An American Editor

June 5, 2017

Lyonizing Word: You Have Options

by Jack Lyon

Microsoft Word is packed with options, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have them, but it’s hard to know how to set them to best meet your needs. To see the options available, click File > Options. Then click the kind of option you want to see (General, Display, Proofing, and so on), using the menu bar on the left. You’ll see the associated options on the right.

“But how,” you ask, “do I know what all these options actually do?”

Detailed explanations are available from Microsoft’s website as follows:

Options Article Title
General Word Options (General)
Display Word Options (Display)
Proofing Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2016

Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2013 and earlier

Save Word Options (Save)
Language Customize language features in Word 2013 and later
Advanced Word Options (Advanced)

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s explanations of the Advanced options are not detailed. For a few of those options, you can get additional information by resting your cursor over the little “i” icon to the right (you can enlarge an image in this essay by double-clicking on the image):

Information icon

The function of many of those options is self-evident, which may be why Microsoft doesn’t provide much explanation. (Actually the Editor Options [Advanced] page at the Microsoft website does give details for many of the options, even though it’s meant for use with Outlook 2007.) Some of the options definitely need more explanation, which I’ll try to provide here for the ones that look like they might be of interest to editors. (Some that look like they might be actually aren’t.)

Obscure Options Explained

Editing options

Use smart paragraph selection

All this means is that when you select a paragraph, Word makes sure that the final paragraph mark is also selected. That’s useful if you want to retain the paragraph’s formatting and settings, but not if all you’re after is the text itself, so you’ll need to decide which option is best for you.

Use smart cursoring

If you use the mouse and scroll bar to move to a different page in your document and then press one of the arrow keys, this feature places your cursor on the page to which you’ve scrolled. I see little use for this feature and keep it turned off. But now you know what it does.

Prompt to update styles

If you directly format some text, this option tells Word to ask you if you’d like to update the text’s underlying style to match the formatting you just applied. This could be handy if you’re designing a document, but not if you’re editing one.

Keep track of formatting

This option keeps track of your formatting as you work. It’s useful if you’re cleaning up a document with inconsistent formatting (which means most manuscripts), because you can then right-click some text and then click “Select Text with Similar Formatting.” At that point, you can change or clear the formatting or apply a style to all of the chunks of text that are selected. You can also display a list of the formatting used by clicking Options on the Style pane; then select the paragraph, font, and bullet and numbering formatting you want to track.

Mark formatting inconsistencies

This option is available only if the previous one has been selected. It tells Word to mark inconsistent formatting with a wavy blue line, which may give you some guidance about which text you should right-click and change, as described in the previous paragraph.

Enable click and type

This feature allows you to click anywhere on a blank (or otherwise) page and start typing at that point (if you’re in Print Layout or Web Layout view). For editors, this seems completely useless.

Default paragraph style

By default, Word uses Normal as the default paragraph style. If you’d like to use a different style, like Body Text, you can specify that with this option. If your document is headed for InDesign after editing, your typesetter might appreciate being able to use something more meaningful than “Normal.”

Show document content

Show picture placeholders

Have you ever received a manuscript that’s supposed to include graphic images, but when you open it, the images are replaced by empty boxes, like this?

Picture placeholder

What you’re seeing is a “picture placeholder,” which exists to keep Word from slowing down as it tries to display graphic images. This rather unintuitive feature should have been named something like “Hide graphic images to improve performance,” but I’m guessing someone at Microsoft didn’t like the implication that Word ever gets bogged down. You can stop chuckling now.

Even worse, if you edit in Draft mode, you won’t see an image or a placeholder; all you’ll see is what looks like an empty paragraph. If you delete it, you’re actually deleting the image, so watch out.

Show field codes instead of their values. Microsoft Word uses fields to generate things like indexes and tables of contents. If you activate the option to show field codes, you won’t see the index or table of contents; instead, you’ll see the field that generates it. For example, the field code for a table of contents looks like this:

{ TOC \o "1-3" \h \z \u }

The field code for an index looks like this:

{ INDEX \c "2" \z "1033" }

Each of those codes includes “switches” that change the display of the generated text. Information about table of contents switches can be found in the article “Field codes: TOC (Table of Contents) field” at Microsoft’s website. Information about the index switches is found in this article, “Field codes: Index field.”

Word uses field codes for lots of things. The article “List of field codes in Word” goes into greater detail.

Display

Style area pane width in Draft and Outline views

This is a very cool feature that I use all the time. In the little box to the right of this option, enter a value — two inches (2″), say. Then switch to Draft or Outline view. When you do, you’ll see the style area pane on the left of your document, with the name of the style that’s applied to each paragraph. No more guessing! If you want the ultimate experience editing in Word, try using this feature with the Cockpit in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014.

Style area pane

Save

Prompt before saving Normal template

The Normal template holds Word’s styles, macros, and lots of other important stuff, so if you change any of that stuff, Word saves your changes in the template. This option allows you to choose whether or not Word does that automatically.

Hidden Options

Microsoft Word also includes some options that you can’t access through a menu, although they are accessible via macro, as discussed in the next section. Here are a few that might be useful to editors.

ContextualSpeller

The contextual speller identifies the structure of words and their location within a sentence to determine if spelling is correct. It can find errors that the standard spelling checker can’t. For example, if you type the words “superb owl” instead of “super bowl,” Word checks the context of the sentence and determines that the correct words are “super” and “bowl.” This looks like a fantastically useful feature; the problem is that it makes the change automatically as you type, so if you decide to use it, you’ll need to watch it carefully.

EnableMisusedWordsDictionary

This option looks for the following when checking for misused words during a grammar check: incorrect use of adjectives and adverbs, comparatives and superlatives, like as a conjunction, nor versus or, what versus which, who versus whom, units of measurement, conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns.

EnableProofingToolsAdvertisement

This option tells Word to notify you when additional proofing tools are available for download.

Changing Options with a Macro

To use options like those requires a macro. For example, here’s a macro that will toggle ContextualSpeller:

Sub ToggleContextualSpeller()
   Options.ContextualSpeller = Not Options.ContextualSpeller
End Sub

Line 1 specifies the name of the macro (subroutine), which is ToggleContextualSpeller, although you could name it anything you like.

Line 2 gets the value of the ContextualSpeller option and changes it to the value that it currently is not. For example, if the ContextualSpeller option is set to True (that is, it’s active), the macro changes it to False. If the option is set to False, the macro changes it to True. Hey, it’s a toggle!

