An American Editor

May 22, 2017

Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap II

by Carolyn Haley

In Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap I, introduced my four-stage work routine — preflight, formatting, editing, and cleanup — then began a discussion of the first stage in my editing process: preflight.

Preflight’s purpose is to prepare the manuscript for reading, minimizing the number of elements my eye needs to attend to during editing. For the mechanical tasks involved, I use the following software tools:

Editoriums FileCleaner

I use FileCleaner,  which is included in Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014, for general cleanup of extra spaces and returns, curly versus straight quotation marks and apostrophes, and the like. Once I’ve selected which elements I want the tool to address, it takes seconds to do so and I can enter the file confident that I don’t have to watch for those things.

EditToolsDelete Unused Styles

I use the Delete Unused Styles macro to remove style clutter that comes with the file. In publisher manuscripts, somebody has already addressed styling, but indie-author manuscripts are usually messy and need some housekeeping. When the incoming manuscript is really messy, I address it during the next stage, formatting.

EditTools’ Change Style Language

I use the Change Style Language macro to ensure that Word’s styles in the incoming file are set for American English, so the correct dictionary is utilized by Word’s spelling checker. (This is particularly handy with one of my regular nonfiction jobs. The files I receive for that job are provided by multiple authors and often have different language settings. Most of my fiction work comes already set in American English, but there are just enough random exceptions to make this speedy preflight step worthwhile.)

EditTools’ Never Spell Word

I use Never Spell Word (NSW) to catch typos I’m prone to overlooking, such as form/from, let’s/lets, its/it’s, hang onto/hang on to, vice/vise, woman/women, lead/led, your/you’re, quiet/quite, and many others. I add words to the list every time I recognize a repeat mistake or one I haven’t made yet but easily could.

NSW highlights every occurrence of the designated words, which forces me to look at them and choose. I can either jump from highlight to highlight on a dedicated pass through the document, or pause during the edit to accept or fix each one as it appears. I’ve tried both approaches but discovered that I have a tendency to ignore the highlighted words when absorbed in story flow. Now I dedicate a pass to examining these highlights, usually scrolling rather than jumping so the context flows by. In this way I also pick up the gist of plot and characters, gaining a passive preread that helps me spot storycraft issues to pay extra attention to during editing, such as pacing, tense changes, or multiple viewpoints, while remaining ignorant of the details so I can discover them as a reader.

EditTools’ F&R Master

F&R Master lets me find and replace up to 10 terms and characters in one background run, instead of stopping to examine each and make a decision. With F&R Master I’m looking for irregularities I can safely change globally, and my list includes both words and punctuation.

For example, American indie authors intermittently use British spellings; I, however, always adhere to American spelling according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., unless directed otherwise before the job starts. Certain British spellings crop up so often among diverse indie novels that I’ve created an F&R Master dataset for them and run it on all manuscripts. This dataset comprises words ending in -wards (e.g., towards, backwards), which I replace with their s-free American spellings (toward, backward), and the color grey, which I change to gray. The changes get called out on my style sheet.

Other British spellings appear so randomly that I’ve not yet assembled a list for them to enter into a macro. They tend to be either very obvious in the text and I deal with them when I encounter them, or they get caught later by PerfectIt or Word’s spelling checker.

At present I’m building a list of terms that might be British, and/or American archaic, and/or American alternate spellings that keep popping up in fantasy novels — e.g., leapt, dreamt, burnt — along with words I have to look up repeatedly to confirm which is contemporary American spelling, such as knelt vs. kneeled, shined vs. shone, lit vs. lighted, façade vs. facade, décor vs. decor, and their ilk. Most likely I will put these under their own tab(s) in NSW after I’ve finished gathering and organizing them so they will be flagged in the document.

The punctuation changes I do globally using F&R Master are inserting the terminal comma before too, anyway, though, either, and as well (at least one of these occurs in every manuscript), and adjusting ellipses and dash styles (which vary among manuscripts and often within a manuscript). When the author does not have a preference, or I know the manuscript will be submitted to traditional print publishers, I use ellipses with spaces before, after, and between the points, and em dashes without spaces on either end. In cases where I know the author will be self-publishing an e-book, or the author specifies a preference, I use Word’s glyph for ellipses, and en or em dashes with spaces. I’ve set up and saved the F&R Master options not only to switch from one dash or ellipses style to the other in different combinations, but also to find occurrences in dialogue where the space after an ellipses point or dash needs to be dropped before a closing quotation mark, as occurs when a character’s speech trails off or gets interrupted.

