An American Editor

February 15, 2016

EditTools & My Editing Process: Part II

Part I introduced the preediting steps (Steps 1 to 3). Part II discusses the remaining two preediting steps (Steps 4 and 5) and then discusses the first editing step (Step 6) in my editing process, which is editing the references.

Step 4: Moving the References

Most of the projects I work on have extensive reference lists. Sometimes a chapter will have a relatively short reference list of 50 or so, but most are at least 100 references, and sometimes are more than 1,000 references.

After the preliminary steps and before running Never Spell Word (Step 5), I move the reference list to its own file. I do this for several reasons. First, some of the macros that I use during editing can affect the references, creating undo work for me. Moving the references to their own file avoids this problem.

Second, I like to edit with Spell Check on. However, Spell Check sees many author names and foreign spellings in journal names and article titles as misspellings. That wouldn’t matter except that it often leads to the message that Spell Check can’t be used because there are too many spelling errors and so Word will turn off Spell Check — for the entire document. By moving the references to their own file, I almost always avoid that particular problem. (Yes, I am aware that I could turn off Spell Check just for the references — for example, by modifying the styles used in the references, which is what many editors do — but I like Spell Check to be on even for the references.)

Third, I want to be able to run my Journals macro unimpeded and as quickly as I can. The more material the Journals macro has to run through, the longer it takes to complete.

Fourth, I want to be able to run Wildcard Find & Replace on the references without having the macro also affect other parts of the document.

And fifth, moving the references to their own file makes it easier to check text reference callouts against the references because I can have both the primary document and the references open concurrently and on different monitors.

I do not edit the references in this step; I simply move them to their own file.

Step 5: Project-Specific Never Spell Word

The next preedit step is to create my project-specific Never Spell Word (NSW) dataset, which is shown below. Every project has its own NSW dataset (#13). The only time I use a previously created dataset is when I have edited a previous edition of the book. I assume that word usage decisions made in previous editions will continue in the current edition. This is generally reinforced when the client also sends me a copy of the stylesheet I prepared for the prior edition (or tells me to use it, knowing I have it available on my website). I do, however, go through the NSW dataset to make sure there are no changes that need to be made as a result of changes in the applicable style guide or in other pertinent guidelines (e.g., changing over-the-counter and OTC to nonprescription).

Never Spell Word dataset

Never Spell Word dataset

If I cannot use a previously created NSW dataset, I create a new one using the Never Spell Word Manager shown above. Note that when I speak of the NSW dataset, I am really speaking about the one tab in the Manager — the Never Spell Words tab (circled). Although the other tabs are part of the NSW macro, they are not project specific as I use them; however, they can be project specific, as each tab can have multiple datasets, and the tabs also can be renamed.

In the example NSW, the dataset has 70 items (#15). These items were specifically mentioned by the client or the author(s) (e.g., changing blood smear to blood film, or bone marrow to marrow) (#14), or things I noticed that will need changing (e.g., changing Acronyms and Abbreviations that appear in this chapter include: to Acronyms and Abbreviations:) (#14). As I edit and discover more items that should be added, I add them through this Manager.

The NSW macro has multiple tabs, some of which may not be relevant to the current project. Running the NSW macro brings up the NSW Selector, shown below. Here I choose which tabs to run. The default is Run All, but if I need to run only the NSW and Commonly Misspelled Words tabs for the particular project, I check those two and click OK and only those two parts of the macro will run.

Never Spell Word Selector

Never Spell Word Selector

After the NSW macro is run, it is time to begin editing.

Editing Steps

Step 6: The References

My first task is to edit the references that I moved to their own file in Step 4. I deal with the references before editing the text so I can determine whether there are “a,b,c” references (e.g., 57a, 57b) or if the references are listed alphabetically even though numbered. This is important to know for setting up the Reference # Order Check macro, found on the References menu and shown below, for tracking callout order and for renumbering if needed.

Reference # Order Check

Reference # Order Check

After I set up the Reference # Order Check macro, it is time to look at the references and see if the author followed the required style. Occasionally an author does; usually, however, the author-applied or -created style is all over the place. So the next macro I run is Wildcard Find & Replace (WFR) (shown below) and the appropriate scripts I created using WFR. The scripts focus on specific problems, such as author names and order-of-cite information (e.g., year first or last).

Wildcard Find & Replace Scripts

Wildcard Find & Replace & WFR Scripts

The scripts cure a lot of problems, but not all of them. Following the scripts, I run the Journals macro. Depending on which dataset I use, running the Journals macro may well fix nearly all of the journal names.

After running the Journals macro, I go through the references one by one, looking for remaining problems that need fixing, such as completing incomplete citations. If I come across a journal that was not in the Journals dataset, which I know because it is not color coded, I verify the journal’s name. I also go to the Journals Manager enhanced screen, shown below, so I can add the journal to multiple datasets concurrently.

Journals Manager Enhanced Screen

Journals Manager Enhanced Screen

Once I have finished editing the references, it is time to begin editing the main text (Step 7), which is the subject of Part III.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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May 13, 2013

The Crystal Ball Says . . .

