An American Editor

August 24, 2018

Helping Clients with Version Control

Ælfwine Mischler

I am interrupting my series on indexing (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) because a distressed client last week left me thinking about how to help authors with version control.

It is hot in Cairo. Daytime temperatures have been 100° F (38° C) for weeks and many of us, myself included, do not have A/C. It makes some of us fuzzy-brained and sometimes our computers overheat. That is what happened to a client (I will call her AB) when she called me repeatedly to help her with a file.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

AB, an active woman in her mid-seventies with a PhD, was having problems for several reasons. First, she could not maintain version control. Second, she told me that as she is getting older, she is still good in her work field but gets more confused by technology. Third, her aging computer was acting up, probably as a result of overheating. (The next day, she wrote to say that it performed better after she turned it off for several hours.)

As a result of this confluence of problems, I spent two unpaid hours “hand holding” over the phone when I really wanted to work on another client’s book. AB had “lost” the file I edited and returned four months ago. I told her to find my email, redownload the file, and then save it as ED 2. She had problems doing that. I sent her a copy of the file with SECOND EDIT as a prefix to the name, but she had problems downloading it, finding the Downloads folder, and then finding the folder she wanted to put it in — because she had several folders with similar names.

I was starting to get impatient and I wanted to tell her that I was going to charge her for my time on the phone, but we had never agreed to such a thing. Did I have the right, then, to ask for it? Would I have actually been able to collect it? I could hear in her voice that she was getting more and more frustrated. She really needed someone to walk her through what should have been simple procedures. I found it difficult to believe that she really did not know how to do basic things like downloading a file and putting it into another folder. From what she was saying on the phone, it seemed that she was opening the file and copying the text of it rather than copying the file itself from its folder. Did she really not know how to do these things, or was the combination of age, heat, and computer problems overwhelming her?

I have had clients who did not understand some things, such as using Track Changes, but I can send them instructions or send them two versions of an edited file, one with tracking visible and the other with all changes accepted. This was the first time I had to attempt to walk someone through basics. Should I have done anything differently? What would you have done? I welcome your answers in the comment box.

A File by Any Other Name

AB’s biggest problem was version control. This was not the first time she had called me while looking through multiple folders or files with similar names. She had been working on translating a book for many years, and in the end, she sent me the manuscript for copyediting in two parts. Now she had multiple versions of each part and several different folders, and she could not figure out where she had put the one I had edited or which file it was.

When I edit for clients, this is my work pattern:

  • I open the original and use Save As to make a copy with “ED 1” prefixed to the filename.
  • I don’t make any changes in the original (though I might look at it) while I edit version ED 1.
  • When I return ED 1 to the client for review, I tell the client to use Save As to put “ED 2” as the prefix to the name, to work only in the ED 2 file, and to return it to me for checking.
  • I open ED 2 and use Save As to make a copy with “ED 3” added to the name instead of “ED 2.”

Another recent client (“CD”) keeps adding new material to his book — but he follows my early instructions to save the file with a higher version number. He knows that files to me should have an even-numbered version number, and I return an odd-numbered version to him. CD recently sent me ED 10, but before I could get to it, he wanted to add still more lines. I instructed him to call the newest one ED 10.2 so that we could maintain the pattern of even numbers from him and odd from me. We have not had a problem with version control with this work pattern.

AB, on the other hand, has multiple versions that she cannot distinguish from one another. When you have several files with names such as these, how do you know which is the latest?

ABnancybooktranslation_aardvarks

nancybooktranslation_aardvarks

nancy-book-translation_aardvarks_newer

nancy-aardvarksbook_most recent

Is Your Computer Drafty?

If you tend to retain older drafts of your work, you need to systemize your naming of different versions. Keep the basic filename the same — not with different names as AB did — and add a number and date to each version. (I once joked with a managing editor that she had kept the same spelling mistake in the filename of volume three of a book I was about to index, having indexed volumes one and two with the same misspelled file. She replied that the spelling mistake was the designer’s, but she retained the same filename rather than mess up the designer’s system.) You can, of course, put the version number at the end of the filename, but I find it easier if the number is at the beginning.

