An American Editor

August 26, 2015

House Guide Plus Style Guide: Why?

Last week’s essay, Style Guide Terrorism: A Formula for Failure (the “ACS essay”), was devoted to what I consider one of the worst style guides editors and authors may have to deal with, The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed., by the American Chemical Society. But there is a corollary problem with style guides that is not the fault of the style guides themselves: the (often, usually) contradictory companion house exceptions (style) guide.

I work with publishers and packagers (packagers being the full-service third-party service providers that contract with publishers to provide all of the production needs for a particular project). Publishers use packagers as a way to reduce costs; the same work is needed and required, but because the packager is often based in a developing country, the packager prices the services at a price that reflects the packager’s lower costs and then finds freelance editors to provide editing services at a price even lower than the already low packager quote to the publisher. It is a way for a publisher to still get a book edited by an editor from a higher-priced country, which is desired, but without paying that higher price.

When I receive a project, I also often receive a lengthy house style guide that contains the exceptions to the style guide I am supposed to apply. For example, not too long ago, I received instructions to follow the AMA Manual of Style, 10th ed., which is, roughly 1,000 pages, and my client’s client’s 105-page house style. Where the guides conflict, the house style controls. Of course, there is another style guide lurking in the background, because both the AMA Manual and the house style say to check The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., for items not covered (or sometimes even for items covered) in the AMA Manual or the house guide.

It is not enough to be a great editor; one needs to also have a near photographic memory so as to keep the rules, the exceptions, the exceptions to the exceptions, and a third style guide’s strictures in mind.

And what do you do when a usage guide like Garner’s Modern American Usage contradicts the older house style or one of the powerhouse style guides?

What greatly bothers me are those house style guides that tell you to follow a specific style manual except where the house guide contradicts. Why bother telling me to follow the specific manual? Why not just give me a comprehensive house guide? Or, better yet, why not just scrap the house style guide altogether and let me follow the standard style guide?

The answer lies in the belief that each publisher needs to have its own distinctive and recognizable style. When a book published by Oxford is picked up, it believed that it should be immediately recognized as being an Oxford book. The reality is that very few, if any at all, readers recognize the publisher of a book by the style applied to the text. Not only do readers not care, but, much more importantly, it is the very rare book that actually faithfully follows any firmly recognizable style.

That’s because of the ultimate style and usage instruction given editors: “Follow the author’s style!”

I mentioned in the ACS essay the problem with references. Here is what a journal reference conformed to the ACS style would look like:

Hesk, D.; Delduca, P.; Koharski, D.; McNamara, P.; Magatti, C.; Saluja, S.; Thomas, L.; Shapiro, E. L.; Gentles, M. J.; Tiberi, R. L.; Popper, T. L.; Berkenkopf, J.; Lutsky, B.; Watnick, A. S. Synthesis of Tritium Labeled Mometasone Furoate. Med. Chem.: Immunol., Endocr. Metab. Agents 1993, 33, 439–442.

Here is that same reference but in my project author’s style:

Hesk, D.; Delduca, P.; Koharski, D.; McNamara, P.; Magatti, C.; Saluja, S.; Thomas, L.; Shapiro, E. L.; Gentles, M. J.; Tiberi, R. L.; Popper, T. L.; Berkenkopf, J.; Lutsky, B.; Watnick, A. S., Synthesis of tritium labeled mometasone furoate, Med. Chem. Immunol. Endocr. Metab. Agents, (1993), 33(5), 439-442.

The difference is even greater with a chapter-in-book reference. A conformed chapter-in-book reference would like:

Barnes, P. J. Glucocorticoids: Pharmacology and Mechanisms. In Advances in Combination Therapy for Asthma and COPD; Lotvall, J., Ed.; Wiley-Blackwell: London, 2012; Vol. 2, pp 16–37.

whereas in the author’s style it looks like this:

Barnes, P. J., Glucocorticoids: pharmacology and mechanisms, in Advances in Combination Therapy for Asthma and COPD, (Ed. Lotvall, J.), (2012), (Wiley-Blackwell), vol 2, 16-37.

Because of the number of references in the project and the schedule that had to be met, it was decided to follow the author’s style and make the references consistent. So what was the value in telling me to follow the ACS style?

What we end up with is a mishmash of styles. It also means that the editor spends more time styling than editing, because form has become more important than substance. Don’t believe me? Time how long it takes to conform the two author-styled references above to ACS style, including looking up the journal abbreviation. Multiply the time it took by 5,000 (the number of references in the project) and add 50% to that number. That is approximately how long it will take to conform all of the references. (The 50% addition represents the time that you will need to spend looking up each reference for the missing information and the correct ACS journal abbreviation as found in the American Chemical Society’s CAS Source Index [CASSI] Search Tool.) How much time is left for editing of the text in a 30-day schedule?

Also think about how much time is added for deciding whether something is a house-style exception to the style guide’s rule governing the item.

The point is that we have lost sight of the purpose of styling, of style guides, and of editing: to enhance the author’s communication with the reader. Instead, editors are increasingly being sidetracked to deal with mechanical issues (is styling references really what an editor should spend his time doing?) that often do not make communication between the author and the reader more effective.

For the most part, there is little reason for a house style guide as opposed to simply endorsing the use of a standard independent style guide. Sure there is a need to list certain preferences, such as capitalization of heads and whether, for example, “since” and “because” or “about,” “around,” and “approximate” are synonymous. But those preferences should be few; there should be no need for a lengthy exceptions document, especially when those exceptions are rarely strictly enforced, are often set aside because the author wants something different, and because trying to keep straight all of the nuances of the conflicts between standard and house style guide requirements often leads to mistakes.

Perhaps it is time to return to the original purpose of editing. What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 24, 2015

Thinking Fiction: Categories of Fiction

by Carolyn Haley

Independent editors can help independent novelists reach their publishing goals by factoring book categories into their editorial approach. Most of us are familiar with these categories from shopping at online or physical bookstores, where titles are separated into fiction and nonfiction then arranged by category, which make it easier for customers to browse and retailers to sell. Categories also help publishers and agents sort through submissions.

