An American Editor

October 23, 2017

On the Basics: Make Your Editing Identity Clear and Constant

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

In a Facebook discussion of how to vet people who ask to join a specialized editing group, a colleague recently noted that “many people don’t have obvious ‘I am an editor’ parts of their profiles.” That made me think about how we identify or brand ourselves in this ever-increasingly electronic world so prospective clients or employers can find us easily.

The first step in this important process is to make sure that everything you do makes it clear that you are, indeed, an editor.

Some version of “edit” should be part of your website domain name (the part of the site name between “www” and “.com,” “.biz,” “.info,” or whatever other suffix you use). JoeTheEditor, EditorJoe, EditingByJoe, etc., all make what you do clear at first glance. A more-general business name might be appealing, but if it doesn’t identify you as an editor, freelance or in-house, it will not work for you, whether you need to attract business or be hired for a staff job.

Website/domain or business names like these also make you easier to find when prospective clients or employers do Internet searches for people with your skill set. Nowadays, online is how most of us will be found by new clients or vetted by new employers, so we have to be easily findable. We can’t count only on in-person contacts or interviews.

Once you have a useful name, every page of your site should also have some reference to the fact that you are an editor and offer editing services, starting with the page names themselves and progressing to the content in general. You don’t have to go overboard with this aspect of identifying yourself as an editor — it doesn’t have to be mentioned in every sentence — but that fact should be clear and obvious. No one should have to make an effort to immediately see from your website that you are an editor.

Once you have a domain name and website that makes your identity clear as an editor, make sure you capitalize on it by using it for your e-mail address. Joe@JoeTheEditor.com is more memorable than Joe@gmail.com, Joe@yahoo.com, etc., and helps maintain and strengthen your brand as an editor.

The same goes for whatever other ways in which you promote your editing services or skills: business card, brochure, directory listings, social media accounts and profiles, ads, bios, signatures (siglines) in e-mail discussion lists. Take some time this very week to look at everything you use to present yourself to prospective clients and employers, as well as to colleagues. Try to look at all of your promotional material — and yes, a LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook account is a promotional tool — with an objective eye to make sure your identity as an editor shines through.

Do your website and online accounts clearly identify you as an editor (or other editorial professional)? If not, why is that? If so, can you enhance them in some way?

Here are some things you can do to enhance your identity:

  • Review site and account language to make sure your identity as an editor is clear and immediate. If you think you might not be able to do that objectively enough to catch any gaps, ask a colleague to look things over for you. Consider swapping services — proofreading each other’s sites, for instance.
  • Include client testimonials at your website, and make them easily visible. Make sure you use LinkedIn’s recommendations function. The opinions of people you have worked with can be even more powerful than work samples. You don’t have to include actual names of clients or their employers.
  • Announce your training and experience, also clearly visible and easy to find. List not only editing jobs, but any courses you’ve taken, whether through a college degree or certificate program, or offerings from a professional association. Let prospective employers and clients know that you have invested in your career and skills. Even volunteer projects are worth including — no one has to know that you weren’t paid for editing work that you did pro bono.
  • Say which style manual(s) you are skilled in using. Depending on the type of editing you do, that could make the difference in getting a new job or project. Individual authors might not know the difference between Chicago, AP, APA, MLA, GPO, etc., but publishing colleagues do — and look for editors who can use their preferred styles.
  • Create samples for your website to show how you work and the kinds of elements you would notice and fix. If you wish to use actual client samples, be sure to get permission from the client first and do whatever it takes to anonymize the material; clients usually don’t want the world to see the “before” versions of their projects.
  • Write about how you work — your approach to a project, your process, your philosophy.
  • Describe your ideal client or project. That could encourage prospective clients or employers to choose you over someone else.

How have you identified and promoted yourself as an editor in various venues, from your website to your social media activities?

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

November 21, 2016

EditTools: Duplicate References — A Preview

The current version of EditTools is nearly 1 year old. Over the past months, a lot of work has gone into improvements to existing functions and in creating new functions. Shortly, a new version of EditTools will be released (it will be a free upgrade for registered users).

New in the forthcoming version is the Find Duplicate References macro, which is listed as Duplicate Refs on the References menu as shown here:

Duplicate Refs on the References Menu

Duplicate Refs on the References Menu

The preliminaries

The macro works with both unnumbered and numbered reference lists (works better when the numbers are not autonumbers, but it does work with autonumbered lists). It also works with the reference list left in the manuscript with the text paragraphs and when the reference list has been moved temporarily to its own file (it works, like other reference-specific macros in EditTools, better when the references are moved to a separate, references-only file).

Like all macros, the Find Duplicate References macro is “dumb”; that is, it only finds identical references. The following image shows references 19 and 78 as submitted for editing. (For all images in this essay: For a larger, more readable image, right-click on the image and click “Open link in new tab.” This will open a larger version of the image in a new tab that can be kept open as you read the description of the image.)

Original References

Original References

As the image shows, although references 19 and 78 are identical references and are likely to appear identical to an editor, they will not appear identical to the Find Duplicate References macro. Items 1 and 2 show a slight difference in the author name (19: “Infant”, 78: “Infantile”). The journal names are different in that in 19 the abbreviated name is used (#3) whereas in 78 the name is spelled out (#4). Finally, as #5 and #6 show, there are a couple of differences in the cite information, namely, the order, the use of a hyphen or en-dash to indicate range, and the final page number.