Once you have more than two or three drafts, ask yourself if you really need to keep the earlier versions. If you cannot bear to delete them just yet, put them into a folder marked “early drafts” or “older stuff” so you do not confuse them with more-recent versions. You can also use an option described below to hide files so you do not accidentally work in the wrong ones.

Get a Better View

I did not think to tell AB this on the day I was helping her stave off a total meltdown — with her computer problems and distress, she probably could not have absorbed it anyway — but did you know that you can change the view of the files so you can see information about them, including when they were created and/or last modified?

If you open a folder and click on the View tab, you will find options for showing the contents of the folder. Many of the people I have worked with like to use medium or large icons, which display across the screen in rows. The icon view is easier if you like to drag files into subfolders because your “target” is bigger. In this example, I have also turned on the Navigation pane on the left side, which allows you to scroll to quickly find other folders.

My own preference is usually for List — I have shown it here without the Navigation pane.

If version control is a problem for you, try the Details view, and play with the Sort by options until you find the one that is best for you.

It seems that Date Modified, Type, and Size are the default details, because these are the ones that have always appeared when I chose Details view without making any changes. I will talk about some of the options below. You can resize the columns by positioning the cursor on the barely visible line between the column names and dragging. You can also choose Size All Columns to Fit to show the most information.

If you go to the top of the folder under Current view, you will find many more options.

If you click on the triangle under Sort by, you can choose to sort your files by something other than name. Date created or Date last modified would be good choices for version control.

The Add columns menu lets you choose which details to show. Use this along with the Sort by options.

Another useful option is Show/Hide. You can select one or more items, then click on Hide selected items. The files will still be in the folder but will be invisible. This is useful for version control so you do not accidentally open and modify the wrong files. If you want to see hidden items, you can check the box next to Hidden items. Their icons will appear faded in the folder. If you no longer want to hide them, select them and click on Hide selected items, which is a toggle switch, to “unhide” them.

A Word to the Whys

If you have problems with your filenames as AB does, I hope you will now understand why it is important to maintain version control. Keep the basic filename the same and add date or version number to the filename of each new version. Delete older versions that you no longer need. If you really cannot bear to part with them, or if they contain ideas for later works, put them into another folder with a clear name or hide them from view. Play with the folder view options I have described here (and the ones I have not, such as panes) to find the options that work best for your working style.

And stay cool.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

September 30, 2015

Lyonizing Word: But Wait—There’s More!

by Jack Lyon

Replacing Basic Text

Searching with wildcards in Microsoft Word can accomplish miracles in editing, but some people find wildcards a little too arcane to deal with. If you’re one of those people, you might benefit from some of Word’s lesser-known but easier-to-use search options. But first, let’s do a basic find and replace. Open Word’s “Find and Replace” dialog by pressing CTRL + H (or click Home > Editing > Replace on Word’s ribbon interface). Then:

  1. In the “Find what” box, enter a word you want to search for. (We’ll use the misspelled “millenium” as an example.)
  2. In the “Replace with” box, enter a word you want to replace the incorrectly spelled “millenium” with. (We’ll use the correctly spelled “millennium” as an example.)
  3. Click the “Replace All” button.
Find & Replace

Find & Replace

That’s it. Every occurrence of “millenium” will be replaced with “millennium.” Simple and quick.

Refining Your Search

But wait—there’s more! Microsoft Word provides many ways to refine your search. See the “More” button at the bottom of the “Replace” dialog?

More Button

More Button

Click it. Here’s what you’ll see:

The "More" Options

The “More” Options

Under “Search Options,” you can specify whether to search up, down, or through all your text:

Search Options

Search Options

You can also match case and find whole words only:

Additional Options

Additional Options

There are actually lots of options, all worth exploring:

Match case

Obviously, this option finds only text that matches the case (capitalized or lowercased) of the text in the “Find what” box. If you enter “Hello” in the “Find what” box with “Match case” checked, Word finds “Hello” but not “hello.” If you enter “hello,” Word finds “hello” but not “Hello.”