Independent editors, who usually see novels prior to submission, can use categories in two ways. At the proposal stage, an editor’s knowledge of categories allows quick screening of prospective clients; for instance, an editor who favors Literary novels may decline a Thriller. At the editing stage, category knowledge influences the nature of the work. Romance and Science Fiction, for example, emphasize different story elements and are written in different styles. Readers of each category expect to see those elements and styles underneath the author’s unique voice. If a novel deviates too far from category norms, it may flounder in the marketplace. Editors can help prevent that by querying anything in the manuscript that doesn’t fit the category the author is writing for.

The value of category knowledge

Understanding categories lets editors help clients align their publishing desires with their skills. For example, a first-time author writing a Thriller may present a draft too verbose for their target readers. If the editor helps them recognize that, then they’ll be more open to the cuts and tightening of a substantive or developmental edit than the simple copy edit they requested. Conversely, a skilled storyteller planning to self-publish might only need a copy edit to polish the writing, but they’re aiming the book at the Suspense market when it’s actually a quest story suited for Fantasy. If the editor makes the author aware of the difference, then the author will appreciate content tweaks and suggestions to better suit the book to category. Or, they’ll know to redirect their promotional efforts toward the right audience.

A common vocabulary

Fiction categories are guidelines for publishing in the same way editorial style books are guidelines for language. They provide a vocabulary that editors can share with their clients to help them along their publishing journey.

Vocabulary-sharing starts when an author seeks editorial help for, say, a Thriller. The novel might in fact be a Mystery or Romantic Suspense, but the editor won’t know that until they’ve read some or all of the work. So requesting a sample or the complete manuscript is an appropriate first response. It gives the editor an informed basis for making a decision and, if positive, building a proposal. Once both parties are speaking the same language, they can advance to working together, or move on.

Category types

Both editor and author need to know that fiction falls into two broad categories: Commercial and Literary. The distinction is neatly put by publishing guru Nathan Bransford, who describes Commercial as having “out-in-the-world” plotting and Literary as having “in-the-mind plotting” (for elaboration see his essay, “What Makes Literary Fiction Literary?”).

The terms “Literary” and “Commercial” distinguish between story types and styles on a macro level. They are not rigid terms—Literary novels can be commercially successful, and Commercial novels can have the qualities Literary is known for: meticulously crafted prose that touches upon universal themes and draws readers deep into character and place for an enriching drama. The point is to channel books from manuscript through publication with best chance for success, and Literary/Commercial is the first subdivision.

Genre conventions

Whether Commercial or Literary, all novels must have a beginning, middle, and end, with a central challenge that the main character is compelled to overcome, resulting in some internal or external change. Editing for that central challenge comes first, followed by fine-tuning for genre.

Commercial novels subdivide into genres with characteristic conventions. These vary between publisher and industry sector (as do the terms “genre” and “category”) and often nest inside each other. But they have enough commonality to be useful to editors and their clients. A sampling of the variation is shown in the links following this interpretation.


Romantic stories may occur in any category of novel, but what makes a book a Romance is its focus on one couple’s relationship, plus an ending that must be either “happily ever after” or “happy for now.” Within those parameters almost anything goes. Romance has so many subgenres now that there’s something for almost every taste, though for some subgenres and publishers, the story must be written from a specific viewpoint, such as first person. In Romance, editors watch for sidetracking plots, implausibility, and pacing that gets bogged down by description.


Erotica covers the territory between Romance and pornography. A new term is coming into use, Romantica, for erotic novels that meet Romance’s one-couple-relationship and happy-ending criteria via frequent, graphic sex. Erotica in general, despite its explicitness and openness to alternative lifestyles and values, still has boundaries. Editors handling Erotica need to familiarize themselves with what practices are taboo and discuss them with the author if any appear in the book.


Mystery and Crime are often lumped together but differ in main elements. Mystery is a whodunit, often a puzzle, whereas Crime may cover broader ground. In both the storyline must feature a crime (usually murder) and its resolution. Crime novels tend to be dark in tone and revolve around police procedure, forensics, and violence, with subgenres featuring private investigators and rogue detectives. Mysteries commonly feature amateur sleuths, and the crime usually occurs offstage. These stories, especially the subgenre Cozy Mystery, are lighter in tone and focus on a troupe of characters and a lovingly evoked setting. All crime-based novels are difficult to construct and take much detail work to be credible. Editors must watch for technical inaccuracies (especially involving guns) and pacing that reveals too much too soon or too late.


Suspense and Thriller emphasize danger and breathless page turning. They might involve a crime but often focus on preventing or escaping one. Suspense leans toward psychological drama, and Thrillers tend to be action-oriented with big stakes. Popular works in these categories favor a lean, noun-and-verb writing style, so verbosity is a common writing fault that editors need to address, along with plausibility.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Supernatural

Collectively these genres fall under Speculative Fiction. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart, but simplistically Science Fiction is based on known scientific principle and logical extrapolation thereof; and Fantasy is based on magic, often involving beings that can’t exist (fairies, dragons, and the like). Horror/Supernatural covers the gray areas in between, but if pushed will fall under Fantasy. These genres subdivide into more variations than Romance—no surprise for works of unlimited imagination.

In Spec Fiction editors need to watch for problems with world-building. Even if the story is set on a different planet or millennia in the future, the world still has its own laws of physics. Beginning authors may cut corners and just tell an Earth story against an alien or supernatural backdrop. Convincing worlds have their own vocabularies, cultures, and environments, even if based on Earth. Tracking world details makes for extensive style sheets, so editing this type of novel may take longer than others.


The line defining “historical” used to be drawn at World War II; however, that leaves 70 years for “contemporary” fiction to cover, so some publishers are redrawing the line or inventing new subgenres (e.g., Vintage) to cover the 1950s through 1980s. Regardless, in a Historical novel the period drives the characters and defines the setting and action, and factual accuracy is imperative. That means more fact checking for editors (who must resist the urge to replicate the author’s research, unless that’s in the scope of work). As with Spec Fiction, building style sheets is an important part of editing Historical Fiction.

Chick Lit/Women’s

Women’s Fiction has emerged as a deeper, more literary exploration of life and relationships than Romance allows, and Chick Lit has followed as a sassier version for younger women. Editing these mainly contemporary stories is as much about tone as anything else.


