An American Editor

December 5, 2016

Plot or Characterization? (Part II)

by Alison Parker

(AAE Note: Because of length, this essay has been divided. The second half is scheduled for Wednesday [see “Plot or Characterization? (Part III)”]. For the first essay in this series see, “Plot or Characterization? (Part I).”)

Write what you know? I tried to write a romantic fantasy loosely tethered to a miserable job I once held. Consider this story: The heroine, an uptight but understatedly gorgeous newspaper copy editor, has a run-in with a billionaire because he dislikes one of her (completely accurate) headlines. He gets her fired without meaning to, and atones by hiring her in public relations. And he falls for her utterly because she keeps correcting his grammar. Of course! Everyone loves that!

I worked that plot up when newspapers still had copy editors. Now it’s too far divorced from the real world to sell.

But many authors manage to take darker elements from their past and turn them around to make them happier and more elevating.

A great case in point is the story of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Anne of Green Gables and several sequels. Like many romantic heroines, she’s an orphan, cast adrift and unprotected. That yields instant drama, which grows even more dramatic for Anne when she goes to a house on Prince Edward Island hoping to find a real home at last after years of drudgery and starved emotions. She burbles happily all the way from the railroad station to the house in Avonlea, and then discovers that the aging brother and sister who live there wanted a boy to help around their little farm. Anne’s adoption was a mistake.

Still, despite a defect of temper, she’s plucky and witty and loving, and she manages to fight through the disadvantages of her life and through other people’s prejudices against orphans and girls with gumption and imagination.

Scholars know a lot about the story behind the Anne books because the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery (aka Maud), wrote hundreds of pages in her journals. (The standard biography is Mary Henley Rubio’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings (2008). We know, or can know, about the largely depressing life Maud led, from living with and catering to rigid and repressive grandparents after her mother died and her father hared off west. Or, perhaps more accurately, we know about her impressions; who knows the truth? And we “know” that the girl was ecstatic when her beloved father summoned her from Prince Edward Island to what’s now Saskatchewan. But instead of finding a true home, she discovered her true mission: to provide free child care for her stepmother. Soon back with her grandparents, she was later lifted out of a severe depression by writing Anne of Green Gables. She married a man as prone to depression as she was, and the older of her two sons was a mooch, an adulterer, and a thief. Because of the sad state of medicine in the first half of the 20th century, Maud and her husband were treated for depression with barbiturates, to which they became addicted, and they were poisoned to boot with bromides (outlawed for humans in the United States since 1975). Did Maud commit suicide? (See Rubio 550ff. and especially 575ff., for the larger picture; for a shorter discussion, see Mary Beth Calvert’s “Perspectives on the Circumstances of L.M. Montgomery’s Death: Was It Suicide or Accident?”)

In any case, there was no happy ending here. But just as misery can make great comedians, it can also make compelling authors, ones who don’t wallow in their despondency but who transform it; as Irene Gammel says in Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic (2008), 40,

Maud believed that literature should engage with the real world by transforming negative realities. Never should a reader’s pleasure be spoiled by the fact that some of the cheeriest episodes in Anne were sparked by the darker side of life. Indeed, Maud’s losses and disappointments fueled her imagination into high gear, transforming bleakness into hope.

Anne isn’t Maud’s alter ego. She’s her altered ego.

And if you want to see a boatload of copy editors gasp and swoon, to say nothing about Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, just mention Anne. And yet the novel breaks many of the sacred rules of current fiction.

  • The book is episodic, in many ways a series of short stories — not surprising, because Montgomery started out as a short-story author and even cannibalized some of her earlier stories in writing the book. But there’s no complex or unified plot, and Anne doesn’t change very much for the first two-thirds of the book.
  • In How Not to Write a Novel (2008), 36, Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark say, “NEVER use two scenes to establish the same thing.” Anne is rife with repetition. For much of the book, you’ll see paired chapters, with Anne first in a scrape because of her rabid daydreaming and then triumphant (see Elizabeth Waterston, Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery (2009), 16. And Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, in The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance (1992; an updated version is available; its new preface covers the explosion in scholarship about Montgomery between 1992 and 2014, among other things), 21ff, notes five confession/apology scenes, full of self-drama until the last one.
  • The narrator is omniscient, which is not surprising in older children’s books, particularly those with a fairy-tale bent. But the point of view wanders even within scenes. And even, in a sense, in the first sentence.
  • The first sentence is 148 words with three semicolons, and the voice shifts several times; the main POV could be said to be the brook’s (see Epperly 20):