Line 3 ends the macro.

To use a different option in the macro, just change Options.ContextualSpeller to the option you want to use. For example, the following macro toggles the option for EnableMisusedWordsDictionary:

Sub ToggleEnableMisusedWordsDictionary()
   Options.EnableMisusedWordsDictionary = Not Options.Enable
       MisusedWordsDictionary
End Sub

You’ll find a complete list of Word’s options for use in macros at the Options Properties pages (for Office 2013 and newer) and Office 2010 of the Microsoft website.  If you find yourself changing a certain option a lot, you might create a toggle macro for it and then put that macro on a shortcut key for easy access. No more digging through menus!

How about you? Which options do you love? Which do you hate? I’d love to hear about the options that work best for you.

How to Add a Macro to Word & to the QAT

Here’s how to put this macro (or any other) into Microsoft Word so it will be available when you need it:

  1. Copy the text of the macro, starting with the first “Sub” and ending with the last “Sub.”
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Type a name for the macro in the “Macro name” box — probably the name used after the first “Sub.”
  5. Click the “Create” button.
  6. Delete the “Sub [macro name]” and “End Sub” lines that Word created in the macro window. The macro window should now be completely empty (unless you already have other macros in there).
  7. Paste the macro text at the current insertion point.
  8. Click “File,” then “Close and Return to Microsoft Word.”

To actually use the macro:

  1. Place your cursor in your text.
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Click the name of your macro to select it.
  5. Click the “Run” button. (If you wanted to delete the macro, you could press the “Delete” button instead.)

Here’s how to put the macro on Word’s QAT (Quick Access Toolbar):

  1. Locate the QAT (it’s probably on the top left of your screen either above or below Word’s Ribbon interface).
  2. Right-click the QAT.
  3. Click “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
  4. Under “Choose commands from:” click the dropdown list and select “Macros.”
  5. Find and select your macro in the list on the left.
  6. Click the “Add” button to add it to the QAT.
  7. Click the “OK” button to finish.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

February 8, 2017

Lyonizing Word: Editing by Computer

by Jack Lyon

AlphaGo is a computer program developed by Google DeepMind in London to play the board game Go, which originated in China and is far more complex than chess. In March 2016, it beat Lee Sedol, one of the world’s best professional players, in a five-game match. I was interested because I’ve been playing Go since 1980. And why should you, as an editor, be interested? Because AlphaGo was not programmed to play Go; instead, it learned to play by “watching” and playing millions of games. (The same kind of learning lies behind the recent radical improvements in Google Translate.)

Now consider what the result might be if we fed Google’s computer thousands of raw manuscripts with their edited counterparts for comparison. Could the computer learn how to edit? I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before someone tries the experiment. (Although, as the Pen Master asks, “How does it know when to delete a paragraph?”)

In the meantime (while we’re dusting off our résumés), let’s look at some of the not-so-intelligent editing apps that are popping up on the internet. Do they really work? Are they a threat to our livelihood? Or are they tools we can use to enhance our productivity?

AutoCrit

AutoCrit, aimed mainly at writers of fiction, might also be useful for editors of fiction. It claims to check dialog, writing strength, word choice, repetition, and much more. It also compares your manuscript to other works of fiction to see how yours stacks up. You can take the tour and explore the features. AutoCrit allows you to check a writing sample online but, as far as I can tell, it won’t provide a full report unless you sign up for a monthly subscription of $29.97. You can cancel at any time and receive a full refund within your first fourteen days of use.

Wanting to see what the full report includes, I signed up and then submitted a short science-fiction story, “Nippers,” that I wrote about a million years ago and which you can at The Editorium if you’re interested. AutoCrit’s analysis was interesting, but I found it a little difficult to navigate, as it discusses each area on a separate web page. AutoCrit does give you a lot of stuff to consider, including:

  • Pacing & Momentum
    • Sentence Variation
    • Pacing
    • Paragraph Variation
    • Chapter Variation
  • Dialogue
    • Dialogue Tags
    • Adverbs in Dialogue
  • Strong Writing
    • Adverbs
    • Passive Voice
    • Showing vs. Telling
    • Clichés
    • Redundancies
    • Unnecessary Filler Words
  • Word Choice
    • Initial Pronoun and Names
    • Sentence Starters
    • Generic Descriptions
    • Homonyms
    • Personal Words and Phrases
  • Repetition
    • Repeated Words
    • Repeated Uncommon Words
    • Repeated Phrases
    • Word Frequency
    • Phrase Frequency
  • Compare to [other] Fiction
    • Overused Words
    • Combination Report
  • Readability
    • Readability Statistics
    • Dale Chall Readability
    • Complex Words
    • Uncommon Words in Fiction

Here’s what the AutoCrit Combination Report looks like:

autocrit-combination-report

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to download a complete report all in one file.

Grammarly

Grammarly looks useful for general editing, providing a fairly thorough online analysis and even an add-in for Microsoft Word. I fed it the first paragraph of Paul Clifford, the Victorian novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton that begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Here are the results:

grammarly

And now, I’m impressed. After I typed the paragraph above, the Grammarly add-in informed me that Bulwer Lytton should be hyphenated: Bulwer-Lytton. And that’s right, of course, so the program is much smarter than I anticipated. On the other hand, the add-in disables Word’s Undo feature (CTRL-Z), which to me is unacceptable. Grammarly gives you a partial analysis of your text at no charge, but for “advanced issues” it requires a monthly subscription of $29.95. You can get a full refund within the first seven days of use.

I also fed it my short story “Nippers,” which purposely uses bad grammar in its first-person narration. You can see the results at The Editorium.

Hemingway

Hemingway’s website claims that “Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It’s like a spellchecker, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” Again, I fed it the first paragraph of Paul Clifford. Here is the result:

hemingway

 

 

When I first visited the Hemingway website, I had a hard time understanding how to use it. Fortunately, the “Help” page explains what to do: “Begin your document by clicking the ‘Write’ button. This will fade out the editing tools, transferring Hemingway into distraction-free writing mode. Here, you can work out your first draft free from our highlighting. Once you’re finished, click ‘Edit’ to transition back to editing mode. Now you can make changes with real-time Hemingway feedback. Tighten up your prose, clear the highlights, and then share your work with the masses.” The online version is free to use. The desktop app (both Mac and Windows) is $19.99. After using the app, you can save your work as a regular Word document.