This category emphasizes personal faith. Depending on which faith is involved, there may be limitations on vocabulary (no profanity), sex (offstage or within heterosexual marriage only), or violence (forbidden, or else story focus on the psychological effects). The faith may fall within an established church or be a personal odyssey. Editors might need to bone up on the idioms and practices of a particular faith in order to catch the nuances in this type of work.

Western/Men’s Adventure

Typically, Western novels are historical, because most take place in the decades when the American West was explored and settled. They feature men, guns, horses, land, and storylines wherein justice prevails. Fact checking and style sheet building may be big time-consumers on these books, depending on what facet of Western history the author is covering. Men’s Adventure is similar in flavor but set in other places and times.

Young Adult/New Adult/Middle Grade/Children’s

Novels for youth can embrace any subject. The main difference between subgenres is the presence and/or degree of sex, vice, and violence, and the progatonist’s age. Broadly, Young Adult: high school; New Adult: college and first job; Middle Grade: junior high; Children’s: preadolescence. Authors have to be careful about “dumbing down” their language for young readers, so editors can assist with age-appropriate words and straightforward sentences.


General Fiction can be considered a catchall for novels that may sell better unlabeled. This includes Hybrid novels, which combine two more or standard genres or subgenres (e.g., futuristic vampire romance mystery) without one dominating enough to place it in an established slot. Such novels have become more common since the advent of self-publishing, where genres are more subdivided and flexible than in traditional publishing. They’re the easiest to edit because they lack conventions.

Sample alternative definitions

A win–win arrangement

Editors with category knowledge on top of writing-craft knowledge can help authors in a meaningful way. The benefit is mutual: An editor’s proposal personally tailored to an author’s publishing goals is likelier to win the job than one focusing only on the manuscript in a vacuum; and an editorial approach that guides authors in honing their novels for category is likelier to earn happy, published clients who come back with their next book.

Carolyn Haley lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books.

August 21, 2015

Worth Reading: Is Wikipedia Reliable?

Need to know whether a “fact” is really a “fact”? A lot of editors turn to Wikipedia. Is that what an editor should do?

A recent study, written by Adam Wilson and Gene Likens, regarding Wikipedia’s reliability was published August 14, 2015 in the journal PLoS ONE and is well worth reading:

Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale

I admit I rarely look at Wikipedia and have never been comfortable with crowd-sourced “research”, but I attribute that to a generational hangup. Yet perhaps there is some reason to be cautious.

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 19, 2015

Style Guide Terrorism: A Formula for Failure

Maybe the headline exaggerates a little — but not a lot! I am nearly, finally, happily, finished with a project that has been the most difficult project I have worked on in years if not all of my 31 years as an editor.

The problems begin with English not being the native language of the authors. If that was the extent of the problems with the project, then there really wouldn’t be a problem; the project would just be difficult, but not extraordinarily so.

What makes this particular project so difficult is the style guide that is to be followed: The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed. by the American Chemical Society (ACS) (Anne E. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson, editors) — especially when you combine its strictures with the American Chemical Society’s CAS Source Index (CASSI) Search Tool for bibliographic information.

The purpose of a style guide should be to simplify communication between an author and a reader by making it easy to comply with a group’s style preferences and easy for a reader to have all the necessary information that the author wishes to communicate. Although I have my quibbles with The Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed., Council of Science Editors’ Scientific Style and Format 7th ed. (the 8th edition has been available for a year but I haven’t had need for it yet), AMA Manual of Style 10th ed., and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th ed., none of these publications seem to go out of their way to make an author’s and editor’s work destined to fail as the ACS does.

I take pride in the quality of the editing I provide my clients. I believe one of the reasons I have been as successful over the years as I have been is that I am a topnotch editor who delivers well-edited manuscript in a timely fashion. I do know that I am offered many more editing jobs than I can handle, which I take as an indication from my clients that they perceive great value in my editing skills.

Yet even providing a client with a well-edited manuscript, I am able to maintain a decent rate of pages edited per hour. Those of you who have been long-time readers of An American Editor know that I charge on a per-page basis, which means that I have to be able to edit at a decent rate in order to be profitable.

But I have met my waterloo with the ACS style.

The reference styling requirements are illustrative. Most styles tell you, for example, to list only the first few authors of a journal article followed by et al. Not ACS. ACS style is to “Include all author names in a reference citation” (p. 291) unless a specific publication says otherwise in its in-house style manual. That wouldn’t be too terrible (until you hit the articles with a large number of named authors) except that author names are punctuated like this:

Cotton, F. A.; Rose, T. J. P. A.; Blinker, J. P., II; Muskrat, E. P. S., Jr.; …

Note the punctuation. And the spacing. And think how easy it is in a reference list of 200 entries to miss a space or a punctuation mark, especially when many of the references list more than five authors. This is a design for failure.

Complicating the problem is that the journal names, which are abbreviated, often do not adhere to the common abbreviations found in databases like PubMed. In addition, punctuation is required. For example, the journal Acta Crystallographica. Section C, Crystal Structure Communications‘s PubMed abbreviation is Acta Crystallogr C and its CASSI abbreviation is Acta Crystallogr., Sect. C: Cryst. Struct. Commun. Combine the CASSI abbreviation with the instruction in the Style Guide that essentially says you can ignore the approved abbreviation, and chaos reigns.

Consider the publication Science. According to CASSI, the approved name is Science (Washington, DC, U.S.) (note how U.S. is punctuated but DC is not). However, because CASSI doesn’t list another journal by the single name Science, it is OK to omit the place of publication. (My immediate question was: “Suppose I know of another publication by that name but CASSI’s database doesn’t yet list it. Do I keep the place of publication?” The Style Guide doesn’t say.)

What all this means is that the chance of error increases and the editor needs to check every entry in CASSI (you can also check Appendix 14-1 of the Style Guide for “CASSI Abbreviations for the 1000+ Most Commonly Cited Journals”). Fortunately, as I did each chapter I built my Journals dataset so that I could run EditTools’ Journals macro, which reduced the number of journal names I needed to lookup and/or correct. (See The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars for more information about the Journals macro.)

ACS reference styling has many more quirks that make the system so different from other styles. But the real question that is not answered (and I don’t really expect to see it answered directly in any style guide) is this: Do all of these requirements actually help the reader or are they make work that, because of complexity, are likely to lead to author and editor errors?

