Tag Archives: copyediting

Resources round-up: The publishing process

Welcome to this round-up of resources compiled by the CIEP. This time, we look at how books are made. We have divided our picks into:

  • Free resources from the CIEP
  • Books
  • Glossaries
  • Articles

Resources round-up: The publishing process

Free resources from the CIEP

Forgive us for leading with our own resources, but some of the free fact sheets on the CIEP’s practice notes web page provide a useful overview before we delve into the details of how books are made. ‘Anatomy of a book’, which describes the different parts of a book, is a good place to start. After that, you might want to explore the book-making process with ‘The publishing workflow’, supplementing that with the ‘Good editorial relationships’ infographic. Finally, ‘Proofreading or copyediting?’ covers which type of editing happens at different points in the creation of a book.

Books

These books aren’t free, but you can read free reviews of some of them by members of the CIEP, which might help you decide which are worth investing in.

Books about the publishing process

Two major editing and proofreading books – Butcher’s Copy-Editing (4th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2012) and New Hart’s Rules (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2014) – contain overviews of the publishing process. You might already have these volumes, so see what gems you can find within.

Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips (6th edn, Routledge, 2019) covers the processes of traditional publishing in more detail. And to really dive into the subject, reach for the Oxford Handbook of Publishing, edited by Angus Phillips and Michael Bhaskar (OUP, 2019). Since this was reviewed by a CIEP member, a cheaper paperback version has been published.

If you’re coming to book production from a self-publishing point of view, the Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to Self-Publishing (Bloomsbury, 2020) could be helpful. Read the CIEP review for more.

The parts and people that make up the books

From a book’s blurb to its index, the different parts of a book have been explored in recent publications that are as entertaining as they are fascinating. For more recent bookish books, read our end-of-2022 round-up blog.

To add to these, get a copyeditor’s experience in The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller (Chicago University Press, 2016), and hear from a lexicographer about how dictionaries are made in Word by Word by Kory Stamper (Pantheon, 2017).

Woman in a bookshop reading a book

Glossaries

Introducing ‘Publishing terminology explained’, Penguin Random House says: ‘Publishing shouldn’t be a mystery and that’s why we’ve pulled together an A–Z list of terms that we use in our business to help you navigate conversations and become familiar with how a publishing team operates.’ The CIEP has also written a free glossary of editorial terms.

Articles

Articles by and for the self-publishing industry excel in discussing how books are made. Recent examples include: ‘Why prologues get a bad rap’ by Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman’s website and ‘When should you have a table of contents and an index in your book?’, a TwitterChat run by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). You can rely on ALLi to really drill down to the intricate details that self-publishing authors might not realise they need to think about before the process starts.

However, one element that most authors will consider is the cover of their book. Cover designer Jessica Bell wrote articles recently on different aspects of this. For Jane Friedman, she discussed ‘The key elements of eye-catching book cover design’, and for ALLi she wrote about ‘Indie author book cover design: what works in 2022’. From ALLi you can also discover what really doesn’t work, in the TwitterChat ‘How a bad cover can ruin book sales’.

Last but never least is indexing. Indexer Geraldine Begley took to the AFEPI Ireland blog with ‘Indexing: An introduction for the curious’ which answers every question about indexing you can think of, including ‘Can’t a computer do that?’ (‘No’), and ‘Do I have to read the whole book?’ (‘Yes and no’). For anyone considering entering this interesting profession, or simply interested in what indexers actually do, this is indeed a great introduction for the curious.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: laptop and notebook by Maya Maceka on Unsplash, bookshop by Alican Helik on Pexels.

Posted by Belinda Hodder, blog assistant.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

A Finer Point: Make it count

Not everyone gets on with numbers, but they’re part of most documents. Cathy Tingle gives us eight(ish) points on number editing.

Numbers have the reputation of being solid. Words, people sometimes say, can be slippery and subjective in their meaning, but at least you know where you are with numbers. For me, at least, this idea originated at school, from the idea of maths being either right or wrong, and there being no comparable certainty in the arts or humanities.

But as you grow up you realise that there are few absolutes, and things become less certain even for mathematicians as their knowledge of their subject grows.

As an editor, I’ve found words, not numbers, by far the easier part of editing. Much of this is down to a lack of aptitude with numbers. Despite the Chicago Manual of Style’s proud claim that their rules on the elision of number ranges (17th edition, 9.61) are ‘efficient and unambiguous’, I find them utterly baffling, unable to see a pattern or a logic to them. I’m sure it’s there; it’s just too much for my brain.

But I can argue as long as I want that I’m only here for the words and punctuation. It’s a rare text that doesn’t contain at least some numbers. Here are a few principles that I cling to in order to deal with them. Should I number these points? Are they instructions to follow in a certain order, or a ranking of any sort? Would the numbers help you, the reader? No? OK, then, let’s stick with unnumbered points. (There’s your first principle.)

Make sure all sequences are complete and correct.

It’s such a basic point that you might not automatically think to check this, but if you see any consecutive numbers (or letters, come to that), check carefully that they are all there, in order. I came across a numbered list the other week with a missing number four. After doing a little air punch to celebrate finding it, I queried the author about whether we needed to renumber the points or whether point four, in fact, still needed to be inserted. Either might be the case – don’t just renumber and forget it, folks.

If a number is mentioned, cross-check it.

A number in text is often a part of:

  • a citation, in which case you cross-check its date or page number against a full reference
  • a cross-reference to a numbered illustration, page, section, chapter or part, in which case you check that what the author is claiming matches what’s there
  • a declaration of what’s about to be delivered, in which case you check that if the author announces they are about to make four points, that promise is fulfilled.

Understand the role of style.

Ah, consistency. It’s a wonderful thing. With numbers, however, style points tend to assemble like the stars in the sky on a clear night. You start with ‘zero to ten, 11 and over’ and ‘maximum elision of number ranges’, and then before you know it you’re noticing exceptions, like never starting a sentence with a figure, spelling out hundreds or thousands, and never eliding a teen number. These exceptions might seem so obvious that they don’t need to be mentioned, but I would advise trying to articulate them somewhere on a style sheet, or citing a style guide that covers them. You can’t guarantee the next person in the process will know what you know.

If you can, tot it up or fact check it. If you can’t, ask others to do it.

Do the numbers in a table look about right? Can you whip out your calculator to check or paste the figures into Excel and let it do the sums? If it’s possible, do a bit of basic maths. If you can’t, declare it. Tell the author and your project manager what you’ve checked and what you haven’t, so they can pick it up if they need to. If your brief includes a request to check all numbers and you really think this is beyond you, you should declare it at that point.

Similarly, if you can google the veracity of a widely available figure, do so. If you can’t, mention that you haven’t.

Compare (or contrast) the right things, and don’t mix measurements.

One in eight people with a dog owns a Labrador, with 25% owning a poodle cross and almost a third some type of spaniel. In total, 34% of the British public own a dog. In contrast, 47 people out of every 314 feel that there should be dog-free areas in parks.

Argh, what a mess of figures, ratios, percentages and proportions. Choose the most meaningful measure and stick to it. Make sure, too, that the comparison or contrast of figures doesn’t mislead. The people referred to in the last sentence could still be dog owners: no contrast at all.

Consider creating a table. Or two. (Sorry.)

There’s some great advice in the sensible and reassuring Presenting Numbers, Tables, and Charts by Sally Bigwood and Melissa Spore. One thing they suggest is to present comparable numbers in a table rather than in text: ‘Numbers in columns are easy to add, subtract, and compare’ (p16).

