An American Editor

January 23, 2017

Bookmarking for Better Editing

In the paper beginning…

When I began my career, most editing was done on paper; online editing was just starting to peek out of its birth canal. One of the disadvantages to paper-based editing is that it requires excellent memory — especially on long projects — and on lots of colored paper. Each of my publisher clients had different requirements for marking queries.

One wanted author queries on yellow flags, editor queries on pink (or red) flags, compositor queries on gray flags, permission queries on green flags, and illustrator queries on blue flags. Other clients used the same colors but changed who they were for (e.g., editor queries on green flags). It was a great system for enabling quick, visual overview and for someone in the production chain to identify those items directed to her. But some manuscripts were buried in flags and there still was needed one more flag for reminders to me. (It was this flag system that led to the color highlighting system now used in EditTools.)

I often had to note where something was in the manuscript so that I could easily come back to it once I found an answer. For example, the each time I came across “central nervous system,” which I knew was commonly referred to by its initials (“CNS”), I needed to flag it so I could determine how many times the phrase appeared in the chapter because the client wanted it changed to “central nervous system (CNS)” at first chapter appearance and subsequent appearances changed to “CNS” — but only if the term was used more than three times in the manuscript. Paper-based editing didn’t offer an easy way to do a search for “central nervous system” or for “CNS.”

The transition to online editing made that particular task easier (although still time-consuming and still not so easily done without using EditToolks’ Enhanced Search, Count, and Replace [ESCR] macro), but didn’t really solve the bookmarking problem.

Then came electronic bookmarks…

It is true that Microsoft Word’s native Bookmark feature (Insert > Bookmark) was an improvement but it has some major limitations that make it less useful than it could be.

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks can be very useful; they let you move easily from place to place in a document and they can help you track things to ensure that some things are not missed. But the value of bookmarking is limited by the bookmark style that is permitted — which is where Word’s bookmarking is weak and unhelpful.

Using the CNS example from above, let’s take a look at Word’s Bookmark feature. There are several important limitations to bookmarking that make it less useful than it could be. As these next images show, you cannot make a bookmark easily readable.

Creating a bookmark in Word (1)

Creating a bookmark in Word (1)

 

Creating a bookmark in Word (2)

Creating a bookmark in Word (2)

There are two ways to help readability. The first is to have words separated by spaces and the second is to combine numbers with words so that you can ascertain at a glance the information you seek. In the first image above, I wanted to add a readable phrase as a bookmark (#1) but Word doesn’t like that so it doesn’t make the Add button accessible (#2). In the second image, I wanted to replace “first” with “001” (#3) because that would let me order the bookmarks as well as give a readily seen count of the instances. But, again, Word doesn’t like that option (#4).

What Word wants is a single entry (#5). When I remove the spaces in the phrase so the words run together (#5), Word tells me that is a good bookmark and gives me access to Add (#6). (Trivia note 1: Word does not let you keep the Bookmark dialog open. Each time you want to add a bookmark, go to a bookmarked place, or delete a bookmark, you need to reopen the Bookmark dialog.)

A proper Word bookmark

A proper Word bookmark

As #7 shows, Word is happy to accept as many similar mashed-together phrases as I want to use as bookmarks. But note that the bookmarks are not easy to read and imagine locating one particular bookmark in a document with a significant number of bookmarks — especially if you cannot remember the exact wording of the bookmark. (Trivia note 2: Word limits bookmarks to a maximum of 40 characters.)

Bookmarks in Word

Bookmarks in Word

If you try to combine numbers with letters, Word doesn’t permit it (#8) and shows its displeasure by not making the Add accessible (#9).

Mixing numbers and letters in Word bookmarks

Mixing numbers and letters in Word bookmarks

In addition, Word’s Bookmark feature offers only three options: Add, Delete, and GoTo (#10). You Delete each bookmark individually; there is no option for deleting multiple bookmarks concurrently. And the only way to rename a bookmark is to delete it and create a new one.

