An American Editor

April 1, 2015

The Makings of an Unprofessional Editor

I like to think that all of my colleagues are professionals. I take pride in my editing career and in my skills as an editor. Thus, when confronted with editorial rigidity, I shudder and think “there goes an unprofessional editor.”

What brings this to mind are posts in another forum in which a “professional” editor declared that using a comma before “and” (as in a serial [Oxford] comma) is always wrong and that the very first thing the editor does is search for those commas to delete them. Another editor stated that she refuses to work with authors who are unwilling to accept as gospel her punctuation decisions, including removal of that pesky comma.

If you ask editors with opinions such as these the basis for their position, it usually boils down to “that’s the rule and rules are rules, made to be adhered to, not broken!” Grammatical rigidity is not, in my book, the sign of a professional editor.

First, think about the rule of no serial commas. If strictly applied, it would be “I thank my parents, John Jones and God,” which is easily interpreted as Jones and God being the parents. Perhaps Jones and God are the parents but what if they are not? What if the thank you was supposed to be “I thank my parents, John Jones, and God,” which is interpretable as “my parents and also Jones and God.” The obvious point is that rigidity in application of editorial rules does not always produce the correct textual meaning.

Second, think about the rules themselves. It is not possible to ascribe them immortality. Language changes, especially English, perhaps French less so thanks to its language academy, and if language changes but the rules do not, we get the awkward constructions that often occur when the “rule” against splitting infinitives or the “rule” prohibiting ending a sentence with a preposition is arbitrarily applied.

Of course, the easy response is that it is today’s rules that are applied today, not yesterday’s rules. But how did yesterday’s rules become yesterday’s rules? Some professional editor had to show flexibility; in the absence of such flexibility no one would have been exposed to the change that is today.

There are many problems with inflexible editors, that is, editors who apply rules so rigidly it is hard to understand what the role of the editor is. Inflexible editors are like computer macros — they see something that fits the pattern and assume that they have the cure. Professional editors use tracking because we know that someone else (usually the author) may well have a different opinion and want to undo the changes we made.

Unprofessional editors are a problem for professional editors because they inspire their clients to complain loudly in public forums about poor editing and how much better it would have been had the client self-edited. They are a problem because they tend to cheapen the value of editing.

More importantly, unprofessional editors loudly proclaim what they are doing and thus influence other editors. There is nothing more heartbreaking as an editor to see another editor emulate an unprofessional editor, thinking that is the correct path to take.

There are lots of roads that will lead one down the path of unprofessionalism. Being unethical in one’s dealings with clients and colleagues is certainly such a road. But the more common road is rigidity in thinking and in applying “rules.” I think this road is also the more dangerous for the editorial profession.

How many times has an author posted a comment saying “I used to hire editors until I found that they were all bad” and then listing the reasons why they were bad editors, with a common one being inflexible thinking and rigid application of “rules.”

When I speak with these editors, I often ask if they understand how the “rules” came into being, what they represent, and how evolving language requires flexibility. I find that I am always disappointed in the responses. If I ask which rule book they are following, and then ask why they are not following a different rule book, the response is usually one that asks “Are you crazy? Everyone knows that the book I follow is the book to follow!”

We’ve discussed this before (see, e.g., “Dealing with Editor’s Bias,” “The Business of Editing: Walking the Line,” “On Language: Are There Rules?,” and “What Do Editors Forget Most Often?“). The style guides and grammar books and usage books change. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, is in its 16th edition. What would be the need for 16 revisions if language, usage, and grammar didn’t change over time?

If the guides we use need to show flexibility, shouldn’t the editor who uses the guides also show some flexibility? Isn’t flexibility a key attribute of professionalism? Isn’t the ultimate test that the reader understands the author’s message?

I may be parochial in my thinking, but I find it difficult to comprehend how the application of a “rule” either furthers in all instances a reader’s understanding of an author’s message or makes the editor anything more than a robot. To me, the difference between a professional and an unprofessional editor is the editor’s decision making: The unprofessional editor does not need to make editorial decisions because those decisions have already been made for him; the editor only needs to apply them mechanically. The professional editor, however, needs to know the “rule” and needs to make the decision, in each instance, whether to apply or not apply the “rule.” The professional editor needs to make editorial decisions.

I make hundreds of editorial decisions in every project and I am prepared to defend my decisions. I let guides guide me, acting as advisors to inform my decision-making process. I do not let guides be the decision maker; that is what I am being paid to do — to make editorial decisions.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 25, 2015

The Business of Editing: Making Search & Replace Efficient & Profitable

Readers of An American Editor know by now my mantra: It has to be profitable! Profit is subject to myriad meanings; for me it means financial profit, whereas for other editors it has no financial meaning — rather, it must be soul satisfying; other editors have other meanings. The key is not how profit is defined but that profit represents what we, individually, seek when we take on an editorial project.

When profit is defined in financial terms, it sets the parameters for how an editor approaches a project. With financial profit as the motivator, the editor seeks to do the very best job he can do but in the least amount of time. It was with that in mind that EditTools was created; it was with that in mind that Editor’s Toolkit Plus and PerfectIt and myriad other time-saving macros were created.

Microsoft Word’s Find Feature

One of the “headaches” of the type of editing work I generally do (medical textbooks) is the use of acronyms and abbreviations (hereafter combined into “acronyms”). For most of my clients, the general rule is that an acronym must be used not less than four times in a document (i.e., once when it is defined plus three additional instances); if it is used fewer times, then it should always be spelled out. However, if it is used enough times that it is kept, then it should be defined only at first use and not again.

Applying that rule could be relatively easy in Word 2010, for example, because the Find feature, which opens the Navigation pane, can give you a count, as shown in the image below. (For a better view of an image in this essay, click on the image to enlarge it.)

Word 2010 Navigation Pane: Find

Word 2010 Navigation Pane: Find

In this example, I searched for the abbreviation for hemoglobin: Hb (#1). Word tells me that there are 11 “matches” (#2) and I can see the 11 matches in the pane (#3). If I click on one of the entries in the pane (yellow highlighted box), Word will take me to that item and highlight it (#4). This is fine for telling me how many times Hb appears in the document, but Word limits the value of this function in several ways.

One limit occurs if you want to look up something that also can be found in myriad other constructs. For example, the acronym Th is used to represent T helper-type cell and if I search for Th, I get a response like that highlighted in this image:

Too many results to preview

In other words, Find is not going to be helpful. Another problem with Word’s Find function is that it includes the whole document, you cannot tell it to search and report back only up to a particular point. Why is that a problem? In the example document I am using for this essay, there are 65 references, many of which include Hb, and none of which do I want in my count. I want in my count only the primary text. According to Word, the example document is 33 pages, but the main text fills only 21 of those pages. The result is that the count word gave me (11 instances of Hb; see #2 in the image “Word 2010 Navigation pane: Find” above) is not accurate for determining whether Hb should be retained as an acronym.

