing. Instead, individual styles and sensibilities expressed themselves in small amounts throughout the text. Some editors made minor changes without query or comment, whereas others made similar changes but included explanations and suggested alternative phrasings. Some made so many changes or suggestions it was hard to believe they were copyediting. Indeed, their copyediting resembled what I call line, substantive, or developmental editing. The majority touched the text more than I ever do for a copyediting job.

Technical Errors

The most common type of technical error involved punctuation and spaces. Some of those errors pertained to typography; for example, the editor didn’t spot straight apostrophes (′) and quotation marks (″) that should have been “curly” (i.e., typographer’s style), or attempted to fix them all and missed a few.

It’s possible that the straight/curly subject might not fall into the copyediting scope of work for editors hired by publishing houses. Often, manuscripts from publishers come to the editor mechanically groomed and styled, reducing the number of gremlins the copyeditor needs to address. Or else the copyeditor is informed that quotations marks, dashes, ellipses, and the like will be taken care of by a compositor. That usually isn’t the case for editors working with indie authors, so scope of work when working with indie authors may include more elements of mechanical editing.

The volunteers in my experiment mostly went one way or the other with the curly/straight detail — changed them all, or left them all. I considered either approach allowable. There were two editors, however, who changed straights to curlies but appeared to have done it manually instead of electronically, so some instances remained unchanged. I considered those errors. I also considered it an error to use a single open quotation mark instead of an apostrophe in truncated words. This occurred in one sample that contained the short form of until (til). Three editors revised it to til — which may or may not be correct according to what dictionary you consult — but inserted the wrong punctuation mark. The others left the word alone or replaced it with the alternate, till.

In another instance, the editor apparently was distracted from an inverted close-quote mark by attending to a style change right next to it, so that the following happened at a transition between dialogue and a character’s thought:

“…but I can still make the autocross on Sunday.” Two hours in the other direction, I didn’t add.

The original text did not contain italics. But in the process of selecting and changing the style of the character’s thought from roman to italic, the editor failed to notice the close-quote problem at the end of the previous sentence.

Similar bloopers were spread among the samples, such as an extra space before or after punctuation (e.g., “I— damn it”) and spelling inconsistencies (e.g., Atlantis vs. Atlantic). Most small, subtle oversights of this type can be caught using features available in commercial software tools designed for editors (e.g., EditTools, Editor’s ToolKit, PerfectIt) or built into Word (e.g., find/replace, wildcard find/replace, macros), so I was surprised by how many got through. When I later questioned the editors about what tools they use, I learned that six use a limited selection of tools, and one uses none at all. (One of the six added a twist I didn’t anticipate, claiming to use a few tools for live work but for the experiment thought that using them would be “cheating.”)

The second most common technical error came in the spelling of similar-sounding or similar-looking words (“confusables”): reign/rein, hoard/horde, envelop/envelope, deserts/desserts, breath/breathe. Spellcheck alone won’t catch real words of this sort, so one needs a keen eye enhanced by editorial software tools and macros to find them all in a text.

One editor made a good case for this by not catching typos in critical proper nouns—for instance, a main character’s name (Dru vs. Drew). This editor’s custom is to make only a few specific find/replace passes in Word for global mechanical details (e.g., double spaces after periods), which won’t catch names or spelling variants. For those, you need something like PerfectIt, or Paul Beverley’s ProperNounAlyse, or EditTools’ Never Spell Word, or just paying close attention to Word’s spellchecker, which will stop on “Jon” after you’ve hit Ignore All when accepting “John.”

In general, the results compiled for all seven editors showed a strong correlation between a high number of spelling, punctuation, and consistency errors and a low number of support tools used. The correlation is not absolute, however. The editor with least experience in fiction, who speaks British instead of American English, and used only one tool, performed above midpack.

Part II continues with a discussion of the experiment’s results relating to debatable errors, fact checking, formatting, style sheets, comments, and queries.

Related essays on An American Editor:

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.

March 23, 2016

Editing for a Client’s Direct Competitor

Ethics are a set of principles that govern and define “right conduct.” They are the rules or standards that govern one’s conduct. And that is where the editing profession separates from many other professions — e.g., law, medicine, accounting, even securities sales — the editing profession does not have a set of standards or rules of conduct against which we are measured and for which we are held accountable. This is a major failing of the editing profession; it is a failing that if corrected — by which I mean not only is there a standard code of conduct with authoritative interpretations, but there is also a means of enforcement — would, I think eliminate many of the “ethical” problems we encounter and make us more professional and valuable in the eyes of our clients.