Find whole words only

This option finds whole words only. For example, if you search for “sing,” Word finds “sing” but not “singing.” If this option is not checked, Word finds both “sing” and “singing,” as well as “using” and “kissing.”

Use wildcards

This option tells Word that you want to search using wildcards:

Use Wildcards

Use Wildcards

Wildcards are important, but in this article we’re trying to avoid these. For explanations and examples, see my past articles (e.g., Lyonizing Word: From Easy to Impossible — Three Variations on a Theme, Lyonizing Word: The Easy Way, Not So Easy, Lyonizing Word: The Easy Way, Not So Easy, and Lyonizing Word: We Can Do This the Easy Way, or . . . ; if you use EditTools, see The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars). Please note, however, that if this option is checked, you can no longer select “Match case” or “Find whole words only.” Even so, during a wildcard search, “Match case” is automatically enabled, even though it’s not shown as enabled (an oversight on Microsoft’s part). “Find whole words only,” on the other hand, is inactive.

Sounds like (English)

This option finds words that sound like the word in the “Find what” box. For example, if you search for “cot,” Word also finds “caught.” If you search for “horse,” Word also finds “hoarse.” This could be useful if you’re working on a document in which certain words have been confused or mistyped. Basically, this feature works on words that are homophones; it doesn’t seem to work on words that sound almost alike, such as “horse” and “whores.” On the other hand, while searching for “horse,” it also finds “horsey” but not “horses,” so who knows?

Find all word forms (English)

This option finds what Microsoft calls “all” forms of the word in the “Find what” box. For example, if you search for “sit,” Word also finds “sat” and “sitting.” The word “all” is a little misleading, however. The feature relies on an underlying database of word forms that is pretty good but has some omissions. For example, if you search for “eat,” Word finds “eat, “ate,” “eaten,” and “eating” but not “eater.” Similarly, if you search for “horse,” Word finds “horse,” “horses,” and “horsing” but not “horseless.” It’s a useful feature, mostly for finding verb forms; just don’t expect it to actually find all forms of a word.

Match prefix

This option matches words beginning with the search string. For example, if you put “pre” in the “Find what” box, Word finds “prepare,” “present,” and so on. This isn’t a “smart” feature; it searches for characters only, not word roots. For example, searching for “pre” also finds “prestidigitation” and “pressure,” even though “pre” isn’t really a prefix in those words.

Match suffix

This option matches words ending with the search string. For example, if you put “ing” in the “Find what” box, Word finds “singing,” “typing,” and so on. This isn’t a “smart” feature; it searches for characters only, not word roots. For example, searching for “ing” also finds “boing,” “spring,” and “thing,” even though “ing” isn’t really a suffix in those words.

Ignore punctuation characters

Ignores punctuation characters between words. For example, “trees plants and flowers” finds “trees, plants, and flowers” as well as “trees plants and flowers.” This might be useful for fixing problems with serial commas.

Ignore white-space characters

Ignores all white space (spaces, tabs, and so on) between words. For example, “webpage” finds “web page” as well as “webpage.” This is the inverse of “Find whole words only” and could be useful for fixing words that are sometimes spelled open and sometimes closed.

Other options

If you’re working in a language other than English, other options may be available, including Match Kashida, Match Diacritics, Match Alef Hamza, and Match Control. I know almost nothing about these options, so I can’t comment on them with any degree of expertise.