For the sake of comparison, Hemingway’s analysis of “Nippers” looks like this:

 nippershemingwayreport

You’ll notice that Hemingway has color-coded the text:

  • Cyan = adverbs. I have 32, and Hemingway is recommending 17 or fewer.
  • Green = passive voice. I have just 5 uses, well below the recommended 37 or fewer.
  • Magenta = phrases that have simpler alternatives.
  • Yellow = sentences that are hard to read.
  • Red = sentences that are very hard to read.

The idea is to keep editing until all of the colors are gone. In actual practice, you won’t want to do that, unless you enjoy lots of short, choppy sentences.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to download Hemingway’s results as a separate file, as Hemingway is designed as an online writing tool. However, the Hemingway desktop app does make this possible.

You can learn more about Hemingway here.

I think out of AutoCrit, Grammarly, and Hemingway, the one program I might consistently use is Hemingway, just because it’s simple yet offers some useful observations, although I would feel free to ignore them.

Also-Rans

I also tried Orwell and Ginger, but neither seemed to work well for me. Orwell seemed clunky and buggy, while Ginger seemed rather basic, although its ability to rephrase an awkward sentence is impressive. If you’ve seen other editing programs I’ve overlooked, please let me know.

Here is another roundup by the NY Book Editors, which includes additional editing tools. It seems everyone is trying to get in on the act.

The Future

The programs I’ve featured here are useful in their own way, but they still require the educated eye of a human editor to decide which of their suggested changes make sense—something that I don’t think will change anytime soon.

What do you think? Will computers ever be capable of editing on their own? If so, how could we turn that to our advantage as editors? And how can we take advantage of the tools that are already available? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

October 10, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Using Two-Part Buttons

by Jack Lyon

Nearly a year ago, I explained some secrets of Microsoft Word’s Ribbon interface (see Lyonizing Word: Secrets of the Ribbon), including two-part buttons like the one that activates FileCleaner in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014.

At first glance, this button looks ordinary, with a graphic icon at the top and a tiny arrow at the bottom:

filecleaner-button

Click the arrow, and you’ll get a dropdown list of FileCleaner’s features:

filecleaner-dropdown

What many people don’t realize, however, is that the FileCleaner button is a two-part button. If you hover your cursor over the button, you’ll see a horizontal line splitting the button in two:

filecleaner-split

The bottom half, with the arrow, works just as before. But the top part is a different matter. If you click it, you’ll get full access to all of FileCleaner’s batch cleanup options:

filecleaner-batch-options

Microsoft Word’s Ribbon interface includes quite a few two-part buttons, but if you don’t know about them, you may not be using Word as efficiently as you could. There’s no sure way to spot them without hovering your mouse pointer over them, although they always include a tiny black arrow (as do many one-part buttons). A good example is the Paste button on the Ribbon’s Home tab:

paste-button

If you hover your mouse pointer over that button, you’ll see that it has two parts:

paste-button-split

Click the part with the arrow, and you’ll have access to various paste options. Pretty neat!

So what other buttons have two parts? Here is the complete list, along with the default options you’ll see if you click each button’s arrow (as opposed to its icon). Please note that what you’ll see may vary depending on what’s going on in Word.

Home tab

Paste

paste-button-split

paste-options

Text Highlight Color

text-highlight-color

text-highlight-color-options

 

Font Color

font-color

font-color-options

Bullets

bullets

bullets-options

Numbering

numbering

numbering-options

Shading

shading

shading-options

Borders

borders

borders-options

Find

find

find-options

Styles

styles

styles-options

Insert

My Add-ins

my-add-ins

my-add-ins-options

Signature Line

signature-line

signature-line-options

Object

object

object-options

Equation

equation

equation-options

Design

Document Formatting

document-formatting

document-formatting-options

References

Next Footnote

next-footnote

next-footnote-options

Citations & Bibliography > Styles

citation-styles

citation-styles-options

Review

Comments > Delete

delete

delete-options

Tracking > Display for Review

display-for-review

display-for-review-options

Tracking > Reviewing Pane

reviewing-pane

reviewing-pane-options

Tracking > Track Changes

track-changes

track-changes-options

Changes > Accept

accept

accept-options

Changes > Reject

reject

reject-options

View

Macros > Macros

macros

macros-options

I believe that’s all of them, although there’s one that’s not on the Ribbon that you should be aware of — the Undo button, which you’ll see at the top left of your Word window:

undo

undo-options

Here, you can select items en masse and undo them. Is that useful? Maybe sometimes.

One thing you can say about Microsoft Word: It’s not lacking in features. If anything, it has more features than most people will ever use (see Lyonizing Word: The Right Tool for the Job). I hope this article will help you find some useful features that you may not currently be aware of.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

August 22, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Before Typesetting

by Jack Lyon

I need your help, Gentle Reader. I need your ideas. Back in 1996, when I started selling Microsoft Word add-ins at the Editorium, getting a Word document into QuarkXPress was tricky: Quark was prone to crashes and didn’t handle footnotes at all. To solve these problems, I created QuarkConverter, and NoteStripper. A few years later, when people started switching to InDesign, I created InDesignConverter.

In the past several years, however, both QuarkXPress and InDesign have become much better at importing Word documents directly, without the need for a converter. The crashes are mostly gone, and footnotes come right on in. Nevertheless, I’m wondering what else might be done to a Word document to save time and trouble when importing into a layout program — and I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts about that. Here are some examples of the kind of thing I have in mind:

  • Add nonbreaking spaces to dates and initials.

For example, if the text includes a date like “August 17, 2016,” most typesetters want “August” and “17” to stay together; adding a nonbreaking space between the two elements does the trick. Similarly, if a name like “C. S. Lewis” shows up, it’s nice to keep the “C.” and the “S.” together. (To add a nonbreaking space in Word [Windows] 2007 and newer, hold down the CTRL and SHIFT keys as you press the spacebar. For Word [Mac], press the Option key as you press the spacebar.)

  • Remove formatting “overrides.”

Typesetters typically want to handle formatting with styles, so that changing a style attribute in InDesign automatically changes formatting throughout the document. If an author or editor has applied styles in a Word document, those styles can be imported and used in InDesign. But if an author or editor has applied direct formatting using various fonts, that formatting will be imported as “overrides” on the text, which can be a bit of a pain to clean up.

Override Options

Override Options

In its Styles pane, Microsoft Word offers to “Clear All” formatting and styles from selected text.