That is the real crux of a style guide. Every rule, every pronouncement, every decision made by the editors of a style guide needs to be weighed against this standard:

Does it actually help the author and reader or does it add a layer of complexity that is likely to lead to error?

Complex, difficult-to-master requirements not only greatly slow the authoring and editing processes, but also make it easy to “err” by violating the requirement. I view this as style guide “terrorism” largely because the style is difficult for no clear betterment of readability and because too often a style guide’s “rules” are too rigidly applied, with adherence to the “rule,” rather than readability, being the measure of editorial competence.

Unfortunately, The ACS Style Guide‘s complexities, of which the reference requirements are just one example, serve no purpose that I can discern other than to be different from other style guides. To my way of thinking, such a purpose — to be different so one can claim to have one’s own style guide — is unworthy. As I said above, it would be better to make readability the test. The current edition of The ACS Style Guide was published in 2006; perhaps a fourth edition will rethink the guide’s approach.

Have you found other style guides similarly overly complex for no clear betterment of readability?

Richard Adin, An American Editor



August 17, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Testing for Successful Editorial Business Marketing

by Louise Harnby

  • “Is [directory name] worth advertising in?”
  • “Should I include a full portfolio of work on my website or just a selection of completed projects?”
  • “Are business cards necessary?”
  • “Should I include images on my CV/résumé?”
  • “Does cold calling work?”
  • “How much text should I include on my homepage?”
  • “Is it best to charge per hour or per 1,000 words? Or should I charge a flat fee?”

These questions, and many others, are frequently asked by new entrants to the field of editorial freelancing. They’re perfectly good questions and our colleagues usually have some excellent answers. There’s nothing wrong with asking more experienced professionals for advice on how to go about promoting one’s business; indeed, I’d recommend it as one tool for deepening one’s marketing knowledge and stimulating one’s creative juices.

However, it’s important to remember that “advice” is just that — guidance and recommendations for action; advice is not a rule of thumb that needs to be followed without consideration of our own individual business goals, target clients groups, and required income streams. We all, too, have our own voices — some people shine when promoting their businesses face to face or over the telephone; others make more of an impact using their written communication skills.

In brief, the marketing tools that work for me might not work as well for you, and vice versa. That’s why we need to incorporate testing into our marketing strategy. Testing involves experimenting with particular marketing activities over a fixed timescale, and evaluating the results.

Testing allows you to discover which promotional activities are effective for generating business leads in particular segments of the editorial market. The results may well match the experience of many of your colleagues, but don’t be surprised if they differ too.

Before you start …

Before you begin testing, it’s crucial to consider what you are trying to say and to whom. Spend some time reviewing your business plan so that you have the following in mind:

  • Your core skills and services
  • The types of client for whom you can provide solutions
  • The problems those clients need you to solve
  • The key selling points that will make you interesting to each client group

A fictive case study

Let’s return to just one of the questions that I posed at the beginning of this article and consider how testing offers a constructive approach to acquiring market knowledge that complements the advice gleaned from colleagues.

“Is [directory name] worth advertising in?”

Ash is a recently qualified proofreader. He’s considering advertising his services in his national professional association’s online editorial directory. The cost would be $300 per annum, which is a big chunk of his marketing budget. He asks 3,000 of his fellow association members whether the directory has proved successful for them. He receives 30 responses, which at first sight is useful, but when he reads the replies in full, the advice is mixed. One-third of the responders have had work from the directory, primarily from publishers. These publisher clients have offered repeat work over several years; and even though some considered the rates of pay to be on the low side, the advertisers have seen a positive return on their annual investment. A further third of responders tell Ash that they have had a few enquiries off the back of their advertisement, but the enquirers were one-off student clients who had small budgets; the advertisers struggled to break even on their investment. The remaining responders have had no work from the directory, though a few felt that their presence in the directory, with its backlink to their personal business website, had SEO benefits.

Despite the mixed responses, there is some really useful information to be gleaned. Ash considers the following:

  • Are publishers a target client group that he’s a good fit for?
  • Why did two-thirds of the responders receive little or no interest? Are their core client groups not using that particular directory to source editorial suppliers, or are these responders poorly communicating their ability to provide the required solutions?
  • What about the experiences of the 2,670 members that didn’t read the question or respond to it?

Ash reviews his business plan (including the skills he has, his career and educational background, the editorial training he’s carried out) and concludes that, although he has little experience, publishers are a good fit for his business model. The price tag of $300 is a little on the steep side for him, but he wants to acquire experience from publisher clients. Publishers seem like a core client group for the directory, though Ash is cognizant of the fact that he only has feedback from a small percentage of the society’s membership and he’s unsure whether their views are statistically significant.

He decides to test the effectiveness of the directory for 1 year. He constructs a listing that is designed specifically to appeal to the publisher client group. In 12 months’ time he will evaluate the results. If the listing has generated his required income-to-cost ratio, he can continue investing in this marketing activity, confident that his money is well spent. If the listing doesn’t generate the desired results he will have two choices: (a) test a reworked version of the advertisement or (b) abandon the directory and explore other methods of making himself discoverable to publisher clients.

Whatever the outcome, Ash’s test will provide him with evidence that he can use to make informed and confident decisions about how best to market his editorial business.

What should you test?

What you should test will depend on what you want to know. Here are three ideas that I’ve either already tested, am currently testing, or are on my to-do list — one is a small adjustment that costs no money and little time; the other two require a greater commitment:

  • TEST COMPLETE: I wanted to decrease the number of enquiries from students requiring proofreading work on Master’s dissertations and PhD theses. I no longer have the capacity to take on this work but I was spending at least 30 minutes each working day responding to these enquiries. That 30 minutes could be spent on marketing my business or doing paid work. I felt cautious about placing text on my website that clearly stated what I don’t do; it felt negative, and it cluttered up the page. I decided to test it over a 4-month period. If the number of student enquires didn’t decrease, I’d remove the text, since it was ineffective. The test was informative — I now only receive a one or two student queries a week, so I’ve left the text in place.
  • TEST IN PROGRESS: I wanted to know whether creating a profile on Reedsy would make me more discoverable to independent fiction authors. It costs nothing financially to generate a listing, although Reedsy takes a percentage of any income earned. Feedback within the UK and the international editorial communities has been mixed. In May 2015, I decided to carry out a test over a 12-month period so that I could evaluate the potential benefits for my own business. Early results have been positive — I picked up a high-value client within only a few weeks and completed several projects for him. The process was smooth and payment was timely. I’ve had a couple of bites from other potential clients since then, but neither resulted in being selected for proofreading work. In May 2016, I’ll review the experience and make a decision as to whether to continue to advertise on this platform.
  • TEST IN PIPELINE: If I create short audio streams of some of my written blog posts, will there be SEO benefits? Will the project generate sufficient additional high-value work opportunities to make the investment in time worthwhile?