In the absence of such a code, there is only peer pressure and guidance when questions arise. Instead of addressing our questions to a recognizable authority whose decisions would bind us, we resort to posting our questions in numerous online forums, and accumulate answers from a variety of people whom we do not know.

And so I add to this confusion.

The questions

A colleague asked whether it is ethical to accept editing work from a direct competitor to the colleague’s primary client. The competitor publishes the same type of publication in the same field and on the same topics as the primary client. The questions my colleague had were these:

  1. Can I accept the proffered work from the competitor?
  2. If I accept the work, do I need to tell either the competitor or the client or both that I have accepted work from the other?
  3. If I work for a packager who has several of the same clients as I have, am I obligated to reject direct offers of work from those clients?

As is true of most questions of ethics, there are more questions that arise from these scenarios that can be asked. These questions, however, provide us with a fine start.

Can I accept the proffered
work from the competitor?

I begin with the supposition that the person asking the question is a freelancer. My answer would be different if the asker were employed by one of the parties.

The very essence of being a freelancer is that I work for multiple clients, many of whom have overlapping products. My clients recognize this and do not put obstacles in my path designed to limit with whom I can contract. (Some packagers are notorious for attempting to do precisely this — limiting whom a freelancer can contract with — by requiring noncompetition contracts. For a discussion of these contracts, see “The Business of Editing: Noncompetition Agreements.”) It is part of the “grand bargain” between freelance editor and publishing client.

There is also a practicality involved. If Jones and Davis have written a book for Publisher X on the history of penguins in the American Civil War, and Smith has also written a book for Publisher X on the same topic, and you have been asked to edit both, there is no obvious reason why you shouldn’t take both projects (assuming they meet your other criteria for project acceptance). It is unlikely, in the absence of plagiarism, that the two books will be the same below the surface of general subject matter. All else being equal, there is no ethical reason why you couldn’t edit both books.

Suppose the Jones and Davis book was being published by Publisher X and the Smith book was being published by Publisher Y and you have been asked to edit both books. The only thing that has changed is that instead of a single publisher there are two competing publishers. All else being equal, there is no ethical reason why you couldn’t edit both books.

The point is that in publishing, except in the case of plagiarism, no two products are identical; they may be similar, but they are not identical. Consequently, there is no reason why you cannot accept work from multiple publishers. In the same vein, every publisher competes with every other publisher in the sense that they are all publishers. But freelancers are expected by the publishers to work with multiple publishers; in fact they want that because to do otherwise raises the question of whether you are a freelancer or an employee — just ask the IRS.

If I accept the work, do I need to tell
either the competitor or the client or both
that I have accepted work from the other?

There is no ethical obligation to disclose to other clients who your clients are. Just as your clients would not disclose to you whom they are hiring to edit their books or the amount they are actually paying a particular freelancer, you are under no obligation to notify your clients of new clients.

The easiest way to think about this “obligation” is to think in terms of whether the IRS would consider required disclosure to be a sign of an employee. The more control a publisher exercises over your business dealings with others, the less of a freelancer you are. If you are truly an independent business, you have no obligation — legal or ethical — to disclose your clients.

Besides, what would be the value of disclosure to the client of accepting work from a competitor? Remember that your client has no obligation to send you a specific amount of work or any work at all. Consequently, today’s client may be tomorrow’s past client. Disclosure serves no purpose.

Just as you have no ethical obligation to disclose the competitor to your client, you have no ethical obligation to disclose the client to the competitor. Except as a statement to demonstrate experience in the field, disclosure serves no purpose for the competitor.

If I work for a packager who has several
of the same clients as I have, am I obligated
to reject direct offers of work from those clients?

Here the answer is a little trickier. If you have signed a noncompetition agreement, then the answer is “maybe.” If you have not signed such an agreement, the answer is no.

Few copyeditors sign noncompetition agreements and when they do, the agreement is usually limited to clients of the packager that are not already clients of the freelancer. (If the clients you are not supposed to solicit work from are not specifically named in the agreement, then you should absolutely refuse to sign the agreement. Importantly, you should make sure that none of your current or past clients are included as a named client.) Some less-scrupulous packagers refuse to name specific clients that you are not to solicit work from and insist the agreement covers any of the packager’s current, former, or future clients. If you have signed such a blanket agreement, then you need to reject offers that do not come through the packager.

In the absence of such an agreement, there is no reason why you should reject such proffered work. Nor is there a reason why you should only accept work that comes through the packager. Remember that you are an independent business. That you have overlapping clients is just part of being in business in the same field.