Clear All Option

Clear All Option

The problem is, “Clear All” really does mean “Clear All,” including not just font overrides but also such local formatting as bold and italic, which needs to remain intact. InDesign’s “Clear Overrides” feature has the same problem. Do you really want to remove italic formatting from the hundreds of journal titles in that giant manuscript you’re editing? If you’re proofreading or setting type, do you really want to put all that formatting back in again by hand? My FileCleaner add-in includes an often-overlooked feature (“standardize font formats”) that removes font overrides but leaves bold, italic, and other local formatting intact, which is exactly what’s needed.

Standardize Font Formats Option

Standardize Font Formats Option

  • Turn straight quotation marks into curly ones.

InDesign can do this—sort of. But it can’t handle things like “’Twas the night before Christmas” or “A miner, ’49er” (dreadful sorry, Clementine). FileCleaner does a much better job of dealing with this; it properly handles ’til, ’tis, ’tisn’t, ’twas, ’twasn’t, ’twould, ’twouldn’t, and ’em, as well as single quotation marks in front of numbers, all of which then come into InDesign correctly. If you have other items that should be included in this list, I’d love to know what they are.

  • Remove multiple spaces between sentences.

In the 1800s many books were set with extra space between sentences.

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

But, frankly, the 1800s were not exactly the golden age of typesetting.

1800s Poster

1800s Poster

Modern books include just one space between sentences. Still, many authors continue to use two, following the instructions they were given by their high-school typing teacher back in the twentieth century. And that means the double spaces need to be removed at some point. InDesign has built-in find-and-replace routines that will fix this and a few similar items.

InDesign Find & Replace

InDesign Find & Replace

FileCleaner, however, fixes many such things. And the version that’s included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 fixes many more.

FileCleaner Options

FileCleaner Options

  • Change italic and bold formatting to character styles.

Using character styles in InDesign provides much more stability and flexibility than local bold and italic formatting. It would be nice to have these styles already applied in Word before the document is imported into InDesign. My tools don’t currently do this, but they probably should.

QuarkConverter and InDesignConverter include some other useful fixes.

Quark Converter Options

Quark Converter Options

 

InDesign Converter Options

InDesign Converter Options

Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that there must be things I’ve overlooked. I’m an editor, not a typesetter, so I don’t really know all of the things that typesetters have to fix that they really shouldn’t have to deal with. (This probably includes the most common errors that proofreaders mark.) So if you do typesetting or proofreading, would you help me out? I’d really like to know what I’m missing — things that could be cleaned up in an automated way in Microsoft Word before a document is ever imported into InDesign. What problems do you routinely encounter that you wish would go away? If you’ll let me know, I’ll try to come up with an add-in designed specifically to fix such things. Your suggestions for this would be most welcome.

Of course, typesetters and proofreaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this kind of cleanup. It’s also valuable to editors, allowing them to focus on words, structure, and meaning rather than deal with these tiny but pervasive problems. Little things like double spaces and straight quotation marks may not seem all that bothersome, but like pebbles in your shoe, they create subliminal annoyance that really adds up, making editing much more difficult than it should be. At least that’s my experience. What do you think?

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

July 18, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Inside Notes

by Jack Lyon

As useful as they are, Microsoft Word’s footnotes and endnotes are amazingly easy to mess up. Let’s look at some ways that can happen — and how to fix the problems.

First, we need to open a document that has footnotes — or make one. Then, to really see what’s going on, we’ll do this:

  1. Click “View” and then “Draft.”
Click "View" then "Draft"

Click “View” then “Draft”

2. Click “References” and then “Show Notes.”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

That should take you into Word’s “Notes Pane,” which should look something like this:

Word’s “Notes Pane"

Word’s “Notes Pane”

Deleted Reference Numbers

The superscript numbers in front of each note are called reference numbers. By default, they’re formatted with a character style — either Footnote Reference or Endnote Reference, which you can modify if necessary. What’s interesting about these numbers is that it’s possible to delete them, so the notes look like this:

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting them, however, is an extraordinarily bad idea. Those numbers may look simple, but under the hood they have a lot going on. The number itself is automatically generated based on the reference number in the text itself. (If you create footnote number 9 in your document, the note itself will start with the number 9. If you delete footnote number 9 in your document, the note and its number will be deleted.) The number also signals the start of a new note, and if it’s gone, document corruption is probably not far behind.

You can often tell if a reference number is missing by looking at the other note numbers. If they’re numbered like this, you know something’s wrong:

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

That’s actually a fairly easy problem to fix: just copy the reference number from one of the other notes and paste it in front of the note that’s missing its number. For example, if you copy the number for note 3 and paste it in front of the numberless note 2, you’ll actually get a 2 in front of the note. Microsoft Word is smart enough to know what the number should be.

Usually, the reason a number is missing is because the author has directly deleted the entire text of the note, like this:

When Note Is Deleted Directly

When Note Text Is Deleted Directly

Why Microsoft hasn’t prevented this is beyond me. If the author had deleted the note number up in the main document text, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Typed-In Reference Numbers

Sometimes, in an effort to make notes look “pretty” or meet a certain style, authors will format reference numbers as regular text rather than superscript, then type a period after them. There’s really nothing wrong with that, other than introducing extraneous periods when importing the file into a typesetting program. But some authors actually delete the numbers and type in new ones by hand. You can tell when that has been done by putting your cursor in front of a double-digit note number and pressing the right cursor key. If your cursor moves past the entire number, the number has been automatically generated. But if your cursor moves forward only one digit, the number has been hand-typed.

Again, you could fix the problem by copying an automatic number and pasting it over the hand-typed number, but what if all of the numbers have been hand-typed? Where will you get an automatic number to copy? Simple: just insert a new footnote and copy the number from that. After you’ve finished pasting, delete the extra note (up in the text, remember).

If you have lots of these numbers, you probably won’t want to fix them by hand, so here’s an easier way:

  1. Select all of the notes in the notes pane.
  2. Copy the notes.
  3. Paste the notes at the end of the document.
  4. Using Word’s Find and Replace feature, search for ^f (the code for footnotes) or ^e (the code for endnotes) and replace all of the existing note numbers with a superscript 1. (That will also delete all of the automatic notes in the document.)
  5. Use the “Text to Notes” feature of my trusty NoteStripper add-in to turn the text notes into automatically numbering ones.