Format

One of the most important tools in Microsoft Word’s find and replace toolbox is the ability to search for formatting — all kinds of formatting. To do so, click the “Format” button:

Format Button

Format Button

Here’s what you’ll get:

The "Format" Options

The “Format” Options

Each option (such as “Font”) opens the usual dialog for that feature:

Font Format Options

Font Format Options

I won’t go into all of the options in these dialogs as they’re basically the same ones you’d get while formatting any text in Word. “Font” displays font options, “Styles” displays styles, and so on. You can select any of those options and use them as something to find or replace. For example, if your cursor is in the “Find what” box and you select “Italic” in the “Find Font” dialog, here’s what you’ll get:

Displaying the Font Option Choice

Displaying the Font Option Choice

Now Word will find text in italics but not in roman. If you also enter a word, you’ll find that word in italic but not in roman. If you don’t enter a word, you’ll find anything formatted as italic.

But what about the “Replace with” box? What happens if you use formatting there?

If the “Replace with” box includes some text, whatever is found will be replaced by that text in the format you specified. If the “Replace with” box doesn’t include text, whatever is found will be replaced with itself in the format you specified. For example, if you search for the word “apples” to be replaced by “pears” in bold, that’s exactly what you’ll get — “pears” in bold. If you search for the word “apples” to be replaced by bold alone (with no text), you’ll get “apples” in bold.

If, on the other hand, you search for “apples” but don’t specify text or formatting in the “Replace with” box, “apples” will be replaced with nothing; in other words, it will be deleted.

Many variations are possible. Here’s a basic summary:

Find Replace Result
apples pears pears
apples pears [bold] pears [bold]
apples [bold] apples [bold]
apples [nothing] [apples deleted]
[bold] [nothing] [bold text deleted]
[bold] pears [bold text becomes “pears” in bold]
[bold] pears [italic] [bold text becomes “pears” in bold italic]
[bold] [italic] [bold text becomes bold italic]

Note that you can also specify not a certain kind of formatting, such as “not bold” or “not italic” in either find or replace. You can also use combinations of formatting (and “not” formatting). For example, you can search for bold but replace with italic and not bold, which will turn any bold text into italic (but not bold italic) text.

Built-In Codes

In addition to all of those options, Microsoft Word includes lots of built-in find-and-replace codes that are not wildcards (although lots of people call them that). You can use these built-in codes to search for things like paragraph breaks, tabs, section breaks, column breaks, dashes, footnotes, endnotes, graphics, and many other things that aren’t actual text, and codes are a whole lot easier to use than wildcards. In fact, codes should be your default tool; you should use wildcards only when built-in codes won’t do what you need (which is actually fairly often, unfortunately).

Some of Word’s built-in codes can be used only in the “Find what” box; others can be used only in the “Replace with” box. Some of the codes can be used in both boxes.

“Find What” Codes

To see the codes that can be used in the “Find what” box, put your cursor in the box. Now click the “Special” button at the bottom of the “Find and Replace” dialog.

The "Special" Button

The “Special” Button

You’ll get a list like this:

The "Special" Options

The “Special” Options

Identify the item you want to find and click it, for example, “Paragraph Mark.” You’ll get the following code in the “Find what” box (since that’s where your cursor was located):

^p

That tells Word to find a paragraph break — that is, the end of a paragraph.

Each item on the list will insert a different code. For example, here’s the code for an em dash:

^+

And here’s the code for an en dash:

^=

“Replace With” Codes

Now put your cursor in the “Replace with” box and click the “Special” button again. This time, you’ll get a different list:

The Codes

The “Replace with” List

Again, clicking one of the list items will insert a code into the “Replace with” box. For example, if you click “Clipboard Contents” you’ll get this:

^c

That’s an extremely useful code, because ordinarily the “Replace with” box can hold no more than 255 characters. But using the ^c code, you can replace with anything that is currently copied to the Clipboard, which can hold many pages of text, graphics, or anything else.

After you’ve worked with built-in codes for a while, you’ll find it easy to just type them in by hand. In the meantime, you can use the “Special” lists to insert them.

You can also use combinations of codes. For example, you could search for tabs followed by paragraph breaks (^t^p) and replace them with paragraph breaks alone (^p).