What this means is that bookmarking in Word is like unripe fruit — tempting but not yet ready for use.

The answer is to use EditTools’ Bookmarks and make use of bookmarking’s potential.

Letting the sunshine in…

When you open EditTools’ Bookmarks (#11), the dialog displays all of the existing bookmarks in the document (#12). In addition, you can choose to keep the dialog open (#13). I find this particularly handy as I like to be able to quickly add bookmarks, move them, and travel amongst them.

The EditTools Bookmarks interface

The EditTools Bookmarks interface

The bookmarks I created above are not very useful to me, so I can select all (or some) of them (#13) and click delete (#14) to remove all of them simultaneously.

Selecting multiple bookmarks and deleting them altogether

Selecting multiple bookmarks and deleting them altogether

That leaves me with a bookmark-free document (#15) that is just waiting for me to add bookmarks (#16). Not only can I mix numbers with letters, I can also use spaces (and even insert a symbol from Word’s Symbol dialog) so that the bookmark is intelligible. Note that Add (#17) is accessible.

Creating a bookmark in EditTools

Creating a bookmark in EditTools

The next image shows some of the power of bookmarking and the power of using EditTools’ Bookmarks macro. The “central nervous system” bookmark (#18) was readily accepted. But it is the other bookmarks that really show how useful bookmarking can be. There are two reminders of things I need to do before completing editing of the document. The first is to check a particular reference (#19) and the second is to recheck a table (#20). There are other ways of making these kinds of reminder notes, but with this method, I not only get the reminder not but the note also acts as a location bookmark. When I am ready to recheck the table, I can select that bookmark and click GoTo to go to the table.

Making bookmarks work for you

Making bookmarks work for you

Trivia note 2 earlier indicated that Word bookmarks had a 40-character limit; EditTools’ bookmarks does not, as #20 shows. Although it is rare to need more characters, there are occasions, I have found, when it is useful. With EditTools’ Bookmarks, I can use bookmarks as more than just location points — bookmarks are now extremely useful during editing.

That I can keep the dialog open (#13) makes the Bookmarks macro useful for navigating the document and tracking elements. For example, depending on whether I have to style (e.g., apply a template and style headings and text) then edit the document or just edit it, I have two methods for tracking that each table and figure is called out and exists. If I have to style, as I come to a table of figure callout in the text, I insert a bookmark (#21). Because tables and figure legends appear at the end of the documents I usually edit, when I get to them I move the bookmark from the callout to the legend or table by (a) inserting the mouse cursor where I want the bookmark placed, (b) selecting the bookmark I want moved, and (c) pressing Move Bookmark (#23). That will move the bookmark from the text callout to the legend or table. If I don’t have to style, I just insert the bookmark in the figure legend or table before I begin editing.

Doing that serves two purposes. First, it enables me to verify that (if styling) if there are seven tables at the end of the document, there are matching in-text callouts. Second, it provides an easy way for me to edit the legend or the table when I come to the callout in the text; this lets me check that the figure or table is called out in an appropriate place.

One more thing that EditTools’ Bookmarks lets me do is easily rename a bookmark to something meaningful. I select the bookmark I want to rename (#24) and click Rename (#25).

Renaming a bookmark (1)

Renaming a bookmark (1)

The rename dialog opens with the default choice highlighted. In this case it is just an indicator that I have edited Table 1 (#26).

Renaming a bookmark (2)

Renaming a bookmark (2)

But I could rename it to indicate something else, for example (#27):

renaming a bookmark (3)

Renaming a bookmark (3)

Note that I was also able to insert a symbol (arrow) so that I could force the bookmark to appear at the top of the list (#28).

Renaming a bookmark (4)

Renaming a bookmark (4)

Again, because the Bookmark dialog can be made to remain open, this note to myself is always visible and I can get to the correct location quickly.