Some find/replace combinations, such as possessives for words ending in s, remain best done manually, because there are enough exceptions to make it risky to fix them globally. I always do a quick search for s’ and ‘s to make sure Travis’ dog is Travis’s dog, the 1960’s are the 1960s, and so forth; also that the author hasn’t pluralized dogs by adding an apostrophe (dog’s). During both preflight and cleanup I also search for inverted apostrophes — open single quotes — in constructions like truncated dates (the ‘60s) and dialect (I hit ‘im ‘ere).

Paul Beverley’s ProperNounAlyse

I originally used ProperNounAlyse (PNA) to lay the foundation for a style sheet, but getting the results I wanted ended up requiring so much manual labor that I’ve reduced PNA’s role in my process to a single worth-its-weight-in-gold step.

PNA builds a list of everything it recognizes as a proper noun (e.g., Chicago, Henrietta), including name pairs (e.g., John Smith). The idea of it thrilled me, because my style sheet includes every person and place name in a manuscript, and saving time in gathering those would reduce style sheet labor by half.

Unfortunately, the macro takes “proper noun” too literally, forming a list of names and any capitalized word at the beginning of a sentence. That means if you want, for example, Achilles, Adams, and Adirondacks, you have to dig through entries like About, Absolutely, Actually, and And to find them. You also get first and last names individually along with the full name (e.g., John, Smith, John Smith). Any proper noun of more than two words is likewise captured in components but doesn’t produce the needed set, such as New York City (New, York, City, New York, and York City), which reduces the macro’s utility. The list it creates also includes extraneous words, colors, and characters (see discussion and image below).

If I were macro-savvy, I could probably customize the tool to eliminate the extras, or even write my own script. But I have the same trouble understanding macros as I have understanding algebra, which is why I buy editing software tool packages designed by pros, or use free macros that other people have figured out. In the case of PNA, I don’t know how to constrain it from giving so much I don’t need; but if I let it do its thing, then manually delete the extras and organize the rest, I end up with a comprehensive list of character and place names, plus some terms that may be unique to the manuscript (e.g., Wankel [engine], Luger [pistol]), miscellaneous terms that usually need to be changed and thus included on the style sheet (e.g., OK to okay, Alright to All right), and some that might be capitalized in one context but lowercase in another (e.g., Captain, Mother, Earth).

This is great — but it takes longer to build the list and then take it apart again to place each item in the right category on my style sheet than to build my style sheet the old way, item by item as I come across each in the manuscript. For the sake of time, I reverted to the old way, and now use PNA solely to find misspelled versions of a proper noun. I still generate the list, but instead of manipulating it for the style sheet, I just delete the highlighting so I can read what’s underneath, and scan for near duplicates. Then I fix any obvious errors before editing, and query the author where needed.

The macro proved its power when I had a novel featuring a character named Philippa, whose name appeared in the story spelled different ways. I found them all hard to read, because of the multiple i’s and l’s together. The PNA-generated list helped me isolate the three wrong spellings, but this is what I had to sort through to find them (double-click on image to enlarge it):

Sample results produced by ProperNounAlyse

Since one of the most embarrassing blunders a fiction editor can make is to misspell an author’s or character’s name, I’m glad to have a tool that helps avoid making such a blunder. Even the long and convoluted means of preventing the blunder, as described above for style sheet building, is worth the effort to ensure I never make that mistake.

It’s been suggested that I approach proper noun correctness from the opposite direction, trading ProperNounAlyse for Never Spell Word. In NSW I can enter the correct form of Philippa and have it highlighted in the manuscript, leaving any alternate versions obvious because they would be unhighlighted and thus easy to identify and correct. Or, enter every variant I can think of and have them all flagged for review. This is a good idea that doesn’t work for me, for reasons that may not seem sensible to others.