Deciding ethical questions

Ethics are moored in one’s view of what is honest and just, tempered by what is necessary and, in the case of the independent business, what is businesslike. Because we have no universal code of ethics and conduct, what is ethical is left up to each of us to determine. However, there is nothing wrong with asking: “What would [insert name] do under these circumstances?”

It is also okay to ask colleagues you know and trust, especially those who you believe exercise good ethics. I do not think that ethics is a matter of voting, which is often what asking a question on a public forum amounts to. Being ethical is doing right. It is as simple as that.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 16, 2016

The Business of Editing: The Standard Editing Workday & Workweek

We all know that standards are important. It is why we use dictionaries and usage guides and we argue about whether we should or should not use serial commas. All of these things are important standards of editing — after all, if we cannot agree on how to use our language, we will have a great deal of difficulty in communicating accurately our thoughts.

Editorial decisions, however, are not where standardization either begins or ends for the freelance editor. Standards are also important in the business of editing.

Making Business Decisions

Consider how you make business decisions. For example, you need a foundation from which to springboard your decision whether to accept a project and on what terms. That foundation, which should be the same across projects, is your standard, and it needs to be articulable.

In my practice, I always start from what I call the standard editing day and standard editing workweek. From this foundation flow all of my decisions regarding a project, including whether to accept it, the schedule, the fee, the number of editors required, what tasks can/will be done, and so on. To make business decisions you must know within what parameters you will work, and the standard editing day/workweek sets those parameters.

The Importance of the Standard

Why is the standard editing day/workweek so important? Because it sets the timeframe upon which all negotiations are based. As we have discussed before, clients assume that because we are freelancers, we are available to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and no matter what the demands of the project, that we will accept whatever the client perceives to be appropriate pay. I make it very clear to clients that our discussion begins with the standard editing day/workweek, which is defined as:

five hours of editing per day, five days per week (Monday through Friday), exclusive of holidays. The standard editing day/workweek does not include weekends (Saturday and Sunday) or extended hours (more than five editing hours per editing day) in the absence of additional compensation.

Clients often have unrealistic expectations. I have had clients who have correctly determined that the manuscript is a mess and needs extensive editing but still think an editing speed of 20 pages an hour is easily achievable. The client then calculates that the 1,000-page manuscript should take no more than 50 hours and thus a two-week schedule is more than sufficient. Not too many years ago, I had a client tell me that a 13,000-page medical manuscript should be editable in 10 weeks. Unreasonable expectations?

Yes, the expectations are unreasonable for a single editor who is not working 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and are probably unreasonable even for the editor who is working those hours. But how do you explain to a client that what the client expects is unreasonable? It has to begin with making the client recognize that there is a standard editing day/workweek, just as there is a standard workday and workweek for the client’s employees.

The 115% Rule

In discussions with colleagues, some have told me that they edit more than five hours per day and, if the project demands it, more than five days each week. But that misses the point. It is not that an editor cannot work more hours and days; the point is that it should be your decision to work more hours in a day and more days in the week — it should not be an uncompensated client expectation.

There is a rule of behavior in play: If you routinely give 110% for the same price you gave 100%, next week you will have to give 115% for the 100% price and 115% will become the new normal, the new expectation, the new standard against which you will be judged — until it becomes 120%.

Thus my standard editing day/workweek.

Assessing a Project

I assess every proffered project beginning with my standard editing day/workweek. (Actually, my very first step is determine the true page count and the true level of editing the manuscript will require. That information is the most fundamental information as it affects all subsequent decisions.) I know how many pages an hour I can edit; I know how many pages an hour I can be edit depending on whether the required level of editing is “light,” “medium,” or “heavy,” the subject matter, and the number of references and reference style.

Consequently, I know that a medium-level edit of a 2,800-page biology text with thousands of references cannot be done in four standard editing workweeks. To do so would require editing 28 manuscript pages per hour; I cannot edit at that speed and meet the editorial needs of the manuscript and the client.

When I tell the client that the schedule is unrealistic, I need to do so in terms the client can understand and (hopefully) will accept — the pages per hour I would be required to edit based on the standard editing day/workweek. Determining that rate depends on establishing my standard editing day/workweek and conveying the concept to the client.

The Explanation

The explanation begins with establishing the parameters the standard editing day/workweek. I always speak in terms of standard. And I always explain to a client that when I speak of a five-hour standard editing day, I mean five hours of actual editing, not a five-hour day that includes some time spent editing. My workday may be seven hours, but two hours are nonediting hours — time spent making tea, answering email, bookkeeping, etc.