“Special” Carriage Returns

Sometimes when editing notes, you’ll try to make a deletion and get the message that “This is not a valid action for footnotes”:

Oops!

Oops!

What that cryptic message should say is “You can’t delete the carriage return that ends a footnote.” The carriage return that marks the end of a note isn’t a regular return; it’s a special return, and you can’t delete it — Word won’t let you. So what often happens is that authors will delete the note text and its reference number, leaving the carriage return behind. But there is a way to get rid of that return: delete its note number up in the main text of the document. If you can’t tell which note number that is, copy the number of a different note and paste it in front of the note’s carriage return. That will give the note a proper number, and you can then delete the note up in the main text. If you have lots of these extraneous carriage returns, you can get rid of them with a macro, as described in “Lyonizing Word: Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns in Footnotes and Endnotes.”

Microsoft, Are You Listening?

We wouldn’t have such problems with notes if Microsoft would implement just a few changes:

  1. Make it possible to delete a note by selecting the entire note, including the note reference number, the note text, and the “special” carriage return at the end of the note, and then pressing the Delete or Backspace key (which should also remove the note number from the main text). That would keep authors from leaving behind misnumbered notes and extraneous carriage returns.
  2. Provide additional numbering options for the reference numbers in front of the note text, in particular the option to use full-sized numbers followed by a period. That would keep authors from typing in numbers and periods by hand (maybe).
  3. When trying to delete the reference number or carriage return, provide a message that says “Select the entire note before deleting” or “To remove a note, delete the note number in the main text of your document.”

These changes would do a lot to prevent problems caused by authors who don’t know how to properly use Word’s notes. You can help by letting Microsoft know about these needed changes. Give your feedback at Microsoft’s “Welcome to Word’s Suggestion Box!

What about you? Have you seen other odd problems with Word’s notes? If so, how have you solved them?

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

May 23, 2016

Can I Publish This Photograph of the Mona Lisa?

by Jack Lyon

In a departure from my usual technical stuff, I recently finished writing a rather specialized book on Christian symbolism, featuring numerous works of art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Rather than publish the book myself, I decided to go with a publishing company that has considerably more marketing mojo than I do. And of course, that’s when the fun started:

Dear Mr. Lyon:

We would respectfully request that you please send documentation of your permission(s) to use third-party images and a list of the images for which you feel permission is not required. The list should include (1) the title of the image, (2) where the image can be found online, and (3) why you feel permission is not required.

Here is my reply:

I respectfully decline your request as unnecessary. The images I’m using are in the public domain.

The publisher’s representative replied:

If I take a photograph of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, I own the copyright in that photo. And even though it’s a photo of a public-domain item, you still need my permission to use my photograph.

So what do you think? Is the publisher’s representative correct? After all, that’s the common understanding. But actually, it depends on the nature of the photograph. In both the United States and in Europe, a photo that is merely a reproduction of a public-domain work (such as an old painting or stained-glass window) is not protected by copyright. To quote the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office (based on the opinion of the European Court of Justice), “Copyright can only subsist in subject matter that is original in the sense that it is the author’s own ‘intellectual creation’” (for more information, see Wikipedia).

In the United States, this issue was decided in the case of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., in which the court ruled that exact photographic copies of public-domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality (which, by the way, is the deciding factor).

So even if someone claims copyright in a photograph that reproduces a public-domain image, no permission is needed, because photos that are simply copies of public-domain works and lack any aspect of originality are themselves in the public domain. In fact, the more faithful the reproduction, the less originality there is. Wikipedia has an excellent example — a photograph of the Mona Lisa.

The whole point of that Wikipedia photo is to reproduce the Mona Lisa as accurately as possible — which is precisely to eliminate any elements of originality. In fact, dozens of such photos might exist, all indistinguishable from one another. And that’s why such reproductions are not protected by copyright.

Now, if you took a photo of the Mona Lisa that was not simply a copy of the painting but rather had its own original elements (such as special lighting or camera angle), that photo would not be in the public domain; you would indeed own the copyright in that photo. Here’s an example of an image that is not in the public domain: non–public domain Mona Lisa.

Here’s another version that would be under copyright because it includes original content: original content Mona Lisa.

Rich Adin raised an interesting question about this: Would a black-and-white photo of the Mona Lisa have enough originality to be protected by copyright? It would probably depend on how much originality the photo might be judged to have, and perhaps that would have to be settled in a court of law. Please note that just because you use someone’s highly accurate photograph of a public-domain image doesn’t mean the person can’t sue you for doing so, even though that person might lose the case.

Interestingly, contemporary photos of statues are always under copyright, as there’s no way to accurately reproduce a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional photo. A photo of Rodin’s Thinker will always have elements of originality based on framing of the statue, lighting, focus, and so on.

But what about a photograph of artwork that’s not in the public domain? For example, consider the fine art of Carolyn Hutchings Edlund (who happens to be Rich Adin’s better half). If she takes a photograph of one of her paintings and posts it on her website, can I legally use that photograph as the cover image for my next book? No, I can’t. Why? Because Carolyn’s painting is not in the public domain. It’s her original creation, and she owns the copyright. Even though her photo of the painting may lack originality, her painting does not, and I’m not at liberty to use that image without her permission.

One question I haven’t addressed yet is how to know whether or not something is actually in the public domain — something that can be tricky to ascertain. In the United States, anything created before 1923 is generally fair game. In other countries, however, copyright terms may be more stringent, so care and caution are needed.

As the standard disclaimer goes, I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider this article as legal counsel in any way. Nevertheless, I hope that my experience with all of this might be useful to you in your own battles in the wonderful world of publishing.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

May 2, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Using the “Find What Expression” Wildcard

by Jack Lyon

Rich Adin recently sent me an interesting challenge. He was using his EditTools Journal feature to mark journal titles in references. The power behind that useful tool comes from lists of incorrectly styled references with corresponding correctly styled references. He creates a separate list for each reference style. The list he sent me was for AMA style, in which the reference uses the PubMed abbreviation followed by a period. It looks like something like this:

A Gesamte Exp Med, | cyan -> Z Gesamte Exp Med.
A Gesamte Exp Med. | cyan -> Z Gesamte Exp Med.
A JR | cyan -> AJR Am J Roentgenol.
A M A Arch Ind Hyg Occup Med. | green
A of LTC | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A of LTC, | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A of LTC. | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A&D | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A&D, | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A&D. | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm, | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm. | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.