But, unlike others, I happen to be a super-duper high-speed typist who’s been word processing since before Word 1.0 was a gleam in Microsoft’s eye. It’s faster and easier for me to type multiple find/replaces for the wrong spellings I see on a list (especially since PNA tells me how many of each there are) than to open EditTools and NSW, set up a dataset I’ll probably never use again, figure out what color to highlight what, and then look through the manuscript for whatever I decided to flag, assuming I can remember what I decided by the time I’m done. In the case of Philippa, I can opt to just find “phil,” which will snag them all — worth considering, since PNA won’t catch one that starts with a lowercase p.

The point is, I have to type the same words whether I enter them in a dataset or a find/replace window, with the same risk of mistyping. My eyes and hands work better with conventional find/replace, so that’s the route I take.

It’s also been suggested that I perform the preflight tasks in a different, more strategic order, to maximize their efficacy. I need to contemplate that idea more, having never considered it. I established my routine from a checklist I compiled years ago from scribbled notes that amounted to “remember to do these things before starting.” As my routine stands, no step depends on any other; they are just things I want done before beginning the edit. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to cover them and am sure I’ll eventually find the ideal one. Right now, my steps accomplish what I desire: getting the manuscript workably clean so I can read without that nagging sensation of things lurking in the shadows behind me.

Taking care of as many consistency elements as possible before editing leaves any aberrations obvious enough to spot during the read. I like to keep some challenge to my eye so it doesn’t get jaded, just as I like to keep my fingers limber so I remain a super typist. I’ve arranged my preflight tasks so that postediting cleanup problems can be identified and decided upon per occurrence; I never do a background function if I’m done going through the manuscript. A background function invites nightmares like what happened to me once in a secretarial job. A careless moment with global find/replace led to “best” becoming “bestiality” in an environmental science report!

In those days, I was lowest person on the totem pole but on salary, in an environment where mistakes were forgiven unless they cost the company huge amounts of money. Now I’m a self-employed professional editor for whom any error has a price. Astute readers will note that some of my tool choices serve the peculiarities of my mind as well as accomplish specific editorial purposes. I must accommodate both in order to deliver an excellent job that clients are happy to pay for — every time.

This rationale applies during Stage 2: Formatting, which is discussed in Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap III.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, 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.

March 20, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V

I am now nearly at the point where I actually begin editing the manuscript itself. I’ve created a stylesheet and cleaned the document (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap II), and tagged the manuscript by typecoding or applying styles (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III), and inserted bookmarks for callouts and other things I noticed while tagging the manuscript (see The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV). Now it is time to create the project- or client-specific Never Spell Word dataset and then run the Never Spell macro.

Never Spell Word (NSW) lets me create project- or client-specific datasets. If I know, for example, that the client prefers “distension” to “distention,” I can, using NSW mark every instance of “distension” with green highlighting, which tells me that this is the correct spelling, and change every instance of “distention” to “distension,” which change will be made with tracking on and then highlighted in cyan to visually clue me that a change has been made (I can choose to make the changes with tracking off, but that is not something I ever do).

Tip: It is important to remember that the tab names, such as “Drugs,” in the Never Spell Manager, and in nearly all managers, can be changed to whatever name best suits your editorial business. Use the Change Tab Name button. The tab names that show when you install EditTools are placeholder names.

Highlighting is integral to EditTools. Highlighting attracts the eye and by using different highlight colors, I can, at a glance, tell whether I need to review or check something. Because of the types of books I work on, it is not unusual for Word to put a red squiggle under a word or phrase that is actually correct — it just isn’t in Word’s dictionary. Most editors would stop and check the squiggled word, but, for example, if I see it is highlighted in green, I know that it is correct and I do not have to check it — I know I have already checked the word and then added it to a tab in the Never Spell Manager.

The point is that NSW enables me to mark (via highlighting) items that are correct, items that need to be checked, items that are correct but may not be capitalized correctly, items that should never be spelled out, and items that should always be spelled out according to the stylesheet and client instructions. Some examples are shown in the image below (you can make this image, as well as other images in this essay, larger by clicking on image):

A Dataset in Notepad++

The datasets are text files. The above image shows a project-specific dataset that was opened in Notepad++ (Notepad++ is an outstanding free text editor that is a replacement for Microsoft’s Notepad). The * and $ preceding an entry indicate case sensitive and whole word only, respectively. For example (#1 in image above),

*$ms | cyan -> msec

means: find instances of “ms” as a lowercase whole word (in other words, “ms” but not, e.g., “forms” or “MS”) and change it to “msec.” What I will see in the manuscript is this:

Change Example

The cyan tells me at a glance that this has been changed by NSW. If the change is incorrect for some reason, I can reject the change, which is why I do it with tracking on.