Word’s Find also has another failing, which for me is a big failing: In a long document with lots of acronyms, Word’s Find gives me no way to easily determine whether an acronym has been previously defined. So if I encounter an acronym on page 5, where it is first defined, and then again on page 12, where it is defined again, absent good memory or conducting another Find search, I am unlikely to recall/know that the acronym has already been defined. There are things I could do — for example, I could go to each instance of Hb via the Navigation pane and highlight each and scan the nearby text to delete redefinitions — but that takes time, especially if there are a lot of instances, and thus eats into profit. That would be especially true with those chapters I have to edit where the text portion alone runs more than 100 pages (and sometimes 200 or more pages).

An Alternative Method:
Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace

For me the best way to deal with the question of acronyms is with EditTools’ ESCR (Enhanced Search Count, & Replace) macro. The macro is found on EditTools’ Highlight menu (red arrow in image below).

ESCR on the Highlight Menu in EditTools

ESCR on the Highlight Menu in EditTools

Because what I want to do is find out how many times hemoglobin (Hb) appears in the main text, I temporarily added (Hb) to the document (as shown in the image below) so that I could do a search for the terms separately and together; usually I do not have to add the acronym or definition at the first instance because the author has done so, but sometimes the first instance of the acronym is undefined or the definition and the acronym are separated by intervening words, in which case I add the definition/acronym before using ESCR so that they form a single selectable search term. In this case, if I hadn’t done so, the search phrase would have been hemoglobin A (HbA), which was too narrow; such a search would have excluded, for example, HbSS and HbC, when what I want searched for is Hb regardless of how it is used. Before running ESCR, you need to select what you want it to look for. It can look for either a phrase or a single word. But remember that, like all macros, this is a dumb macro, so it can end up trying to look for things you do not want. But even that can be easily tackled with ESCR. Here I have selected the phrase hemoglobin (Hb) as the search phrase:

Selecting the Search Phrase

Selecting the Search Phrase

(Tip: I make it a point to select the phrase and copy it to memory. With this particular phrase there will not be a problem, but a phrase that includes terms separated by a comma are a problem, so by copying the “to find” phrase to memory, I can add it easily to the macro in correct form.)

With the phrase selected (and copied), I click ESCR. The macro produces a list of what it will search for, #1 in the below image. If you look at the list, you will see that the macro automatically separated the terms and created variations for singular and plural. Again, it is a dumb macro so it will do silly things, such as item 5, HBS. You can either let it go, or you can uncheck (#2) the item(s) you don’t want included in the search. I have found that for the most part it is as easy to leave it as to decheck it.

What the ESCR macro will search for

What the ESCR macro will search for

But sometimes the list is so long, especially if the search phrase has commas or parenthetical material, for example, BCNU (1,3-bis-(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea), that I add the terms I want and deselect all and select only those things I am interested in. The image below illustrates the problem that a search phrase like BCNU (1,3-bis-(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea) presents (in this instance, the macro came up with 36 variations to search for, of which two, possibly, three, are usable). [NOTE: This particular problem will no longer be a problem with the next release of EditTools.] In these instances, I generally ignore what the macro has come up with for the search and go to the Add terms dialog (see the image “Adding additional search terms” below) and paste the selected phrase into the first field and then break it up as I want, using the additional fields as described in the material following this image:

The problems commas, dashes, parens create

If the list is long and there are only a few items I want searched for, I click Deselect All (#3) and then check only the few terms I want used for the search. If the macro doesn’t list a variation that I want included, I click Add terms (#4) to bring up a dialog box in which I can add those missing variations:

Adding additional search terms

Adding additional search terms

I have decided that I want the whole search phrase searched for (I wouldn’t normally do this; I am doing just for demonstration here), so I pasted the selected phrase into the first empty field (#1 in image below). If I wanted to add a symbol, for example a Greek beta, I could click the * (#2) to bring up Word’s Symbol dialog; for an N or M dash, I could click the N- or M- button (#2). Once all the terms I want the macro to find are added here, I click OK (#3), which will take me back to the primary Find screen where I can see that the macro has added my search term as item 11 (arrow). If I am done, I can click OK (#4) to run the macro.

Find screen after adding a phrase

Find screen after adding a phrase

When the macro runs, it goes through the entire list of items to see what it can find. [IMPORTANT: The macro searches from the character immediately following the selection you made to wherever the end bookmark (remhigh) is located. The end bookmark is usually inserted automatically based on other choices you have made in EditTools, but it can also be added manually by you. If it needs to be added by you, when you run the macro, a message will popup telling you that the remhigh bookmark is missing and needs to be added. Although you can place the bookmark anywhere in your document, it is recommended that you place it at the end of the primary text and before any references, tables, or figure legends/figures.] The macro searches down from the point of the selection to the end of the main text of the document.

The idea is that because the macro only searches forward (down) (see the text at #1 in the image below), not all or backward (up), you use it at your first encounter with the acronym or phrase. Running the macro generates a report like the following:

ESCR's report

ESCR’s report

In our example, it only found two variations: Hb and HbA (#2). Based on this report, it is safe to conclude, for example, that hemoglobin is not used in the text after this point. Also, it is clear that Hb, regardless of how it is used, appears only four additional times in the text. You now have two options. First, if you do not want Hb to be used as a substitute for hemoglobin, you can enter hemoglobin in the empty field (#3). (Similarly, if the book style is for Hgb to be used instead of Hb, you can instruct ESCR to change each instance of Hb to Hgb.) This will instruct the macro to replace Hb with hemoglobin. Second, if using Hb and/or HbA is OK, you can check the highlight box (#4) so that the macro will highlight these terms throughout the manuscript. The highlight will indicate to you that (a) you have already done a search for the term and found that it appears enough times in the manuscript to be retained, (b) that the term has been previously defined so if you should see it spelled out again, you know to replace the spelled out version, and (c) that the term is correct (even if Word insists it is misspelled). The image below shows that I have decide to change the one instance of Hb to hemoglobin (#6) and that I want HbA highlighted (#7).

Instructing the ESCR macro

Instructing the ESCR macro

Clicking OK (#5 in ESCR’s report above) causes the macro to run and make the changes. As the following image shows, ESCR made the changes as instructed — and does so with tracking on (even if you have turned tracking off). HbA is now highlighted (#1 and #2) and Hb has been changed to hemoglobin (#3).

After running the ESCR macro

After running the ESCR macro

The ESCR macro is very useful in these circumstances. The two images below are from a document I edited recently. They are the first and last screen of the results of a search for Hb in a nearly 200-page chapter. The macro found 83 variations and you can see that some changes would be required. The advantage is that I can address all of these at one time, enabling me to make them uniform in presentation, and any changes are with tracking on so I can undo any erroneous changes. Word’s Find feature cannot do this as quickly and easily as ESCR (in fact, Word’s Find gave the “too many” message in this instance).

First screen of the Find results

First screen of the Find results

Last screen of the Find results

Last screen of the Find results

Working smarter is the a key to editing profitably. Making use of the right tool at the right time is one hallmark of a professional editor. Importantly, doing those things that help improve accuracy and consistency makes clients happy clients. EditTools is an important tool in the professional editor’s armory.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

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Looking for a Deal?