Because any one of these differences would prevent the macro from pairing these references and marking them as potentially identical, it is important that the references go through a round of editing first. After editing, which for EditTools users should also include running the Journals macro, the references are likely to look like this:

The References After Editing

The References After Editing

If you compare the same items (1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6) in the above image, you will see that they now better match. (Ignore the inserted comments for now; they are discussed below.) One more step is required before the Find Duplicate References macro can be run — you need to accept all of the changes that were made. Remember that in Word, when changes are made with Tracking on, the material marked as deleted is not yet deleted; consequently, when the macro is run, the Tracked items will interfere (as will any comments, which also need to be deleted). The best method is to (1) save the tracked version, (2) accept all the changes, (3) use EditTools’ Comment Editor to delete any comments, and (4) save this clean version to run the Find Duplicate References macro.

After accepting all changes and deleting the comments, the entries for references 19 and 78 look like this:

The References After Changes Accepted

The References After Changes Accepted

Running the macro

When the Find Duplicate References macro is run, the following message box appears.

Find Duplicate References Message Box

Find Duplicate References Message Box

To run the macro, the macro has to be told where to begin and end its search. If the references are in a separate file from the rest of the manuscript, check the box indicating that the references are in a standalone document (#5) and click Run (#6). If the references are in a file with other material, use bookmarks to mark the beginning and ending of the list as instructed at the top of the message box (#1). To make it easier, the Bookmarks macro now has buttons to insert these bookmarks:

The dupBegin and dupEnd Bookmark Insert Buttons

The dupBegin and dupEnd Bookmark Insert Buttons

The Find Duplicate References macro matches a set number of characters, including spaces. The default is 120 (#4) but you can change the number to 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, or 108 using the dropdown arrow shown at #4 in the Find Duplicate References message box above.

The macro does a two-pass search, one from the beginning of the reference and another from the end of the reference, which is why a list of duplicates may have repetitions.

The results of the search appear like this:

List of Possible Duplicate References

List of Possible Duplicate References

(They appear as tracked changes only if the macro is run with Tracking on; if Tracking is off, the results appear as normal text.) Note the title of the duplicates is “Duplicate Entries (Nondefinitive).” The reason for “Nondefinitive” is to remind you that the macro is “dumb” and there is no guarantee that the list includes all duplicates or that all listed items are duplicated. Much of the macro’s accuracy depends on the consistency of editing, including formatting.

For the examples in this essay, the Find Duplicate References macro was run on a list of 735 references and the list of possibilities shown represents those likely duplicate references the macro found. Note that references 19 and 78 were found (#19 and #78 indicate the portions of those references found duplicated by each pass of the macro); however, if, for example, in editing the page range separator in #19 was left as an en-dash in reference 19 and in reference 78 as a hyphen, the macro would not have listed the material at #19 as there would not have been a match. Similarly, if the author name in reference 19 had been left as “Infant” and in reference 78 as “Infantile”, the macro would not have listed the material at #78 as there would not have been a match.

The next step is for the editor to determine which of the listed possibilities are duplicates. This is done using Word’s Find Navigation pane, as shown here:

Verifying Duplicate References

Verifying Duplicate References

Copy part or all of what was found (#1) into the Find field (#2). Find will display the search results (“3 matches”) (#3); clicking the Browse button (the rightmost button at #3) lists the three matches found (#4 to #6). The first entry (#4) is always the text in the duplicates list (#1), which means that, in this example, the possible duplicates are #5 and #6. Clicking on the text marked #5 to see the complete text of that entry. Then compare that text to the text of the reference at #6. (It is possible for the macro to find more than two possible matches for the same text — and all, some, or none may be duplicates.)

Tip: Use comments to track duplicates


When I find a duplicate, I insert a prewritten, standardized comment (using EditTools’ Insert Query) to tell the client that references x and y are duplicates and that I am deleting one and renumbering it (see image below for a sample comment). I insert the comment at each of the duplicate references, although I slightly modify the comment so that it is appropriate for the reference to which it is being attached. The comment shown below is inserted at reference 78 and its language is appropriate for that reference. It tells the client that references 19 and 78 are identical and that reference 78 has been deleted and renumbered as 19. This type of comment is added to the version (e.g., the Track Changes version) of the reference list that will be given the client. The comment is added to the appropriate references as duplication is confirmed.

The Inserted Comment

The Inserted Comment

The comment, in addition to serving as a message to the client, serves as a reminder message during editing of the manuscript. Duplicate references require renumbering so as to keep reference callouts in number order. For example, it may be that reference 78 is called out after the callout for reference 10 and before that for 19. In that case, reference 78 would be moved to position 11 in the list and renumbered as 11 and the comment would be modified (easy to do using EditTools’ Comment Editor). A prewritten note (another new EditTools feature) would be inserted at point 78 in EditTools’ Reference Number Order Check and reference 19 would be marked as deleted, the inserted comment (see above) would be modified, and a note would be added to Reference Number Order Check at point 19. (See the discussion below about the report.)


When editing of the manuscript is finished, have the Reference Number Order Check macro export a renumbering report to send with the edited file to the client. A partial sample report is shown here:

Sample Partial Renumbering Report

Sample Partial Renumbering Report

Every report bears the creator’s identification information (#1) and file title (#2). You set the creator information once and it remains the same for every report until you change it using a manager. The file title is set each time you create a report.