The text to the left of the pipe (|) is how the entry might (incorrectly) appear in the references supplied by the author; the entry to the right is how it should appear. Each entry includes a color, either cyan or green, which tells the program to use that color in highlighting the reference.

Rich knew that some of the entries included duplicates, like this:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

In other words, the item on the left was identical to the item on the right, which meant that it shouldn’t be marked. That also meant the entry didn’t need to be on the list at all. But the real problem was that Rich’s reference list included more than 117,000 entries!

Rich’s challenge? Use wildcard find and replace to remove such entries, thus shortening the list and preventing unnecessary marking.

First, let’s look at that entry again to see what we might need to do:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

There’s a pipe symbol (|) in the middle, which gives us something to differentiate the left side of the entry from the right side of the entry. So we might set up the first part of our wildcard string to look like this:

([!^013]@) |

That tells Word to find any character except a carriage return, an unspecified number of times, until it comes to a space followed by a pipe symbol.

The wildcard for a carriage return is:

^013

The wildcard for “except” is:

!

And we have to put both of those in square brackets so Word knows that’s a set of characters. (After all, [!^013] finds any character, no matter what it is, unless it’s a carriage return.)

The wildcard for “an unspecified number of times” is:

@

Finally, we have to put all of that into a “group” by enclosing it with parentheses. And that’s important. You’ll see why in a minute.

Testing that part of our search string, we see that, yes, indeed, it finds the following:

Arch Intern Med. |

In fact, it finds the beginning of each entry, which is just what we want.

Now let’s look at the right side of our entry:

 cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

You can’t see it here, but there’s a space in front of “cyan” — the space that follows the pipe symbol. So we need to include that space in our search string, along with the word “cyan” (in the following examples, I use [space] to represent a space so you can see it; [space] should not actually be entered; use a real space created by pressing the space bar):

[space]cyan

There’s also a space after cyan, so we’ll need to include that as well.

[space]cyan[space]

That needs to be followed by a hyphen, a right angle bracket, and yet another space, like this:

[space]cyan[space]-\>[space]

But now you may be wondering why I put a backslash in front of the angle bracket. It’s because the angle bracket is itself a wildcard (a subject for another day), so we need to tell Word we’re using it as an actual character, which is what the backslash does.

Finally, the rest of our search string looks like this:

\1^013

This part of the string —

\1

— is the “Find What Expression” wildcard, which is what this article is about, and it certainly took us a long time to get to it!

Remember back when we grouped the very first part of our search string in parentheses?

([!^013]@)

That “group” is the “expression” that the \1 wildcard represents. In algebraic terms:

\1 = ([!^013]@)

And that means \1 will find whatever is found by the ([!^013]@) expression, which, my friend, is extremely cool, because it will allow us to weed out the duplicate entries on our reference list—entries like this:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

Now, for the first time, let’s look at our entire search string:

([!^013]@) | cyan \-\> \1^013

By now, you probably understand this quite well. The string finds any characters except a carriage return until it comes to a space and a pipe symbol; then it finds a space, the word “cyan,” and another space, followed by a hyphen, a right angle bracket, and a space. Finally (and most importantly), it finds whatever was found by the parenthetical group, followed by a carriage return.

Now we simply need to make sure that Word’s “Replace with” box is empty and click “Replace All.” All of those unnecessary entries will be deleted. (We’ll need to repeat with “green” for the entries that don’t include “cyan.”)

Which would you rather do: Find and delete such entries manually (with just 117,000 to look through) or have Word do it automatically?

That’s the power of the “Find What Expression” wildcard. In future articles, I’ll show you more uses for this wonderful tool, along with other Word wildcards.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

March 21, 2016

Lyonizing Word: But Which Styles?

by Jack Lyon

In my previous article, Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word, I explained how to make Microsoft Word display only the paragraph styles you want to use. But that raises an important question: Which paragraph styles do you want to use?

If you’re writing a simple business letter, the only style you may need is Word’s default of Normal. But if you’re editing a book, things immediately become much more complicated. Consider: What different kinds of text exist in a book? Let’s start with the title page; at a minimum, it includes the following elements:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publisher

It may also include these:

  • Subtitle
  • Publication date

And that means you’ll probably need a paragraph style for each one of those. Why? Because the designer may want to format each element differently. Even if that ends up not being the case, you’ve at least allowed for the possibility. In addition, using a different style for each element makes it possible to use those elements as metadata, and that can be important in electronic publishing. Back in the late 1990s, I was involved in the production of an enormous electronic library. Most of the books were already styled with—that’s right—Title, Author, and Publisher, making it fairly easy to access those elements through a database and thus allow the user to sort books by title, author, and so on.

What styles will you need as you get into the book’s chapters? You might want to pull a couple of books off your shelves and see. You’ll probably find that you’ll need (at a minimum):

  • Chapter number
  • Chapter title
  • Body text

And as you get deeper into the book, you may need some of the following:

  • Block quotation
  • Poetry
  • Subheading
  • Subsubheading

Most books include a multitude of other elements, such as:

  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Caption
  • Notes
  • Bibliography

And on and on and on.

Do you really need all of this detail? Yes, you do. Even if epigraphs and captions are going to look the same (e.g., both will use left-justified 10-point New Century Schoolbook), you as an editor, working in an editorial capacity, shouldn’t be thinking about how epigraphs and captions will look; you should be thinking about whether a specific bit of text is an epigraph or a caption and applying the metadata (a style) that marks it as such. Otherwise, the designer and typesetter won’t know for sure which text they need to format in a certain way. In addition, applying the proper metadata (styles) to epigraphs and captions makes them accessible and manipulable in various ways for later electronic publishing.

Can’t you just let the designer or typesetter take care of all this styling? No, you can’t. Deciding what text should be marked with which style is an editorial matter, not a design or typesetting one. Is this bit of text a subheading or a subsubheading? Should that bit of text be run in or pulled out as a block quotation? Is this line really an epigraph or just part of the body text? Is that line a chapter title, or should it be relegated to a subheading? All of these are editorial decisions; they have to do with what the text is and with what the text means.

Design decisions, on the other hand, have to do with how the text looks. The editor has styled this line as an epigraph. Should it be set in Comic Sans? (Horrors!) Should it be set in italics? Should it be a smaller point size than body text? Should it be centered?