After laying out why the proposed four-week schedule won’t work with a standard editing day/workweek, I provide other possibilities, such as extending the standard editing workweek to seven days without also extending the standard editing day, and extending the standard editing day from five to six hours while keeping a seven-day editing workweek, and so on. After a few examples, I provide the client with three schedules that will work: one is the schedule required using the standard editing day and standard workweek, which would be at the usual fee; the second using an extended workday and a six-day workweek, which would be at a higher fee; and the third using an extended workday and a seven-day workweek, which would be at the highest fee.

The Standard in Practice

Using a standard editing day/workweek when evaluating a project is important. It sets the foundation for bargaining about fees and schedule. I know that editors can be desperate for work. I know of editors who are willing to accept projects that require editing more pages an hour than they can read in an hour when reading a novel for pleasure. I am also aware of clients who are willing to exploit the glut of people who claim to be editors to demand impossible schedules with impossible levels of editing quality by threatening to give the work to someone else. I am also aware of the difficulty in negotiating with clients. And I am aware that some colleagues think I provide too much explanation to clients.

It seems to me that the more detailed the explanation given a client, the stronger your bargaining position. Imagine a client asking you to edit the 2,800-page manuscript in four weeks. If you say no, you lose the project. If you say you need a fee twice usual but give no supporting explanation, how likely is it you will get the job? Or the fee? If you say yes but require a 16-week schedule and give no explanation why, how likely is it you will be given the project and the 16-week schedule?

Even if after a detailed explanation I do not get the current project, I do not consider having given the detailed explanation a waste of time because the client can see that I have reasons for my positions and am willing to offer solutions. Clients are also made aware that there needs to be a balance between schedule, fee, and quality. Based on past experience, I will be asked to undertake a future project, perhaps even one where the client has already preapplied my analysis.

The standard editing day/workweek is an important part of the foundation that establishes an editor as a professional.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 2, 2016

The Business of Editing: Saying Yes, Then No

This past week has been nightmare week for me. A couple of weeks ago, a long-time client asked me to take on two large projects. After dickering back-and-forth over price and schedule, we finally came to an agreement.

As we were getting ready to begin the two projects, the client wrote saying that its client wants faster schedules, essentially cutting the schedules in half. That began the downhill slide.

The only way these projects could be edited at the level requested and in the style required by my client and their client was to add additional editors to each project and for each editor to work longer than the standard editing workday and workweek.

Not only were these projects long and the writing problematic, but the one project had 6300 references and the second had 3000 references, none of which were in the correct format. And this became battle number one because the problem with the references wasn’t that they weren’t either in or very close to a standard style, but that my client’s client was insisting that they be wholly changed. For example, in the 3000-page manuscript, if the author had submitted journal names as N Engl J Med, that had to be changed to N. Engl. J. Med. I suggested to my client that its client should be persuaded to accept the author’s basic style, which is a standard style, and make sure that all references conform to that standard style rather than trying to redo all of those references.

That was complicated by how the author called out references in the text. The author used a numbering system but not of the style required. In addition, the references were not called out in order. Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, it was 135, 17, 55, 1, which meant the references had to be reordered.

The troubles piled on.

It isn’t that each of these problems couldn’t be dealt with; they could be dealt with. The problem was that all of the problems needed to be corrected and the manuscript given a “medium” edit and everything completed in less than 4 weeks — and neither the client nor the client’s client would budge, even though this was 6 fewer weeks than agreed upon when I agreed to take on the project.

(The second project had similar, but not identical problems, and its schedule was cut from 6 weeks to 3 weeks.)

It is my policy not to accept work where the schedule and price do not relate. These projects had changed from ones where they did gel to ones where they did not gel. Consequently, I advised my client that we could not do the work under the new schedules without additional compensation and without my client doing some of the mechanical work inhouse.

I sent a proposal outlining what work needed to be shifted to my client and the new price I wanted. Negotiations ensued but in the end, neither my client nor its client were willing to pay more money. As a result, I said no to the projects.

Truthfully, I am perplexed by how clients think about freelancers. None of the people I deal with would donate their time to their companies, yet they expect freelancers to do so. How do they come to the conclusion that we will?

I guess the answer is that many freelancers are willing to do whatever is demanded in order to have some work. The result is that expectation becomes the expectation about all freelancers. This argument has gone on for decades, albeit usually in the guise of hourly or per-page rates, that when a freelancer accepts a low rate, the freelancer makes it difficult for other freelancers to earn a higher rate.

So far this year I have turned down eight projects because there was no balance between the fee and the requirements, including schedule. What bothers me is that I know that the projects I have turned down are being gobbled up by someone else, which makes me wonder how other freelancers earn enough to survive.