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

  • Anne’s speeches are similarly long and winding; take this 239-word example from the novel’s fourth chapter:

“Oh, I don’t mean just the tree; of course it’s lovely — yes, it’s radiantly lovely — it blooms as if it meant it — but I meant everything, the garden and the orchard and the brook and the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this? And I can hear the brook laughing all the way up here. Have you ever noticed what cheerful things brooks are? They’re always laughing. Even in winter-time I’ve heard them under the ice. I’m so glad there’s a brook near Green Gables. Perhaps you think it doesn’t make any difference to me when you’re not going to keep me, but it does. I shall always like to remember that there is a brook at Green Gables even if I never see it again. If there wasn’t a brook I’d be haunted by the uncomfortable feeling that there ought to be one. I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings? But I feel very sad. I’ve just been imagining that it was really me you wanted after all and that I was to stay here for ever and ever. It was a great comfort while it lasted. But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”

  • Lengthy descriptive passages feature heavily in the novel. Nature is especially big league, and Epperly counts eleven sunsets. Compulsive adult readers might enjoy the botanical and geographical help offered in Oxford’s The Annotated Anne of Green Gables (1997), though I don’t remember worrying about any of it when I read the book over and over as a girl.
  • Montgomery litters her work with numerous allusions to songs, books, poems, and plays from the 19th century and before, most of which her modern audience wouldn’t have read. (See The Annotated Anne at appropriate places in the text and in the appendixes starting on p. 452.) Two in particular seem somewhat inappropriate for a book aimed at young girls. Yes, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King is still often read in high school, perhaps as a cautionary tale against adultery, but Anne comes to grief over the poem at age 13, and she regrets that she didn’t get the dramatic part of Guinevere — instead, she almost dies when playing the dead Elaine. The allusion to Robert Browning’s Pippa Passes is brief, but it’s clear that Montgomery had read the poetic drama about an innocent walking past adulterers, murderers, suicides, prostitutes, malevolent students, an assassination plotter, and even a Monsignor who is tempted to kidnap Pippa, his brother’s long-lost heir, and force her into prostitution.

So why does the book succeed? My answer lies in the second half of this essay.

Alison Parker has held jobs in libraries, bookstores, and newspapers. She has taught university courses in classical languages, literature, mythology, and etymology. Parker helped edit legal maxims for Bryan A. Garner. Garner’s Modern English Usage acknowledges her contributions, and she was an outside reviewer for his Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation. She has also worked as a columnist, a book reviewer, and an editor in various capacities, including developmental editing, rewriting, and plot doctoring.

December 3, 2016

EditTools Holiday Special — Buy EditTools & Get Free Starter Datasets

The EditTools Holiday special is now in effect. Buy EditTools for $69 (plus tax where applicable) at wordsnSync ( and receive the Starter Datasets package — a $29 value — free. The Starter Datasets include several journals datasets, such as PubMed/AMA style, AMA with period style, ACS style, and Chicago/APA style, some with more than 188,00 entries, along with starter datasets for confusable words (e.g., there and their), language (British to American), Symbols Clicklist, commonly misspelled words, and more.

To get the Starter Datasets for free, you must purchase EditTools from wordsnSync and not in combination with any other program. The offer does not apply to purchases of the Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate package or to past purchases of EditTools. The offer expires December 31, 2016 at 11:59 PM New York time.

For more information about EditTools, see EditTools at wordsnSync.

NOTE: A link to download the Starter Datasets will be sent to you with the registration number for EditTools. The Datasets are not downloadable from wordsnSync.

November 30, 2016

On Politics: The Future of American Education

Most editors recognize that the foundation of our business lies in the education we received. It is hard to tackle grammar issues in a manuscript without having been taught grammar. And deciding whether the correct word is there or their requires having been taught the difference.

Of course, there is the issue of subject matter knowledge as well. Granted that editors are rarely expected to be subject-matter experts — especially not at the common rates paid to editors — but editors are expected to have some familiarity with the subject matter and to be able to understand what they are editing.