Don’t mix things up

Take care when carrying out more than one test. Multiple tests on one marketing tool are problematic — it won’t be clear why any changes to response rates, either positive or negative, are occurring. For example, if I decided I wanted to find ways of increasing the speed at which I receive payment, I might consider tweaking my invoice as follows:

  • Highlighting the late-payment-penalty information in a yellow box
  • Offering a 5% discount for early-bird payment
  • Adding a thank-you message and an emoticon smiley

It’s crucial that I test each of these things separately; otherwise, 12 months down the line, I’ll have no idea which of these tactics is working (or not working). It could well be that the message and emoticon are just as effective as the 5% discount. Unless I identify this by carrying out the tests separately, I’m needlessly throwing money out of the window. Tests can, of course, be carried out separately but simultaneously by dividing similar clients into groups, with one tweak applied to each group. So, in the invoicing case, I might divide all my publisher clients into three groups and send out invoices with the late-penalty payment info highlighted to group A, a 5% discount for early-bird payment to group B, and a thank-you message and emoticon smiley to group C. Then I would track the results for each group.

Track the results

Make sure you track test results. If, for example, you’re mailing your CV to a large number of publishers, and testing different designs, or different wording in the accompanying cover letter, make a note of who was sent what. That way you’ll be able to identify whether a particular test is generating a higher response rate.

Codes can be a useful way of collating data if you’re want to work out where your best leads are coming from. Many editorial freelancers receive emails and phone calls from clients who don’t identify how they discovered them. Adding a distinct code to each call to action on your website’s Contact page, leaflet, business card, or advertisement helps you to distinguish the results of your marketing efforts. Likewise, if you are testing different pricing models with, say, students (e.g., a flat fee vs. $X per 1,000 words), you might issue them with different ordering codes if they decide to commission you (FF2015 for those offered a flat fee vs. PK2015 for those offered a price per 1,000 words); this would enable you to track which test generated the best likelihood of being hired.

Summing up

  • In my book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, I include some words attributed to Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It’s a marvellous quotation — a great reminder that marketing is as much about learning as about being interesting and discoverable to potential clients. Testing is integral to marketing because it provides a considered framework in which we can look at what we don’t know and move to a position where we do know.
  • Don’t be frightened to test new ways of doing things; your colleagues can provide guidance but there is unlikely to be consensus, especially so given the number of voices in the online editorial community. What works for one person may not work for another. If some of your colleagues have found a particular promotional platform to be unfruitful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have the same experience; they may have mismanaged the way they communicated their message, or they may have a less-appealing skillset than you.
  • Testing allows you to make the decisions that are right for your business, rather than your colleagues’ business. Seek advice and use that guidance to help you through the thinking process. Ultimately, though, your decisions need to reflect your business goals, your target client groups, your skills and services, and your income requirements — no one else’s.
  • Set time frames for your tests and track the results.
  • Avoid confusion — carry out one test on one marketing tool at a time. Simultaneous testing is possible where the number of targets is large enough to apply different tests to groups of similar-type clients.
  • Most importantly, keep trying new methods. Even methods that are successful today can become unsuccessful tomorrow — innovation is as important in market testing as in any other endeavor.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

August 12, 2015

The Business of Editing: Keeping Reference Callouts in Number Order

One of the most tedious and troublesome tasks for me when I edit is making sure that references are called out in number order in the text. In past years, I used a pen-and-paper system. I wasted a lot of paper and — much more importantly to my editing business — I wasted a lot of time having to move my hand from my mouse or keyboard to take up the pen-and-paper number order checking system material.

Because I tend to work on long documents, many with a large number of references, the time the pen-and-paper system took really added up. With the Reference # Order Check macro I have been able to reduce the time significantly, as well as increase accuracy.

Reference # Order Check is found on the EditTools ribbon in the References (A) submenu (B), where it is listed as Ref # Order Check (#2).

Reference # Order Check on the EditTools Ribbon

Reference # Order Check on the EditTools Ribbon

Clicking on Ref # Order Check (B) brings up the dialog for the macro, shown here:

The Reference # Order Check dialog

The Reference # Order Check dialog

If you work on multiple projects concurrently, you can track the references in each project by saving each project’s reference number list to its own file and then opening that file when you next work on the specific project (#1).

To populate Reference # Order Check, you enter the last reference number in a document in the # of references field (#2) and click Update List (#3). For example, if your document lists the last reference number as 123, you would type 123 in the # of references field (#2) and then Update the List (#3). The numbers 1 through 123 will appear in the display field (#4).

If your document has “a,b” references (e.g., 57a, 62a, 62b, 62c), you can add them to the list using the Insert feature (#5). You would enter the “a,b” value to be inserted in the Value to insert field, then indicate either the number it should be inserted before (Insert before field) or the number it should be inserted after (Insert after field) in the list. The “a,b” number will then appear in the list. For example, to insert 62b, you would type 62b in the Value to insert field and then type either 62c in the Insert before field or 63 in the Insert after field — assuming you had already entered 62a but not 62c in the list. To enter the number, click Insert (#5).

The Count (#6) gives you a total count of the number of references and, as with other EditTools macros, you have the option to Save, Save & Close, or Close (#7) the dialog.

Let’s assume that in our sample document there are 117 references. We would click on Ref # Order Check (B above) to open our dialog in which we would type 117 (#8) and click Update List (#9).

Setting for 117 references

Setting for 117 references

Clicking Update List populates the reference number list field (#9).

Populating Reference # Order Check

Populating Reference # Order Check

If the reference list also has a reference numbered 102a, that number would be added to the list by typing the number in the Value to insert (#10) and typing either 103 in the Insert before (#11) field or typing 102 in the Insert after (#12) field and then clicking Insert (#13).