Here’s a summary of Word’s built-in codes and where they can be used:

Character or object Find what Replace with
Annotation Mark (comment) ^a
Any character ^?
Any digit ^#
Any letter ^$
Caret character ^^ ^^
Clipboard contents ^c
Column break ^n ^n
“Find what text” (whatever was found during your search) ^&
Em dash ^+ ^+
En dash ^= ^=
Endnote mark ^e
Field ^d
Footnote mark ^f
Graphic ^g
Line break ^l ^l
Manual page break ^m ^m
Nonbreaking hyphen ^~ ^~
Nonbreaking space ^s ^s
Optional hyphen ^- ^-
Paragraph mark ^p ^p
Section break ^b
Tab character ^t ^t
White space ^w

Even without wildcards, Microsoft Word’s find and replace features can do an awful lot — much more than you might think. You probably already knew how to use “Match case” and “Find whole words only,” but did you know about those other options? “Ignore punctuation characters” and “Ignore white-space characters,” for example, can be very useful in editing. Being able to find and replace formatting is essential, especially when using styles. And using Word’s built-in codes lets you search for all kinds of things (graphics, page breaks, dashes, and so on) that would otherwise require more advanced techniques (like wildcards and numeric codes). In other words, Microsoft Word’s basic find and replace features aren’t so basic — at least not in what they can do!

Wildcard Cookbook

This article is a slightly modified excerpt from my new book, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, now available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other fine bookstores:

"Wildcard Cookbook" by Jack Lyon

“Wildcard Cookbook” by Jack Lyon

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 and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

 

September 2, 2015

The Business of Editing: The Profitability Difficulty

In making any decision about my editing business, my number one consideration is profitability. I do not mean to denigrate other important matters, especially not ethical matters, but once past ethical considerations, profitability is the ultimate determiner as to whether I take on a project or retain a client.

Ensuring Profitability Is Difficult

What I have noticed is that increasingly, profitability is more difficult to ensure, not only on a project basis but over the course of multiple projects. I have always adhered to the Rule of Three (see The Business of Editing: The Rule of Three for more information about the rule). The rule has served me well for decades, but even that rule is coming under attack from the types of projects I am consistently being asked to take on in recent months.

As we have discussed many times on An American Editor, the underlying key to profitability is efficiency. It is that striving for ever-increasing efficiency that lies behind my EditTools macros. Yet even though they increase efficiency, the projects I have been seeing in recent months strain attempts to be efficient. It is nearly impossible, for example, to efficiently deal with references when they need to conform to a convoluted style like that of the American Chemical Society and the author has made little attempt to conform to that style.

The problem of efficiency and working style is what led me to abandon proofreading. When I first began my freelance career, I offered both editing and proofreading services. But because of how I work, I found it increasingly difficult to make a profit from proofreading. With the advent of PDF proofreading, my workstyle was such that I went from low profitability to loss.

(For those wondering how to determine profit and loss, the place to begin is my five-part series, Business of Editing: What to Charge. If you don’t know what you need to earn, you can’t possibly know whether you are making or losing money as a freelancer.)

Schedule and Profitability

Even more deadly to profitability than efficiency is schedule. Long-time editors probably remember the guideline that editors and publishers used to follow, but publishers and packagers seem to have abandoned, that set the editing pace. For example, an editor asked to copyedit a medical or science textbook that required a “heavy” or “high-level” edit was expected to edit two to four pages an hour; a “medium” edit’s pace was five to eight pages an hour; and a “light” edit’s pace was eight to ten pages an hour. An editing “week” ran 30 to 35 editing hours.

(An editing hour is the time actually spent editing, not the time you are open for business. I calculate an editing week as 25 editing hours because I have learned that after 5 editing hours, the quality of editing begins to deteriorate — slowly but steadily. Consequently, I try to limit my daily editing time to between 5 and 6 hours. In addition, an editing week is Monday to Friday exclusive of holidays.)

Thus, clients expected that with a medium-level edit, an editor could competently edit 150 to 280 manuscript pages a week, depending on the subject matter. The range for a high-level edit was 60 to 140 manuscript pages per week. But all of that has changed with the outsourcing of editing to companies (“packagers”) that are skilled at book layout and production but which themselves outsource the editing work to freelancers like me.