I use NSW as a way to implement stylesheet decisions, as well as client preferences. An example is “F/M” (#2 in above image). The nice thing is that I do not need to format the entry. The Never Spell Manager, shown below, makes it easy — I just fill in the blanks, and if appropriate check one or both checkboxes, and click Add. I can easily correct an erroneous entry by double-clicking on it, correcting it, and clicking Update. And the Manager stays open and available until I click Close. With this Manager, I can make additions to any of the tabs.

The NSW Manager

I also use NSW as a way to mark things I already know are correct or incorrect and need changing so that I spend less doing spell checking tasks and more time doing higher-level editing. When I come across a new term, such as the name of a new organism, if appropriate I add it to one of the NSW datasets after I verify it so that next time it will be highlighted and, if necessary, corrected. For example, authors often type ASO3 rather than the correct AS03 (the first is the letter O then second is a zero). Having come across that mistake often, I added the instruction to change ASO3 to AS03 to my Commonly Misspelled Words dataset. Another example is the word towards. The correct spelling in American English is toward, so I added the word towards and the correction (toward) to an NSW dataset.

When I run the NSW macro, I am actually running more than what is contained in the Never Spell Words dataset — I can choose to run one, some, or all of the datasets represented by the tabs in the Never Spell Manager shown here:

Choosing Datasets

In this example, I am running all of the datasets except the Confusables dataset.

Tip: Using only the datasets that are applicable to the project allows the NSW macro to complete faster. This is especially true as your datasets grow.

I run the NSW macro over the main text; I do not run it over the reference list. My habit is to move the reference list to its own document after I style/code and do cleanup, but before I run NSW. The NSW macro requires the placement of a bookmark called “refs” at the point in the manuscript where I want the macro to stop checking text. Consequently, I do not have to move the reference list to a separate file if the list is after the material I want the macro to go over — I can just put the bookmark in the reference list head or in a line that precedes the list. I move the reference list to its own file because my next step will be to run the Journals macro, and that macro works faster and better when the reference list is in its own file, especially if the dataset is large as mine are (e.g., my AMA style dataset runs more than 212,000 entries).

As I said earlier, I keep the Never Spell Manager (shown above) open while I edit. Doing so lets me add new material to the various datasets as I edit the manuscript. The idea of the multiple tabs is to be able to have specialized datasets that are usable for all (or most) projects; for me, only the Never Spell Words dataset is project/client specific. When I come across the name of a study, for example, such as AFFIRM (Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management), I enter the information in the Studies/Trial tab dataset, because that is information that is neither project nor client specific.

I also keep open the Toggle Managers because when I come across something like the AFFIRM study I want to enter it into the appropriate Toggle dataset, too. But the Toggle macro is the subject of a later Roadmap essay (The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VIII).

After running NSW, it is time to turn attention to the reference list. The Journals macro and the Wildcard Find and Replace macro are the subjects of The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap VI.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 13, 2017

The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap IV

I ended The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap III with a discussion of Style Inserter and with my repeating an earlier comment about how the smart editor creates the wheel once and reuses it instead of recreating the wheel with each new project. (I do understand that if you are doing one-off projects it is more difficult to create a reusable wheel, but there is a lot to editing that is repetitive across projects, even across one-off projects.)

One of the tools that I tried to use in my early years of editing was Word’s bookmarks. I would come across something that I thought I was likely to need to relook at as editing progressed and I would add a bookmark. The problem was — and remains — that Word’s bookmarking is primitive and not all that helpful. Of what value is a list of dozens of bookmarks that are nondescriptive, can’t be organized, and are so similar that it is hard to tell which is the one you need to go to? Before EditTools’ Bookmarks, I found using bookmarks to be very frustrating. (For previous essays on bookmarks, see The Business of Editing: Using & Managing Bookmarks and Bookmarking for Better Editing.)