Insert after

Insert before

Insert after

Insert after

As shown here, the number 102a is automatically entered (arrow). Clicking Save & Close (#14) saves the number list.

102a inserted

102a inserted

When Reference # Order Check is reopened, the saved number list appears (as demonstrated by the inclusion of 102a in our example [#15]) and the count now displays the total number of reference numbers as 118 (#16), which is our original 117 plus the addition of 102a.

The count

The count

In the excerpt from our sample document, the reference callouts have been highlighted. The first called out reference is 1 (#17), which we long ago came across; the next is 43 (#17).

Reference callouts in text

Reference callouts in text

A look at the Reference # Order Check dialog tells us that 43 is the next reference number that should be called out (#20), so we single-click on number 43 in the number field (#20) to remove it from the list. That will move the number 44 to the top of the list (#21), indicating that it is the next expected-to-be-found-in-the-document number.

Next reference number is 43

Next reference number is 43

After removing 43

After removing 43

However, the next reference number in our document is 47 (see #18 above), not the expected 44 (#21). This tells us that reference callouts 44, 45, and 46 are not called out in number order or may not be called out in the document at all. As editors, we would take the next necessary steps to deal with this problem.

Some other points: Using our example, if you Save & Close Reference # Order Check at this point (after having had 43 deleted from the number field) and reopen Reference # Order Check, your number list still begins with 44 as the first number (#22) but your count (#23) now indicates the number of numbers remaining in the number list. If you just Save, then the file is saved but the count (#23) does not change. The count changes when the file is refreshed as a result of its being closed and reopened.

After reopening the Reference # Order Check dialog

After reopening the Reference # Order Check dialog

Finally, numbers can be removed from the number field in any order; just click on a number. If you accidentally delete a number, reinsert it using the procedure outlined above for inserting a number (#10 to #14).

Reference # Order Check replaces the pen-and-paper method of tracking reference callouts. It is a more efficient method and allows me to keep my hand on my mouse, thereby reducing the time necessary to track the references. Like other EditTools macros, Reference # Order Check saves me time each time I use it, thereby increasing my profits. Reference # Order Check is one of the three macros I keep open on my desktop as I edit, the other two being Bookmarks and Click List.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:


Looking for a Deal?

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

August 10, 2015

On the Basics: Step Away from that Project — Professionally and with Class

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The Background

Ten years ago, the three-person team responsible for editing an association newsletter quit for reasons never explained, with no notice, and without providing any material for a successor — no formatting or style information, no backlog of unused material, no contact information for vendors or past contributors; nada. The organization’s board of directors was gobsmacked, to quote our British colleagues.

That was a textbook example of how not to step away from a project, client, or job. No matter how badly you’re treated or how much you hate the project (and it was never clear that there was a reason for that team’s move), it’s always smart to take the high road on leaving. That even goes for being laid off or fired. You never know when such behavior will come up in a future workplace, freelance, or volunteer setting. You don’t want to be known as the unprofessional, even childish, person who took her toys and went home in a huff, leaving everyone at a loss in her wake. You want to be remembered as someone who behaved in a professional manner that made the transition smooth for your successor.

I stepped up to take on editing that publication and kept it rolling for more than 10 years. When I was ready to let it go and give someone new a chance at the editor’s role, I was reminded of how I came into the project. I also remembered starting a couple of new in-house jobs and feeling somewhat at sea because a predecessor didn’t provide much of a roadmap for what to do and how. I was determined to handle this transition very differently from my predecessors. I felt that I owed that to myself as a professional, but also to the organization and to whoever was next to serve as editor — perhaps most to my successor.

6 Tips

Here are a few of my tips on how to hand off a project gracefully and professionally.

  • Give decent notice. That seems obvious, but it can be tempting to throw a hissy fit and just walk off the job if it has become onerous or unpleasant. Professionals, though, don’t do that unless there’s genuine provocation, and sometimes not even then. Publications and projects don’t run themselves, and it can take time to find a replacement. The standard is usually two weeks, but it might be smart to give a month’s notice, especially if the publication or project you handle is on a monthly publishing schedule. Take the high road, be the better person, and give the employer, sponsoring organization, or client a chance to find a replacement before you leave.
  • Put it in writing. Create or update a job description that details what your replacement will be expected to do, when, how, and with whom. There might have been one when you started the job or assignment, but you may have put your own stamp on the role or taken on additional responsibilities, so add those details to the original description. In many instances, especially for freelance projects, there is no job description. Providing one will make it easier for the client or employer to find an appropriate replacement and for your successor to handle the work.
  • Help a replacement out. Some may say that this is more appropriate for a volunteer project than a paid one, but I think it’s a good idea to provide as much information as possible about the publication or project, from the preferred or house style manual to the look of the book, whether you’re an in-house employee, a freelancer, or a volunteer. I know I appreciate that kind of information when I begin a new project. Prepare a list of relevant details: publishing schedule and deadlines; programs or applications used; formatting — typefaces and sizes; columns numbers and widths; character styles (headlines and subheads, body text, captions, indents, bullets, etc.); vendor roles, names, and contact information; contributors for writing, artwork, and any other roles; budget details if that is part of your responsibility. Have at least a couple of unused articles in place to hand over so the new person doesn’t have to start with a totally empty quiver of material. A new person might want to do a wholesale redesign of that newsletter or magazine that you’ve loved editing, and may want to use all new contributors and freelancers, but probably will need to know how to put together at least one first issue based on the current version. (This might seem like a lot to do to help out a replacement, but it can also be seen as an organizing function for oneself.)
  • Offer insights. Don’t be a gossip and don’t badmouth colleagues, but — if appropriate — let your replacement know something about the hierarchy of the organization; most importantly, any chain of approvals and command to follow, along with who is likely to be the most helpful to a newcomer. If a client or supervisor has certain unpredictable quirks, consider sharing that information informally. For instance, new editor or freelancer might think that “due on Monday” means they have until 5 p.m. to finish an assignment or prepare material for collegial review, but the client or supervisor might be expecting it at 9 a.m. that day.
  • Suggest a successor. If you know someone in or outside the organization who would be your ideal replacement, recommend that person. You’ll do a favor to both the organization and the individual, and they’ll remember it. This is especially important if you’re a freelancer and decide to leave a project for some reason. Good freelancers can be harder to find than good employees.
  • Be available. Let your contact, supervisor, or colleague know how to reach you in the case there are questions that only you can answer. You won’t want to be taken advantage of once you’re out the door by spending a lot of time on helping out the organization or your replacement, but you do want — again — to leave with the image of someone who is professional, responsible, and helpful. Within reason, of course.