As the report shows, reference 78 was deleted and all callouts numbered 78 were renumbered as 19 (#3). The prewritten, standard message (a new feature) can be inserted with a mouse click; only the numbers need to be inserted or modified. The report shows that the renumbering stopped at callout 176 (#4) and started again at 197 (#5). Number 6 shows another deletion and renumbering.

Clients like these reports because it makes it easy for authors, proofreaders, and others involved in the production process to track what was done.

The Find Duplicate References macro is a handy addition to EditTools. While it is easy in very short reference lists to check for duplicate references, as the number of references grows, checking for duplicates becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming. The Find Duplicate References macro saves a lot of time, thereby increasing an editor’s profits.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

October 31, 2016

The Business of Editing: Putting Out the Fire

Every editor eventually faces the question of “damage control” and over a long career, may face it more than once. Preparation is the best way to address the issue.

What do you do when a client finds an error
in your work?

Every business faces this problem. For service people, like editors, the issue is error; for a retailer, the issue is defective goods; for service-retailer (e.g., an auto mechanic), the issue may be either error, defective goods, or a combination. No matter, every business — from the smallest to the largest and in every type of commercial venture — has on occasion had to deal with the question of what to do when a client finds an error.

The difference is that most businesses have an existing plan to address the problem; editors rarely do. Reasons why editors rarely are prepared include:

  • We expect errors to exist in our end product; we know that editing perfection is a goal, not a standard against which we should be judged;
  • We understand that it is a matter of preference and opinion whether to use serial commas or to close up hyphenated compounds;
  • We recognize that language is fluid — what was forbidden yesterday may well be de rigueur today;
  • We expect at least one if not many more eyes will go over our material, thereby minimizing the number of errors; and, perhaps most important,
  • We know that our work product is not (or should not be) the final iteration because the client has the power, right, and duty to accept or reject our suggested changes.

It is for these reasons, among others, that editors — unlike content creators such as writers who carry errors and omissions insurance policies — do not carry editing liability insurance policies. Of course, those reasons do not address the problem with which we are faced: What should we do?

The usual suggestion is to offer a discount on the work or on future work. Some clients demand reimbursement for any costs incurred, such as the cost of reprinting. Neither is an acceptable solution.

The more severe the client considers the error, the less likely it is that the client will continue to use your services, making the ultimate goal of your giving the discount/reimbursement — to smooth ruffled feathers and maintain the work relationship — less achievable. If you cannot be certain that your goal will be achieved, why proceed down that path?

Taking steps to avoid this problem — that is, the problem of being asked to compensate a client for an error — should be among the first acts of an editor when setting up to do business. The steps that can be taken are to have a written policy regarding errors and liability. (It is important to note that we are speaking of editing errors, not content-creation errors that include fact-checking errors.) The policy should indicate:

  1. What constitutes an error;
  2. Whether there is a margin for error and if there is, the size of the margin. (The margin of error can be a set number of errors or a percentage such as “constituting greater than 4% of the number of words in the document/project.”);
  3. The remedy(ies) available to the client; and
  4. The client’s responsibilities to minimize any negative effects that might arise from the error(s).

The terms need to be in writing and part of any agreement or correspondence with a client.

Probably the most important item in the foregoing list is #4. Clients have to assume some responsibility for a final product, whether it be a novel, a biography, a quarterly report, a dissertation, or something else. Clients too often assume that they can hire an editor and walk away from the project. But they cannot. One of the responsibilities can be (and should be) to hire an independent proofreader to review the near-final product.

One of the reasons I do rarely work directly with authors is because it was always a battle to convince authors that editing without independent proofreading is like taking one’s car in for an oil change and just having the oil drained and not replaced. Authors were (rightfully) budget conscious, but there is a difference between being conscious of one’s budget and being a slave to the budget to the detriment of one’s creation. When I do work directly with an author, I make it clear that I cannot accept liability for errors in the absence of high-quality independent proofreading.

Probably the most difficult item in the list to define is error. But the absence of an agreed upon definition of error is an invitation to an acrimonious editor–author relationship. This definition must be clearly spelled out and in writing. The easiest way is by defining the parameters of the work to be done. For example, if the editor is being hired to fact check, that should be included in the definition of the job’s parameters; if fact checking is not part of the job, it needs to be explicitly excluded as part of the editor’s responsibilities and explicitly included as part of the client’s responsibilities.

Once there is agreement, then the remedies available to the client need to be spelled out. It is here that you give the answer to the question “What do you do when a client finds an error in your work?” The remedies have to reflect what you are comfortable doing and should never be based on the unknowable, such as the likelihood that a client will continue to send me work if this particular remedy is available. It is better to assume that no matter what remedy you offer, there will be no future work from the client. With that assumption, you can focus on what will enhance your reputation for fairness and quality work.

What do you do when you find an error in work
that you have already submitted to your client?

Although a related issue, this is a garment of a different color. Some editors choose to say and do nothing, assuming that the next person in the chain will spot and fix the error. Some, like me, prefer to notify the client immediately and send a corrected file.

We gain or lose work based on our reputation. Consequently, I try to make my decisions based on whether I think the action I am contemplating will build up my reputation or tear it down. To my thinking, sending the corrected document will enhance my reputation.

I have sent a corrected document even weeks after I submitted the original edited to the client. Sometimes it is too late, sometimes it is in the nick of time, but always the client has been appreciative. I have never lost a client by sending a corrected file.