It’s a good idea to order tables with the largest numbers at the top because people find it easier to perform the quick sums required to understand them: ‘By listing numbers from largest to smallest, readers are able to subtract the figures in their heads’ (p11). But, equally, ‘In some cases alphabetical, chronological, or another natural order will be right. Consider how readers will use the information’ (p13).

Most importantly, always keep it simple: ‘If your readers need both the numbers and their proportions, give them two simple tables rather than one complex one’ (p16).

Don’t use ‘approximately’ with exact figures (like 5,989,348).

In fact, consider rounding down or up (to six million, in this case). People find round figures so much easier to process and remember. Consider the context and the purpose of the document, and if it’s appropriate, suggest it.

Treat numbers like the rest of the text.

In the end, dealing with numbers is about applying the usual principles of editing: clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness, and whatever other ‘c’s you usually use. But if we think carefully about how the reader will read and receive the figures, sometimes we need to prioritise clarity. Martin Cutts, in his almost unbelievably excellent Oxford Guide to Plain English, remarks that, online, figures for numbers are sometimes best, because ‘eye-tracking data shows that “23” catches more attention than “twenty-three”’ (p245).

No matter how much we shy away from them, making numbers clearer is well worth doing. Iva Cheung has published an article about power dynamics and plain language in healthcare, making the point that in a vulnerable situation people feel powerless in the face of the sort of jargon that says ‘I know more than you do’. Well, an opaque set of numbers can do the same. Let’s do everything in our power to make them easy to understand.

Resources

Bigwood, S. and Spore, M. (2003). Presenting Numbers, Tables, and Charts. OUP.

Cheung, I. Power dynamics and plain language in healthcare. Wordrake blog. wordrake.com/blog/power-dynamics-and-plain-language-in-healthcare.

Chicago Manual of Style. 17th edition. (2017). University of Chicago Press.

Cutts, M. (2020). Oxford Guide to Plain English. 5th edition. OUP.

Hughes, G. (2021). Editing and proofreading numbers. CIEP fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#EPN.

New Hart’s Rules. 2nd edition. (2014). OUP. Chapters 11 and 14.

About Cathy Tingle

Cathy Tingle, an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP, is a copyeditor, proofreader, tutor and CIEP information team member.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: number blocks Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash. Dogs by Barnabas Davoti on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

The editing workflow: Pre-editing tasks

In this blog post, three experienced editors explain what they do in between receiving a manuscript and properly getting stuck into editing the text. From running macros and styling headings, to checking references and making sure the brief is clear, tackling certain jobs before starting to edit the text can improve and speed up the whole editing process.

Hazel Bird

For me, the stage between receiving a manuscript and properly starting to copyedit the text is about two things: (1) ensuring I have a solid understanding of what the client needs me to do and (2) proactively identifying any problems within the manuscript so I can get started on fixing them straight away.

So, for step 1, I’ll do things like:

  • checking the manuscript matches what I was told to expect in terms of word count and components
  • checking I have all the necessary briefing materials and instructions from the client
  • checking I understand the context in which the project will be used (eg for an educational project, the level of qualification, the ability range of the students, where they will be geographically and any other resources they might use alongside this one)
  • reminding myself of the details of the agreed level of service and any special aspects of the work
  • getting in touch with whoever will be answering queries on the text (if they aren’t the client) to introduce myself and agree how the query process will be handled.

If there are any discrepancies, ambiguities or stumbling blocks, I’ll write back to the client straight away to open a discussion.

For step 2, I’ll start digging into the actual text but on a holistic, overarching basis. I have a load of macros that I run to clean up the formatting and highlight things I’ll need to check or fix later, during the in-depth edit. I’ll then style the text’s major headings so that they appear in the Navigation Pane in Word (I find this bird’s-eye view of the manuscript essential as it speeds me up and helps me to identify big-picture issues). At the same time, I’ll examine the structure and check it fits with any template or scheme I’ve been given by the client. Next I’ll run PerfectIt to fix some more style basics and begin to compile a style sheet with what I’ve found.

My final task within step 2 is to edit the references. A lot of my work is with clients whose authors don’t handle referencing every day, so I frequently find issues with reference completeness or even technical issues with the entire referencing system. Identifying such issues early on means there is time for everyone involved to discuss how to proceed in a relaxed manner, without time pressure. And, from an editing point of view, I find editing the main text goes so much more smoothly when I know the references are already spick and span.

The result of all of the above tasks is that once I get started on the main text, I should have minimised the number of surprises I’ll find and thus maximised the chance of the project being completed without hiccups and on time. I will also have fixed or flagged (to myself) as many routine, repetitive tasks as possible so that when I get into the actual line-by-line editing, I can devote the majority of my attention to flow, clarity, accuracy and whatever else the client wants me to refine – in other words, the parts of the editing where I can really add value.

Hester Higton

Exactly how I start work on a manuscript depends on the length: I’ll do things differently for a journal article and a lengthy book. But my rule for any project is to make sure that I’m batch-processing, so that I use my time as efficiently as possible.

If I’m working on an article for one of my regular journals, I’ll start by making sure that the file is saved using the correct template. Sometimes this will be one supplied by the client; if they don’t have a preferred one, I’ll use one of my own that eliminates all extraneous styles.

Then I’ll run FRedit. I have customised FRedit lists for all my repeat clients. These not only deal with the standard clean-up routines but also adapt the document to the preferred house style. I use different highlight colours to indicate aspects I want to check (such as unwanted changes in quotations) and I’ll run quickly through the document to pick these up. As I’m doing that, I’ll make sure that headings, displayed quotations and the like have the correct Word styles applied to them.

Next on my list is PerfectIt, which allows me to iron out remaining inconsistencies in the text. I use a Mac so I can’t customise my own style sheets, but the new Chicago style option has made my life a great deal easier!

After that, if the article uses author–date referencing I’ll cross-check citations and references, flagging missing entries in each direction. I’ll style the references list and either note missing information for the author or check it myself if I can do so quickly. If all the references are in notes, I will run a similar style check, editing the notes themselves at the same time.

Finally, I’ll look at the formatting of any tables and figure captions to make sure that they match the house style. I may well edit the captions at this point, but leave table content until I reach the relevant point in the text.

If I’m working on a book-length project that doesn’t have a fully defined style, I’ll start by running PerfectIt. That allows me to make decisions about spellings, capitalisation and hyphenation, all of which I note down on a word list which I’ll return to the client with the completed project. That’s followed by a more basic clean-up FRedit check. I’ll also format figure captions and tables throughout the book at this point. And if there’s a whole-book bibliography, I’ll check that and style it. But I’ll handle the notes separately for each chapter because it allows me to keep a sense of the subject matter in them when I’m working on the main text.

Katherine Kirk

The pre-editing stage is actually one of my favourite steps in the process, and I usually pair it with some great music to see me through. My whole pre-flight process takes about two to three hours, depending on the formatting and size of the document. I work mainly with novels from indie authors and small publishers, so I don’t have to worry too much about any references or missing figures and tables. Some publishers have their own template they want me to apply or some specific steps that they like me to take, but here’s what I do for most indie novels that come across my desk.

I start by reviewing our agreement and any extra notes the author has passed along, and I add them to the style sheet. I use a Word template for my style sheet that has all the options as dropdowns, and that saves loads of time.