EditTools’ Bookmarks are much more powerful and usable than the standard Word bookmarks. A detailed description of the Bookmarks macro is available at the wordsnSync website; here I want to address how I use bookmarks in editing.

My first use is to mark callouts of display items in the text. It is pretty easy to recall that Figure 1 was called out in the text when a manuscript has only one figure, but if a chapter is 50 pages long and has ten figures and six tables (and perhaps other display items), using bookmarks makes it easy to confirm that all are called out in the text. I insert a bookmark at the first instance of an in-text callout of a figure or table (see arrows [#1] in figure below) (you can make this image, as well as other images in this essay, larger by clicking on the image).

EditTools' Bookmarks dialog

EditTools’ Bookmarks dialog

When I get to the section of the manuscript that has, for example, the figure legends, I match the callout bookmark to the figure legend — that is, when I am styling/coding the legend to Figure 3, I make sure that there is a callout in the text for Figure 3 by looking at the above dialog to see if there is a bookmark fig 003. If there is, I use Move Bookmark (#2 in above figure) to move the bookmark from the callout to the legend. I do this is so that when I am editing the manuscript (rather than styling/coding), I can go from a figure’s callout to its legend (I insert a temporary pause bookmark at the callout so I can easily return to that spot), edit the legend and make sure the figure and the text are aligned (addressing the same issue), and then return to where I had paused editing. If there is no bookmark for the callout, I search the text for it; if it remains unfound, I query the author. Using bookmarks at this stage of the editing process gives me an easy way to check that all display items are called out in the text.

I also use bookmarks to mark something that I think I may need to check later. For example, if I see that references are going to be renumbered and that Table 1 includes reference callouts, I can insert a bookmark similar to that shown here (#3):

Descriptive bookmarks

Descriptive bookmarks

I keep the Bookmarks dialog open while I edit, so reminders like this are always visible and it is easy to add a bookmark. If a bookmark will be used repeatedly, like the “fig” bookmark, I create a custom button (#4) so that I can insert it with a single click, rather than repeatedly typing. (See Bookmarks at wordsnSync for more information about the custom buttons.)

There are two other things I do with bookmarks that help with editing. First, when I have edited a display item, such as a table, I rename the bookmark — I do not delete it because I may need to return to the item and this is an easy way to navigate. Renaming is easy and I have chosen a default naming convention as shown below (#5).

My default renaming convention

My default renaming convention

This renaming convention tells me that I have edited the display item, which I would not have done if the display was not called out in the text. It also leaves me a bookmark that I can use to navigate to the item in case there is a need to make a correction or add a comment that surfaces after additional editing. (You can create your own default naming convention or manually rename the bookmark using the Bookmark Rename dialog shown below. Using the Rename dialog you can create standardized renaming conventions and choose among them which is to be a default. You can choose a prefix or a suffix or both, as I did. The advantage to creating a default is that in three mouse clicks the renaming is done: one to select the bookmark to rename, one to click Rename, and one to click OK — quick and easy. Try renaming a bookmark using Word’s Bookmark function.)

Bookmark renaming dialog

Bookmark renaming dialog

Bookmarks that I no longer need, I delete. I like to keep lists that I need to check to a minimum. Thus, for example, once I have rechecked the reference numbering in Table 1, I will delete the bookmark that acts as both a reminder and a marker.

In my editing process, I use bookmarks extensively, especially as reminders to do certain tasks before I decide that the editing of the manuscript is complete — essentially a to-do list for the document I am editing. Unlike Word’s Bookmarks, EditTools’ Bookmarks lets me use plain-English descriptive bookmarks and organize them. Note that the bulleted “Recheck” bookmark appears as the first entry and the “x” (to signify edited) renamed bookmark has moved to the end of the list.

The next step in my editing path is to create my project-specific Never Spell Word dataset. When I first begin a project, this dataset may have only a few items in it, but it grows as the project progresses. Never Spell Word is the subject of The Business of Editing: The AAE Copyediting Roadmap V. Never Spell Word is a key item in my editing roadway.