The May 4, 2013 edition of The Economist reported that the British Research Councils will begin requiring taxpayer-funded research to be published in journals that make the research available free within one year of publication, if not sooner (“Academic Publishing: Free-for-all”). This mirrors the White House’s executive order to the same effect and a bill in Congress that would set the time limit at six months. Not to be left behind, the European Union is moving in the same direction

The crystal ball sees these as a positive trend for taxpayers, but a worrisome trend for authors and editors, especially when you realize where this leads: to the extension of self-publishing to research papers.

It doesn’t take much effort to recognize that a journal cannot survive if it is paying all the costs of production and marketing but cannot charge for the content. Publishers, being businesses, would have to shift the economic burdens, and the only place to which they can be shifted is onto author shoulders.

It is true that, now, many researchers hire editors at their own expense to help them prepare research articles for submission to journals. The authors see this as an investment because they are trying to be published in journals whose reputations will boost the authors’ reputation — the honor and prestige of being published in a journal known to reject 90% or more of submissions is calculable in the academic world. Getting published by Nature or Science is an academic plum; the same cannot be said for articles published in PLoS, which accepts 80% or more of the articles submitted to it.

The future seems to be that authors will not only have to bear the burden of the editorial costs, but also the production costs, which will be wrapped into a publication fee: “Want to have your article published in our journal? You need to pay us $x.” In other words, the vanity press model of publishing is the likely model that publishers of journals will adopt. As long as you are willing to pay to be published, you will be published.

Setting aside the ramifications such a system has for the reputation of the open-access journal and, thus, the reputation of the author published in the open-access journal, and setting aside the potential benefits to society of researchers having full access to these research articles, we need to consider the impact it will have on us in the performance of the work we do as editors and authors.

The boom in self-publishing of ebooks has not transferred its momentum to either editors or to authors. Although some editors have seen an uptick in work received from authors, most editors have not; many editors have seen, instead, a decline. More importantly, perhaps, is that editorial standards have declined as authors increasingly decide they can self-edit or that having their nephew’s kindergarten teacher (or the nephew himself!) do the editing for free or minimal cost is sufficient. Of course, it does not help that readers are buying error-riddled ebooks and often are unaware of the errors. (It is hard to convince someone who believes gr8 is an acceptable spelling of great that gr8 is erroneous.)

This momentum toward self- and nonprofessional editing also puts downward pressure on professional editors fees. We are in the race to the bottom!

A bright spot in editing has been academic editing. It hasn’t been financially bright but work-wise it has been shining when compared to the offshoring of “standard” editorial work. But that is because there have been several parties who were interested in achieving excellence, an excellence that is not represented by either most self-editing efforts or editing by nonprofessionals.

Yet I foresee a coming change as a result of the open access requirements. Researchers who are already hard pressed to financially support their research and who now pay for a preliminary submission edit, knowing that if accepted the journal will provide additional editing, will be rethinking whether to self-edit or have a nonprofessional do the editing, and whether to put pressure on professional editors to reduce fees, all because these authors will have to pay publication fees to the journals in addition to those fees they have already been paying.

According to The Economist article, the journal Nature claims it costs $40,000 per published paper to cover all of the production and review costs. I have no reason to doubt the number, but it makes me wonder who will bear — and pay — such cost in the open-access model of publishing? How many authors would willingly pay even 25% of that cost? How many authors could afford to absorb such costs?

If the journal is not absorbing the cost, then the ripple has to move downstream. It has to keep moving until it is finally stopped at the place where the cost is absorbed or until it no longer has momentum because either the costs to be absorbed have greatly diminished or no longer have someone to absorb them. How much of that ripple will editors have to absorb by way of lower prices?

(Something to note: “Lower prices” doesn’t necessarily mean reducing, for example, an hourly rate from $45 to $35. It can also mean leaving the rate as is but increasing the scope and amount of services provided. The effect is the same in both instances: it is a lowering of price.)

I also wonder when we will see this open-access publishing model extend to all of academic publishing, not just to journals. I expect that publishers, once they wrap themselves in open-access publishing and see that charging a fee to be published can be profitable, will apply this model to academic books. University presses are already financially in trouble; the open-access model of having the author pay the costs could reduce their financial stress. However, it would also mean less opportunity (or less money) for professional editors as authors strive to reduce their cost burden.

I think the future for authors is one of more costs and less prestige. More costs because the financial burdens will shift from journals and university presses to the authors. Less prestige because the quality of presentation of the research will decline and because a pay-to-publish scheme will reduce the selectivity of the journals and publishers — as long as you can pay, you will be published.

I think the future for professional editors is one of lower prices and less work. Lower prices because authors will pressure for lower fees, or a broadened scope of work, or both, and editors will not be able to resist that pressure because it will come from all directions. Less work because as the costs to publish rise, authors will try to self-edit or find colleagues or students or friends or relatives or other nonprofessionals to do the editing as a way to reduce their financial burden, with the result that there will be less work for professional editors.

My crystal ball says authors and editors need to begin thinking about how they will adapt to what the future portends.

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