An American Editor

April 24, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap X

In The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IX, I discussed the Enhanced Search, Count, and Replace (SCR) macro and how I use it while editing manuscript. This essay deals with inserting queries/comments into the manuscript during editing.

When I first began freelancing, a client (an in-house production editor) told me that as important as good editing skills are, even more important is how authors are queried. The reason, the editor said, is that when I speak to the author, I am speaking on behalf of the client. Of course, that got me thinking about comments and led me to the realization that comments are not only important as alerts to clients and authors about potential problems, but as a marketing tool for me. I wish I could say that I never let frustration with a manuscript or a client appear in comments I have inserted, but I can say that when the frustration appeared, I had made a conscious decision to let it appear.

Querying the author or the in-house editor or the compositor is usually done in one of two ways: (a) inserting the comment inline in the text or (b) inserting the comment as balloon text such as is done using Word’s Comment feature. Because time is money in my editorial business, I rely on EditTools’ Insert Query and Comment Editor macros to insert queries. (For this essay, “queries” and “comments” are used interchangeably and the one includes the other. The oft-stated distinction between the two terms is that a query asks a question whereas a comment makes a statement [e.g., “AQ: Is it OK/correct that I changed 1 to 2 to conform with the previous quantity?” is a query, whereas “Ed/COMP: This needs to be set in sans serif.” is a comment].) Insert Query lets you choose between inserting the comment as a Word comment (balloon text) or inline, as shown here (you can make an image in this essay larger by clicking on the image):

Choose method for inserting a query

I have repeatedly said that time is money when editing. My goal is to minimize the time I need to spend doing “routine” tasks and maximize the time I have available for actual editing. Prior to Insert Query, I had to keyboard every query, even if it was the same query, perhaps with some modification, as inserted a dozen times before in the manuscript. Keyboarding slowed me down considerably. Although I have become a fairly decent typist over the years, I still am neither a fast typist nor one with 100% accuracy. So, keyboarding a query longer than a few words took (takes) time — time for the original keyboarding and time to review that keyboarding and time to correct the errors in my keyboarding.

Using keyboard shortcuts sped up the process but was limited for many reasons. After a while it became difficult to remember all of my keyboard shortcuts — I had them for everything, not just for queries — and there was a limit to how many quickly accessible keyboard shortcuts I could create. I eventually kept a list of my keyboard shortcuts, but that wasn’t a panacea because as the list grew, I had to take the time to look up the shortcut. Also complicating the situation was when I needed to modify a query: the original query was written for Jones on Capitalistic Medicine and now needs to be modified for Smith on Mercy Medicine. These and other limitations and problems led to the Insert Query macro.

As the image below shows, using Insert Query I am able to store a large number of “standard” queries (#A in image; the count shows the number of saved queries for the Reference Queries tab [#1] only) and access them as I need them. To make it easier and quicker to access a query, I separate the queries into categories (#2) that I create. After selecting the category, I select the query (#3) I want to insert. The selected query appears in the “insert” windows (#4), where I can modify the query if necessary. In this example, there are three underscores that need to be replaced with the relevant information. It is in this field (#4) that I make the change, after which I click Insert to have the query inserted in the text as a balloon comment.

Selecting, modifying, & inserting a query

One of the tabs is a project-specific tab (#5 in the image below; all of the tabs work the same, so you can not only rename any of the tabs, but you can have multiple project-specific tabs). As is shown at #B, this tab has 104 available project-specific queries from which I can choose. What I do is copy a query that I need for a project from one of the other tabs and add it (clicking Add to add it to the dataset rather than Insert to add it to the document) to the project-specific dataset. When I am done with a project, I copy those queries that I specially created for the project and that did not come from another tab that I think will be usable for other projects to one of the other tabs.

Project-specific queries

Take a look at the query shown in the above image (#6). How many times would you like to type it? Once was enough for me. Yet look at the query. The query packs a lot of information and shows that I did my job. It tells both the client and the author that I am competent and knowledgeable. Most importantly, as several clients have commented on seeing this and similar queries, it tells the author that the client has selected a professional editor and that the client cares about the author’s book; it gives the author confidence in the quality of the editing and competency of the editor; and it confirms to the client that a wise choice was made when I was selected to edit the book. In other words, it acts as a marketing tool.

It is easy to “perfect” a query when you only have to think of it once and only have to keyboard it once. In addition, it is easy, with a tool like Insert Query, to maintain a library of queries. Because I can create as many categories as I want (#7), I can organize the queries into logical groups that make finding the right query quick.

I use Insert Query to insert every comment that gets inserted in a manuscript. Even if I do not have the exact query I want in a dataset, I have found that using Insert Query to modify an existing comment or to create a new comment works best for me. Using Insert Query gives me the opportunity to add the revised or new query to my dataset without having to enter it twice.

Remember that the idea is to create the wheel once and reuse it, not recreate it each time. Comments can be time-consuming. Insert Query saves me time, thus making me more profitable; even a savings of just a few seconds per query can add up over time to a significant increase in profit. Additionally, Insert Query reduces the number of embarrassing typing mistakes that are made, thereby making me look more professional.

Sometimes a comment needs to be modified, deleted, or reviewed. The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap XI discusses how I use Comment Editor when I need to access an already inserted comment.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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