I not only send a corrected file, but also a cover note in which I explain what the correction is and why it is important to correct my error. (Sometimes it is not an error but something has changed since I edited the document, such as the announcement of a new treatment modality.)

I have said in other essays that the most important marketing tool for an editor is impressing upon the client that you are knowledgeable about the subject area and are always expanding your knowledge. It sends an important message about you to your clients and prospective clients.

I grant that there are many ways to send such a message; my admission that I made an error and correcting it is one way. (Another is when I develop a better way to accomplish a task and I let the client know about it. For example, when I developed the reference renumbering report that I send along with a document with renumbered references, I made sure that clients learned about it and how useful the report would be to their authors, proofreaders, and compositors. The result has been an increase in inquiries about my willingness to take on large projects with complex reference renumbering.) Being forthright about errors gives clients confidence in my abilities and willingness to accept responsibility for what I do.

The key to both questions is to create a response that enhances your stature. Remember that as an independent businessperson it is your reputation that determines your success in building clientele.

Richard Adin, 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.

December 17, 2014

The Practical Editor: Triaging Your Time and Editing

Triaging Your Time and Editing

by Erin Brenner

Editing at the end of the year can be challenging. We struggle to motivate ourselves. The days are shorter and colder (for some of us, anyway), encouraging us to stay in bed for just five more minutes.

We struggle, too, to fit the work into our available time. There are holiday activities crowding our schedules, and we want to go have fun. As freelancers we’re more tempted to do so. After all, the boss won’t mind, right?

Then there are the year-end activities associated with running our own businesses. Understanding how well we did this year and planning for next year take time, but the health of our business depends on them.

Our needs aside, though, there’s another problem. Many of our clients are in a mad rush to finish everything by December 31. What is it about the end of the year that makes us want to tidy everything up and be finished? Even clients we don’t work with regularly might pop up because another editor they depend on is on vacation.

Suddenly we have more work than we can reasonably edit in the usual timeframe, never mind the client’s shortened deadline. It’s time to triage, both our schedules and the client’s work, the latter with the client’s consent, of course.

Triage Your Schedule

There’s no getting around the fact that there are more demands on our time come November and December. When practical, the best course is to plan ahead of time how many hours you can reasonably work in the last two months of the year. What kind of time off do you need or want to take care of year-end business tasks and your personal life?

To maintain your sanity, build downtime into your schedule. Do something you enjoy. If decorating a tree gives you life, prioritize it. Schedule it if you have to, and don’t let it be taken from you. Even if it’s just one special activity, do it. It will make the busyness easier to handle.

Which leads us to the flip side: Do you need that extra work coming your way? Expenses rise at this time of year, and January can be a slow month. Review your expenses and make a conscious decision about how much extra work you need to reach your financial goal. This will make it easier to tell some clients no later.

Also consider whether you need to take the extra work or not. Will the client make that last-minute work a nightmare? Will they appreciate your efforts later? Sure, the extra money is nice, but if the wolf isn’t at the door, are you just teaching bad clients to disrespect your time? Or do you need to do the work because the client will walk away if you don’t, and you need that client?

Everyone has different needs. Take a moment to define yours and how you can best balance those.

Triage the Editing

Before you jump into a manuscript, determined to edit it as fast as you can, make a plan. Triaging is about consciously deciding what you will edit and what you won’t in order to meet a looming deadline.

Discuss with your client first how you will triage. If this is an ongoing client, you can generalize the triage list enough so you can use it whenever the situation calls for it. Always discuss your list with the client beforehand, however. The client has a right to know what kind of edit they’re paying for.

Your client may need educating, as well, on why some edits are more important than others. Clarity outweighs style every time, at least for the reader. Be willing to negotiate, too. Sometimes whether you cap an industry term is all a client’s boss cares about. Your client should know the politics of their situation and what needs to be done to keep everyone happy.

When triaging, try to take at least a few minutes to skim the document. Does anything jump out at you as a particular problem? Anything you can safely ignore? For example, perhaps you can meet the deadline if the author checks their own math. While you’re skimming, ensure sentences start with a capital letter and end with the appropriate punctuation.

Use your time-saving tools to the max. Run those macros, use shortcuts, and apply anything else that saves time. Don’t forget to spell-check; let the software catch as many spelling mistakes for you as it can.

Once you’re ready to edit, keep your prioritized list at the front of your mind. Accuracy and clarity go to the top of the list. A missing serial comma will be the least of your worries if the author has a giant hole in the argument.

If you’re responsible for legal concerns, such as trademark use, plagiarism, and libel, keep those high on your list as well.

Fix awkward constructions and duplicate words. If there is easy-to-spot, easy-to-fix wordiness, fix it. If you start to get bogged, though, and the meaning is clear, leave the wordiness.

Correct egregious errors in word choice, but leave the debatable ones alone.

Check names and headlines. Both of these things will jump out at skimmers, and there’s never a good time to misspell someone’s name.

Fix anything that will jump out at readers.

If you distinguish between a light, medium, and heavy copyedit, you can triage at those different levels, as well. Go through your usual edit list and prioritize those items that affect accuracy, clarity, readability, and legal concerns.

Remember the purpose of triaging: doing the best edit you can in too-short of a time. Prioritize your time and your editing, and you’ll preserve your sanity for another day.