The next thing I want to deal with is any bloat or formatting issues; these might affect how well the macros and PerfectIt run. I attach a Word template that has some basic styles for things like chapter titles, full-out first paragraphs, and scene breaks, as well as a font style for italics that shades the background a different colour (great for catching italic en rules!). Styling the chapter titles and scene breaks first makes it easy to find the first paragraphs, and check chapter numbering. Then I skim through for any other special things needing styling. I can set whatever is left (which should just be body text) in the correct style. The aesthetics of this template don’t really matter to the client; I use a typeface that is easy for me to read and makes errors like 1 vs l more obvious. I can revert all the typefaces to a basic Times New Roman at the end. I save this as ‘Working Copy – Styled’ just in case the next step goes horribly wrong …

Now that I’ve cleared up the clutter, I ‘Maggie’ the file (select all the text, then unselect the final pilcrow, and copy and paste it into a new document) to remove the extra unnecessary data Word has stored there. It can drastically reduce the file size and helps prevent Word weirdness like sudden jumps around the page or lines duplicating on the screen. If you’ve styled all the elements of the text properly beforehand, you shouldn’t lose any formatting, but be careful! That’s also why I do this as early as possible, rather than risk losing hours of work. I save this file as ‘Working Copy – Maggied’ so I can see if the file size has decreased, and if it’s all working smoothly, this becomes my working file.

I have a checklist of silent changes that I include in the style sheet. I usually start by doing some global replacements of things like two spaces to one, a hard return and tab to a paragraph break (^l^t to ^p), and two paragraph breaks to one (and repeat until all the extras are gone). Some authors like to make their Word documents look like the final book, and they might use extra paragraph breaks to start a chapter halfway down the page. This can cause problems later when the reader’s screen or printer’s paper size is different to what the author had, so it’s got to go!

I run analysis macros like ProperNounAlyse to catch misspelled character names, and I add them to the style sheet. I might also run HyphenAlyse and deal with any inconsistent hyphens in one big swoop. Then I run PerfectIt and work through it carefully, making note of decisions on my style sheet. I review any comments that might have been left in the text by the author, publisher or previous editors, mark them with a query if they still need to be dealt with, and remove the rest.

Finally, all systems are ready to go, and I launch into the main pass.


Resources

Sign up for the CIEP’s Efficient Editing course to learn more about how to approach an edit methodically and efficiently.

Check out the blog posts Making friends with macros and Two editors introduce their favourite macros to learn how to use macros before (or during) an edit.


About Hazel Bird

Hazel Bird runs a bespoke editorial service that sees the big-picture issues while pinpointing every little detail. She works with third sector and public sector organisations, publishers, businesses and non-fiction authors to deliver some of their most prestigious publications.

About Hester Higton

Hester Higton has been editing academic texts for publishers and authors since 2005. She’s also a tutor for the CIEP and currently its training director.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador. She works on all types of fiction for adults, especially science fiction and literary fiction.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: brick wall by Tim Mossholder, glasses on keyboard by Sly, coffee by Engin Akyurt, all on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP

Two editors introduce their favourite macros

Back in May 2022, Ben Dare wrote a handy beginner’s guide to macros that explains how to start using them. In this follow-up post, Ben introduces some of the macros he finds the most helpful when editing text. Fiction editor Katherine Kirk also talks about some of her favourite macros, and how she’s improved her efficiency by mapping macros to her gaming mouse.

Photo of water droplets on a leaf as a background image to the blog post title and authors: Two editors introduce their favourite macros by Ben Dare and Katherine Kirk

Ben Dare

When I begin with a Word document, I like to analyse it for style and consistency issues. Handily, there are macros to look for all sorts of things, without altering my document at all: spellings of names (ProperNounAlyse); hyphenation of words (HyphenAlyse); consistency of a whole selection of style choices (DocAlyse). Each gives a report in a separate Word document, helping me to understand where possible issues are and highlighting hard-to-spot errors.

But running each of those (and others) is a bit of a faff. So my first favourite macro is MegAlyse (yes, in my head it sounds like Megatron). This macro allows me to list the macros I’d like to analyse the document with and then runs them in an organised way (as long as I’ve installed them!), and it saves the results.

At this point I’ve got an idea of systematic things that I want to change or check individually, and I want to make those changes quickly and highlight things I know I’ll want to check. To do that, the second macro I use is FRedit. This macro has many abilities (there’s a manual!), but at its most basic it runs a list of global find and replace searches that I list in a separate document. It’s easy to experiment with – you can start with a small list and get to know this macro at your own pace – but it is important to know already what you can do with find and replace, including wildcards (and there’s a recent CIEP blog on that here).

Here’s a screenshot of a basic FRedit list, each line showing a find and replace with a vertical bar | separating them:

Screenshot showing the following five pieces of text each separated by a short vertical line: EM dash and EN dash; Navratilova with and without accents; amongst and among (highlighted yellow); Parliamentarians and ^& (highlighted green); ~[A-Za-z0-9]^13 and ^& (highlighted blue).

So with FRedit, in one go I can:

  1. Change all em dashes to spaced en dashes.
  2. Make a name always have the accents it needs.
  3. Change all ‘amongst’ to ‘among’ (the ¬ means it will do upper or lower case); it will also apply yellow highlighting, which is my note to self: ‘I’ve changed this but check it’ – I noticed some ‘amongst’ were in quotations and will need changing back.
  4. Retain ‘Parliamentarians’ (the ^& means replace with what you found, i.e. no change) but highlight in green, which tells me: ‘Not changed but needs checking for client’ – here the client wants lower case, but there were lots beginning sentences, so I’ve just marked them to check.
  5. Find any paragraph that ends in a letter or number, not punctuation (the ~ tells FRedit it’s a wildcard find to search for that range of characters in square brackets). It also adds blue highlight, which is my note to self: ‘Generic issue to check’.

This mixture of changes and highlighting makes things to do or check helpfully visible, but the highlighting does need to be removed. Cue the macro: HighlightMinus. Have the cursor on the appropriate line, or select some text, and the macro removes the highlighting. (Bonus mention: HighlightPlus is great for adding highlighting, to flag something for the client or that you want to come back to.)

Working through a text, some edits take a few mouse clicks/keyboard strokes to do. There are macros to do these tasks more quickly, saving seconds each time, adding up to many minutes over a project. An example is SwapWords: if the document has ‘it badly fell’ and I want ‘it fell badly’, I place the cursor in the first of the words to be swapped, run the macro, and it swaps the two words. It saves the time of manually moving or retyping text, and prevents those little slips of human error. (Bonus mention: SwapCharacters does the same for adjacent characters, handy for swapping quote marks with full stops and commas.)

I’m always reminded there’s stuff I don’t know. GoogleFetch takes the word by the cursor, or a selected phrase, and switches to a browser and searches Google (other providers are available!). It’s quick, easy and less clicking. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetch does the same but searches an online dictionary.)

The above macros are written by Paul Beverley and are freely available to all. But many useful macros can’t be downloaded – I record them, or alter a pre-existing one, to suit my particular needs. Recording is great for repetitive, simple jobs. Altering doesn’t have to be scary: find a macro that does nearly what you want, tweak it and see what happens (on a spare doc!). For example, a client wanted me to follow the ‘Guardian and Observer style guide’ – so I changed GoogleFetch to open the appropriate Guardian style page for a word instead. It took a bit of learning, but it saved oodles of time in the end. You can even share your attempts and ask for advice on the CIEP macro forum. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetchByLanguage came from such a process.)

Photo of a water droplet creating ripples on a lake

Katherine Kirk

Like Ben, I use a combination of analysis macros and look-up macros, like MerriamFetch, which searches the term I’m pointing at in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. But my absolute favourites are the ones that cut down on key combinations that I use all the time. If I can reduce a repetitive set of button pushes to a single click, then it adds up to hours of time saved, and it also reduces repetitive strain on my fingers. Even better, it frees up convenient key combinations for less frequently used macros!