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

March 11, 2015

Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets — Part III: Locations

The Style Sheets — Part III: Locations

by Amy J. Schneider

In any novel or short story, the characters move around the world they inhabit: within buildings and throughout neighborhoods, cities, and even sometimes spiritual realms. Let’s talk about how to keep that motion logical. Many of the general concepts discussed last month in “The Style Sheets — Part II: Characters” apply here as well, so you may wish to review that article as we go along.

Here We Go Again: Details, Details, Details!

Last month I talked about the proclivity of copyeditors to keep alphabetical lists of characters, and how doing so isn’t really all that helpful for maintaining continuity. And so it is with geographical details. Rather than simply listing all places alphabetically, it’s much more useful to group places by their relation to each other: a house with all its descriptive interior and exterior details, shops that are near each other, streets and how they are connected, and so on.

One exception I do make to the no-alphabetizing rule is that after the edit is done, I often have a list of minor features such as streets, rivers, or businesses that do not have any extra information associated with them. These I will alphabetize by category—all the streets, all the rivers, and so on—just for ease of finding them.

Keeping It Real — Or Not

Many novels are set in real locations, and for the most part you’ll need to make sure that the details given reflect reality. Have you ever read a novel set in a location with which you are well familiar and scoffed when a street ran in the wrong direction, or a building was miles away from its real location? (One of my favorite examples from the world of television was from the 1970s sitcom Happy Days; in one episode some characters walked from Milwaukee to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in about an hour. Anyone who’s driven from the area where I grew up to Milwaukee knows that it is indeed about an hour from Fond du Lac to Milwaukee — in a car.) When specifics are given, check them out. Get out your atlas or pull up an online map.

However, bear in mind also that authors often introduce deliberate fictionalization, much in the same way that phone numbers in movies and on television are often of the “555” variety. So when you find such errors, bring them to the author’s attention, but query whether the error is deliberate.

For completely fictional locations, such as fictional towns or fantasy worlds, you may find it helpful to draw maps to help you (and the characters) keep your bearings.

Details to Track

With locations, as with characters, track anything that could be contradicted later. If a character’s bedroom window faces west, we don’t want her awakened in the morning by the blinding sun. Don’t let a solid wooden door turn into steel. And so on. Let’s look at what sorts of things you might want to put on your style sheet:

  • Cardinal directions and distances (the mountains are west of town; the comedy club is a few miles from Benny’s apartment; the fictional town of Midvale is a 3-hour drive from St. Louis; the laundromat is at the southwest corner of the intersection)
    • This point also relates to the timeline, discussed in next month’s article: if the characters take a day to travel from point A to point B, but a week to return, it’s time to query. Either there’s a problem with the number of days that have passed during that return trip, or there should be a good reason for the delay.
    • Also watch for the relationships between locations; if a hotel is just outside the city limits, how can the bar across the street be 5 miles out? This is where grouping by location can help you catch inconsistencies.
  • Names of regions, cities/towns, streets, geographical features, businesses, buildings; any proper nouns (including real names that might be spelled different ways: Walmart, 7-Eleven)
  • Descriptions of interiors
    • Décor, colors of walls/furniture/drapery, furniture type and placement; locations of rooms, windows, and doors; other details (the house has only one bathroom; Betty’s house has a business landline)
    • Right/left: rooms off hallways, doors, wings of mansions; turns taken while walking/driving to get from point A to point B (if specifics are given) (the main staircase turns to the right; Robert’s office is on the left side of the hallway off the living room)
    • Where the sun rises and sets (remember our early riser!)
    • Number of floors in buildings, locations of rooms (watch out for British usage here; in British usage, the ground floor is at street level and the first floor is the next one up, whereas in American usage we start with the first floor)
    • Remember that if an apartment is on the fourth (American!) floor, you will climb only three flights of stairs to get to it.
  • Descriptions of exteriors: landscaping, architecture (the cemetery is not fenced; Lydia’s house has a flagstone path from the small front porch to the sidewalk; neat flowerboxes at every window)
  • Business hours and regular events (the gas station is open every day; if the book club always meets at Beans & Books on Tuesdays, then what are they doing there on a Saturday?)

Again, as for character details, you can simply copy descriptions from the manuscript to your style sheet to save time, and edit as desired to save space. Note the chapter number where the description first occurs.

I Found a Contradiction; Now What?

Again, refer back to “The Style Sheets — Part 2: Characters” for guidance on resolving discrepancies. If there is a minor difference, it’s probably safe to change and query. But if the problem involves a factor that’s critical to the plot, bring it to the author’s attention and suggest solutions if you can.

Remember that when you are wearing your copyeditor hat, you are like the continuity director for a movie. If the locations are meant to represent real locations, it’s your job to make sure they are accurate. If they are fictional (or fictionalized), make sure they stay true to themselves within that fictional world. Next month, I’ll talk about keeping an accurate timeline to ensure that the story does not breach the space-time continuum (unless it’s supposed to!).

Amy J. Schneider (amy@featherschneider.com), owner of Featherschneider Editorial Services, has been a freelance copyeditor and proofreader of fiction and nonfiction books since 1995. She has shared her insights on copyediting fiction as a speaker at the Communication Central conferences, in writing for the Copyediting newsletter, and in an audioconference for Copyediting.com. Amy can be reached at LinkedIn, via Twitter, and on Facebook.

Related An American Editor essays:

March 7, 2015

Worth Reading: The Value of Copyediting

Readers of An American Editor know that I believe editing enhances the value of an author’s work. I also believe that you pay more for professional, quality editing and that not everyone who claims to be an editor is (should be) an editor. I also firmly believe that there are professional editors and nonprofessional editors, and that it is professional editors who add value to an author’s writing.

Too often the response from a client or a potential client is that “readers do not care” about editing and especially do not care about whether any editing is professionally done. A study by Wayne State University Associate Professor Fred Vultee seems to draw a different conclusion. The study was previewed by Natalie Jomini Stroud in her March 3, 2015 article at the American Press Institute blog:

Study Shows the Value of Copy Editing.

Although not the original study article (“Audience Perceptions of Editing Quality” published January 6, 2015 in Digital Journalism), which is behind a paywall, Stroud’s article provides a clear summation of Vultee’s study. Of special interest is the chart comparing copyediting to no copyediting.

Other blogs that discuss Vultee’s study include Journalist’s Resource (“The value of editing in the digital age: Readers’ perceptions of article quality and professionalism“) and Craig Silverman at Poynter.org (“Study: Readers value extra editing, women especially“). For a PDF of Professor Vultee’s presentation on the subject to ACES in 2012, see “Readers Perceptions of Quality“.

Perhaps some of these findings will be helpful in convincing clients of the value of our services. Regardless, there is some interesting reading above and some food for deep thinking. Enjoy!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

March 4, 2015

The Business of Editing: Correcting “Errors”

In my previous two essays, “The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars” and “The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars“, I discussed two ways to improve efficiency and increase profitability by using macros. Today’s essay digresses and discusses correcting earlier-made errors.