Richard Adin, 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 1, 2013

Business of Editing: The Logistics of Large Projects

As I wrote in my previous post, Business of Editing: Taking On Too Much, I have been hired to help edit a portion of a very large project. My portion runs to 5,000 manuscript pages, which have to be edited within 6 weeks.

After having written about the ethical issues of having undertaken a project that was bigger than the original editors could handle, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the logistical problems of massive projects. Let’s begin at the beginning: This project, before editing of any chapters, ran approximately 8,000 manuscript pages. (I use approximately deliberately as this was the in-house editor’s estimate; I only know with certainty the page count for the chapters I have actually received.)

Projects of that size are the types of project that I often receive and over the years, I have developed a system for working with such massive amounts of manuscript. In fact, it was because of my receiving projects of that size that I developed EditTools. As you can imagine, with such projects consistency becomes a problem, and the stylesheet seems to grow on its own.

The first logistical problem I address is that of editors: How many editors will be needed to edit the manuscript within the time allotted by the schedule? I built my business, Freelance Editorial Services, around the idea that a team of editors can do better financially than a solo editor. Although this notion has been disputed many times over the years, I still believe it to be true, based on discussions that I have with solo colleagues. It is this team concept that enables me to undertake such large projects with confidence, knowing that I will have a sufficient number of well-qualified editors to do the work.

The second logistical problem I address is the online stylesheet and giving access to it to the editors who will be working on the project. I discussed my online stylesheet in Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets. When several editors work collaboratively on a project, this online stylesheet enables all of the editors to see what decisions have been made, and to conform their decisions with the decisions that have been made by coeditors. Consequently, if an editor makes new editorial decision (i.e., it has not been previously decided by an editor and inserted on the stylesheet) to use distension rather than distention, or to use coworker rather than co-worker, all of the other editors can immediately see that decision — within seconds of its being entered into the stylesheet — and can conform their editing to that decision or dispute it. It also means that errors can be caught and corrected. For example, if an editor enters adriamycin, another editor can correct it to Adriamycin (it is a brand name, not a generic drug) and immediately notify all editors of the original error and correction.

In addition, my client also has access to the stylesheet. The client can view and print it, but not modify it. This serves two purposes: (a) the client can provide proofreaders with up-to-the-minute copies of the stylesheet and (b) the client can look at our editorial decisions and decide that he would prefer, for example, distention rather than distension, notify an editor of the preference, and the editor can then make the change and notify all of the coeditors, who can then make any necessary corrections in chapters not already submitted to the client.

The third logistical problem I address is the creation of a starter NSW (Never Spell Word) file for the project. The Never Spell Word module of EditTools is where known client preferences are stored. For example, if I know that the client prefers distention to distension, I enter into the NSW file the information to change instances of distension to distention. Also into this file goes editorial decisions, such as marking DNA as an acronym that does not ever need to be spelled out but that the acronym US (for ultrasound) should always be spelled out as ultrasound. The NSW file also serves to remind editors of other editorial-decision–related information. I provide each editor with a starter NSW file and each editor will add to their NSW file as they edit.

The NSW macro is run before beginning editing a chapter. Its purpose is to promote consistency across chapters and to make it easier for an editor to visually see editorial decisions that have been made. The NSW macro includes several components. For example, my basic NSW for medical editing also includes a dataset for drugs and organisms. Its use helps speed editing by providing visual clues, such as an indication that a drug name is correct even though the spell checker is flagging it as erroneous — it becomes one less thing that I need to verify.

The fourth logistical problem I tackle is references. These projects often have lots of references. One chapter of the project that I just received, for example, runs 305 manuscript pages, of which there are 61 pages of references — a total of 652 references (most of the chapters have more than 300 references). Dealing with references can be time-consuming. My approach is to separate the references from the main chapter, putting them in their own file. This serves four purposes: (a) Microsoft, in its wisdom, has determined that if spell check determines there are more than some number of errors in a document, it will display a message that there are too many errors for Word to display and turns off spell check. Although spell check is not perfect, it is a tool that I do use when editing. I would prefer it to flag a correctly spelled word as misspelled, giving me an alert, than my possibly missing something. Spell check is a tool, not a solution. (However, it does help that EditTools helps me create custom dictionaries so that correct words that are currently flagged as errors by spell check can easily be added to a custom dictionary and not flagged in the future.) By moving the references to their own file, I eliminate this problem of Word turning off spell check for too many errors.