The best thing I did for my efficiency this year was to get a gaming mouse. I use a Logitech G502, and as well as the scroll wheel and left and right-click buttons, it has five extra programmable buttons. I can also push the scroll wheel right or left to trigger more macros. This means I can have seven macros right there without moving my hand to my keyboard. Other editors swear by the Wacom tablet, which gives you much more functionality, but I personally love the satisfying click of the mouse buttons. Also, doing it this way eased the learning curve, which made it much less intimidating. And don’t tell my boss,* but outside of work, I use the mouse for playing games too!

I decided to set the programmable mouse buttons up to improve my workflow. I thought about the routine button pushes I use in every job and settled on the ones that I use most often. These are the macros that have made it onto the mouse:

  • StartSession does a simple search for ‘[]’ in the text, which is a kind of shorthand bookmark I’ve been using since my early days. I find Word’s built-in ‘pick up where you left off’ is a little deficient. I also use this when I need to pause my line-by-line editing to jump around for a global consistency check, so I can find my way back and carry on. I used Word’s macro recording tools to create the Start and End Session macros.
  • VisibleTrackOff4 toggles Track Changes on and off, and it changes the background to yellow when it’s off so I don’t make accidentally untracked changes.
  • GoogleFetch makes fact-checking quicker, since it saves me having to tab over to my browser.
  • MerriamUnabridgedFetch lets me stay on top of hyphenation, capitalisation and spelling much more easily. I mostly work with US texts.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the left finds the next instance of something I just searched for in the text. I matched it to the built-in shortcut in Word, Shift+F4, so I didn’t have to create a macro for it.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the right scrolls down five lines and moves the cursor back up four, which keeps the text I’m working on comfortably in the middle of the screen. I don’t remember who gave me the macro for that, possibly on the CIEP forums, but they called it TestScroll.
  • Finally, EndSession types my handy little ‘[]’ bookmark and saves the document, ready for the next work sprint.

Here’s how that all looks mapped to the mouse buttons. The labels with an M are macros I’ve assigned.

Diagram of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons or the scroll wheel Diagram of the side of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons

Besides the ones mapped to my mouse, the macros I use the most often are the ones that trim down the button pushes needed to make common changes. I work with fiction, so for me, that’s mostly things like changing ‘Yes.She said to ‘Yes, she said. I use Paul Beverley’s CommaInDialogue macro to change that full stop and capital letter into a comma and lowercase letter with a single key combination (CTRL+ALT+,).

As I explore more macros, I want to spend a little more time practising with Paul’s ‘speed editing’ macros. Minimising the time spent on repetitive little tasks means I work faster, and that makes my hourly rate go up without it costing my clients more and without sacrificing accuracy. But really, what I love most about using efficiency-boosting macros like these is that they make me feel like I’m the captain of my own spaceship. The control panel is only as complicated as I want it to be, and I can always add new magic buttons as I discover the need for them.


*I’m a freelancer. The boss is me.

About Ben Dare

Ben Dare is a Professional Member of the CIEP and copyedits/proofreads for projects on sustainable food systems and sustainable living (and almost anything else when asked nicely). Otherwise, he’s probably playing with Lego or Gravitrax, cooking, running, swimming or (regrettably) doing chores.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador. She works on all types of fiction for adults, especially Science Fiction and Literary Fiction.

She also edits Tabletop Role-playing Game (TTRPG) content. Katherine can be found talking about macros on Twitter and Mastodon.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: purple leaf and water droplet both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP

Wise owls: how do you save time when editing?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, to share some of the things that have helped them to become faster, more efficient editors over the years. Answers ranged from macros, checklists and templates to a healthier work–life balance and the confidence gained from experience.

Sue Browning

My main tip for speedy editing is to slow down and take a breath before you dive in. I find it helpful to approach large projects in phases, doing basic analysis (headings/structure/style), clean-up and formatting first, followed by my main text editing pass, then a final consistency check and spellcheck. This is all driven by checklists (and sub-checklists). While trundling through the initial, somewhat mechanical, stages may feel like delaying the core task of editing, I find it settles me into each project in a series of familiar steps so that even a new or challenging job feels more under control by the time I start looking at the text.

Another more obvious timesaver is my stylesheet template with combo boxes that contain the most common alternatives for each style point, making setting up my initial sheet very quick. Thanks to Hazel Bird and her helpful blog post for bringing this useful technique to my attention.

Next is keyboard shortcuts, both for frequent operations, like switching between windows and desktops, all the usual Word commands, and for my many macros. I have a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but I learned them slowly, converting the often-used ones to muscle memory, making room in my brain for the next batch.

But probably my biggest practical timesaver is PhraseExpress, a text expander, which I use for emails, author queries/explanations, and any bits of text that I find myself typing repeatedly, including things that I frequently mistype, like my email sign-off. PhraseExpress’s web look-up function also saves me ages when checking references.

Finally, there is the confidence that comes with experience. I know my major clients’ style preferences pretty well (and have PerfectIt stylesheets to help), my grammar and punctuation are pretty sound, and I no longer angst over every comma (just some of them 😉).

Liz Dalby

I’d say that three things in particular have made me a more efficient copyeditor.

  1. Learning to do the language editing late in the process. When I started freelancing, my instinct was to sit down at the text and work through it from beginning to end, reading every word and working on everything that needed doing all at once, as I encountered it. Over the years I have learned – by trial and error, and also by discussing best practice with other editors – to work in a series of passes. Broadly speaking, I start by styling the headings, which gives me an overview of the structure. Then I focus on some of the basic cleaning up I can do, and applying global style decisions based on my own observations of the text, plus the brief and the house style (if there is one). Once the text is in better shape, only then do I start to read it from beginning to end, smoothing out the language as I go, and continuing to add to the style sheet. The language editing isn’t the final pass, because after that there will be a series of checks (depending on the brief and the budget). But it’s nowhere near the beginning! This has made my process massively more efficient – and accurate.
  1. Working within my limitations. Like (probably) all freelancers, my initial instinct was to work ALL the hours in order to establish my business and make a good living. Now I know that I do my best work when I only do about four or five hours of pure editing per day, and take breaks at weekends. I hate working in the evening, so I hardly ever do it. This all keeps me fresh, and able to work quickly. It took me a long time to figure this out. I should have listened harder to advice from more seasoned freelancers! But it is hard to put this into practice until you have built up a steady stream of well-paid work.
  1. I’m passionate about this last one: I approach a text asking myself what can stay the same, rather than what I can change. This can save unnecessary work, and it can also help to build a better relationship with the author, who can see that you’re not making change for change’s sake. However – it’s still important to recognise when fundamental changes are required, and do all of the work that’s needed. Judging this takes experience, and even then it’s possible to get it wrong.

Sue Littleford

Chatting with other editors, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who’s slowed down a bit over the years! We think it’s because we know better what we’re doing, where our weak spots are, and we don’t skip things because of inexperience. But, of course, I’ve had to fund that time by finding efficiency savings.

I’m wedded to checklists. They save time by making sure I cover all the steps I need for onboarding or handover and can tick off each requirement as I’ve done it. I also have checklists where I’m required to nudge the English one way or the other (US to UK, for instance), for handling collected volumes and, indeed, for any repeated sequence of tasks.

As anyone who has done the CIEP Efficient Editing course will know, another key is to do things only once, and in the right order – checklists are your friend for this.

A second go-to is PerfectIt – I always, always run it at the end of the job (making it a game between me and it), but I also run its Summary of Possible Errors report at the start, a quick way to give me a good view of the condition of the manuscript, and start thinking about style decisions without making premature changes (discount for CIEP members – you’ll need to be logged in). PerfectIt works best on PCs, but a limited functionality version is available for Macs. I have style sheets for each repeat client.