I need to put errors between quote marks — “errors” — because I am using the term to encompass not only true errors but changes in editorial decisions, decisions that are not necessarily erroneous but that after reflection may not have been the best decision.

Once again, however, I am also talking about a tool available in EditTools: the Multifile Find in the Find & Replace Master macro. The F&R Master macro has two parts, as shown below: the Sequential F&R Active Doc and Multifile Find (to see an image in greater detail, click on the image to enlarge it):

Sequential F&R Manager

Sequential F&R Manager

 

Multifile Find Manager

Multifile Find Manager

Today’s discussion is focused on the Multifile Find macro, but the Sequential is worth a few words.

The Sequential F&R works on the active document. It is intended for those times when you know that you want to run a series of finds and replaces. If you are working on a book and it is evident that the author does certain things consistently that need changing, you can use this macro to put together several items that are to be changed sequentially and you can save the criteria so that you can reuse them again in the next document. I often find that, for example, authors use an underlined angle bracket rather than the symbol ≤ or ≥. I created a F&R for these items that I can run before editing a document to replace the underlined versions with the correct symbols.

For editorial “errors” I have made, however, it is the Multifile Find macro that is important.

As I have said many times, I tend to work on large documents. The documents tend to be multiauthored and each chapter is its own file. Sometimes I am able to work on chapters sequentially, but more often they come to me in haphazard order. Consequently, I have to make editorial decisions as I edit a chapter that may well affect earlier chapters that have yet to arrive. And it may be that if I had had the ability to edit the earlier-in-sequence chapter first, I would have made a different editorial decision.

For a recent example, consider “mixed lineage kinase.” My original decision was to leave it unhyphenated, but as I edited additional chapters my thoughts changed and I decided it really should be “mixed-lineage kinase.” But as is usual with these kinds of things, I had already edited another half dozen chapters when I changed my decision. In addition, by that time, I also had edited close to 40 chapters and I couldn’t remember in which chapters “mixed lineage” appeared.

The Ethical Questions First

The first questions to be dealt with are the ethical questions: First, is “mixed lineage kinase” so wrong that it can’t simply be left and future instances of “mixed-lineage” changed to the unhyphenated form? Second, if it needs to be changed to the hyphenated form, do I need to go back and change the incorrect versions or can I just notify the client and hope the proofreader will fix the problem? Third, if the future versions are to be hyphenated, can I just leave the unhyphenated versions and hope no one notices?

We each run our business differently, but number one on my list of good business practices is good ethics. In this case, the third option, to me, is wholly unacceptable. It is not even something I would contemplate except for purposes of this essay. A professional, ethical editor does not fail to accept responsibility for decisions she makes; he does not attempt to hide them. The decisions are faced squarely and honestly and dealt with, even if it means a future loss of business from the client.

The first and second options are less clear. In the first instance, I need to make an editorial decision and abide by it. Whether to hyphenate or not isn’t really an ethical question except to the extent that it forces me to decide whether to overtly or covertly make a change. The world will not crumble over the hyphenation issue. Hyphenation does make the phrase clearer (especially in context), so ultimately, I think the editorial decision has to fall on the side of hyphenation being “essential”; I cannot skirt my obligation to do the best editing job I can by omitting future hyphenation, which means I need to go back and fix my “errors.”

The crux of the ethical question is really the second option. This depends on circumstances. If, for example, I know that the earlier edited material has already been set in pages, it makes no sense to resend corrected files. A note to the client is needed. If they have yet to be set, then new files are the order of business plus advising the client. The key is the advising of the client and identifying where the errors occur. I think that is the ethical obligation: for the editor to identify to the client exactly where the errors are to be found so that they can easily be corrected and to provide new files at the client’s request.

Multifile Find and “Errors”

This is where Multifile Find (MFF) comes into play. MFF will search all the files in a folder for phrases and words. You can have it search for and find up to 10 items at a time and you can have it do one of two things: either it can find the wanted phrase and generate a report telling you where it is found and how many times it is found or it can find the phrase, pause to let you correct the phrase, and then find the next instance. I generally generate the report first. An example of a report for “mixed lineage” is shown here:

Mixed Lineage Report

Mixed Lineage Report

The report tells you name of the document in which the phrase is found, the page it is found on, and how many times it occurs on that page. With this report, you can manually open the named files, go to the appropriate page, and decide whether a particular occurrence needs to be corrected. If I am not sure whether the client can use corrected files, I send the client a copy of this report along with my mea culpa.

If I think the client might be able to use corrected files, I correct them and send the files, the report, and my mea culpa.

Multifile Find Update Files Option

If I know the client can use the corrected files because, for example, pages have not yet been set, I send the corrected files and an explanation of why I am sending revised files. But in this instance I use the MFF update option rather than generate report option:

Multifile Find Replace Option

Multifile Find Replace Option

The update option requires a few different steps than the generate report option. The biggest difference is that you need to save the find criteria for the update option; you do not need to do so for the generate report option.

I enter the find term in the first field (#1 in image above). I also need to check the Inc? (for Include?) box (#2). Only those terms listed that also are checked will be searched for. If I do not want the current active file also searched (assuming it is in the selected search directory), I check the box at #3, which is also where I select the search directory. Because I want to update the files, not generate a report, I check Update files (#4). I then Save my find criteria (#5).

The way the macro works, is that it will first search the files for the first listed find term. When that is done, it will proceed to the next listed term. As you can see, you can list up to 10 terms to sequentially find.

Finally,, I click Run (#6) and the macro will begin searching files in the selected directory until it comes to the first instance of the find term. When it finds a match it displays the following message:

Find Message

Find Message

In the file, it highlights the found term as shown here:

Highlighted Find Text

Highlighted Find Text

I can either insert my hyphen or click OK in the Find Message dialog to find the next instance. If I insert the hyphen in our example, I then need to click OK in the Find Message dialog to go to the next instance. When there are no more instances to be found in the particular file, a message asking if you want to save the changed file:

Save Changes?

Save Changes?

The macro then proceeds to the next file in which it finds the term and the process continues until the term is no longer found or you cancel the process.

Saving Time and Making Profit

Again, I think it is clear how the right macro can save an editor time and make editing more profitable. In my experience, it is the rare editor who doesn’t have a change of mind the further along she is in editing a project. I think it is a sign of a professional editor. But editing is a business and as a business it needs to make a profit. One way to do so is to minimize the time and effort needed to correct “errors” and to do so in a professional and ethical manner.

Over the years, I have found that using Multifile Find has not only enhanced my profitability, but it has enhanced my reputation as professional editor because my clients know that I am not only willing to recognize that I have made a mistake, but I am willing to correct it. One reason I am willing to correct a mistake is that it doesn’t take me hours to do so; I can do it efficiently with EditTools’ Multifile Find.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

____________

Looking for a Deal?

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

March 2, 2015

The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars

In The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars, I discussed wildcard macros and how they can increase both accuracy and profitability. Profitability is, in my business, a key motivator. Sure I want to be a recognized, excellent, highly skilled editor, an editor who turns ordinary prose into extraordinary prose, but I equally want to make a good living do so — I want my business to be profitable.