Over my 32 years as a freelancer, I have learned that it is not wise to undercut myself by accepting work that makes excessive demands and refuses to compensate appropriately. I realize that once I do accept such work, it is difficult to say no to that client on future projects.

In my early years, before I became wise, I once agreed to give a client a break. I thought I would demonstrate I was a “team player” and concerned about not only my own well-being but my client’s well-being. Foolish me. What I learned is that corporations have no soul, just bean counters. The one who made out was my inhouse contact. My client demanded the same break on the next project and told me that it was clear I could accept those terms because I already had.

That was a valuable lesson for me. I learned that if I didn’t watch out for myself, no one else would watch out for me. I also learned that how I deal with a client sets that client’s expectations for dealing with me. If I want my services to be viewed as valuable, then I must treat them as valuable. If I cheapen the value of my services, my clients will do the same.

When it comes to my clients, I need to be their leader and not be led by them. I know that some of my colleagues think I go into too much detail when I explain to a client why I require certain things or cost more than other editors. But I view that detail as education — education for the client who may not understand why a particular project needs to cost more than the usual fee; education for the client about why my services are valuable, perhaps much more valuable than that of my competition, to the client and to me; and education of the client as to how projects should be evaluated before offering the project to me or to any freelancer.

The bottom line is that we should not be afraid to say no to a project whose parameters have changed — we should not be afraid to say yes, then no.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

February 22, 2016

On the Basics: The Issue of Availability

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

One of the issues that all freelancers often have to deal with is availability to clients, both prospective and current. Not that we aren’t available as needed, for the most part, but that clients may have unrealistic expectations about our availability, and we may struggle with how to maintain both reasonable work hours and good client relations.

A recent Facebook group comment mentioned a client who was upset because an editor did not respond to 12 e-mail messages a day — during a holiday week. I’ve seen similar, although not quite as drastic, anecdotes from other colleagues, and I’ve had a couple of demanding clients, too — people who would call late in the evening or during the weekend even after being asked not to do so, or would get upset if their e-mail messages weren’t returned moments after being sent.

When you work in-house, you have to keep the hours that the business requires of you. Some of us have or have had unreasonably demanding bosses or work environments, and have seen the assumed flexibility of freelancing as an escape from such situations.

I’ve been there myself. As a community organizer for a local nonprofit, I had to go to evening meetings and weekend events fairly often, although we did get compensatory time off. As a reporter for a weekly newspaper, I expected to cover events in the evenings and on the weekends and holidays, but I didn’t bargain for being stuck at the office until 2 or 3 a.m. on press nights; I put up with it because that was part of the job, and we were all in the same boat. As the communications manager for a small trade association, I was expected to show up at 7:30 a.m. for monthly staff meetings over breakfast at a place near the office — and pay for my meals — when the usual starting time was 8:30 a.m., and we still had to stay at the office until 5 p.m. on those days.

Lawyers are routinely expected to put in long hours, and their support staff often are subjected to demands that go well beyond 5 p.m. or Monday to Friday; I do proofreading for a law firm where the information-processing center is staffed through midnight seven days a week. Medical staff often have to work ridiculous shifts, especially as interns and residents.

Many freelancers do work at all kinds of hours; setting my own hours has always been one of the major benefits of freelancing. The problem kicks in with clients who assume that freelancers are available to them at any and all hours, on any and all days, regardless of time zones, weekends, holidays, and personal preferences or issues. This tends to happen more with independent authors than with businesses, but it can occur with companies when in-house contacts are disorganized or under pressure to get things done.

There’s a difference between working “at any hour” and “working all hours,” and it’s vital that freelancers establish that difference. As long as we meet deadlines we’ve accepted, when we work and for how long at a time is up to us. When clients can expect us to be available, for work or for contact, is also up to us.

Both to establish yourself as a businessperson and a professional, and to save your sanity, it’s essential to set and at least appear to stick to standard work hours. That can mean:

  • Posting your “office hours” at your website and/or telling new clients when you can be reached early in the relationship;
  • Not answering phone calls and work-related e-mail messages before, say, 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. your time;
  • Telling an intrusive client that such calls or messages aren’t acceptable and won’t be answered outside those hours; and
  • Sticking to what you tell people.

One way to explain this to a client who keeps calling or e-mailing outside your established business hours is simply that “I run a business, and I keep business hours. I’ll get back to you within 24 hours of a call or message during the week. Over the weekend or a holiday, it might be 48 hours.” Another is to say something like, “I need to focus on your project to do my best work for you, and I can’t keep that focus if I’m continually getting phone calls or e-mail messages that interrupt me when I’m trying to work. The more you do this, the longer it will take me to get your project done, which means it might cost you more money — and it might affect the quality of my work.”