Finally, I use templates (for my checklists, my style sheets, my word lists and so on, tailored for each repeat client, and a generic version for new clients, which then becomes the tailored template), and a text expander for frequent emails (handover, for example) or author queries text. No reinventing the wheel for me!

Michael FaulknerMichael Faulkner

These are my top tips for speeding up the mechanics of the editing/proofreading process:

  • Buy the biggest monitor, with the highest resolution, you can manage. When I moved from a 27″ to a 32″ monitor, my work rate greatly accelerated.
  • Download two amazing free utilities: AquaSnap and TidyTabs. Using them in combination, you can access and organise all open programs/documents with no clutter. I keep the largest part of screen real estate for the document(s) I’m working on but have everything else off to the side, tabbed and ever ready.
  • Download a (free) text expander to add frequently used words or even large blocks of text with a couple of strokes. I use FastKeys. You can also use it to build macros.
  • Create a Word template for every kind of project you work on (I have half a dozen fiction templates and eight templates for different types of legal publication); populate each template with a Word style for every conceivable character or paragraph element you’re likely to need for that particular type of project; and add a keyboard shortcut for every style you might want to invoke more than a couple of times. Using styles in this way I can tame a 15K-word chapter, which contains only direct formatting and is full of displayed quotes, different heading styles, lots of levels of numbered subheads and the like, in 15 minutes.
  • This one is a question of do as I say, not as I do 😊. Use macros. I’m scared of macros because they have caused unwanted (and unnoticed) wholesale changes in the past that have got me in trouble – but when you master them they’re incredibly powerful.

Hazel Bird

When it comes to speeding up the editing process, one thing I’ve found indispensable is master documents. This is a feature of Microsoft Word that allows you to combine many documents together and work on them as if they were a single document. Master documents have a reputation as being tricky to handle and unpredictable, but in my experience only the first of those characterisations is true. If you ever need to work on multiple related documents at once (such as multiple chapters in a book), it’s worth taking a course on master documents or reading up on how they work. Once you’ve learned their quirks (the ‘tricky to handle’ bit), the seeming unpredictability mostly becomes clear and they open up a paradise of efficiency. It was a revelation to me when I first realised that I could do a PerfectIt run or fix a problematic phrase on five, ten or even a hundred related documents all at once. I’ve found master documents most powerful in my encyclopedia work, where they have allowed me to seamlessly edit and check millions of words at a time. And, of course, this can lead to quality improvements too, as it makes implementing consistency easier.

It’s worth saying that this way of working doesn’t suit everybody and there are other methods (such as Paul Beverley’s FREdit macro) of tackling repeated issues across multiple documents. Also, if you want to use master documents on very large numbers of files, you may find your computer limits what you can achieve. However, if like me you feel most comfortable in your editing when you have everything visible all in one place, then master documents are worth a look.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: owl by Hoover Tung  on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Levelling up style sheets for role-playing games and fiction

The style sheet is an essential part of any copyeditor’s arsenal. In this post, Rachel Lapidow explains how she expands her style sheets to help her edit complex role-playing games. Though some of the extra sections she adds are designed specifically for RPGs, they could be useful for fiction too.

I love creating style sheets for projects; in fact, it is one of my favourite parts of copyediting. This is fortunate because the style sheet for my current project, a 600-page role-playing game (RPG), is over 60 pages long.

When I was first learning how to be a copyeditor, I took a certificate programme online through the University of California, San Diego. One of my instructors gave us a style sheet template, and over the years, I’ve modified and added my own categories to that template.

I’ll be discussing how I set up certain aspects of the style sheets that I use for RPGs in the hopes that you may find some of these sections useful for your own projects, including non-RPG works. Some of these I learned from fellow editors, and some are my own invention.

One of the best tips I can give when dealing with a longer style sheet is to make use of Microsoft Word’s Styles section (I’m assuming that Google Docs and other word processing programs have something similar). When you click on the Home tab in Word, you will see the Styles box to the right-hand side. By using different styles for your headings and subheadings, you will be able to use the Navigation pane. Open the Navigation pane by hitting Ctrl+F and selecting the Headings tab. By using different levels of headings, you will be able to nest subheadings under headings. This will allow you to easily navigate to different sections of the style sheet without having to scroll or search.

One, two, or hyphenated words

I spend a lot of time checking to see if words should be hyphenated, one word or two words. On the advice of another editor, I created a separate section of my style sheets to list those words and phrases. Anything that I need to look up in The Chicago Manual of Style hyphenation table or the dictionary is included. I list the word(s) along with what part of speech it is – adjective, noun, verb, etc. Plenty of words are open in one instance but closed in another (eg ‘take out’ as a verb, ‘takeout’ when referring to a food order).

Abbreviations/acronyms

RPGs, especially militaristic RPGs, tend to have a lot of acronyms in them. Many of these will exist outside the game, like VTOL (vertical take-off and landing), and a number of them will be unique to the game, such as the names of guilds, armed forces, fictional companies, etc. When proofreading the encyclopedia for a video game series, the acronym section included things like HEDP (high-explosive, dual-purpose) and MARFOR (Marine Corps Forces). There were simply too many abbreviations and acronyms to remember. By listing them all in one place, I saved myself a lot of time instead of having to look up each instance.

Italicised words

Vessels, like ships, planes and spacecraft, are often in italics, depending on what style guide you are following. So too are the names of magazines, newspapers, plays and movies, whether or not these works exist only within the RPG. It’s far too easy to miss a name that should be in italics. By listing all italicised words together, I’m less likely to pass over a term that should be in italics.

Role-playing dice and character sheet

Game mechanics

Should game terms, like character attributes, skills, spells and more, be capitalised? Should they be in bold font? Should these terms be in italics or quotation marks? Here’s the place to record that information. For example, in the game I’m currently editing, character attributes (the qualities of a character) like Awareness and Physique are capitalised. In a game like Dungeons & Dragons, spell names, for example cure wounds, are written in lowercase italics. For the current game I’m working on, I have a section that lists all the attributes and skill sets so I know how those terms need to be formatted.

Characters

Here’s where to list details about characters, historical figures and divine entities in the RPG. If given, I will note a character’s pronouns, age, physical appearance, location, unique traits and relationship with other characters. An entry may be just a few words for a background character to as much as several paragraphs for a character who drives a lot of the plot. There have been instances where a character has been misgendered or their name has been misspelled. By referring to my character section, I help ensure that characters appear and behave consistently throughout the RPG.

Locations

For the game I’m currently working on, there are towns and cities spread across an entire planet, but that planet is just one place inhabited by humans. In the world of the RPG, people live on multiple planets, moons and space stations located within two solar systems – so it’s easy to forget where places are in relation to each other. Because earlier versions of this game have been published, I was able to copy and paste a map of one of the planets into my style sheet. In addition to this map, I have created a list of towns, cities and settlements. I like to add the key features of each town, its population if known, and any nearby geographic features.

A dragon sitting on top of a building breathing fire

Timeline

Creating a timeline for my current project was a considerable upfront time investment, but it’s helped me so much to keep track of when major and minor events happened. Because of the game’s sprawling nature, I’ve also colour-coded entries depending on where they occurred. I’ve caught a number of errors in the manuscript because of this timeline, such as events happening in a city that hasn’t yet been discovered or settled. I use Microsoft Word’s highlighting ability to indicate certain planets, moons and continents. When I ran out of colours (there are a lot of locations) I used coloured typefaces. Another option is to enter your timeline into an Excel spreadsheet. This allows you to easily sort by year, place or some other attribute.