Consequently, as I have mentioned numerous times previously, I look for ways to make editing more efficient. The path to efficiency is strewn with missteps when editors think that all editing tasks can be made more efficient; they cannot. But there are tasks that scream for efficiency. Wildcard macros are one method and work very well for the tasks for which they are suited. A second method, which deals with references, is the EditTools Journals macro.

As I relayed in previous articles, I work on very long documents that often have thousands of references. My current project runs 137 chapters, approximately 12,000 manuscript pages, with each chapter having its own list of references, ranging in length from less than 100 to more than 600 references. And as is true of the text of the chapters, the condition of the references varies chapter by chapter. The goal, of course, is for all of the references to be similarly styled. as well as to be accurate.

The first image shows a sample of how journal names were provided in one chapter. The second image shows how the names need to end up.

Journals in original

Journals in original

 

How the journals need to be

How the journals need to be

The question is how do I get from before to after most efficiently? The answer is the Journals macro.

The key to the Journals macro is the Journals dataset. In my case, I need journal names to conform to the PubMed style. However, I could just as easily create a dataset for Chicago/MLA style (American Journal of Sociology), CSE (Cell Biochem Funct.), APA (Journal of Oral Communication,), AAA (Current Anthropology), or any other style. The image below shows the Journals Manager with my PubMed dataset open. The purple arrow shows a journal name as provided by an author; the blue arrow shows the correct PubMed name of the journal, that is, to what the macro will change the wrong form.

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

The next image shows a sample APA-style dataset. The red arrow shows the abbreviated version of the journal name and the green arrow shows the full name to which it will be converted by the macro.

APA style in Journals Manager

APA style in Journals Manager

As I stated, nearly all my work requires PubMed styling so my PubMed dataset is by far the largest. If you look at the PubMed dataset image above, you will see that as of this writing, the dataset contains more than 64,000 journal name variations. “Variations” is the keyword. Authors give journal names in all kinds of style, so to cover the possibilities, a single journal may have two dozen entries in the dataset.

The key to creating the dataset is to make use of the Journal Manager — and to keep adding new variations and journals as you come across them: Spend a little time now to make more money every future day. The images of the Manager shown above show you the primary interface. The problem is that it would take an inordinate amount of time to add each possible variation individually. The smarter method is to use the Multiple Entries screen, as shown here:

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

With the Multiple Entry dialog open, you enter a variation in the #1 field. By default, all of the trailing punctuation is selected (#2), but you could choose among them by deselecting the ones you didn’t want. For example, if the style you work in requires that a journal name be followed by a comma, you might want to deselect the comma here because this is the list of “wrong” styles and having a trailing comma would not be “wrong.” Clicking Add (#3) adds whatever you have typed in #1 to the main screen (#4) along with the selected trailing punctuation. In the example, I entered N Engl J Med once in #1, left the default selection in #2, clicked Add (#3), and had five variations added to the main field (#4) — I did not have to type N Engl J Med five times, just the once.

I then repeated the process for N. Engl. J. Med. (#4) and am prepared to repeat it for New Engl J Med. (#1). I will repeat the process for a variety of variations in an attempt to “kill” multiple possibilities at one time. When I am done, I will click OK (#5), which will take me back to the main Manager screen, shown here:

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

The main Manager screen — after using the multiple entry dialog — shows in faint lettering “Use ‘Multiple Entries’ button to adjust” in the Add Journal field (#1). This means two things: First, it tells you that there are journal variations waiting to be added to the dataset, and second, that if you want to modify the list of waiting names, either by adding or deleting, click the Multiple Entries button to bring the dialog back up for editing. If you are ready to add to the dataset, the next step is to tell the macro to what the “wrong” versions should be corrected. This is done by typing the correct form in the Always correct journal field (#2).

If your style was to add a comma after the correct form, you could enter the correct name trailed by a comma here. In the example I show, you would just add the comma after Med. But that might not be the best way to do it because you then lose the ability to use the dataset for a style that is identical but that doesn’t use the comma. There is an alternative, which we will get to. What is necessary, however, is that the correct form be entered here so the macro knows what to do. After entering the correct form (#2), click Add (#3) to add all of the variations and the correct form to the dataset.

The macro will not add duplicate entries so no need to worry about having an entry appear multiple times in the dataset. The macro automatically checks for duplicates. When you are done adding for this session, click Save & Close. (Tip: If you plan to add a lot of entries in one sitting, every so often click Save. That will save the dataset with the newest entries and let you continue to add more. Until Save or Save & Close is clicked, any entries are not permanently part of the dataset.)

Once you have your dataset, you are ready to unleash the Journals macro. It is always a good idea to put the reference list in a separate file before running the macro, but that can’t always be done. Separating the references into their own file helps speed the macro.

When ready to run the macro, click Journals (red arrow below) on the EditTools Tab.

EditTools Tab

EditTools Tab

Clicking Journals brings up this dialog with options:

Journals Macro Options

Journals Macro Options

Here is the best place to select trailing punctuation you want added to the correct journal name. Clicking on the dropdown (#1) will give you the choice of comma, period, semicolon, colon, or the default “none.” If you choose, for example, semicolon, every time a journal name is corrected, it will be followed by a semicolon. Note, however, that if the journal name is correct already except that it doesn’t have the trailing punctuation, the punctuation will not be added. In other words, New Engl J Med will be corrected to N Engl J Med; but N Engl J Med will be left as it is. In this instance, using the other system (adding the punctuation to the correct name in the dataset) will work better.

If your manuscript has endnotes or footnotes with references, clicking #2 will instruct the macro to search those items as well. You can also tell the macro to make the journal names italic, nonitalic, or as they currently are. In this instance, the macro will only change those journal names it highlights. For example, if it doesn’t change/highlight N Engl J Med because it is not in the dataset, it will not change the text attribute of it either.

Clicking #4 lets you change the dataset file to be used by the macro and #5 starts the macro running.

The results of running of the Journals macro depends on your dataset. Clearly, the larger your dataset (i.e., the more journals and variations it contains), the greater impact the macro will have on your reference list. The following image shows the results of running the Journals macro. Journals macro makes use of track changes and color highlighting. As the first instance (#1) shows, the incorrect journal name, Am. J. Kidney Dis. Off. J. Natl. Kidney Found., was corrected to Am J Kidney Dis and highlighted in cyan. The cyan tells me that the name is now correct. Note that the change was made with tracking on, which gives me the opportunity to reject the change. The green highlight (#2) tells me that the journal name Pharmacotherapy was correct as originally provided. And #3 tells me that this journal name variation is not found in my dataset. At this juncture, I would look up the journal in PubMed Journals, open the Journal Manager, and add the variation other needed variations of the name to the dataset so that next time it will be found and corrected.

Results of Running the Journals Macro

Results of Running the Journals Macro

I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is when you are starting out to build the dataset. But as your dataset grows, so do your profits. Consider this: If the reference list you need to check is 100 entries, how long does it take you to check each one manually? I recently checked a reference list of 435 entries. The author names were done incorrectly (see The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars for examples) and the year-volume-pages portion of the references were also in incorrect order. Most — not all — of those errors I was able to correct in less than 10 minutes using wildcarding. That left the journal names.