I have lamented in past essays about the decline of editing and of education. Now I worry even more with the nomination of Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos to be Secretary of Education in the forthcoming Trump presidency. Her selection is tantamount to declaring war on public education and on education standards — public and private. If her views on education permeate the educational system, what I see as a decline in quality of editors may well become a tsunami.

The foundation of America’s education system is that it is a public education system, meaning that every child has access to a “free” public education (and, yes, there is really no such thing as “free” in this context; public education is an expensive taxpayer burden, but a burden that since the early days of the republic taxpayers have been willing to bear in hopes that their children will do better economically and socially than they did). In DeVos’ world there would be no “public” education — all education would be by private schools, largely charter schools.

I admit that there was a time when I thought charter schools would be a panacea to our declining school systems, but that fantasy didn’t last long. The truth is that to fix our schools, we need to fix the way our teachers are taught and compensated. Rather than mid-level students choosing teaching as a career path, we need to find a way to make the highest-level students seek that career. And we need to require teachers to be subject-matter experts not generalists whose expertise is in classroom administration with a minor in subject matter.

Whereas I have progressed from thinking charter schools are the panacea to education’s ills, DeVos has not. In fact, DeVos not only abhors public schools, but she opposes setting standards for charter and private schools to meet. DeVos has been supporting proponents of her education views for years in Michigan. The result is that Michigan not only has more charter and private schools than any other state, but its educational ranking (in comparison to other states) has been steadily slipping, with no end in sight. (For an excellent review of DeVos’ history, see “Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools” by Kate Zernike [news item], The New York Times, November 23, 2016, and for why she would be a disaster for American education, see “Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools” by Douglas N. Harris [opinion piece], The New York Times, November 25, 2016.)

What does this mean for the future of editing? Even though education has been on the decline for years and this decline has been evident in the quality of new-generation editors and editing — as witnessed by the number of people hanging out shingles, proclaiming themselves editors, and then failing to do a quality job — there were rays of hope as colleges began to realize that they are a major part of the problem of education failure and steps have slowly been taken to revamp education curriculum and requirements for a teaching degree and license.

But what little progress has been made is now jeopardized because all of the controls that are exercised over education in public schools are nonexistent in the DeVos education world. DeVos believes that the free market, unfettered by chains of requirements to obtain a teaching license and unfettered by educational goals that part of standards such as the Common Core or national tests, will supply the needed fixes — even though this has been untrue in the 30 years she has pushed such an agenda.

If education further, significantly declines, then editing may be a doomed profession. After all, why would an author want a manuscript edited by someone without the skills necessary to edit her manuscript better than she can edit it herself? Why would publishers pay someone to simply run spellcheck?

This is not to say that our current system is the answer; it definitely has proven itself to not being able to solve the education crisis. The problem is that with DeVos we will swing from one extreme to another extreme, which is problematic when both extremes have conclusively shown that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Do I have a solution? No, I don’t. I do know that for years I have complained about the low standards that have to be met to graduate from a college education program with a teaching degree (I attended such a college in my college days). I know that I have clashed with teachers who should never have been given a teaching license but who were teaching my children in public schools. And I know that the way to fix the problem is not to replace it with another “solution” that is just an exacerbation of the existing problem.

Betsy DeVos should not be confirmed as Secretary of Education because her “solutions” have proven, in Michigan, to be worse than the existing problem. To institute those policies nationally would be to jeopardize America’s future. I encourage you to petition your U.S. Senator to not confirm Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education. Her confirmation would be disastrous for America and for the future of editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 28, 2016

On Today’s Bookshelf XXVII

It’s the holiday season and because I am surrounded by books, both for my work and my pleasure, I think about giving books as holiday gifts to family and friends. I would guess that many of you do the same. Consequently, it is time for the my next On Today’s Bookshelf.

There are a goodly number of past On Today’s Bookshelf essays, which you can access by clicking here.

Since my last On Today’s Bookshelf post (On Today’s Bookshelf XXVI), I have acquired the books listed below, among others, for my library. They have been added to my to-be-read pile. Most are hardcovers, but some are ebooks.