And then of course the style sheet includes more standard sections, such as punctuation, spellings, how bullet lists are treated, how numbers are dealt with, etc.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you’ll find one of these sections worth incorporating into your next style sheet. In a full circle moment, one of my instructors from UC San Diego asked me to share one of my RPG style sheets for her to use in her class. It’s a bit surreal to imagine future copyeditors looking at a style sheet I created while they’re learning how to utilise this tool. But it’s also pretty darn cool.

About Rachel LapidowHeadshot of Rachel Lapidow

Rachel Lapidow is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader who works on RPGs, board games, comics, manga and fiction. Visit her website at www.rachellapidow.com.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: blue and gold role-playing dice by Timothy Dykes, role-playing dice and character sheet by Gian Luca-Riner, dragon by Jimmy Blackwell, all on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Preparing text for typesetters and designers

What’s the difference between a typesetter and a designer, and why does it matter? How should copyeditors prepare text for typesetting? In this post, Rich Cutler gives us a brief introduction to the world of typesetting and design.

The first thing to realise is that copyediting is a game of two halves: editing the content (language, style, fact-checking, consistency …) and preparing the copy for the publication process. Although modern copyediting has changed significantly this century, the latter task (copy preparation) remains vital for most published texts.

Second, copyeditors need to know that a typesetter and a designer are different beasts: ‘typesetter’ and ‘designer’ are not synonyms, though some designers can typeset, and some typesetters can design. The copyeditor should ask their client whether the copy will be going to a designer or a typesetter.

It helps to know the background and evolution of typesetting and design when preparing copy. The two professions are often lumped together but in actuality are very distinct and require different approaches by copyeditors.

A brief history of typesetting

The origins of typesetting lie in printing. Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionised book making in the 15th century by its use of movable and replaceable metal type, which allowed books for the first time to be made quickly and as multiple copies – previously, books were mostly painstakingly handwritten. Early printing houses employed people who arranged or ‘set’ these individual metal characters as words, lines, paragraphs and, finally, pages, ready to print on sheets of paper: these were compositors, later called typesetters.

Typesetting centres on two key principles: aesthetics and readability. A typesetter will arrange text and displayed material (such as illustrations and tables) on a page so that the eye is led naturally from one idea to the next, making sure that the context is conveyed at a glance through careful placement of the elements on a page (eg headings and line and paragraph breaks).

Typesetters are problem-solvers. The ideal layout is not always possible – the perfect placement of, say, an illustration in relation to the design and the sense of the text may result in unacceptable positioning of subsequent material – so compromises are needed to achieve a balance between readability and aesthetics. Authors, clients and proofreaders may grumble about the less-than-ideal location of a figure, but an experienced typesetter will have sound reasons for its placement.

Typesetting has always been a highly technical profession. During Gutenberg’s time and into the 20th century, pages were composed as mirror images of the printed pages by placing metal type with reversed characters in backwards order into a frame. Hot metal typesetting was replaced by a photographic technique – phototypesetting – in the mid-20th century, and a record of the text composed by the typesetter was stored as perforated paper tape. Typesetters were so skilful that they could interpret the patterns of punched holes in the tape as typographical characters and layout. Phototypesetting machines in the 1970s replaced this paper record with magnetic tape, but were yet to have screens allowing the typesetter to see what they were composing.

Preparing copy for a typesetter

Today, typesetting, like many professions, is done using computers and specialist typesetting software costing several thousands of pounds (the best known being Arbortext). The historically highly technical nature of typesetting is visible in Arbortext and its ilk, which focus on showing the operator the content of a page on screen rather than its actual appearance (see the screenshot) – headings, paragraphs, lists, etc, have arbitrary styles that simply differentiate these items from each other and bear no relationship to how they will appear in print (not unlike Microsoft Word in the early 1980s – before Windows existed!). All text items are assigned tags in a computer language (typically XML) that defines what the elements are – and a master definition file dictates what should be done with these elements, such as their appearance in print and online (which may differ), and whether certain elements are to be hidden in some versions (eg for particular markets).

Typesetters are therefore very computer literate, and are familiar with Microsoft Word, computer code, styles, tags, macros and so on.

So, if a copyeditor provides a typesetter with tagged text, a Word file using styles or even a Word file using local formatting rather than styles, the typesetter should have no difficulty producing proofs with the required layout and appearance.

If the copyeditor wants to make the typesetter very happy – and to reduce proof errors – the copyeditor should

  • remove all unwanted formatting and styles that have been applied to the text
  • use a tagging or styles scheme only (or perhaps a combination) to indicate appearance
  • provide a key to their scheme.

Additionally, the copyeditor should flag anything out of the ordinary or requiring a specific layout or appearance (unusual characters, alignment and indents in, say, a poem, illustrations that must appear together, etc). Using local formatting to indicate the appearance and layout of text for typesetting is not ideal because this unsystematic approach can be ambiguous and unclear.

How designers differ from typesetters

Adobe InDesign hasn’t yet been mentioned. It is a graphic design program, not a typesetting program. Although it can be used for typesetting, it is slow and inefficient compared with dedicated typesetting software like Arbortext. InDesign is aimed primarily at graphic designers: in particular, a breed of designer that appeared alongside phototypesetting.

A phototypesetting machine produced photographic paper with an image of text. This could be an entire laid-out page, which was used to make a printing plate. However, the pages of complex publications like magazines or newspapers were easier to create by typesetting blocks of unlaid text, cutting up this text and gluing it (along with illustrations) to a sheet of card. These hand-made pages were then sent to the printer. Graphic designers who did this job were called paste-up artists: they were skilled designers, but did not have the technical focus on type that defined typesetters.

The widespread adoption of computers in the 1980s led to the appearance of desktop publishing (DTP) software aimed at graphic designers working in publishing. DTP software was affordable and easy to use compared with typesetting software, and allowed designers to typeset publications themselves for the first time. The best-known DTP program today is Adobe InDesign.

DTP changed commercial typesetting forever – and divided typesetters into camps:

  • those whose lineage is printing
  • those with a graphic design background.

To better understand how designers approach page layout compared with typesetters, we need to know a bit about DTP programs: they are the digital equivalent of paste-up – text and illustrations are placed in frames, which can be resized and moved about a page; also, a page will print exactly the same as it appears on screen (not unlike today’s Microsoft Word). A designer’s focus is primarily on aesthetics and appearance, and not so much on the structure and function of text like a typesetter. Most designers therefore have a less technical approach to typesetting, and may not use or understand tags or Word styles – many prefer to copy and paste text into InDesign, to deliberately lose all styles and formatting, then manually reapply styles and formatting in InDesign.

All typesetters work in a similar way, but the same cannot be said for designers: the copyeditor needs to find out how the designer wants text prepared. Some designers may be happy with a tagging or styles scheme, others prefer to copy and paste and then manually apply formatting. Some designers doing the latter may be efficient at spotting and transferring formatting, others may be more hit and miss, so highlighting formatting such as italics and superscripts for them can help.

About Rich Cutler

Rich Cutler began in publishing as a desk editor for STM publishers – first at Pergamon Press, then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He later became a freelancer and co-owner of Helius – a business that has been providing bespoke services to publishers for three decades, including development editing, copyediting, proofreading, project management, illustration, graphic design and typesetting. Rich is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. He is also an occasional lexicographer, and helped to write the Collins English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: letters by Jirreaux, printing press by Mari77, both on Pixabay, Arbortext by Rich Cutler.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

The CIEP’s proofreading exercises: a preview

Annie Deakins leapt at the opportunity to review and proofread the exercises in the CIEP’s new Exercise Bank. In this post, she explains what she reviewed and how she did it.