So what styles do you really need? It depends on the book. And there’s no way to know without actually going through the book to find out. I tend to do this as I work, creating new styles as the need arises. Hey, that’s a poem! Guess I’ll need a poetry style (which I then create and apply).

And what should my poetry style look like? For editorial purposes, it doesn’t matter, as long as I can tell that the poetry style has been applied. For example, I might set up the style to be indented half an inch on both sides, with the text color set to blue. When the designer and typesetter bring the text into InDesign, they can redefine the style any way they like. But for now, I can tell that I’ve styled that text as poetry, which, for me as an editor, is all that matters.

In this article, I’ve assumed that you’re creating the styles you need to use, as that’s how I usually work. But for the most part, editors who work for publishers don’t need to do that. Publishers often have their own sets of styles that they require editors to use, and these styles are usually stored in a Word template. For example, you can download the Springer template and the Wiley template. Both templates are well worth looking at, just so you can get an idea of what publishers are looking for in the way of styled manuscripts. Wiley provides additional information in an online article “Applying Formatting Styles.”

You may also be interested in my Author Tools Template, which is a collection of styles that make it easy for authors (and editors) to produce properly styled manuscripts, which means that publishers can then use those manuscripts without having to restyle the text.

In addition, if you’re working with styles as I’ve explained in this article, you owe it to yourself to check out the Style Inserter in Rich Adin’s EditTools. This is a slick feature that overcomes the problems with styles that I discussed in my previous article (see Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word) and makes it easy to apply publisher styles to a manuscript.

\bodytext\It’s worth noting that some publishers don’t use styles at all. Instead, they require editors to mark up text with publisher-supplied codes like the one at the beginning of this paragraph. In that case, it’s important not to type the codes in by hand, as doing so can easily lead to errors. Instead, editors should use something like Code Inserter, which is included in EditTools.

In the 1980s, I worked on the Penta system, which used such codes extensively. During the 1990s, however, I switched to WordPerfect 6.0 and finally to Microsoft Word, and marking text with styles became a more intuitive way to work.

So what styles do I routinely use today? Here’s the minimal list, which I use in all of the books I publish at Waking Lion Press:

  • Half-Title
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Epigraph Source
  • Part
  • Chapter
  • Section
  • Subsection
  • Block quote
  • Poem
  • Poem Heading
  • Poem Source
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

How about you? What styles do you routinely use? And do you have any tips on how to use them? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

February 29, 2016

Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word

by Jack Lyon

Microsoft Word includes a powerful feature for marking the various levels of a manuscript (such as headings, block quotations, poetry, and so on). That feature is styles, which are valuable for many reasons, including:

  • They make it possible to reformat a whole document simply by redefining styles or applying a different template using those styles.
  • They make it possible to find and replace only text using a certain style. For example, you might want to find source citations by searching for parentheses in text styled as block quotations.
  • They make it possible to generate a table of contents based on specified styles.

So styles are very useful. The problem is that Microsoft Word, in its usual “helpful” way, tries to manage which styles are available, in which document, and how those styles can be accessed. Finally growing tired of this nonsense, I decided to take the matter firmly in hand by writing this article.

My first gripe is that Word decides which styles to show in the Styles area of the Home ribbon, which decision seems to be based on nothing that makes any sense. Right now, it’s showing the following:

Quick Style Gallery

Quick Style Gallery

Of the styles available, I use Normal and Heading 1. But Strong? Subtle Emphasis? Intense Emphasis? Who makes this stuff up? Not an actual writer or editor, that’s for sure. So the first thing to do is get rid of the icons for the styles I never use:

  1. Right-click the icon (such as that for Strong).
  2. Click “Remove from Quick Style Gallery” (which, evidently is what the Styles area is called).
Remove from Quick Style Gallery

Remove from Quick Style Gallery

Now, the question is, when I restart Word or create a new document, does the Strong icon come back? Let’s find out. (Now restarting Word.)

Ha! It’s gone! But what happens if I create a new document? (Now creating a new document.)

Shoot, Strong is back again. So we can conclude that removing a style from the Quick Style Gallery applies only to the document in which we remove the style.

I could get rid of Strong and then save what I’ve done as a Quick Style Set:

Save as Quick Style Set

Save as Quick Style Set

But I’d like to get rid of Strong once and for all. How can I do that?

Well, I’ll start by showing Word’s task pane (by clicking the little arrow at the bottom right of the Styles area):

Word's task pane

Word’s task pane

Now I should be able to click the drop-down arrow next to Strong and delete it, right? Nope. Word won’t let me. How annoying!

Delete Strong

Delete Strong

Well, then, where does the Strong style live? In Word’s Normal.dotm template, of course. Can I get rid of it there? I open the folder where the template lives, which on my computer is here:

C:\Users\Jack\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

Then I open the Normal.dotm template. Now can I delete the Strong style?

No, I can’t; same problem as before. Word really, really, really wants to keep its built-in styles — which is why they’re called “built-in,” I guess. So my only recourse is to (1) set how the style will be displayed and then (2) tell Word which styles to display. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Normal.dotm template, which is where your default styles are stored.
  2. Under Style Pane Options (the blue “Options” link at the bottom of the task pane), set “Styles to Show” as “Recommended.” Select “New documents based on this template.”
Show styles as recommended

Show styles as recommended

  1. Under Manage Styles (the third button at the bottom of the task pane), set all styles to “Hide” or “Hide until used” except those you want to show. (Even now, Word won’t let you hide everything.) Select “New documents based on this template.”
Hide Strong

Hide Strong

  1. Make any other adjustments you’d like, such as the order in which the styles will appear in the task pane.
  2. Save and close the Normal.dotm template.

After you’ve done that, every time you start Word or create a new document, you’ll get only the styles you want to see. I think. I hope. Maybe.

How about you? Do you have any helpful hints about how to tame Word’s styles? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

January 18, 2016

The Zen of Editing: Tales of the Pen Master

by Jack Lyon

If you’ve ever read much about Zen Buddhism, you’re probably aware of its strange but wonderful stories of masters, monks, and enlightenment. Here is an example:

The Emperor asked Zen Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes,” Gudo said, “but not a dead one.”

In that spirit, here are some tales not of the Zen master but rather of the Pen master, whose job is to open the minds of editors everywhere. As is usual in Zen tradition, each story is followed by enlightened commentary.

Following the Precepts

An assistant editor went before the Pen master, saying, “Lo, these many years I have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style. Why am I not yet enlightened?”

“Because,” said the master, “you have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style.”