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

November 5, 2014

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

by Erin Brenner

In Part I, I reviewed Google+ and Goodreads as two lesser-known social media sites that you can incorporate into your marketing plan to spread your brand message. You don’t have to give up the Big Three — Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter — but you can be more visible on a smaller site, and that’s worth something.

Today, I look at three more sites to consider using: Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.

Storify

Storify works beautifully with a professional communicator’s talents. We know how to tell and edit stories, and this site allows you show off those skills by curating of others’ social media postings, giving them context, and then sharing them with your audience. You’ll also demonstrate your knowledge of your industry, as Adrienne Montgomerie does with her links of the week posts.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Gather postings from various social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  2. Add text, images, and URLs to your story to give it context.
  3. Publish your story.
  4. Share the link on your other social media sites.
  5. Embed the link into your website to keep on sharing it.

Storify Pro Tips

That said, collecting and curating stories takes time, so approach them as you would original stories, because in a way they are:

  • Research the main commentators and the hashtags being used. Use the most reliable sources.
  • Consider how to best tell the story. Should you tell it chronologically? As a Q&A?
  • Edit, edit, edit! Choose the comments that best highlight the points you want to make.
  • Keep the story at a reasonable length. It should be long enough to tell the story, short enough to keep the reader’s attention.
  • Add words, links, and pictures to help tell the story.
  • Write headlines and introductions for readers and search engines.

SlideShare

SlideShare is just like it sounds: a social media site that allows you to share your PowerPoint decks. Visitors can look through your slides, comment on them, share the link, even download the presentation as a PDF (if you let them).

Although SlideShare gets only about 4 million visitors a month, it offers a targeted audience: businesspeople, many of whom work for B2B companies. So while you won’t reach individual authors on the site, you can reach companies you want to work for or be associated with. A large portion of the audience are the decision makers themselves: the business owners.

Most users post slides from presentations they’ve given. But you needn’t have given a presentation to post something. Create a slideshow just for the site. Short decks, consisting of 10 slides or less, do really well. You can also share videos, infographics, and documents to share with an audience.

SlideShare Pro Tips

  • Skip the animation. Animation can be great in a live presentation, but it doesn’t work on SlideShare. You can fake animation if you have to, but consider whether that’s necessary.
  • Make your links live. Take advantage of the fact that viewers can click on links within your presentation. Don’t forget to link to your site!
  • Include a call to action. Encourage people to take the next step, whether it’s to visit your website or call you or just share your presentation. Put the slide in the middle of the deck.
  • Make the presentation useful. Slides need to be more than just images. Ensure that some give tips viewers can use.
  • Write good titles and descriptions. Make them accurate, and include keywords. Many views will come from viewers searching on keywords.

Pinterest

Pinterest is essentially a pretty bookmark-sharing site. You collect web pages from around the web and save them using an image from the page or one of your own images. Visitors to your Pinterest page will see the images and can click on them to get more information.

You can post your own content, share others’ content, approve of someone’s posting, and comment on the posting. Pinterest a very visual site that packs a lot of punch.

Use it promote your own writing or your author’s. Pin your articles. Pin links to books and other materials you’ve edited, using the book covers as images. Use others’ pins to enhance your collection and make it more useful to your audience.

As with all curating efforts, you want to add a good description (context) and be particular about what you collect. Remember: your audience is looking for useful information. Provide it, and they’ll remember your brand positively.

Pinterest Pro Tips

  • Create a board others can pin to. Get folks involved!
  • Don’t just pin the first image you see. Look at your options and choose the best one.
  • Spread out your pinning activity. When you pin, your followers receive a notice, so avoid pinning a lot all at once. It can look spammy and feel annoying.
  • Tag your content. Utilize Pinterest’s Guided Search categories and subcategories. This will help people find your pins.
  • Embed board URLs on your website page. Lead website users to your Pinterest account, where they can get useful information.

Social media is a great opportunity for freelance editors, allowing us not only to market to millions of people for the cost of our time but also to demonstrate our creative skills. As with most marketing tactics, however, results take time. You build your audience one person and one click at a time. Have patience and keep at it!

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

November 3, 2014

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part I)

by Erin Brenner

Almost every editor — heck, almost every person — is familiar with the Big Three of social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you use social media at all to market your business, you likely use at least one of them.

And why not? These sites have lots of users, offering you a big pool of potential clients. Even better, companies with big marketing budgets are spending large chunks of those budgets on studying how to use the Big Three, and results are published in reports and articles all over the web. There is no shortage of ideas for how to use these sites.

The downside is with so many people on these sites, how do you get heard over the din? How do you stand out from among all the other freelance editors in the crowd?

There’s something to be said for being on a smaller site, with less competition.

This time and next, I will review five social media sites that you should use in addition to the Big Three: Google+, Goodreads, Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.

Google+

Google+ was created to be a Facebook killer. Three years in, it hasn’t caught the social media giant yet. There’s a perception that on Google+ you can hear the crickets because there’s so little going on.

Yet Google+ has 359 million monthly active users (MAUs). 359 million. I don’t know about you, but if the smallest percentage of that audience hires me, I’ll be very successful. True, the numbers don’t compare to Facebook’s 1.3 billion MAUs, but they do to LinkedIn’s 300 million monthly active users. What’s more, Google+ is growing 33% each year, while Facebook is growing at a mere 3%.

Let’s forget about MAUs, though, because what really matters is whether there are enough users who would be interested in your services and who would engage with you to warrant spending time on the site.