Nonfiction –

  • Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation by Nicholas Guyatt
  • Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel
  • The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798: Testing the Constitution by Terri Diane Halperin
  • Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner by Franny Moyle
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (previously purchased volumes 1 and 2)
  • American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands
  • A Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence by George C. Daughan
  • No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity by Sarah Haley
  • Birth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom
  • The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War and The History of The Hudson River Valley: From the Civil War to Modern Times (2 vols) by Vernon Benjamin
  • The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945 by Robert Gellately
  • Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips

Fiction –

  •  Shadow of Victory by David Weber
  • At the Sign of Triumph by David Weber
  • Night School by Lee Childs
  • Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
  • A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George
  • The Counterfeit Agent by Alex Berenson
  • Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon
  • Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
  • The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl
  • The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens
  • Fall from Grace by Tim Weaver

Finally, if you are looking for a great book on the business of editing (to give or receive), check out The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper (ISBN: 9781434103727), which is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble or directly from the publisher, Waking Lion Press.

Please share with An American Editor your suggestions for good books to give as gifts this holiday season. Also share the books you are hoping to receive as gifts or that you have purchased for your own pleasure reading.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 26, 2016

Important: Facebook & LinkedIn Ransomware

Ars Technica reports a security flaw in Facebook and LinkedIn that can cause ransomware to be unleashed on your computer. Please read:

Are you feeling Locky? —
Locky ransomware uses decoy image files to ambush Facebook, LinkedIn accounts

for the details. Of course, the best protection against ransomware is to not download anything and to never open a file or attachment, but that is not real in today’s world. Consequently, I highly recommend two software programs. I use both and have no financial or other interest in either program, other than being a long-time user of each.

The first is BitDefender Internet Security, which includes ransomware protection. There is a special Black Friday deal which is accessible here:

BitDefender Black Friday Deal

The second is Sandboxie, which allows you to open nearly any program automatically in a sandbox. The result is that even if malware is downloaded, it is downloaded to a sandbox, not to your main operating system files. Even if opened, the files are in a sandbox and thus can be checked and deleted without ever exposing your computer to permanent harm. Sandboxie offers an inexpensive lifetime license.

Sandboxie Lifetime Licensing

Be safe, be aware.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving – 2016

An American Editor is taking a break for the American Thanksgiving holiday. Although this year has had its ups and downs, it is still worth celebrating and Thanksgiving is the day to do so.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! We will be back on November 28. Here are some videos to brighten your holiday, beginning with taste testing by the true food critics:


In case of politics at the table, here is a solution:

and some more political Thanksgiving humor from Saturday Night Live:

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Richard Adin, 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

November 16, 2016

The Order of Things (An Occasional Series): I

This essay inaugurates a new series, The Order of Things. The idea of the series is to discuss the steps necessary for a long-term successful editing career. Needless to say, much of this series will be based on my experience and the experiences of close colleagues. I like to think I have had a very successful long-term editing career, but then success is relative. What is success to me may not be success to you.

Consequently, we begin with what I consider to be the first step in launching a successful career, a step so fundamental that it is rarely discussed, even more rarely thought about, and yet is the driver of for many of the decisions we make. The first step is defining success.

Success has always been a part of the editorial vocabulary, but usually a hidden part. Editors rarely think about it but are quick to claim their success to clients and colleagues, who also do not ask the bottom-line question: What do you mean by success?

Success can have any number of meanings. For some editors, success is editing a New York Times bestseller, even if they made no money on the project. For other editors, success is defined by money, that is, by an income that exceeds $x. Some editors define it by a mixture of steady work and a reasonable income. It really doesn’t matter how it is defined; what matters is that success is defined because it is that definition against which you evaluate your career.

Working for a company usually results in success being defined as climbing the corporate ladder, gaining increasing power and income as one rises. We tend to measure our corporate success against that of our colleagues. We can see who rises, who falls, and we can know what perks accompany the rise or fall.

But as an individual proprietor of our own company of one, we do not really have that ability to measure our success (or failure) against that of our colleagues. Over 32 years I have found very few colleagues willing to really discuss the ins and outs of their business, especially not their incomes. More importantly, it is hard to verify any statements colleagues make about their income or clients or workload or, really, just about anything involving their editing business.

Thus success for editors is measured against self-definitions.

I can tell you that for 29 of my 32 years as an editor, I have earned a six-figure income and that it has generally been at the high end of the low end (a little confusing isn’t it). And I can point to my being the primary (and often sole) source of income for my family, my having bought a house and paying $2,000 a month on a mortgage, and having bought health insurance, and having paid for college, and so on as proof of my statement — but that really doesn’t prove how successful I am. Because I have not yet defined what constitutes success for me, and, perhaps more importantly, it may not be what you consider success. So, we each need to define success for our self and measure our self against that definition.