Nearly every journal name was incorrectly done. With my large dataset (over 64,000 variations), it took the Journals macro 32 minutes to correct the journal names. (Nine entries were not journals and so were not in the dataset and seven incorrect journal names were not in the dataset and had to be added afterward.) I still had to go through each entry in the reference list, but to complete a review of the reference list and make any additional corrections that were needed took me an additional 2 hours and 10 minutes. In other words, I was able to completely edit a 435-entry reference list, fixing all of the formatting problems and incorrect journal names, in less than 3 hours.

How quickly could you have done the same?

Combining macros is a key to efficiency. Recognizing that a problem has a macro solution and then knowing how to impose that solution can be the difference between profit and no profit. Using macros wisely can add fun and profit to the profession of editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

____________

Looking for a Deal?

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

January 14, 2015

Dealing with Editor’s Bias

The one thing, aside from my being a professional editor and not just an editor, that I like to think I am is bias-free. Of course, that is more wishful thinking than reality.

Reality runs more like this: Every editor is biased. The important question is: Do I recognize my biases? If I do not recognize my biases, I fail to provide the quality and level of service my client pays me for.

Which raises another question: Is there a relationship between bias control and fee being earned? That is, is a high-paying client entitled to greater effort on my part to control my biases than is a low-paying client?

From the beginning — every editor is biased. We have subject-matter biases, client biases, and editorial biases, among a world of other biases. Client and subject-matter biases are easily dealt with: we simply do not (hopefully) undertake projects in areas we abhor or from clients we cannot stand. For most of us, the problematic area is editorial biases.

One of my editorial biases is “due to.” How I hate that phrase. Yes, it does have a proper place and use, and then it should be crowned king. But authors use “due to” to mean so many different things that it has come to represent the sign of a lazy author. The author may be brilliant — a genius in the field — but the author who uses due to as a substitute is lazy. And to my way of thinking, the editor who (speaking nonfiction, not fiction) doesn’t try to replace the vagueness of “due to” with the more precise and accurate term it is substituting for is even lazier than the author.

There are at least 20 alternatives for “due to” and each alternative carries important connotations and levels of precision. The point is that I know I have a bias against the use of “due to” and instead want more precise language used so that the reader does not have to guess at which alternative is meant.

I also prefer precision in time; I have a time bias. For example, I dislike when an author writes “in recent years” or “in the past 20 years.” Using this type of time reference allows the time to shift. The shift occurs because the reference was made when the author was writing the sentence, which could have been 5 years ago or 2 days ago, but doesn’t allow for the passage of time since the writing of those words, or for the editing and production time until publication, or for the book’s expected several-year shelf-life.

There are other words I have a bias against, such as “since” as a substitute for “because” and “about” as a substitute for “approximately.” Many of us also have biases when it comes to hyphenation (is it “co-author” or “coauthor”? “copy-edit” or “copyedit”?). I am aware of my biases and try to be judicious in my application of the biases. Where it doesn’t affect understanding or meaning, I weigh whether or not to act on my bias. Quite often that decision is made based on the subject matter and complexity of the book I am editing.

Yet, there is one more constraint on the exercise of my biases: Can I justify my decision to act/not act? Justification does not include “I like it better” or “It looks better to me.” Clearly, “due to” is liked better and looks better to the author. My justification for changing “due to” is grounded in clarity/precision versus vagueness/imprecision.

Yet, in discussions with colleagues, I find that the answer depends on whether what I view as editorial biases are viewed as a bias or as basic grammar/editing matters. That is, if the colleague believes that word choice is not a matter of bias but purely a matter of usage or grammar, the colleague sees no reason to either think about the issue or to exercise control. Thus, in the case of “due to,” the colleague would rarely, if ever, change or query its use. For such colleague, “since” is always properly used to convey the passing of time and as meaning “because.”

I asked earlier if there is a relationship between my control of my biases and the fee paid by the client. The answer is “no.” Regardless of how much I am being paid, I should always control my biases because my role is to help the author, not substitute for the author. From an ethical perspective, “no” is the only correct answer.

For colleagues who do not view these things as editorial biases, the question does not arise. It only arises for those of us who take the time to consider whether “since” is being used to convey a sense of time or as a substitute for “because.” It becomes an issue for us because the longer we take in deciding what “due to” is substituting for, the less money we will earn if we are on a per-page or project fee rather than an hourly basis.

A final thought: To do a proper editing job, we need to create and maintain a project stylesheet. It is appropriate to include in the stylesheet the “rules” we are following when it comes to our biases. Alternatively, we could insert a note, in the form of a query, at the first instance in which we explain the rule we are following. For example, the following could be used either as a note to the author or as a stylesheet explanation:

Although in today’s English “since” and “because” are considered synonymous, I adhere to the rule that “since” is used to express the passage of time, as in “since 2000,” and the terms are not synonymous. I adhere to this rule because I believe it makes your meaning both clearer and more precise, and considering the subject matter, clarity and precision are important tools for ensuring there is no miscommunication between you and your reader.

Do you recognize your editorial biases? How do you deal with them?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 8, 2014

The Business of Editing: The Art of the Query

Over the years (31 years in another month), I have had the privilege of working with a lot of colleagues and being on the receiving end of a lot of job applications. That has given me an insight into how editors view aspects of their job and how they go about applying for work.

In a previous essay, Business of Editing: Losing the Chance, in “Error 6″ I discussed the copyediting test and how it is possible to tell whether an applicant passed or failed the test within one minute. One way to tell is to look at any queries. (Of course, the lack of any queries can also be very revealing.)

Most editors do not understand the variety of roles that queries fulfill. If you want to kill future prospects, a quick way to do so is with poor, no, or little (when more than a little is expected) querying. Queries should be viewed as playing these roles, at minimum:

  • to ask the author a question
  • to demonstrate to the author and to the client (assuming your client is not the author) that you are knowledgeable
  • to explain
  • to market your skills
  • to make the author and client comfortable with you
  • to demonstrate why you are the editor that the author and client should always seek out

Each of these roles is linked to your success as a professional editor.

To Ask a Question

Editors get tired of writing the same query repeatedly, chapter after chapter, even project after project. Repetition is deadly but let’s face it, many of the queries we need to ask remain the same author to author, client to client, and project to project. After a while, there is a tendency to scale back on the query because it is tedious to retype. This is where a tool like EditTool’s Insert Query macro is a solution to a problem.

What I have seen is repeat queries being truncated. The first time, maybe the second time, the editor will write:

AQ: There is no section by this title in this chapter. Is this the correct section title? Please either provide the correct section title or modify the incorrect section title.

But it isn’t long before that query becomes “AQ: Please provide the correct section title,” which shortly thereafter becomes “AQ: Need correct section title,” which soon becomes “AQ: Section title?” — or, which also often happens, the query starts and finishes as “AQ: Section title?”