Be prepared, though: Expectations about our availability can be disruptive enough that we have to end some client relationships. I recently had an author who wanted my phone number and wanted to know what I consider odd and irrelevant personal details about me: my hobbies, whether I was married, even what I like to eat! She said these personal details were more important to her than my professional skills and experience. I envisioned constant interruptions to my work for her and other clients. (That she didn’t notice my phone number at my website was a warning sign of another type.) When I said I preferred to keep business interactions on a professional basis, she went ballistic. This was a client I didn’t mind losing.

Another aspect of availability is when there’s an impending health issue of some sort — a baby on the way, a scheduled surgery, a trip to look after an ailing relative — or an upcoming vacation or conference trip.

In the regular workplace, you handle most of these events by asking a supervisor or human resources department for the necessary time off and checking with office mates to make sure someone can cover your work. Alerting freelance clients to such “absences” is trickier, because there’s always the worry that letting a client know you won’t be available for a while could mean losing that client.

I’m a believer in letting clients know that something major is coming up, but that (a) I expect to be available as needed soon after and (b) I have backup in case the situation lasts longer than planned. By now, I’ve had enough experience with keeping my freelance business going to know that I can continue working or get back to work fairly quickly in almost any situation — the bad (major surgery, postsurgical complications, parent’s death, spouse’s major surgery and lengthy recovery, other parent’s long-term caregiving and eventual death, broken limb) — or the good (vacation weeks, conference trips). Freelancers with children will have other kinds of demands to balance with their work.

Because it’s simple common sense to expect that these kinds of issues are going to arise, both scheduled and unexpected, it’s equally good sense to plan for how to let clients know about availability and communication for those moments. As with so many other aspects of life, and business life in particular, being prepared will make it easier to cope with importunate clients who call and send messages at inappropriate times, and with good clients who need reassurance that we’ll be available as needed to get their projects done, come what may.

Sometimes we have to manage not just the work, but the personalities and expectations of clients, especially those who haven’t worked with editors and other editorial professionals before. Clients don’t have to know that we’re working at 3 a.m. or during the weekend, or that we’ve put in 10 straight hours on a given project. They do have to learn that they can’t expect us to be available at or for those hours and beyond. When we work is up to us; so is when we can be interrupted or contacted about that work.

The point is to establish availability boundaries and stick to them.

How have you handled clients with unreasonable demands for contact and availability?

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

February 17, 2016

EditTools & My Editing Process: Part III

Part I introduced the preediting steps (Steps 1 to 3). Part II discussed the remaining two preediting steps (Steps 4 and 5) and then discussed the first editing step (Step 6) in my editing process, which is editing the references. Part III finishes the editing process with Step 7, which focuses on editing the main text.

Step 7: Editing the Text

I use a three-monitor desktop system for editing. When I edit the text, I have the primary document open on the first monitor, the online stylesheet open on the middle monitor, and other needed documents, such as the references, open on the right-hand monitor. I also have open several of the EditTools tools I use while editing (see below for an example), such as Bookmarks, Click List, Reference # Order Check (if the references are numbered rather than name–date style), and Toggle Specialty Manager. Once I start adding author queries using the Insert Query macro, I may add Comment Editor to the open tools mix.

Sample of EditTools Macros

Sample of EditTools Macros

I keep these tools open on the desktop because I use them often. Bookmarks are both navigational aids and tracking aids. The Reference # Order Check provides a way to track reference callouts and renumbering them if renumbering is required. Click List provides a quick-and-easy method for inserting text or symbols. Toggle Specialty Manager lets me add to the active Toggle list new project-specific terms that I encounter while editing.

As I edit, I know that decisions will need to be made. For example, should I let an acronym stand or should I replace it with its spelled-out version? If the client has a rule governing usage, I need to be able to apply it. So, for example, when I come across travel risk management (TRM), I run the ESCR (Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace) macro, shown below, to determine how many times in the document the phrase travel risk management appears and how many times TRM appears.