So who hangs out on Google+? According to Adjust Your Set:

  • 63% of the audience is male
  • 35% of users are ages 25–34 years, 15% are 35–44 years, and 11% are 45–54 years
  • Tech workers are a strong presence

If any of these demographics describes your audience, you should consider using Google+.

Google+ Pro Tips

  • Set up a Google+ Page for your business. You’ll get free data, and it’s one more place to be found.
  • Follow people on Google+. Because users are still trying to find their audience on the site, they will more likely follow you back than they would on other sites.
  • Make use of circles to target your content. Create circles that make sense for your audience, such as topic, client type, or job title. Share content specifically to one of these communities.
  • Participate in relevant communities. There are plenty of writing and publishing communities to join. Look for one with recent activity. Also check out the Copy Editing community (no connection to the newsletter). Because there’s less bloat, your comments are heard more clearly. Be sure to follow those members who comment frequently.
  • Participate in a Hangout. Hangouts are real-time conversations (with or without video) and can be a great way to network.
  • Host an Event. Events are Hangouts that have been scheduled. Invite others to join you for a conversation on a topic important to their business. Try interviewing your published authors on the publishing process or a designer on the importance of book design. Record the video and share it on your site later.

Goodreads

Owned by Amazon, Goodreads is a site for listing, reviewing, and sharing the books you read. What better way to show an author that you know what’s what in horror books than by talking about them intelligently?

How big is the Goodreads universe? According to Quantcast, each day Goodreads has:

  • 950,000 unique visitors
  • 1.1 million visits
  • 5 million page views

That means most folks (83%) visit once a day and look at five pages while there.

Other stats from Quantcast:

  • 22% of users are ages 25–34 years; 20% are 35–44 years, and 16% are 45–54 years
  • 28% of users earn $50,000–$100,000, and another 12% earn $100,000–$150,000
  • 42% are college grads, and another 22% have graduate degrees

Sound like your audience? Here’s how you can use Goodreads better.

Goodreads Pro Tips

  • Create custom bookshelves. Goodreads gives you three standard shelves: read, currently reading, and to read. Create your own shelves to organize books in a way that helps potential clients. How about a shelf of books on your chosen subject matter or books you’ve written, edited, or reviewed?
  • Write professional, useful book reviews. Book reviews follow books, so you can attract new followers or potential clients with your reviews.
  • Share your reviews and books with your other social media audiences. Connect your Goodreads profile with your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Amazon account, and then share your activity, such as publishing a new book review. Not only are you creating content for the other sites, you’re drawing people to your Goodreads account, inviting them to know you better.
  • Recommend books to your top influencers. “Top influencers” are your biggest fans, the people who love to spread the word about you. By sharing something exclusively with them, you’re making them feel special and getting your content out to more people.
  • Participate in Groups. There are Groups for writers and editors. When I last checked, Goodreads had a list of 1,000 tags used to categorize Groups. Choose a Group with recent activity, and follow those you talk with in the Group.

Coming up in Part II: an overview of Storify, SlideShare, and Pinterest.

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

The Practical Editor: 5 Social Media Sites You Should Be Using (Part II)

August 25, 2014

The Practical Editor: What You Need to Know to Edit Fiction

What You Need to Know to Edit Fiction

by Erin Brenner

A copyediting student asked me recently how she could learn to edit fiction. The copyediting and copyediting certificate program I teach in covers basic and intermediate skills of copyediting. While it’s a good program, it doesn’t cover everything (no program could). Hence, my student’s question on what to do next.

To specialize in editing any subject, you should have a good grasp of that subject. I participated in a Twitter discussion lately on how much you have to know to copyedit a subject intelligently. We didn’t conclude anything, but we generally agreed that you have to know something about the subject to edit it.

What I know about fiction, I learned in obtaining my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature. At this point, a lot of it comes naturally to me, so I had to do some research on what resources were out there and what other editors did with fiction manuscripts.

Disappointingly, there aren’t many training tools (an opportunity for someone, surely!) and of those out there, few seem to distinguish genre fiction (science fiction, romance, mystery, etc.) from literary fiction (everything else). Naturally, if you want to edit genre fiction, you want to be familiar with the specifics of the genre, as well.

Here’s what I gathered.

Developmental Fiction Editing Tasks and Resources

Generally speaking, a developmental editor works with the manuscript’s structure, either before the author has written the book (common in nonfiction) or after (common in fiction). It’s the big-picture view.

As a developmental editor, you’re looking for structural and organizational problems. You’re judging whether the author’s concept or theme works throughout the manuscript. Is the structure logical and appropriate? You’re looking at the author’s voice closely: Is it consistent? Appropriate for the story and audience? You’re also looking for sections that don’t work, whether they ramble on or are starved for detail.

Beyond that, you need to look at the various elements of the fiction work:

  • Plot. Does the plot make sense? Does it hold together? Are there any holes?
  • Timeline and events. Is the timeline logical and believable? Do events advance the plot? Build character? Are there any events that don’t add to the story in some way?
  • Setting. Is the setting appropriate for the story? Does it enrich the story or seem at odds with it?
  • Pacing. Different stories have different speeds. Does the pacing here seem to drag? Move too quickly?
  • Characters. Are the characters well-formed and believable? Do they grow, as real people do? How well do characters interact with each other?
  • Dialogue. Does the dialogue match the character? Does it seem believable? Move the plot along? Is there any dialogue that seems mismatched in some way?