What else have you done, or wished someone had done for you, to make a professional exit from a project or position?

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

August 7, 2015

Worth Reading: MIT Claims to Have Found a “Language Universal” that Ties All Languages Together

As manipulators of language, editors have an interest in the origins and connectedness of languages. Noam Chomsky has theorized that all languages are interconnected via an “universal connector.” Proving his theory has been challenging, but MIT thinks it has done so based on a study of 37 languages.

Alas, the original article, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A., is behind a paywall ($10 buys access for 2 days). However, Ars Technica provides a summary and if you click the DOI at the end of the article, you can read the official abstract:

MIT claims to have found a “language universal” that ties all languages together: A language universal would bring evidence to Chomsky’s controversial theories.

Has MIT made the connection? Is there an “universal connector” as Chomsky theorized? What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 5, 2015

The Business of Editing: Managing Comments with Comment Editor

We all know that Microsoft Word wasn’t designed by editors for editors. As good a program as it is, it is a compromise. The result is that some “features” aren’t really features for editing; instead, they are time-consuming and thus cost efficient editors money.

This is certainly the case when it comes to managing comments and queries (hereafter “comments” means both) we have inserted in a manuscript, regardless of whether we inserted them using Word’s method or EditTools’ Insert Query macro. For example, to delete a comment, Word requires us to locate the comment in the text, select it, and delete it. Similarly, to modify the text of a comment, we need to locate the comment and open it. I have had instances where a comment I inserted on page 3 of a document needed to be changed because of information on page 19. To edit the page 3 comment, I had to leave page 19, not my preference when the only reason to do so is to be able to edit the comment. But that is the Microsoft way.

EditTools’ Comment Editor changes the way I deal with comments and has reduced the time I spend “managing” comments — which, in my editing world, means more profit for me.

Comment Editor is an easy-to-use method for reviewing and modifying comments created using either EditTools’ Insert Query macro (A) or Microsoft Word’s method. Comment Editor is accessed from the EditTools ribbon as shown here (B). Comment Editor can also be accessed by keyboard combination. To assign a hotkey combination, go to Hotkeys (C) and choose Set Up Hotkey for Macro and choose Comment Editor.

Comment Editor on the EditTools Riboon

Comment Editor on the EditTools Riboon

When a comment is inserted, Word automatically numbers it as shown here (#1):

Comment in text

The Comment Editor dialog

The Comment Editor dialog is shown below. It is from this dialog from which anything that can be done to a comment is done. There is no need to locate the comment in the text or go to it; wherever you currently are in your document is where you will stay unless you choose otherwise.

Comment Editor dialog

Comment Editor dialog


When you open Comment Editor, the main text area (#2) is automatically populated with every comment present in your document. As you can see, in our example, the document already has six comments. Comment Editor gives you a few options. If you use Word’s method to edit a comment, you need to go to the comment — otherwise the comment is inaccessible. That means you need to leave your present location in the document. For example, if you are at the location where comment 5 is found and realize that because of the text at that location, you need to modify comment 2, with Word’s system, you need to go to comment 2. Word also doesn’t provide a way to automatically return to where you were in the document.

Comment Editor doesn’t work that way. Instead, Comment Editor offers you the option to go to the comment or not. If you want to go to the selected comment, you can click Go to Comment (#3) — the manual way of going to an individual comment — or if you prefer to always go to the comment, you can set your default to automatically go to a comment when it is selected (#4). When you are done, you can return to where you were in the document by clicking Return to Before (#3), the manual method, or make your default that you automatically return when Comment Editor is closed (#4).

Another difference from Word’s method is that to get to a specific comment in Word, you go to the Review ribbon and click Next or Previous. In contrast, with Comment Editor, you simply choose the comment you want to go to in the text field (#2).

When you select a comment in the text field (#2), you are given several bits of information: comment ID or number, a small amount of the comment’s text, and the text you attached it to (see, e.g., #1 above). More importantly, you are also shown the complete text of the comment in the Text field (#5). This Text field (#5) is where you edit the comment. If you make a change to the text, click Update (#6) to update the comment in Word. Want to delete the comment? Click the Delete button (#6) and the comment will be deleted from your document and the comments will be renumbered.

If you want to keep Comment Editor open until you manually close it, check the box at #7. Comment Editor also displays the total number of comments in the document (#8) should you not be able to see all of them in the main field.

Inserting a new comment

Note what is currently comment 6 in the list of comments shown at #2. In the image below, Insert Query has been used to insert a new comment (arrow), which is numbered 6 by Word.

Inserting a new comment

Inserting a new comment

If we reopen Comment Editor, you can see that there are now seven comments listed and the comment we added above is shown as number 6 (violet highlight and arrow).

Inserting a new comment in Comment Editor

Reopening Comment Editor

If you were to use Word’s method, you would see the new comment at the bottom of the page, as shown here. (In this image the numbers 5 and 6 correspond to comments 5 and 6 in Word’s viewing pane.)

Word's display

Word’s display

 Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Using Comment Editor, it is easy to modify a comment. As shown in the image below, we have selected comment 6 to modify (#9) by clicking on it to select it. Its text appears in the Text field at the bottom of the Editor (#10). The text we are adding to the comment is highlighted in yellow (for illustrative purposes; the highlighting is not part of Comment Editor) (#10). Clicking Update (#11) will add the text to the comment.

Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Modifying a comment in Comment Editor

Before modifying the text, you will be asked to confirm that you want to update the comment, and the comment to be updated will be identified by its ID (circled text below):

A comment's identification

A comment’s identification

Clicking Yes results in the comment being updated as shown here:

Updated comment in Word's view

Updated comment in Word’s view

which we can see in Comment Editor when we reopen it:

Updated comment in Comment Editor

Updated comment in Comment Editor

The editing of the comment took place solely within the Comment Editor. Comment Editor lets us see the complete text of all comments in the document and lets us manage the comments as needed. Time is saved because we no longer have to travel around the document to find the correct comment to edit or to do the editing.