ESCR looks for these variations (I can add additional ones)

ESCR macro

ESCR macro

and provides this report

ESCR Report

ESCR Report

Using the report screen, I can make changes to the text. For example, in the above report, travel risk management appears 10 additional times in the document. I can also see that the acronym TRM is often used. Consequently, for consistency, assuming that TRM is acceptable to the client, I need to change travel risk management to TRM. Thus I type TRM in fields #1 and #2 and I check the highlight box (#3) next to TRM. I also leave TRM3 as it is, because that is different from TRM and needs to be defined and searched for separately. Clicking OK then lets the macro change all 11 instances of travel risk management to TRM with tracking on. The macro also yellow highlights the 37 instances of TRM. As I edit the document now, when I see the yellow-highlighted TRM, I know that it has already been defined earlier in the chapter and that the decision was made to use the acronym rather than the phrase. Had the report come back saying there were only two instances of TRM, then the decision might have been to use the spelled-out version instead of the acronym.

If travel risk management (TRM) is not in my Word Specialty dataset, I add it (I also add it to the online stylesheet if it is not already there), using the Acronym/Phrase entry system (shown below).

Toggle Word Acronym/Phrase entry system

Toggle Word Acronym/Phrase entry system

In the future, if I come across an instance of TRM that needs to be spelled out, I can click Toggle Word and choose from among several options, as shown here:

Toggle Word Choice Menu

Toggle Word Choice Menu

If I need to query the author or make a comment to the compositor, I use Insert Query (see below). With Insert Query, I can call upon a previously written query that I have saved, or create a brand-new query, which I can save, or not, to the dataset for future reuse.

Insert Query

Insert Query

If I want to alter a query for any reason, or even if I want to delete a query — whether it is located 20 pages ago or where I currently am — I use Comment Editor, shown here:

Comment Editor

Comment Editor

Comment Editor lists all of the queries I have inserted in the document (#1). There is no limit to the number of queries Comment Editor will list. One of the nice things about Comment Editor is that I do not need to go to the page where the query is located to edit it. I select the query that I want to edit and the complete text of the query appears in the Text box (#2), where I can edit or completely rewrite it. If I want to go to the query in the manuscript, I can click Go To Comment (#3). That will take me to the query’s location. To return to where I was in the document, I click Return to Before (the name is odd but it refers to the bookmark that was inserted). I can also delete a query by selecting it and clicking Delete (#4). With Comment Editor I do not need to spend time trying to locate the query I want to modify, going to it, and then returning to where I was in the document.

As I indicated earlier, I use the Bookmarks macro as a way to track figures, tables, and text boxes. I also use it to mark items I need to return to for some reason. Unlike Word’s Bookmark feature, EditTools’ Bookmarks lets you use descriptive language. That helps greatly when, for example, you want to bookmark a sentence to recheck. With EditTools’ Bookmarks you could insert “Recheck this sentence – has TRM been mentioned?”, as shown here:

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

I use the Bookmarks renaming function for tracking. If Figure 1 has been called out in the text and I have edited the figure and its caption, I rename the bookmark. I select the bookmark and click Rename (#1), which brings up the renaming dialog shown here:

Bookmarks Renaming Dialog

Bookmarks Renaming Dialog

The renaming dialog tells me which bookmark I am renaming (#1). Because I have selected certain items to be the defaults (#2 and #3), the new name automatically appears in the To field (#4). I could choose a different prefix or suffix, add new ones, change the defaults, and even choose None (meaning either no prefix or no suffix is to be used). If the default is what I want, I click OK and the change is made, as shown below, but the bookmark remains in the same location.

After Renaming

After Renaming

When I am done editing the document, I bring the reference file back into the main document using Word’s Insert File feature. I then run one last EditTools macro, Remove All Highlighting, which is found in the Other menu on the Highlight menu, as shown here:

Remove All Highlighting

Remove All Highlighting

Running that macro will remove all the highlighting I have added during editing. It has no effect on Track Changes, just on the highlighting. If I need to keep certain highlighting, I instead run the Choose Highlighting To Remove macro. When I run that macro, it searches through the document to determine what highlighting colors are used in the document and lists them, as shown here:

Choose Highlighting to Remove

Choose Highlighting to Remove

I select the colors I want removed and click OK.

That’s pretty much the process I follow and the way I use many of the EditTools macros. I haven’t mentioned several macros, because they are not part of my usual editing process. I do use them, just not with the frequency of those described above. Under the right circumstances, these other EditTools macros can be very useful.

If you are a user of EditTools, share your experience with EditTools and tell us which macros you use and when you use them.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

_______________

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February 15, 2016

EditTools & My Editing Process: Part II

Part I introduced the preediting steps (Steps 1 to 3). Part II discusses the remaining two preediting steps (Steps 4 and 5) and then discusses the first editing step (Step 6) in my editing process, which is editing the references.

Step 4: Moving the References

Most of the projects I work on have extensive reference lists. Sometimes a chapter will have a relatively short reference list of 50 or so, but most are at least 100 references, and sometimes are more than 1,000 references.