Why is definition important? Because if we do not have a goal or something to measure against, it is impossible to know if we should continue following our current course.

Let’s accept that success means financial success and that financial success means earning a minimum of $100,000 a year, every year, beginning in 2017. Somewhat like a New Year’s resolution, but one we will strive to attain and keep.

As we begin our journey toward that goal, we can constantly evaluate how we are doing. With that goal, we can determine whether we have enough work, or if we have enough work to keep us busy for the year, is it the right kind of work from the right kind of client. Having that goal also allows us to evaluate what we need to do to attain the goal. Do we need to advertise? What kind of advertising? Where? How often? Focused on what type of client?

“Ahhh!” I hear you say. “The beginnings of a business plan” (for an excellent introduction to business plans, see Louise Harnby’s “Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers” or, better yet, her “Omnibus: Editorial Business Planning & Marketing Plus“). Fundamental to every business plan is knowing your goal, knowing what constitutes success.

Yet defining success encompasses much more. It gives you the opportunity to evaluate many of the business concepts that you are unconsciously employing in your daily business. After all, one facet of attaining the success we defined is wrapped in the cloak of the price we charge for our service. It is not possible, for example, to earn $100,000 if you charge $10 an hour. If you work 80 hours a week and charge $10 for every one of those 80 hours and do so for 52 weeks, your income will be only $41,600 or less than 42% of what constitutes success.

The result of defining success is that you are forced to face and address those things that most editors usually ignore. For example, when setting their rate, most editors ask colleagues questions such as, “What is the going rate?” or “What do you charge for copyediting?” or other uninformative, unhelpful albeit similar questions, when the correct question is, “What is my required effective hourly rate?” and the correct “colleague” to ask is yourself. (For guidance on the effective hourly rate, see the five-part series “Business of Editing: What to Charge.“)

When you ask a colleague about what to charge, you are doing so in a vacuum. Without knowing their goals, you cannot know whether they are charging correctly or how it compares to what you should be charging. Unless a colleague’s goal is the same as your goal and unless the colleague and you are taking the same path, including focusing on identical markets, to that goal, the answer you receive is interesting, making for great “water-cooler” gossip, but not what should guide you.

So, the first step necessary for a long-term successful editing career is to define success. In the absence of setting your goal, you have no yardstick against which to measure your progress and when your path forks, you have no clues as to which fork to take. If you have yet to define success, now is the time to take that first step.

(There are lots of little things that matter in establishing a successful editorial business. My book, “The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper,” is an excellent guide to many of the things that create a successful editorial business. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from the publisher, Waking Lion Press.)

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 14, 2016

The Business of Editing: The Decline & Fall of Editing

For quite some time, I have been concerned about the decline of editing. Increasingly, few books are receiving anything more than cursory editing. Increasingly, the focus is more on preparing a document for publication, for example, by applying styles to designate something as the heading for a second-level bulleted list, than on sentence structure, word choice, grammar, and other language (as opposed to structural) needs.

This is particularly evident in ebooks, especially self-published ebooks.

I have pondered this situation for months without coming up with a satisfactory explanation as to why the original, traditional goals of editing have been stealthily replaced and the lack of “uproar” from readers. Then came the 2016 U.S. elections and it dawned on me that authors and publishers are making this transition because the average reader either can’t separate fact from fiction or doesn’t care whether something is fact or fiction.

I have no plans to dwell on or discuss the past election except as the actions of the voters really were actions that could have been predicted had attention been paid to the evolution that has been ongoing in editing.

Consider the Trumpian cry that Hillary Clinton was a liar and Donald Trump told it like it is. The fact checkers — that is, every nonpartisan fact checker — agreed that Trump’s statements were outright lies and falsehoods 75% of the time and Clinton’s were 25% of the time. They also agreed that Clinton’s were closer to the proverbial “white” lie and Trump’s were just outright lies. Yet if you asked Trump voters, they would tell you that Clinton never told the truth and Trump nearly always did tell the truth.