I was asked by Jane Moody, the CIEP’s training director, if I was interested in reviewing a bank of resources being drafted for CIEP members to practise proofreading. I absolutely was interested! I would act as a guinea pig by reviewing the proofreading exercises in the Exercise Bank, and then proofreading the material as part of the job. So, what did the review involve, and what’s in the bank?

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • My role in the review
  • An overview of the exercise bank
  • How to proofread an exercise
  • Tips and support
  • Benefits

My role in the review

This was the sequence of the tasks I carried out:

  1. Do an exercise (as a practice proofread).
  2. Compare my answer to the model answer and note any differences.
  3. Read the commentary explaining the model answer.
  4. Compare the model answer with the final published version (if appropriate).
  5. Record how long it took to do the exercise.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5.
  7. Proofread all the materials – instruction/brief, exercise, model answer, and commentary – by finding typos and inconsistencies. Note down any queries for the training director to review.
  8. Provide feedback on each exercise: suitability, appropriateness of level, how easy/hard I found them, time taken and suggest changes for improvements.

An overview of the exercise bank

There are nine proofreading exercises in the bank. Permission was obtained from the authors and/or publishers to introduce errors for the purpose of proofreading practice. The exercises vary in difficulty from level 1 (reasonably straightforward, no complex elements) increasing to level 3 (complex, detailed exercises; may include complex figures/graphs/illustrations and/or references or other elements). The exercises are a variety of lengths, so I could pick and choose to fit them around my schedule.

The Exercise Bank covers a variety of topics including fiction and non-fiction, published through traditional channels, or by businesses and self-publishers. Examples include: a chapter from a business book that was traditionally published; an extract from a self-published novel by a first-time author; the programme for a conference by a medical organisation; a story from a traditionally published children’s magazine; and a market report for a technical industry (print finishing).

Each exercise includes background information and a brief which explains the task. Sometimes a house style is provided. If a house style is not provided, you are asked to compile a style sheet.

How to proofread an exercise

Open the file and check all the components are present. In the case of this bank of exercises there will be a brief or cover letter, exercise, model answer (or two), commentary, and final clean copy (if applicable).

Brief

Read what the brief requires. There might be a particular emphasis on layout, or a need for amendments to be kept to a minimum because of a tight publishing schedule. There may be a need to respect the author’s voice, particularly in fiction.

Errors

Examples of errors to be found range from a missing full stop at the end of a paragraph to erroneous capitalisation or the wrong word or term. Others include layout issues and tables that are incorrectly formatted, or wrongly entered numbers.

When something amiss jumps out at you, it’s okay to brag inwardly about the error caught (oh yes, that was sneaky). Add any errors missed (oh no, that was sneaky!) to your personal list of areas for improvement.

Queries

The model answers include examples of author queries to indicate where confusion is present in the text. Indeed, tips accompany the exercises on how to differentiate mark-up between instructions to the typesetter and queries to the client. So valuable. Model queries show how to be fair, polite and respectful.

Explanations

Checking the exercise against the model answer was the best part for me – I managed to resist the temptation to peek before finishing the task … When reading the explanations in the commentary, there were always learning points for the reasons behind the mark-up in the model answer.

Tips and support

  1. If the text is too distracting with, say, small font or too much colour in a leaflet, enlarging content by zooming in on the PDF can help identify errors.
  2. Prior knowledge of BSI symbols is useful. Guidance is given if you have not used proofreading stamps before. I recommend doing the CIEP’s Proofreading 1: Introduction course before proceeding with the level 1 bank of exercises.
  3. A range of model answers are given to show the variety of mark-up methods used and how the marks should appear.
  4. Support is given with resources, e.g. links are provided for the Adobe Acrobat DC video tutorials and help pages for assistance with marking up PDFs, whether that’s using commenting tools, sticky notes, or BSI symbols.

Benefits

The exercises are self-paced with no need for a tutor. They work in the same way as Margaret Aherne’s Proofreading Practice book which can be bought through the CIEP (with a discount for members).

Proofreading speed and accuracy increase with practice and confidence. Once you can calculate how many words you can proofread in an hour, it makes it easier to quote for work from prospective clients.

I had already completed CIEP’s suite of proofreading courses, but reviewing these exercises helped me further improve my proofreading skills and gave me confidence in my ability to spot errors and catch inconsistencies. Tackling the proofreading exercises also gave me the confidence to book my place on the CIEP proofreading mentoring scheme. I highly recommend them.


In addition to the proofreading exercises described here, there are seven copyediting exercises and three on grammar.

Visit the Exercise Bank

If you would like to add an exercise to the bank, please get in touch with the training director: training@ciep.uk.


About Annie Deakins

Annie Deakins taught in Essex (via Paisley) for 30 years. She started CIEP proofreading training in 2016 and is an Intermediate Member. She proofreads non-fiction, education, and children’s books. She is a Partner Member of ALLi. Her job portfolio includes tutoring, and she blogs as #TallTartanTalks.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: colourful shelves by Maarten van den Heuvel; Practice/Practise by Brett Jordan, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What is subediting?

Louise Bolotin stepped sideways from journalism to subediting, and starting copyediting 16 years ago. In this article, she looks at what subediting entails – and how it is similar to but different from copyediting.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this article:

  • The types of editors involved in periodicals
  • The speed and interventionist nature of subediting
  • Adding headlines and rewriting text
  • The importance of house style, facts and legalities
  • Working as a subeditor
  • Transferring skills and learning new ones
  • The jargon of subediting

I’m often asked what’s the difference between copyediting and subediting: ‘Isn’t it all just editing?’ Well, yes. But also no – there is an overlap between subediting and copyediting, but they’re not the same because they require different skillsets. For one thing, we have legal responsibilities that go far beyond what a book copyeditor may need to flag for a publisher – more on this below.

After ten years as a journalist who writes, I stepped sideways into subbing. The move was almost accidental, but I quickly discovered I’d found my niche. For over three decades I have subedited magazines and newspapers, often in newsrooms but these days largely remotely (even pre-Covid).

Types of editor

A periodical has many staff with the title of editor. The actual editor is the boss of the publication and will have a deputy editor. Commissioning editors don’t edit, but commission features. The picture editor is in charge of selecting images. The production editor oversees the production – page layouts, liaising with the printer, and so on. Subeditors edit the copy and, importantly, we are generally the last line of defence as there are no proofreaders to give everything the final check.

Fast and substantive changes

Subs generally work very fast because deadlines are always on our back. There is no time to dither over where to place a comma or muse on whether a particular paragraph should be moved. We make these decisions at lightning speed. What we do is substantive, but much more than what a copyeditor might consider to be substantive – it is directly interventionist.

Once a journalist has filed their copy, it is out of their hands. I might check with them to clarify something, but beyond that, they have no control over what we do with what they’ve written. They’ll already be busy writing their next piece anyway, but if you want to know what happens when a journalist gets precious about their copy, just google ‘Giles Coren subs’. Subbing can be a thankless task – make an error and you get it in the neck from all sides. Get it right and it’s the journalist who gets the praise, even though you saved their skin by polishing their dreadful prose.

Adding headlines and rewriting

As well as cleaning up spelling, grammar and punctuation, I will write a headline for each story, crossheads and captions if there are photographs, although, unusually, the last paper I worked for carried no standfirsts. Some subs work as layout subs, meaning they will edit within page layout software such as InDesign or QuarkXPress. Subs working on online publications will have a good knowledge of SEO for headlines.

Subbing can involve rewriting lacklustre copy so it has more oomph, and a lot of cutting to fit the allocated column centimetres on the page. I’m a big fan of cutting – I like a lean article in which every word earns its place on the page. I will freely move entire sections around as the opening paragraphs of any news story or feature must involve the five Ws – who, what, when, where and why (plus the occasional H for how).