After the preliminary steps and before running Never Spell Word (Step 5), I move the reference list to its own file. I do this for several reasons. First, some of the macros that I use during editing can affect the references, creating undo work for me. Moving the references to their own file avoids this problem.

Second, I like to edit with Spell Check on. However, Spell Check sees many author names and foreign spellings in journal names and article titles as misspellings. That wouldn’t matter except that it often leads to the message that Spell Check can’t be used because there are too many spelling errors and so Word will turn off Spell Check — for the entire document. By moving the references to their own file, I almost always avoid that particular problem. (Yes, I am aware that I could turn off Spell Check just for the references — for example, by modifying the styles used in the references, which is what many editors do — but I like Spell Check to be on even for the references.)

Third, I want to be able to run my Journals macro unimpeded and as quickly as I can. The more material the Journals macro has to run through, the longer it takes to complete.

Fourth, I want to be able to run Wildcard Find & Replace on the references without having the macro also affect other parts of the document.

And fifth, moving the references to their own file makes it easier to check text reference callouts against the references because I can have both the primary document and the references open concurrently and on different monitors.

I do not edit the references in this step; I simply move them to their own file.

Step 5: Project-Specific Never Spell Word

The next preedit step is to create my project-specific Never Spell Word (NSW) dataset, which is shown below. Every project has its own NSW dataset (#13). The only time I use a previously created dataset is when I have edited a previous edition of the book. I assume that word usage decisions made in previous editions will continue in the current edition. This is generally reinforced when the client also sends me a copy of the stylesheet I prepared for the prior edition (or tells me to use it, knowing I have it available on my website). I do, however, go through the NSW dataset to make sure there are no changes that need to be made as a result of changes in the applicable style guide or in other pertinent guidelines (e.g., changing over-the-counter and OTC to nonprescription).

Never Spell Word dataset

Never Spell Word dataset

If I cannot use a previously created NSW dataset, I create a new one using the Never Spell Word Manager shown above. Note that when I speak of the NSW dataset, I am really speaking about the one tab in the Manager — the Never Spell Words tab (circled). Although the other tabs are part of the NSW macro, they are not project specific as I use them; however, they can be project specific, as each tab can have multiple datasets, and the tabs also can be renamed.

In the example NSW, the dataset has 70 items (#15). These items were specifically mentioned by the client or the author(s) (e.g., changing blood smear to blood film, or bone marrow to marrow) (#14), or things I noticed that will need changing (e.g., changing Acronyms and Abbreviations that appear in this chapter include: to Acronyms and Abbreviations:) (#14). As I edit and discover more items that should be added, I add them through this Manager.

The NSW macro has multiple tabs, some of which may not be relevant to the current project. Running the NSW macro brings up the NSW Selector, shown below. Here I choose which tabs to run. The default is Run All, but if I need to run only the NSW and Commonly Misspelled Words tabs for the particular project, I check those two and click OK and only those two parts of the macro will run.

Never Spell Word Selector

Never Spell Word Selector

After the NSW macro is run, it is time to begin editing.

Editing Steps

Step 6: The References

My first task is to edit the references that I moved to their own file in Step 4. I deal with the references before editing the text so I can determine whether there are “a,b,c” references (e.g., 57a, 57b) or if the references are listed alphabetically even though numbered. This is important to know for setting up the Reference # Order Check macro, found on the References menu and shown below, for tracking callout order and for renumbering if needed.

Reference # Order Check

Reference # Order Check

After I set up the Reference # Order Check macro, it is time to look at the references and see if the author followed the required style. Occasionally an author does; usually, however, the author-applied or -created style is all over the place. So the next macro I run is Wildcard Find & Replace (WFR) (shown below) and the appropriate scripts I created using WFR. The scripts focus on specific problems, such as author names and order-of-cite information (e.g., year first or last).

Wildcard Find & Replace Scripts

Wildcard Find & Replace & WFR Scripts

The scripts cure a lot of problems, but not all of them. Following the scripts, I run the Journals macro. Depending on which dataset I use, running the Journals macro may well fix nearly all of the journal names.

After running the Journals macro, I go through the references one by one, looking for remaining problems that need fixing, such as completing incomplete citations. If I come across a journal that was not in the Journals dataset, which I know because it is not color coded, I verify the journal’s name. I also go to the Journals Manager enhanced screen, shown below, so I can add the journal to multiple datasets concurrently.

Journals Manager Enhanced Screen

Journals Manager Enhanced Screen

Once I have finished editing the references, it is time to begin editing the main text (Step 7), which is the subject of Part III.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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