In true Zen spirit, this story illustrates the importance of following the rules and not following the rules. Editors have “rules” for an important reason — to make sure that the author’s intended meaning is clearly communicated to readers in a consistent, coherent way. But blindly following the “rules” can also result in miscommunication. That is why, since its initial publication in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style has included the following disclaimer: “Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.”

Editing Is More Than Mechanics

One day the Pen master was passing an assistant’s cubicle.

“Oh, master,” said the assistant, “I’m so glad you came by. Look at this wonderful new editing software. It flags incomplete sentences, finds dangling modifiers, and much more. With this software, the manuscript practically edits itself!”

“Interesting,” said the master. “How does it know when a paragraph should be deleted?”

Editing is not simply a matter of mechanics; if it were, a computer could do it. Fortunately for editors, a human mind is required. At the Editorium, I create and sell Microsoft Word add-ins to help editors do their work. These add-ins, to some degree, automate parts of the editing process. But in the end, cognitive judgment is needed to decide which parts should be automated and which should not, and if any of the automated parts should in some cases be overridden. In addition, there are many parts of the process that simply cannot be automated. Language is complex and subtle, and something as small as a misplaced comma can literally make the difference between life and death (as in a medical journal).

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

An assistant editor was reading a manuscript that had already been gone over by the Pen master. To her surprise, the manuscript contained not a single correction.

Questioning the master about this, the assistant remarked, “You said you had edited this manuscript, but it contains no corrections at all.”

“Nevertheless,” said the master, “now that I’m finished with it, the manuscript is perfect.”

What if you went completely through a manuscript without making a single correction, because, as far as you could tell, no corrections were needed? Would you have done your job? I believe that you would have. An editor’s job is not to make corrections; an editor’s job is to make sure the writing is clear, and if it is, no corrections are needed. Of course, in real life, that is probably never the case. But it’s an interesting thing to think about.

Something Is Always Broke

An assistant brought a new book, hot off the press, to the Pen master. “Master, look!” she said. “The book is beautiful! The cover is bright and attractive, the marketing copy is appealing, the typography is excellent. Surely this is the finest book we have ever published.”

The master opened the book to a random page. “Read the first line,” he said.

“‘When this matter came to the attention of the pubic …’”

These are the things that haunt our lives. I started my publishing career as a proofreader at a university press. On prominent display in our office was a book on whose cover the title had been misspelled — a reminder of the need for constant vigilance on every part of the book during every part of the publishing process. At a later job, thousands of copies of a publication ended up being shredded because of a photograph that should not have been included. So pay attention! As a famous Zen story (a real one) teaches:

A student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.”

Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.”

The student said, “Is that all?”

The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.”

The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.”

In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.”

In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word attention mean?”

Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”

(Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen. [New York: HarperCollins, 1993], 168.)

Editing Reveals Meaning

After receiving his edited manuscript for review, the author was furious. “How dare you!” he said to the Pen master. “This manuscript is covered with corrections.”

“You must not look at the corrections,” said the master. “You must look at the meaning behind the corrections.”

Here we have the opposite case from the one above, where nearly everything needs fixing. Again, however, the process is not about correcting “errors”; the process is about making sure that the author is clear — and not just to the reader. An editor is not out of place to say to an author, “You seem to be saying this, but what I think you really mean is this. Is that right?” It’s all about meaning.

It is not the editor’s place, however, to add meaning, to “improve” the author’s ideas. Editors who feel the need to do so should write their own books.

Context Matters

An editor and a designer were arguing about which was more important, layout or words.

“The layout is finished,” said the designer. “You’ll need to edit the wording to fit.”

“The editing is finished,” said the editor. “You’ll need to change the design to accommodate.”

Finally, they took their argument before the Pen master, who looked at them severely. “What matters is neither the design nor the words,” he said. “What matters is the meaning.”

“And how does one know the meaning?” asked the editor.

“By looking at the design and the words.”

And this is what makes publishing so interesting — and so difficult. The meaning of a word or a sentence or a paragraph always depends on what’s going on around it. Ideas are not fixed; as we change the words or design of a publication, meanings change too, so we must be constantly on our guard.

A student once asked Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, “Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” His reply was spontaneous and profound: “Everything changes.” (David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki [New York: Broadway Books, 1999], xii.)

Here’s another of my Pen Master stories that illustrates the same principle:

One day an assistant came to the Pen master for help with an awkward sentence.

“No matter what I do, I can’t seem to fix this sentence,” he said. “If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

“If fixing the sentence doesn’t fix it,” the master replied, “perhaps it doesn’t need fixing.”

The next day, the assistant came to the Pen master for help with another awkward sentence.

“Again,” he said, “I can’t seem to fix this sentence. If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

The master picked up his pen and deleted the sentence entirely. “There,” he said. “Now the fixing is fixed.”

The following day, after a sleepless night, the assistant came again to the Pen master.

“The first day, you said the sentence didn’t need fixing. The next day, you simply deleted the sentence. How does one know when to fix, when to stet, and when to delete?”

The master looked at him shrewdly. “It doesn’t depend on the sentence; it depends on the sentences around it.”

Thinking to outwit the master, the assistant replied, “And what if there are no sentences around it? Then how does one know what to do?”

The master gave a great sigh. “One doesn’t,” he said.

Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter

An assistant came to the Pen master for advice about reconciling proofs.

“One proofreader fixes an error one way; another fixes the error another way,” said the assistant. “Which way is right?”

“Neither is right; neither is wrong,” said the master. “What matters is that the error was fixed.”

Editors sometimes argue about the “right” way to fix something. But in the end, it may not matter as long as the meaning is clear. There are other considerations, of course, such as elegance, euphony, and even beauty. But these are in the realm of enlightenment beyond enlightenment.

What Is Perfection?

An author brought her manuscript to the Pen master. “This new book is my masterpiece,” she said. “It needs no editing at all; it is perfect just as it is.”

“Truly the book in your mind is perfect,” said the master. “But this is not the book in your mind.”

The real job of an editor is to capture what an author means to say and convey that meaning intact into the mind of the reader. This, of course, is impossible in reality, but that doesn’t keep us from trying, and sometimes we may come close. As the Zen masters say, “Practice itself is enlightenment.”

Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.

One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

“We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,” the gods whispered to him.

“But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

“You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,” responded the gods. “This is true emptiness.” And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.

(Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, comps., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones [Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1985], 53.)

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

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