The first query identifies the problem, asks the question, and offers alternative solutions — it shows that you are a professional editor. But the pared down versions show laziness and a lack of understanding of how to communicate with an author. More importantly, the message you are sending your client — whether the client is the author or the publisher — is that you are not a professional.

The pared down versions also suffer from being incomplete. How do you expect the author to understand what the problem is and the solutions are from a cryptic message? (The worst queries I have ever seen were “AQ: ?” How can one form a response? My initial reaction was to reply “ED: !!!”)

To Demonstrate Knowledge and Explain

We all have lots of competition. One way we convince clients to hire us again or to recommend us to colleagues is by demonstrating our knowledge, whether it be of the subject matter or of something else appropriate.

For example, it is common in books that I edit for authors to confuse “recur” and “reoccur.” Consequently, where I think they may have confused the terms, I ask:

AQ: Recur/recurrence mean to happen again repeatedly; reoccur/reoccurrence mean to happen again but only once. Which do you mean here?

This query demonstrates my knowledge of language and raises an important point, because it does matter greatly whether something happens repeatedly or just once again. (And I make my life easy by having this as a standard query in my EditTools Insert Query dataset so I only need to select it and insert it, not type each time I want to use it.)

Two additional examples of queries that I routinely use in my editing work are:

AQ: Should “/day” be changed to “/dose” or should “divided” be added before “bid”? As written it appears that the daily dose is to be given multiple times a day. Please make clear the frequency.

and

AQ: Do you mean “e.g.” rather than “i.e.”? When the items are only examples and the list is not all inclusive, “e.g.” is used. If the listed items are all the possibilities, then “i.e.” is used. If “i.e.” is correct, consider moving the material from the parens and making it a proper part of the sentence.

Notice the messages I am communicating. First, I identify the problem; the author does not have to guess. Second, I explain why it is a problem. Third, I provide solutions. Both the author and the client can see that I am carefully reading the manuscript, I am thinking about the manuscript (i.e., I am focused), I care about the manuscript and the author, and, above all, that I am knowledgeable about editing — that is, that the editor’s primary role is to help the author communicate clearly and that one tool in the editor’s toolbox for doing that is for the editor to communicate clearly with the author.

The point is that queries can serve multiple purposes and I want all of those purposes to reflect positively on me.

To Market and to Comfort

Every author is anxious about the editor. After all, the author has invested time and effort into the manuscript and wants it treated with respect. For those of us who work indirectly with authors, the author’s anxiety about us is even greater. And because we work for publishers or packagers, the publishers and packagers also experience anxiety albeit at a much lesser level than authors. Their concern often revolves around how the author will perceive and receive the editor.

You put everyone at ease when you demonstrate your skills and communicate effectively. Perhaps more importantly, if you view queries as your opportunity to establish your credentials with the author and client, you will be more cautious in how you write them, which means that you are less likely to antagonize either the client or the author.

I recall a book I was asked to review after it had been edited because the author was angry over the editing and had spent a considerable amount of time both berating the inhouse production staff for having hired the editor and in correcting what the author perceived as editor errors.

As I went through the editing it became pretty clear that the editing was well done; the problem was the queries. They were written in such a manner as to convey the editor’s contempt for the author. I admit the author was somewhat lazy and that had I been the editor, I, too, would have been cursing the author — but the difference is that I would not have let those feelings permeate the queries: neither the author nor the client should ever think that I have anything but admiration for the author’s work.

The editor hadn’t comforted the author or the client nor had the editor marketed herself well. The author’s anger might be ratcheted down a bit, but both the author and the client will hesitate to use the editor again, and the author will let fellow authors know as well.

To Demonstrate Why I am The Editor

Presumably we are all well-skilled, well-qualified professional editors. Put us in a bag, shake us up, and pull one of us out at random and you should get a good quality editing job. But that doesn’t bring me any business, and bringing in business is the name of the game. (If you haven’t read it, let me recommend my book, The Business of Editing. It is not enough to have editing skills, you must always be thinking and acting like a business.)

I always have the need to bring in future business in mind, so when I edit I look at the editing as a way to impress my client, and I look at queries as the way to both impress and communicate what makes me The Editor — the editor to hire for future projects and the editor to recommend to colleagues. Well-crafted, informative queries (just like emails and online posts) are like a billboard advertising my skills. Cryptic, curt queries undermine the image of professionalism that I want to project.

This does not mean that every query needs to be five sentences long or a dissertation on grammar. It does mean that every query must satisfy these criteria:

  • be on point, not meandering
  • identifies the problem and offers an appropriate solution
  • reinforces my skills and expertise as an editor
  • reinforces the correctness of the decision to hire me
  • declares clearly my status as a professional editor

Every query that I write that fulfills those criteria sets me apart from my competition and says I am The Editor.

EditTools’ Insert Query Macro

Because writing queries can be time-consuming, it is a good idea to build query templates that require minor modification based on the circumstance and project. That is the premise behind EditTools’ Insert Query macro. I have numerous “standard” queries that are saved to a dataset and that I can call up and modify for a particular project. In addition, each project has its own custom queries. By using the Insert Query macro, I can minimize the time I need to spend inputting a query and the opportunity for inputting error. It also means that I can use more detailed queries because I do not have to retype the same query innumerable times.

Consider this query:

AQ: Using this type of time reference allows the time to shift. The shift occurs because the reference was made when you were writing the text but doesn’t allow for either editing and production time until publication or for the book’s expected several-year shelf-life or for the passage of time between the writing of the text and when it is read by a reader. It would be better to write, for example, “since 2000″ (substitute the appropriate year), so that the time reference always remains static.

How long would it take you to type this query? How many times would you care to do so? With EditTools’ Insert Query macro, I typed it once into the dataset and now can either use it as is or modify it as needed, taking seconds rather than minutes and avoiding typing errors.

To get the most out of queries, think of queries as marketing tools.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 17, 2014

On the Basics: Discovering and Benefiting from a Tech Tool

Discovering and Benefiting from a Tech Tool

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

I don’t think of myself as a significantly technical person, so I was nervous about doing an editing project for our colleague Rich Adin because it meant using his wordsnSync Max Stylesheet. I was flattered that someone of Rich’s stature in our field would think enough of me to give me an assignment, and I was confident of my editing skills, but afraid I wouldn’t be up to the technical demands of the Max Stylesheet system.

For me, it’s more nerve-racking to work for someone I know than for a client who’s a stranger — I hope everyone I work with thinks well of me, but the opinion of someone I know matters to me more than that of someone I’ve never met. Using Max felt like a great opportunity to look like an idiot to someone I respect and whom I very much wanted to respect me as well. I was very worried about letting him down.

I did misunderstand one aspect of the process — I thought I was supposed to use Max to check on the style or versions of items in the project manuscripts, when the point was for me as the copy editor to actually create the style sheet as the project went along. Once that was clear, though, I found myself actually enjoying using Max — in fact, I loved it!

I knew what a style sheet was. I’ve made style sheets or notes for other projects, using Word. But that was like etching on stone tablets compared to the ease and functionality of Max.