The Triad

What has occurred is that these packagers have a lot of competition and they need to separate themselves from the pack. So, when they seek work, they promise quick turnaround, excellent editing, and low price — the triad that editors often tell clients that they can pick one of, but not two of, and definitely not three of. When the packagers come to the editor, they refuse to accept that they cannot have all three. Unfortunately, too many editors simply acquiesce without a “fight” although whether the editing is excellent is definitely questionable.

All of this impacts on profitability. Although a key to profitability is turnover — the idea being that the faster a project can be completed, the more projects that can be undertaken, and the higher the gross revenue — the hoped for increase in number of projects doesn’t come to fruition in the absence of the quality editing.

What made me realize this was that I have not stopped telling my clients that they cannot have more than one leg of the triad. About two months ago, I was asked to edit a book that required “heavy” editing. The subject matter was quite technical and the extensive number of references were all in the wrong format. The problems were that the fee was low and the schedule unreasonable — the client expected 400+ manuscript pages to be edited per week when a reasonable and likely schedule was 125 to 150 pages.

The reason this would not be profitable work is that by rushing the project to meet the schedule, I could not provide the editing that the project needs. When the clients see the editing, they will complain and will insist on corrections being made — I know this from past experience — which will eat up ever more time. Consequently, additional hours will be spent on the project but without additional compensation.

Meeting the Triad

The danger is, of course, that not only will I lose money on the project, but the client will be wary of sending me additional work because by not providing a quality edit according to their schedule I caused delays, which cost them points with their client. It is a vicious cycle with the ultimate loser being me, the freelance editor.

Consequently, I have not given in to the demands that I accept these types of projects and the requirements of the triad. I prefer to turn down work, which I regularly do, than try to meet unreasonable requirements. When asked to undertake a project, I always do the page count myself and I always determine, myself, what the schedule should be. I advise the client of the page count, my proposed schedule, and what options they have.

The first option is my schedule at my “usual” fee; the second option is a shorter schedule with a higher fee; the third option is the shortest schedule I am willing to accept at a yet higher fee; the final option is for the client to find another editor. Note the relationship between schedule and fee: the longer the schedule, the lower the fee; the shorter the schedule, the higher the fee.

This fee–schedule relationship revolves around two very important bits of information that I possess: the first, is the page count. The method I use allows for figures without having to actually go through each figure and trying to determine how much of a page should be allotted to the figure. The major weakness in my method, and one that I have yet to ascertain how to overcome, is how much work the references will require. On that, I have just “bitten the bullet” and let the law of averages take over. (Now that I have had the experience of dealing with the ACS style, something I hadn’t done for many years, I will, in the future, apply a multiplier to ACS style projects.) Most importantly, I do the page count and tell the client what the count is; I do not ever accept or rely on the client’s page count.

The second bit of information I possess is this: I know how many pages an hour I can edit under various scenarios. Like the page count, I determine this number, not the client.

With this information in hand, I prepare my “report” to the client. Recall that I have not yet agreed to accept the project. What I am doing is justifying to the client my decision if it is “no, I cannot accept the project” or building the foundation for the terms on which I will accept the project. This tells the client I have carefully considered the offer and that I have business reasons for turning down the project or setting acceptance conditions.

My experience has been that very often the client either ups the price or extends the schedule. If I say “no” to a project, it is not unusual for the client to try to work something out with me. I think that these situations resolve in my favor more often than not because the client knows the quality of the editing I provide and wants to avoid discussions with their clients over quality.

The Lesson

The lesson is that an editor needs to know their price point and their editing rate and resist the idea that it is better to lose money (i.e., earn less than their Required Effective Hourly Rate as discussed in Business of Editing: What to Charge) and have the work than to say “no” to such work offers. Saying “no” to unprofitable work helps you establish ground rules with your client. After all, why be in business if you are not going to make a profit?

What do you think?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Blog at WordPress.com.

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