And with references…

The Bookmarks also help me manage references. Most of the references I work with are in numbered lists at chapter end — and there are often a lot of them (usually somewhere between 300 and 750). Invariably, the authors list a reference more than once in the reference list. I discover it after I have edited the references (which I do before I edit the main text) and run the Duplicate References macro (coming with EditTools version 8, scheduled for release in the next few weeks).

What I do is insert bookmarks similar to those shown here (#29):

Bookmarks for duplicate references

Bookmarks for duplicate references

The bookmarks not only tell which are duplicate pairs (e.g., reference 12 is a duplicate of 122), but it provides an easy way to renumber and locate them. In addition, I can mark a reference for special reference in case it is likely to be referred to in the main text multiple times but not necessarily marked with a reference callout (see “CDC vaccination schedule” bookmark at #29).

Bookmarking’s future…

If you looked carefully at EditTools’ Bookmarks interface, you probably noticed some new features that we haven’t discussed in this essay. If you didn’t notice them, here is a hint (#30, #31, and #32):

A sneak peek

A sneak peek

These new features, which are in the soon-to-be-released version 8, are the ability to create custom bookmarks (#30) that can be used repeatedly at the click of a button (#31) and auto bookmarks for the Duplicate References macro (#32). A discussion of them is for another time.

In conclusion…

Bookmarks can be very helpful and very powerful editing tools if you can get around Microsoft’s built-in limitations. They are also tools that can help increase your productivity and efficiency, and thus make your business more profitable. There may be other ways around Word’s Bookmark limitations, but the best tool I know is (of course!) my EditTools’ Bookmarks macro.

As an editor I want to be able to focus on the author’s words, not on mechanical things. I have always believed that the difference between the average and the great editor is the amount of time that can be devoted to dealing with the author’s words as opposed to those mechanical tasks we need to do

As mechanical-task demands have increased over the years, the gap between so-so editing and great editing has gotten wider. It is the making use of tools like EditTools to narrow that gap that has allowed great editing to continue to exist. Expanding the use and capabilities of bookmarks is just one tool in narrowing the gap.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

(P.S. I will announce here and at AAE on LinkedIn when EditTools 8 is released. As it has been for previous releases, upgrading from an earlier version of EditTools will be free to registered owners.)

September 23, 2013

The Twin Pillars of Editing

The twin pillars of editing are the thinking and the mechanical. Every editing assignment includes these twin pillars; they are fundamental as well as foundational.

The thinking pillar is what attracts people to the profession. Should it be who or whom? Does the sentence, paragraph, chapter make any sense? Does the author’s point come through clearly or have the author’s word choices obfuscated the message? The thinking pillar is what professional editors live for; it is often why we became editors. The semantic debates thrill us; the ability to rework prose to make it flow better is like an opiate.

Alas, the thinking pillar alone is insufficient to provide us with an income. Every manuscript requires the mechanical pillar and, to earn our wage, editors need to tackle that mechanical pillar.

The mechanical pillar includes many different functions, such as cleaning up extra spaces, changing incorrect dashes to correct dashes, incorrect punctuation to correct punctuation, and, perhaps most importantly, incorrect words to correct words and inconsistencies to consistencies. Many of these things can be, should be, and are done using macros.

Since 1984, I have earned my living as an editor; since the early 1990s, freelance editing has been my only source of income. I am pleased to say that I have made (and continue to make) an excellent income as an editor. The reason I have done well financially is that I have looked at the mechanical pillar of editing as a puzzle to be solved. Essentially, to be profitable and to make editing enjoyable, I want to minimize the time I need to spend on the mechanical aspects of editing and maximize the time I spend on thinking about what I am editing, while minimizing the time I need to spend on any single project.

The professional editor is part philosopher and part engineer. In our case, the engineer makes possible the philosopher. The mechanical pillar, which is the engineer’s role to tackle, often is the part of editing that most slows us down. It is the most difficult part of our work in the sense that it is difficult to find efficient, productive ways to speed the mechanical aspects. That is the function that macro tools try to fulfill, but we still end up doing individual searches and replaces to fix the rote things that the macros we use fail to fix.