(b) It provides me with an opportunity to run my Journals macro. Every time I come across a new variation of a spelling of a journal name, I add it to one of my journal datasets. My PubMed (medical) journals dataset currently has more 14,675 entries. With the references in a separate file, I can run that dataset against the reference list and have my macro correct those journal names that are incorrect (assuming the information is in my dataset) and mark as correct those that are correct. What this means is that rather than having to check journal names for 652 references in a chapter, I have to do so for at most a handful. It also means that I can concentrate on the other reference errors, if any, such as missing author names. Instead of spending several hours on the references alone, I can edit the references in a much shorter amount of time. (It took 26 minutes for the Journals macro to check the 652 references against the 14,675 entries in the dataset.)

(c) The third purpose is that separating the references from the main text lets me run the Page Number Format macro. In less than a minute, I had changed the page numbers in the 652 references from 1607-10 to 1607-1610 format. How long would it take to do this manually? Having the references in their own file means I do not have to worry about the macro making unwanted changes in the main text, especially as this macro runs without tracking.

(d) The fourth purpose separating the references from the main body of the chapter serves is that it lets me run my Wildcard Find & Replace macro just on the references. There is no chance that I will use the macro and make unwanted changes to the main text. WFR is efficient because it lets me create a macro that works, such as one to closeup the year-volume-pages cite, and save it for future reuse. WFR even lets me combine several of the macros into a single script (that also can be saved for repeat use) so that the macros run sequentially in my designated order. As an example: I have created macros to change author names from the format Author, F. H., to Author FH,. If you have to do this manually for several thousand author names, you begin to appreciate the power and usefulness of WFR and how much time it can save. (I also will use WFR on the main text when appropriate. What I avoid by separating out the references is the possibility of something happening to either the main text or the references that shouldn’t.)

The above steps are among those I take that make handling of large projects easier and more profitable. There are additional things that I do for each chapter, but the point is that by dealing with manuscript in a logical way, projects become manageable. In addition, by using the right tools, editing is more accurate, consistent, and faster, which leads to a happy client, more work, and increased profitability.

Do you have any thoughts on how to handle large amounts of manuscript? Do you take any special steps for preparing a manuscript for editing or while editing?

May 28, 2012

The Business of Editing: Consistency

One of the directives I regularly get from clients is that they want consistency. For example, they do not want a word spelled out sometimes and an acronym used in place of the word at other times. In books, they want consistency across chapters whenever possible.

Years ago, when I edited journal articles, each journal had a style to be applied consistently across articles, regardless of whether I edited one article or 100 articles.

This drive for consistency is likely to have been the mother of the editor’s stylesheet. The stylesheet serves multiple purposes, two being to let the editor check treatment of a term in hopes that treatment is consistent across a manuscript and for a proofreader to see what decisions the editor made (e.g., is it non-negotiable or nonnegotiable; distention or distension?) and apply those decisions where the editor may have been inconsistent.

We know as readers that consistency is important, even in fiction. I find it distracting and annoying when the heroine is “nearly six-foot tall with strawberry-blond hair and jade-colored eyes” in chapter 1 but has become “five-and-a-half feet tall with dirty-blond hair and hazel eyes that change color” in chapter 3. Going from Amazonian to ordinary in three chapters can alter a plotline significantly.

Knowing that consistency is important, what steps do editors take to ensure it? In my olden days of editing, I relied on the stylesheet; I had no other tool in my arsenal that was as facile for the purpose, especially not with the size of projects on which I generally work. The stylesheet worked well when it was small (relatively speaking), but as it grew in length, it became a cumbersome tool for ensuring consistency. It became cumbersome because of the need to check it so often, and because, in the early days, the stylesheet was handwritten, which meant not alphabetized, making finding things difficult.

So I began experimenting and found ways to automate the stylesheet using programs like Macro Express, a program I still use (but not for my stylesheet). Ultimately, I designed an online stylesheet (see Working Effectively Online V — Stylesheets for a discussion of my stylesheet), which remains open in my web browser and gives me quick and easy access. Yet, I discovered that, as much of an improvement as the online stylesheet is, it was not enough. Consequently, I created two of the macros that appear in EditTools: Never Spell Word and Toggle. Using these two macros means there are fewer inconsistencies across long manuscripts.