Though it doesn’t deal with fiction in particular, Developmental Editing by Scott Norton is the go-to resource for editors wanting to do this type of editing. The Author-Editor Clinic offers online courses in developmental editing for fiction and creative nonfiction.

For fiction in particular, try resources for about literature itself: themes, models, symbols, archetypes, and so on. One promising book (which I haven’t read) is How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. It appears to have a good overview that would give editors a working understanding of general fiction. (If you read it, let me know what you think of it.)

If you’re up for a challenge and really want to dig into literature, check out the works of Joseph Campbell and The Nature of Narrative by Robert Scholes, James Phelan, and Robert Kellogg.

Midlevel Fiction Editing Tasks and Resources

Any time you define editing stages, someone else will have different definitions. One editor’s developmental editing is another’s structural editing. A third editor might see structural and line editing as the same stage, with developmental being its own stage.

Whatever you call this stage that comes between developmental and copyediting, you’ll be doing a line-by-line edit of many of the tasks in the developmental edit. You’ll also look at flow, usage, and sometimes language mechanics.

I couldn’t find any resources for this specific stage of fiction editing. (If you know of any, please share them in the comments.) A trained editor could pick up the skills necessary from a developmental fiction editing resource, I’d wager.

Copyediting Fiction Editing Tasks and Resources

Copyeditors look at the word and sentence level of a manuscript. Grammar, usage, spelling, and style are all concerns here. So are logic, consistencies, and basic facts.

To copyedit fiction, you should be familiar with some of the basics of story structure, story elements, and character building so that you can edit without harming the story. You need to be alert for continuity issues (e.g., changes in character descriptions) and plausibility. If the story is set in present day, the details should be right. If it’s set in the future or on another planet, the world should follow the rules the author set up. Keep an eye out for possible trademark and copyright issues, too.

Editcetera has a correspondence course on copyediting fiction, and at Copyediting we’ve covered fiction editing in a couple of ways:

  • A fiction-editing audio conference with Amy Schneider. For those who don’t know, Amy works as a freelance copyeditor for the big publisher, and authors regularly request her (translation: she really knows her stuff).
  • The April-May 2013 issue of the Copyediting newsletter. This issue contains several articles on fiction editing, including one by Amy on the style sheet she developed for editing fiction. I’ve used the style sheet; it’s fantastic.

As I said at the beginning, a lot of what I know about fiction I internalized a long time ago. What other tasks do you think are particular to fiction editing? What resources do you use to obtain the skills necessary? Share your thoughts below!

(Starting in September, you can read more about fiction editing in Amy Schneider’s monthly column.—AAE.)

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

July 21, 2014

The Practical Editor: 11 Standards for Ethical Editors

11 Standards for Ethical Editors

by Erin Brenner

In a follow-up to my article on the possible need for editor certification, Rich Adin wrote about the need for an ethics portion of a certification program.

It’s a good thought. If we American editors are to organize ourselves to create a certification program that identifies expertise and skill (and that’s a big if), demonstrating an understanding of ethical considerations would be a worthwhile addition. While some ethical practices  are universal (“be honest and fair in your business dealings”), experienced editors should be aware of pitfalls that new editors may not be, such as whether one should bill for breaks when billing a client hourly.

Rich’s article listed several ethical situations editors could find themselves in, and Teresa Barensfeld and Harriet Power list several more in the comments section.

It’s helpful, though, to think of all of these questions more broadly. when considering creating a own code of ethics to follow. Mark Allen framed the questions at Copyediting this way:

  1. What is my responsibility to the truth?
  2. What is my responsibility to the reader?
  3. What is my responsibility to the author?
  4. What are my business-related responsibilities, such as following contract expectations, billing honestly, and maintaining confidentiality?
  5. What is my responsibility to my own convictions?

I’d add “What is my responsibility to the publisher?” as the author’s and publisher’s goals do not always align.

But we don’t have to start from scratch on deciding what ethical editing looks like. Several organizations have already put thought into the matter, and we can crib from them.

The American Medical Writer’s Association’s Code of Ethics is probably the best, most concise outline  I’ve seen so far. While the code is written particularly for medical communicators, we can easily apply most rules more generally. For example, fiction editors might not need to worry about scientific rigor in the text, but they should certainly maintain an objective outlook of the text to help make the manuscript the best it can be.

Two other organizations, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Editorial Freelancers Association, offer codes of practice for their members. Longer and more complex, these codes nevertheless guide members with ethical standards.

All of these rules, ethical questions, and suggestions boil down to some broad practices (some of which I noted on Copyediting) every editor can observe, whether they’re codified or not:

  • Be honest and fair in business dealings. Treat others with respect and fairness. Act like a professional at all times. Respect confidentiality. Only take on jobs that you can actually do. Resolve conflicts fairly.
  • Follow any applicable legal guidelines. This will matter more for some editors than others, such as those working on copy closely regulated by a government agency (think medical copy).
  • Set expectations at the beginning of each project. Be clear about the kind of results you can or are willing to provide for the pay and time available. If you’re  hired to do copyediting, clients can’t expect you to do context (substantive) or developmental editing instead or in addition to copyediting.
  • Outline the details of the project. Spell out each party’s responsibilities, payment terms, project schedule, dispute settlement, and other details important to the project, preferably in a contract.
  • Follow directions. Keep your end of the bargain.
  • Be prepared to defend your edits. The author has a right to understand the reasoning behind any edit.
  • Explain opaque edits upfront. Be sure the author can follow your reasoning. Also explain any edit that might push the boundaries of what you’ve been asked to do.
  • Respect the author’s opinions. This is the author’s work. You don’t have to agree with the author’s opinions, but you do have to respect them.
  • Bill clients based on the agreement and the work you actually do. If your contract allows for 75 hours on a project and you complete the work in 50 hours, only bill for 50 hours.
  • If you can’t meet a deadline, let the project manager know as soon as you know. Adjust expectations and help resolve any conflicts. How much personal detail you share is up to you.