The more financially successful an editor is, the more likely it is that the editor has mastered techniques that quickly eliminate some, if not most or all, of the tasks that fall under the mechanical pillar of editing. As I have stated many times before, mastering the mechanical aspects is why I created EditTools and why I use PerfectIt and Editorium macro programs. It is not that these programs eliminate the mechanical aspects of editing; rather, they reduce those tasks.

The remaining task is generally the applying of styles or codes to elements of the manuscripts. Unfortunately, this cannot be done automatically; I must read the manuscript to know whether something should be coded as a quote, a bulleted item, or something else. This is where, were we to apply a Venn diagram, the thinking and the mechanical pillars overlap.

The smaller I can make the overlap and mechanical areas of the Venn diagram, the larger the remaining area for the thinking pillar. The larger the thinking pillar, the more enjoyable the project. But this area is also the area in which I can best control my time.

Professional editors soon learn that there are some editorial questions that could be debated for hours and when the debate halts, still have not achieved a nondebatable resolution. In other words, many more hours could be spent on the point in question. Consequently, as we have honed our skills via the grindstone of experience, we have also developed a sense of how to best spend our time on the thinking pillar of editing.

We learn to stop debating endlessly whether to use serial commas or not, or whether which can be used if not preceded by a comma, or whether about is a true equivalent of approximately, or, my favorite, whether since and because are wholly interchangeable in all circumstances. (Another of my favorites is whether it is permissible to use due to in lieu of all its possible contextual meanings expanded.) Once we stop debating these issues, we begin to edge their resolution closer to the mechanical pillar.

If we decide that since can only be used in the sense of time, it becomes mechanical to change since to because or as in nontime usage. This becomes one more thing that liberates the thinking pillar to spend more time on those issues that require thinking skills. It also means that a little less time needs to be spent on the manuscript, unless we devote that time savings to the thinking pillar.

The point is that what editors need to seek to do, ultimately, is to increase what belongs as part of the mechanical pillar, lessen what falls within the overlap, and increase the time available for the thinking pillar. The more items that fall under the mechanical pillar and that can be macroized, the more income and profit an editor can make (assuming the editor is charging by a method other than the hourly method), because we can control the time we devote to the thinking pillar better than we can the time we devote to the mechanical pillar. The thinking pillar is like a bubble that can expand and contract as needed or as conditions warrant. The mechanical pillar lacks similar flexibility because there is a set amount of time required to accomplish all of the mechanical and overlap tasks. We reduce the time by using tools like macros, but then we increase the time when we add additional tasks or tasks that cannot be macroized.

If we think of editing as built on these twin pillars, we can make strides toward increasing our productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

April 15, 2010

It’s the Little Things: Hardware

In a previous article, I raised the topic of the little things in editing that can make editing quicker, more accurate, and more profitable, but I didn’t begin discussing the actual tools I use. With today’s article I begin that discussion.

Although most of the tools are software, we do need to begin with hardware. I don’t plan to discuss the innards of a computer or whether one should buy a laptop or a desktop, although my experience with both indicates that editing on a desktop is more efficient for me. But there are a couple of pieces of hardware that are worthy of note: monitors and XKeys.

Monitors

When I first began electronic editing, more than 20 years ago, color monitors were not available. The monitors were black and white (or green or amber), were small, and were heavy CRTs (cathode ray tubes). Using a single monitor at a “large” screen size of 12 inches meant investing a ton of money into a single piece of hardware. How times have changed.

The advent of LCD monitors with large screens has been a boon to editing. Instead of seeing a few lines of text, one can see a page, get a better feel for context. LCDs have two other bonuses: small size (compared to the equivalent CRT) and, today, a low price.