What this tells me is that the average American has little interest in separating fact from fiction; that errors of language in books really do not matter as long as the package is attractive. If there is no concern about fact truth in presidential politics as long as appearances are kept up, then it is logical that there is little worry or concern about fact truths in books, and thus little concern about whether a book is edited at all, let alone whether it is properly edited.

I have noticed in my local newspaper, which is part of the Gannett chain, that copyediting is clearly a very low interest. It is the rare local-origin article that has fewer than five or six errors (the articles that originate elsewhere seem to be better edited), and many of the local opinion pieces, including letters to the editor, are riddled with language errors.

When I was in public school in the 1950s and 1960s, one of the things that we did was get a student subscription to The New York Times for classroom use. The primary reason for the subscription requirement was to learn grammar and language. There was some, but not much, interest in the classroom for the news as news; the newspaper was used to teach English grammar. Sometimes we would also get a copy of the local paper and compare and contrast how each wrote about a particular news event, the words chosen, and the sentence (and paragraph) structure. Using the newspaper as a teaching tool died out as the acrimony over the Vietnam War grew.

Today, there seems to be less concern on the part of readers, publishers, and authors about how a book is viewed from a grammar perspective because what used to be the bastions of quality editing have become haphazard. Consequently, students do not learn by example and absorption quality language skills; they learn indifference.

The learned indifference carries over to all spheres of life. Incorrect language use peppers political debate, resulting in two voters hearing the same words but understanding them differently. Incorrect language use acts as a barrier to progress because there is no agreement on the import of the words.

We struggle with the idea that there are class distinctions. We often attribute the distinctions to financial wealth when, perhaps, the core of the separations are really language and understanding. We perpetuate the class problem by failing to unite around language use, by failing to communicate clearly so that the message we send is understood the same by all.

Quality editing was, in my early years as an editor, a sought-after prize. It was not unusual (although it did not happen often) to learn that an editor had been fired from a project or that a publisher had removed an editor from the approved list of editors because of poor editing. In-house editors would often return manuscript pointing out missed errors or wanting to discuss why a particular editing decision was made. The editing pay scale was a range, with new editors at the bottom rung and very experienced and highly sought after editors at the top.

Contrast that with the editing world of today. Today, the pay is pretty uniform. Today, an editor is chosen more often based on price than on excellence. Today, editing is often outsourced to offshore companies whose primary goal is to keep editorial costs minimal. There is no time or money for fact checking or for second or third language passes. There is an increased belief that “anyone who can spot a spelling error can edit” or that the best (and least-expensive) editor for a manuscript is the author of the manuscript.

As the mistakes appear in print, they begin reinforcing incorrect knowledge about language. Eventually the erroneous becomes the normal and few recognize that the normal is erroneous. Which is how we end up with mislabeling and a disregard for true editing.

If this trend continues, there won’t be much need for skilled editors; the only need will be for low-cost editors who know how to style but who have few to nonexistent language skills. Schools will teach using books edited by these editors and another low-language-skill generation will take over.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 9, 2016

A Personal Odyssey: Preparing for the Worst

Filed under: Miscellaneous Opinion — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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I have been spending my weekends visiting my hospitalized, dying, 80-year-old aunt. There would be little worse than not to be present to say goodbye.

I realize all of us ultimately meet this same fate, but not necessarily in the same way. In my aunt’s case, she has stage IV ovarian cancer that has spread widely. The cancer is complicated by other lifelong ailments. The scenario is not good, the end already written; it is not if, but when.

But in visiting with her I learned just how unprepared she and my 88-year-old uncle are to deal with these times, which made me wonder how prepared my colleagues are. I know that as unprepared as my aunt and uncle are, my wife, Carolyn, and I are prepared. By prepared, I do not mean ready to face the ultimate call. Rather, I mean prepared in case of a medical emergency. I am referring to living wills, healthcare proxies, and membership in an organization like MedicAlert.

The documents (living will and healthcare proxy) may be called something else where you live, but the function — and importance — remain similar.

A healthcare proxy is your designation as to who is to make medical decisions on your behalf should you not be able to make those decisions yourself. The usual order is a spouse/significant other, followed by an adult relative, but it doesn’t have to be. The people you name can be anyone you trust to carry out your wishes. The only caveat is that in most places the responsibility is singular, it cannot be joint. What I mean is, you can name your spouse and if your spouse can’t or won’t serve at the time, then your adult child can become your proxy; what you cannot do is give your spouse and adult child joint responsibility, requiring them to agree on the care to be given. The reason is that there may be disagreement and thus no decision.