Among other practical aspects, Max automatically alphabetizes entries for you, but my favorite function is how it handles names and acronyms or initialisms. You can enter a name with its acronym in parens as one step, and Max places each element — the name and the acronym — in its own column but together, so you can easily double-check for the right ones and don’t have to enter them as separate items or search to see what a given acronym stands for. The name comes first in the right-hand column and the acronym is first in the left-hand column, but the two elements stay together. For example, if the text I am editing has “World Health Organization (WHO),” I can copy the name directly from the text and paste it into the entry field in Max. When I click Add Entry to Stylesheet, Max automatically enters the phrase in the W/W (acronym) sections of the stylesheet as shown below — I don’t have to manually (1) type the phrase, (2) alphabetize it, nor (3) reverse it.

W W (acronym)
World Health Organization (WHO) WHO (World Health Organization)

When you enter a new item, Max shows you similar listings, so it’s easy to check for redundancy. Since you have to confirm each new entry (Max will automatically assume confirmation after 45 seconds), you also have a chance to change your mind if needed. And it won’t allow repeat entries of identical information; Max automatically rejects duplicates.

Max also permits super- and subscripting, italicizing and bolding, underlining and strikethrough, and small caps and symbols. Max has no predetermined size, so it works equally well for small projects with short stylesheets and large projects with extensive stylesheets. Searching is also easy.

Rich says that the real beauty of Max is demonstrated when a project has coeditors. All coeditors can access the same stylesheet, add to it, and see the changes made by a coeditor in real-time. Max promotes consistency in multieditor projects. I haven’t yet been part of an editing team to experience using Max in such an environment, but I hope to have that experience in the not-too-distant future.

Max also has advantages for clients. According to Rich, clients are given access to the stylesheets for their projects. The client can’t make changes to the stylesheet, but can review it during the editing and advise the editor of things to be done differently (e.g., use distension rather than distention or use an en-dash rather than a hyphen in a particular circumstance). In addition, the client can download a copy of a current-to-the-minute stylesheet at any time to share with proofreaders and authors — including years later when it is time to prepare a new edition.

There’s far more to this program, but these aspects alone make it worth using. I’m hoping that Rich can and will make Max available to colleagues who don’t work with him, because it’s definitely a valuable tool. There’s even something cozy and personal about a program called Max.

And now that I’ve mastered Max, I may feel up to trying macros!

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.

October 1, 2014

What a Tale We Tell

Editing is intended to provide the polish to a story. Cicero gave three reasons for telling a story: “to teach, to please, to move.” Although these are not all of the reasons to tell a story, they do form a sound foundation for telling of all types of tales. Editors take the rough tale and polish it so that the tale does teach, please, and move a reader.

As has been noted many times on An American Editor, editing is a craft. One cannot simply hang out a shingle and magically have the skills to change carbon to diamond. Editors sharpen their skills with each manuscript they work on. How well we polish a manuscript tells a lot about how good an editor we are.

We all are familiar with those books that blatantly boast of poor editing. Yet some of those badly written and even more badly edited (assuming they were edited at all) manuscripts sell well. Why is that? It is because the consumer/reader has been poorly educated and doesn’t recognize dreck when she reads it. (It is also because them author has connected with readers regardless of whether the book is editorially perfect.)

And it seems that things are getting worse, not better. Increasingly, I find editors lack the fundamental skills needed to be editors and business people — they lack both the editing skills and the business skills, a very deadly combination — but they do have one very important attribute: They can be hired cheaply.

And therein lies the tale of editing.

Editing probably began with contracts and disputes over contractual terms. Two people without advanced authorial skills probably wrote and signed a contract and discovered when brought before a third person that what they thought they had written, they hadn’t. As the need for clear expression grew, so grew the editorial profession. We may have been called other things, such as scribe or lawyer or priest, but whatever we were called, our role was to bring clarity to chaos.

Over the years, greater skillsets were needed and editors rose to the occasion. We were among the educated classes, and in those eras, class stratification ensured that editors had distinct skills. Not anyone could be an editor.

Then came the shift in philosophy. No longer were classes based on education. Education became free and universal. Everyone who wanted to be an editor had the opportunity to learn the necessary basic skills. The original editors had to learn every task and skill intimately and had to have mastery over language; there were no electronic aids to provide a crutch as a foundation.

The twentieth century became the great leveler; education became universal. What counted was how much education an editor received and the editor’s grasp of language and vocabulary. The editorial eye had to be sharp because there wasn’t a tool available that could point out misspellings or wrong usage except the editor’s eyes and brain.

The late twentieth century brought a revolution to the special status of editors. First came grade inflation — everyone got an A for effort. Then came personal computers with squiggly lines beneath alleged misspellings. The combination of these two at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries finally leveled the ground to a perfectly flat line. Editing became a profession of whoever wanted to be called an editor; elitism was destroyed.

Amidst that destruction one hoped that editing would suffer a rebirth, have a phoenix moment, but that is not what happened. Instead, the bane of civilization occurred — a worldwide recession. With it came job losses, yet people still had bills to pay and food to buy. Combine the Great Recession with the greatest equalizer of all time, the Internet, and a deadly cocktail for professional editors was born — the door swung wide for the exponential growth of the numbers of editors.

With that growth in numbers of editors came competition for editing assignments. Competition was done on the only known basis for competition: price. Every publisher, regardless of size and including the self-publishing indie author, wanted lower costs, which meant that hidden services, like editing, suffered greatly. Yet, surprisingly, the number of editors didn’t decrease — it increased. So, editors began competing on price.

The more editors competing, the lower the price. Ultimately, the price became a drag on the profession. Increasingly, professional editors struggled. Increasingly, there was author dissatisfaction with the quality of the editing received. Interestingly, an increasing number of book reviewers noted poor editing.

Editors are on the brink of becoming commodities. The link between professional editors and quality editing is being stretched thin — so thin that eventually it will break.

I know that many AAE readers will read this and say this is not true, this isn’t happening to them. They are still both important and relevant to their clients. But if you look at the broader picture and try to see down Future Road, you will see that the walls within which lies the editor’s craft are being assaulted and weakened by the ease with which one can hang out an editor’s shingle that says “open for business.”

We need to write a different ending to this tale while the ending is still in flux. Professional editors need to support more stringent educational standards so that upcoming workers have the intellectual skills and exposure to be good editors. As noted in earlier essays, we need to support and advance certification and education for editors. We need to sell ourselves to the publishing industry as necessary and needed participants in the production process. We must make the case for the differences between professional and amateur editing. Above all, we must believe we are relevant and proclaim it.

We need to absorb some lessons from accomplished authors. The diligence that goes into an author’s telling of a tale is waiting to be learned by editors for application to the editorial process. We need to make sure that the story we tell about professional editing teaches the value of editing and professional editors; that the tale is told in such a way as to capture the imagination of publishers and authors; and that there is a pathway to move from amateur to recognized professional.

In the continued absence of telling our story, our profession will continue to decline. Our standards will become ever more lax and our income ever lower. As that occurs, our skills will decline. Ultimately, future clients will see no need for professional editors; future clients will do as nonprofessional editors do — run spell check and call it editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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