When I get a project from client Y, I usually know that the client wants certain things to appear in its publications, or, if not across its publications, within the particular project I am working on. For example, the client may tell me that every time I see the head REFER, it should be changed to REFERRAL, or that a common acronym such as WHO never needs to be spelled out. (Usually the directive is that “common acronyms need not be spelled out at first use” without providing a list of those common acronyms; it is part of my job as an experienced editor to recognize which acronyms will be readily understood by readers of the book.)

Never Spell Word (NSW) lets me add words and phrases to a project-specific list and apply a specific color highlight to those words and phrases so I can be consistent across chapters. For example, if I enter WHO and assign it the highlight color magenta, and run NSW on the manuscript, I know each time that I see WHO in magenta that it does not need to be spelled out. If I come across “World Health Organization (WHO)” in the text, I’ll see WHO in magenta and I’ll know to delete “World Health Organization” and the parens around WHO.

Similarly, I can enter into the list to change World Health Organization to WHO. When I run the NSW macro, not only will the change be made (with tracking on), but WHO will be highlighted to indicate to me visually that this is correct.

The advantages of NSW over similar macros are basically twofold: (a) the highlighting, which gives a visual clue; and (b) the ease with which new items can be added to the list while editing. This second point is important; it means that the list is not static and it can grow as I find things to add to it.

NSW is only a part of the consistency equation, however. Toggle is another important tool. NSW is run on a file after basic file cleanup but before editing. It is run only once on a file, although I may add to its list as I edit a file. Toggle, in contrast, is not run on a file. Instead, it is used to change a word or phrase while editing. My current Toggle list has more than 1,500 entries in it. These are the things that I do not want to change universally (i.e., correct using the NSW macro); instead, I want to decide whether to make a change as I come to the item.

Using the WHO example, again, if I need to spell out WHO the first time it is used in a chapter but not on subsequent uses, then I want the information in my Toggle macro, not in my NSW macro because NSW will change it every time and I’ll have to undo some instances, whereas Toggle will make the change only when I tell it to do so. Like NSW, Toggle can have and access multiple lists. There is a primary (or universal) main list and then there are supplemental project-specific lists that can be accessed simultaneously with the primary list.

In a Toggle list, I would enter “WHO” and ask that it be changed to “World Health Organization (WHO)”; it would appear in the Toggle list like this:

WHO | World Health Organization (WHO)

Now, when I come to WHO in the manuscript, if I want to spell it out, I place my cursor in WHO and run Toggle; it deletes WHO and enters World Health Organization (WHO). This is done with Track Changes on.

I’ve used a simple example, but Toggle can be used for both complex and simple changes. For example, an entry in my primary Toggle list is as follows:

1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine | methylphenyltetrahydropyridine (MPTP)

Toggle promotes consistency in two ways: (a) it reduces spelling errors that occur when typing a replacement and (b) it is easy to use and fast.

If you know that a client wants to avoid “due to,” it is difficult to create a universally applicable substitute. Toggle gives you as many options as you create. If a client always wants World Health Organization referred to as WHO, NSW can make that happen. It is easy to remember what a client wants when there are only a few things, but the more things a client wants and the more inconsistent an author is, the less valuable the stylesheet is to an editor and the more valuable macros like NSW and Toggle are — they increase consistency and reduce the time required to be consistent.

Postscript (added after article was published): Last night I finished a novel published by a major publisher in which, within three lines, a character’s name appeared three times and each appearance was a different spelling. If the editor had used used Never Spell Word, this would not have occurred. The editor would have entered the character’s name at its first appearance into the NSW list (or, better yet in the case of fiction, the author should have supplied a list of characters with correct name spellings and ll the names would be entered into the list before any editing began) and then as the editor ran NSW on each chapter, if the character’s name was not highlighted in green, the editor would know immediately that the name’s spelling needed to be checked. Granted that the errors occurring in such close proximity should have been caught regardless of the use of NSW, but it does point out how such things can slip by and how the proper tools can help improve consistency.

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