We might lack a national code of ethics for editors, but there is plenty of material out there from which editors can form a personal code and stick to it. Savvy editors will put the code in writing and share it with clients as a way to instill confidence and offer a guarantee of quality and professionalism.

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

June 23, 2014

The Practical Editor: What Does Professional Certification Look Like?

What Does Professional Certification Look Like?

by Erin Brenner

Rich Adin has talked about a desire for licensing copyeditors (see Evaluating Editors) to help prove their worth. It’s an idea that intrigues me. There are existing programs that offer certificates in copyediting, but these certify that you’ve completed a specific course load, not that you have experience and a tested level of mastery.

Worse, there’s no standard training program. You can take a single college course, several college-level courses, or public training courses in copyediting and learn vastly different, if useful, things. Each of them will say that you’re a copyeditor when you’re finished.

Not all copyeditors are trained equally, then.

So when I attended the Editors’ Association of Canada’s (EAC’s) national conference in Toronto this month, I was curious about the group’s certification program.

I talked to a lot of folks about it. Not everyone agrees on the value of it or that the way it’s currently set up is the best way. But love certification or hate it, EACers are passionate about this subject.

The EAC first formed a committee on certification in 1997, after talking about the need for it for a decade. Testing didn’t even begin until 2006. It was a long, slow process that has depended entirely on volunteers.

Here’s how the EAC approached creating its program.

Types of Editing and Standards

The EAC is open to all types of editors, so deciding what type certification should cover was a first step. The organization chose four categories to certify, with labels it found descriptive: proofreading, copyediting, stylistic (“clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, smoothing language and other non-mechanical line-by-line editing”), and structural (“clarifying and/or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure”).

Next, it had to define standards of what’s involved in these different types of editing. The standards, which are based on Canadian style, are reviewed periodically for possible updating.

I can only imagine the debates that occurred on what the standards should be. I’ve heard comments that the committee would debate for “months and months” over the standards and what they should encompass. That it took nearly a decade to get to the point of testing says something.

Testing and Grading

The EAC approaches certification similarly to how other industries approach it. Think accounting certification and medical boards. These aren’t certificates of learning, but of mastery and experience. As a result, the tests aren’t easy; only the foolish don’t prepare well for them.

Currently, the tests are on paper and in-person only, largely for security reasons. The committee is looking at ways to computerize the process and imitate better how most of us work.

Two tests are offered in November at various locations around Canada. You can earn certification in any of the categories — in any order — or take all four to become a Certified Professional Editor (CPE). You must score 80% to pass a test.

The EAC created a study guide for each of the tests, which includes practice tests and sample graded tests. It also offers a list of resources and study techniques. I heard more than once the advice to apply test-taking skills from your college years.

Because editing is so subjective and because this is a test of mastery, grading is a challenge. Tests are graded by hand by two trained graders with extensive answer keys. If the graders disagree on whether someone should pass or fail, a third grader is brought in. Then a marking (grading) analyst and an independent auditor review the graded tests.

Value

Earning certification is great confirmation of your abilities, but given the time and costs involved in getting it, it must be more than that. As Rich Adin has noted (see Who Speaks for the Freelance Editor?), the real value is in clients and employers understanding what it means to be a CPE and desiring to hire them over non-certified editors.

One editor I talked with noted how the scientists he edits for immediately changed their opinion of him when he became certified. Specialty degrees and certifications are something his clients understand. They now see him as a colleague rather than support staff.

At this stage, though, it’s up to individual editors to educate their clients on the value of certification. The EAC’s next step is to educate the Canadian hiring community. Already there has been headway: some job ads have stated that CPEs need not take the editing test when applying for the job. But there’s a long way to go yet.

Right for the United States?

For a program like this to work in the United States, we need two things: a strong professional organization and the liberal borrowing from or licensing of the EAC’s program. If Americans don’t have to start from scratch, we could get up to speed much quicker. Starting small by focusing on just copyediting certification would help, too. We could add more certifications as time goes on.

My big reservation is that there really isn’t an organization ready to take on this challenge. The American Copy Editors Society (ACES) is great, but it’s still heavily focused on journalism and has taken up the much-needed crusade against plagiarism and sloppy reporting. Other editor organizations are either focused on a specific type of editing (e.g., Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, which already has a certification) or are too local, lacking the resources for such an undertaking.

But maybe I’m wrong. Is there an editing organization out there ready to take on the challenge of creating a US certification program? Are there enough interested editors willing to form a new group to explore professional certification for American editors?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to Jeanne McKane, Frances Peck, Stan Backs, and everyone else who spoke with me about certification at the conference.

Erin Brenner is the editor of the Copyediting newsletter and the owner of Right Touch Editing. You can follow her on Twitter. Erin is also a guest presenter at various conferences on topics of interest to freelancers.

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