When there are a lot of comments

Dealing with comments in a long document that has many comments can be tricky. An example is shown in the image below, which shows the comments in the chapter I was editing when I was only two-thirds through the document. At this point in time, I already had 42 comments in the document (see #12). Because I could scroll through the comments in Comment Editor, I was able to locate the comment I needed to modify and change its text without moving from my present location in the document. A much easier and faster way to manage comments, especially when there are a lot of them.

Example of Comment Editor's Ease of Use

Example of Comment Editor’s Ease of Use

In my experience, it is not unusual for one comment to be dependent on another comment, or even on several other comments. Before Comment Editor, I had occasions when I had to go to and check several comments, modifying some of them, deleting others, which took time, especially to locate the correct comments. Comment Editor has made that process quick and easy.

Comment Editor is a much easier, quicker, and more efficient way to deal with inserted comments in Word than the method offered by Word itself. Most importantly, because it is efficient and a timesaver, using Comment Editor means enhanced profitability.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:


Looking for a Deal?

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

August 3, 2015

Numbers in Sentences: Customizing PerfectIt to Find What You Want

by Daniel Heuman

PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences generates more questions from customers than any of PerfectIt’s other tests. Here are some (anonymized) questions that users have sent:

“When assessing inconsistencies in how numbers are handled, PerfectIt finds, say, 4 instances, when there are 10 it should have found.”

“My version of PerfectIt isn’t finding numbers. Is there a fix?”

“Why is PerfectIt missing the number ‘2’ in a sentence?”

What do all these queries have in common? They all assume that PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences should find every number in a document. But PerfectIt doesn’t work that way. To understand why, it helps to explain the philosophy behind PerfectIt.

How PerfectIt Works

PerfectIt is an add-in for MS Word. It checks documents in one of two ways:

  • It looks for inconsistencies. For example, if the number 3 appears in numerals in one sentence, but the number four is spelled out in another sentence, that’s an inconsistency.
  • It can be set to check user preferences. For example, you can set it to make sure that all numbers over 20 appear in numerals.

By default, PerfectIt checks consistency in three separate groups: 1-10, 11-20, and 21-100. PerfectIt checks for inconsistency within those groups, but not between them. So, for example, it would check if the numbers 1 through 10 appear in numerals and spelled out. It would not compare the appearance of the number 4 to the number 16 since those are in separate groups. Some style guides work 0-9, 10-19, and 20-99, so you can also set PerfectIt to look at those groups instead. In any case, PerfectIt goes through and alerts you to any inconsistencies. It shows each location and suggests one is likely to be wrong (leaving you to decide which).

If you set PerfectIt to enforce a preference, you can set the preference for each of the groups (1-10, 11-20 and 21-100). So, for example, you could set the numbers 0 to 9 to appear spelled out, then the numbers 10 to 19 and 20 to 99 could be set to numerals. PerfectIt will then go through and alert you to any instances that do not conform to that preference (and you can decide which to change). This video explains how to set those preferences.

What PerfectIt Finds

So going back to the users’ questions, the first thing to understand is that PerfectIt tests for numbers in sentences (not numbers in other parts of the document). If you want to find all numbers in a document, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars). PerfectIt, on the other hand, specifically focuses on numbers in sentences.

So let’s say we set PerfectIt to spell out numbers less than 20. With that preference, how many numbers would you expect PerfectIt to find in this paragraph?

As described in Chapter 4, we started our work in 1996 when we were just 18 years old. Since then, a simple experiment that takes only 7 seconds has been copied by over 3 million people.

What do you think? There are four numbers under 20, so should PerfectIt find all four and suggest spelling them out? The answer is none. PerfectIt doesn’t alert you to numbers in sentences that it “thinks” are intended to be that way. So it won’t check numbers following the word “Chapter.” It won’t check numbers that indicate someone’s age. It won’t check measurements. And it won’t check numbers before the word “million” or “billion.”

Before you write us a letter of complaint (we’ve had several about this), think about the advantages of that functionality. Why should PerfectIt show every number? If that’s what you want, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (the pattern to search for is “<[0-9]{1,}>”). But showing every number would slow users down. More importantly, the more false positives that PerfectIt displays, the more likely it is that users will skip results. So focusing on locations that are most likely to be errors is how good software should work.

Fine-Tuning PerfectIt

Not everyone works the same way. So with all the queries around this test, we decided to change things in PerfectIt 3. PerfectIt 3 gives users the ability to fine-tune the test of numbers in sentences to work in exactly the way the user wants.

The figure below shows the Fine-Tuning tab of PerfectIt’s style sheet editor (double-click on image to enlarge it). It gives four new options for customizing how PerfectIt treats numbers in this test.

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

The four new options are:

  • Skip Numbers Followed By: This is the list of words that PerfectIt will look at after each number. If any of these words appear, then that number will be skipped by PerfectIt. Each word is separated by the “|” symbol (as seen in the image). You can add words, take individual words out or even take all the words out.
  • Skip Numbers Preceded By: This is identical to the list of words after numbers, but it’s the list that PerfectIt will check that appear before numbers.
  • Skip Numbers Joined By: Because numerals are usually used for comparisons and ranges, PerfectIt skips instances such as “between 3 and 4.” It does that based on the word in between the two numbers. You can change, add to, or remove those in-between words.
  • Skip Extra Words Found Preceding Numbers: PerfectIt looks for words like “Chapter” that often precede numbers. It also scans for other words that frequently appear before numbers and attempts to automatically figure out what those words are (even if they are not listed above). Tick this box if you want it to look for similar words; untick it if you don’t.

With these options, you can set PerfectIt to find as many (or as few) matches as you want. But remember, just because you can fine-tune PerfectIt, it doesn’t mean that you have to! These are features that we added for the small minority who want to alter these settings. For everyone else, the best approach is not to even look at these settings. It just helps to understand what PerfectIt will find (and what it won’t).

Learning More

There are lots of other tests that you can customize in PerfectIt, and our series of video tutorials covers all of them.

Daniel Heuman is the founder and CEO of Intelligent Editing, and the author of PerfectIt. If you have a PC with MS Word, you can get a 30-day free trial of PerfectIt from Intelligent Editing.


Looking for a Deal?

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

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