As I have noted in other articles, I read a lot of “stuff” and I read, years ago, the results of a productivity study that showed that using 2 monitors nearly doubled productivity and using 3 monitors increased productivity by another 20% or so (the third monitor stat is from memory and may be off, but the study did show an increase in productivity over 2 monitors), and there was yet still another increase with 4 monitors but it was a less dramatic increase than third monitor increase.

I can attest at least to the 3-monitor productivity increase (I wanted 4 monitors but just couldn’t find room for #4). I have used a 3-monitor setup in my work for years and would not consider returning to anything less. I need to mention, however, that I do not think just any monitor will do. I have found that the best monitors for my work are monitors that pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

My set up uses three 24-inch pivoting LCD monitors (I happen to like Samsung monitors and the 3 monitors are the Samsung SyncMaster 2443BWT model). The left monitor is almost always in portrait mode as is the center monitor; the right monitor is usually in landscape. But should I need all in portrait or a second in landscape, I just need to rotate them.

The 3-monitor setup lets me logically divide my work. Here is how I usually have my work setup. On the left monitor is the manuscript I am editing. Portrait mode lets me see a page (or close to it) at a time. The center monitor is where my Internet access is located. I use an online collaborative stylesheet system that operates through my website, so this gives me access to the stylesheet (always up) and to Internet resources if I need to check things. On the right monitor I put my local resources, such as an electronic specialty dictionary or word book, and the manuscript references or bibliography. Just by moving my head or my mouse, I have instant access to all the editing resources I need.

Compare this to editing on a single monitor. Think about how much time has to be spent going between screens, and if you use the landscape orientation so that you can “split” the screen and have, say, a manuscript and the stylesheet visible at all times, what you are seeing is less than what I can see and requires more scrolling time.

So that little thing of have at least 2 monitors boosts productivity and efficiency greatly.

XKeys

Xkeys is equally as valuable, perhaps even more so, as the 3-monitor setup. I use, and have used for at least 10 years, the 58-key professional PS2 model. When I originally bought my XKeys, only the PS2 model would retain its programming in a power failure. This appears to no longer be the case. (One other important note: XKeys sells its own macro software. I have never used it or bought it, so I have no opinion about it. I use with my XKeys macro software called Macro Express, which I will discuss when I discuss software.)

XKeys sits to the left of my keyboard in a place of honor. It has increased my productivity many times over (I’ll say by 1000% but I really have no idea of the percent). I have programmed the XKeys for “odd” key combinations, such as Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F1, as well as for familiar combinations such as F1.

XKeys increases the number of key combinations available for macros by 58 because you can add hard-to-press combinations to a single key. (Actually, if I wanted, my XKeys Pro can handle 114 key combinations. It really is a 2-layer device, but to access the second layer and return to the first layer requires additional key presses, so I have never bothered). When I discuss software, I will go into more detail about the advantage of XKeys, but suffice it to say that I can now, with the press of a single button, run a macro or apply a style. It is much quicker than using a keyboard combination or the mouse.

But here is the most important part of XKeys — I can create a custom “keyboard” for each client or project type or project without reprogramming the XKeys! I have certain macros that I use for every client and every project, such as my Toggle macro, which is part of my EditTools software. So I have permanently assigned a particular XKey button to that macro. I don’t even have to divert my eyes from the manuscript to press the key. Habit takes over. The point is that every “custom keyboard” I create has certain macros preassigned to it, and it is only the remaining buttons that need to be assigned.

And because XKeys is just running the programmed key combination, I can assign to that key combination either a macro from within a program such as Microsoft Word or via Macro Express. XKeys is also program-neutral; that is, I have custom keyboards not only for clients and projects, but also for programs, such as InDesign.

XKeys and a 3-monitor setup are important allies for me in my never-ending quest to improve my accuracy and efficiency, which will translate to an improved bottom line. In subsequent articles I will discuss some of the software I use and how I use them as part of my striving to be the best editor I can be and provide my clients with the best editing available.

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