The key is knowing what care you want or are willing to accept (e.g., feeding intubation vs. no feeding intubation) and communicating that information to the people you designate as your proxies. In my case, I have sat with my proxies and my doctors and repeatedly stated what care and treatment I want and do not want — I have “hammered it home” so that there is no misunderstanding.

I do understand that expressing my wishes does not ensure that my proxies will follow my wishes. But when it comes time to make decisions, they will be able to weigh my desires as part of the decision-making process — more importantly, I will have relieved them of the burden of trying to guess what I desire and wondering if they have made a wrong decision.

My aunt and uncle have declined over the years to create and execute these documents. Their reasons have been many, but the biggest factor was a fear of losing control. There is no loss of control; the proxy becomes the decision maker only when you are incapable of making a decision. In the absence of the healthcare proxy, it is the doctors and care facility management that will make the decisions. They may ask for family input, but they will do as they please. This I know from personal experience.

Along with a healthcare proxy, which names your proxy decision makers (i.e., the named proxies become you for this purpose) in your preferred order, the prepared person also has a living will. The living will is an instrument that outlines the care you want or don’t want, as well as my end-of-life care choices. In my case, for example, my living will spells out the boundaries of my Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) request and indicates which intubation procedures I approve and which I decline.

The living will is your taking possession of your medical treatment. Do you want anything and everything done for you that might, no matter how unlikely or how great the pain and expense, extend your life, even for only a few weeks, or are there limits you want enforced to such treatment? Having a living will — and making a point to review it every couple of years — forces you to evaluate your current medical condition and your current views on treatment. Neither the Healthcare Proxy nor the Living Will are written-in-stone documents. You can revoke or change them at any time.

Most states offer fill-in-the-blank forms online, along with instructions for these forms, but the best method is to visit with a lawyer.

The third part of being prepared is membership in an organization like MedicAlert. I know that medical alert bracelets and necklaces can be bought in any drugstore, but they are inadequate. I have been a member of MedicAlert for decades. I consider it one of the best investments in personal safety that I have made.

In addition to being able to choose the kind of identification I want to wear (I now wear the silicone bracelet and carry the medical ID keychain; Carolyn wears a different bracelet but also carries the keychain) and the information I want engraved on the ID, MedicAlert lets me keep my medical information online.

More important, however, is that I have a unique member identification number, which is required to be engraved on the ID along with the organization’s telephone number. In my case, my engraving reads, in addition to my member number and MedicAlert’s telephone number, “New York DNR Order on file. Call for medical & drug information.” This tells emergency responders that with a telephone call they can get my medical history, a list of the medications I am taking along with dosage and frequency, the names of my physicians and contacts (e.g., next of kin) along with contact information, and any other documents I have stored with MedicAlert (in my case, copies of my Living Will, Healthcare Proxy, Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment [the New York MOLST form], and Do Not Resuscitate order). I do not need to be conscious or able to recall my medical history or know what drugs I am taking. I do not need to carry documents with me wherever I go. MedicAlert is accessible by emergency responders, doctors, and hospitals every minute of every day.

Responsibility for maintaining and updating my medical records lies with me, which means that I do not need to worry whether someone else has submitted information on my behalf. It is done online or via telephone.

I have made it a practice to give every doctor I see and every urgent care or hospital I visit for tests or routine care my MedicAlert member number and MedicAlert’s telephone number.

I started with my aunt and uncle and now we come full circle. They are of the generation that does not believe in sharing personal information (they do have neither a computer nor a smartphone), so they have been reluctant to make use of the various forms or to join MedicAlert. The consequence is that now, when these would be of most value, they are scrambling. They wonder, for example, whether there is something they have forgotten to tell the doctors; unfortunately, in the absence of the healthcare proxy form and because of the U.S. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), their children cannot check the information given to the doctors and the hospital, and even if they could, may not know if the information is complete. How much simpler it would have been had the doctors and hospital been able to call an organization like MedicAlert and have all necessary information immediately sent to them.

My family will not have these problems; they will have access to my information and will know, when required to make a decision about my medical care, what my desires are — I will have already made the difficult and important decisions. Will your family be similarly situated?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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