If it turns out the most interesting angle of the story is three-quarters of the way down, I will renose it and write a new headline. In a newsroom, I may send a story back if it’s not up to scratch and instruct the reporter to redo it quickly.

House style, facts and legalities

I keep the house style guide in my head and only look at the printed copy when absolutely stuck – often it’s quicker to ask a suitable colleague. Fact-checking is a key part of the job – as well as asking the journalist to confirm something, I’ll spend time on the internet scouring Wikipedia or googling, or thumbing the local A-Z. If we receive collects, I check copyright by doing an image search on the internet, as you can’t publish photos lifted off Facebook, for example.

And then there is the legal stuff. Almost all periodicals are signed up to the regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and its Editors’ Code. The Code covers issues such as accuracy and privacy, intrusion into grief, reporting suicide, reporting anything on children including sexual abuse, reporting crime and criminal trials, and the public interest.

Subeditors must ensure stories comply with the Code. For example, children in sexual abuse cases cannot be identified, so we will remove not only their name and age but anything else relevant, including factors identifying their abuser if those could identify the victim. With crime reporting, we ensure everything committed by a perpetrator is described as ‘alleged‘ and only alleged unless and until they are found guilty at trial. A sub will also have a good head for defamation issues and refer to McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, our legal bible.

Working as a subeditor

Until recently I worked the freelance shift at a local weekly newspaper as the sole subeditor. My typical day, in an eight-hour shift that generally included a lunchbreak consisting of a sandwich at my desk while I kept working, looked something like this: The paper had four localised editions that carried unique content specific to those locations as well as content common to all editions. On my shift, I would edit four different splashes and four different back pages, around eight pages of local stories for each edition and eight or ten pages of stories for all editions. There were six pages of sports, six pages of readers’ letters and anything else, such as WI reports and church news. On an average shift, I’d edit around 70 pages.

Transferring and learning

When I made the partial switch to copyediting books 16 years ago, it was a steep learning curve. I was baffled by a lot of copyediting lingo and spent a lot of time looking up terms such as folio, running head and solidus (what subs call a slash).

Subediting is a highly transferable skill; many of us also work as copyeditors for corporate clients because the skillset is ideal. The bible for subeditors is Subediting and Production for Journalists (2nd edn) by Tim Holmes and a good starting place for copyeditors thinking of taking training in subediting.

Subs’ jargon

Byline – credit for the journalist who wrote the story

Collect – a photograph submitted by a reader or someone in the story, such as a crime victim

Crosshead – a sub-heading

Deck – the number of lines in a headline, rarely more than three

Flatplan – the page plan that shows where every article and advert will go

Go off stone – go to press, also known as putting the paper to bed

NIB – a one-paragraph story, short for news in brief

Overmatter – excess copy that has to be cut

Renosing – rewriting the story because you found a better angle lower down

Sells – very short article descriptions on a magazine cover

Spiked – when a story gets dropped

Splash – front page story

Standfirst – the paragraph under the headline that summarises the story in a longer sentence

Strap(line) – introductory words above the main headline

Summing up

The daily life of a subeditor has a different pace to that of a copyeditor, but requires similar skills, including decision-making and having the right knowledge (or being able to track it down) to make changes where appropriate. Have you moved from one kind of editing to another? Or from working one format to another? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

About Louise Bolotin

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin has worked as a subeditor since the late 80s, for household name magazines as well as local newspapers and online publications. Last year she developed a webinar on the basics of subediting and has begun offering bespoke training to niche publications. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP and says there is no truth in the rumour that she trained at the Slash and Burn Academy of Subediting.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: World Business by AbsolutVision on Unsplash; bundled newspapers by Pexels on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Wise owls: how long does it take to edit something?

We asked our parliament of wise owls, all Advanced Professional Members, about editing speeds: how long does it take to edit or proofread something? What’s fast or slow, and is that even the right question?

Hazel Bird

Few topics in the editorial world are more prone to oversimplification than editing speeds. I suspect some of this comes from clients, for whom a supposedly ‘standard’ speed might be either (more positively) a helpful starting point for fee negotiations or (more negatively) a crude tool used to push back against requests for fee increases. The most extreme example of the latter I ever encountered was when years ago, as a very new proofreader struggling with hideously messy proofs, I told the client how quickly I was working – a speed I now know with experience was reasonable – and was informed that they ‘knew children who could read more quickly than that’ (and yes, they did say ‘read’ rather than ‘proofread’). I was far too timid to respond with any fortitude at the time, so please forgive me the self-indulgence of this delayed public catharsis.

So, clients may have an idea of how quickly we should be working, and that idea may or may not be based on sound knowledge of what professional editorial work entails. However, as editors and proofreaders, we care about this too. We naturally want to know how our speed compares to that of our colleagues. And speed = time and time = money, so knowing how quickly we edit is vital to ensuring we are quoting appropriately.

Looking back at my records of over 600 projects, I’ve clocked up editing speeds between 250 words per hour and (very occasionally) 10,000. Clearly, then, it would be nonsensical to refer to ‘my editing speed’ in the singular, but it would also be pointless to think of either extreme as ‘slow’ or ‘fast’. For example, 500 words per hour seems slow on the face of it, but it might be fast for especially complex editing of text by someone writing in their second (or third or fourth) language with structural changes.

Thinking about your editing speed is crucial, but ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are only relevant as far as you can contextualise them within your own work – its difficulty, detail, workflow and so on. And, equally, before you compare your speed with that of another editor, make sure you understand what you’re comparing yourself against – in essence, what kind of work the other editor does.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

There are two ways of looking at speed: how many words per hour you can deal with, and how intensively you can keep going. Do you spread a five-hour job over two days, a week, or get it all done in one day? Nor will your speed be consistent over all the stages of a job. I take longer per word checking and fixing bibliographies than the running text.

My own belief is that the right speed is the fastest speed you can safely go while fulfilling the brief, giving good customer service and maintaining your own equilibrium.

It’s pretty obvious that speed is dependent on four things:

  • the condition of the manuscript
  • what the client wants you to do to it, and how many times
  • your own expertise, and
  • everything else, by which I mean the way that life gets in the way of work and sometimes work gets in the way of other work.

Because of these four factors, it’s not usually sensible to try to compare your speed with other people’s except in the most general way. What you can usefully do, though, is keep records of your own speeds. If you’ll pardon me a plug for the Going Solo Toolkit for CIEP members (you’ll need to be logged in), the Work record spreadsheet helps you to collect all the information about a job that will give you a feel for your range of speeds for a given type of work, as influenced by those four factors.

Finally, don’t be seduced by the idea of an average – my fastest is three times my slowest, so I need to discover factors 1 and 2 in order to be able to give a decent quote.

Liz Jones

In my experience, it’s helpful to be able to think two things at once about editing speeds. First, it is definitely useful to have an idea of how long it takes you to proofread or copyedit a particular number of words. This will be an average figure, depending on the state of the original text, but having such a figure to refer to will help when it comes to quoting for work.

But at the same time as it’s useful to have benchmark figures in mind, it’s also important to remember that they mean nothing. Every project is different, every author is different, every brief is different, every budget is different (unless you’re working on a series of similar documents for the same client). Crucially, every editor is different. Faster editing isn’t necessarily better editing, although very slow editing is likely to cost either your client or you dearly.

When I’m mentoring editors, I tell them that in the beginning, it’s better to focus on accuracy than speed. You don’t ever stop focusing on accuracy, of course, but the speed does improve of its own accord over time – and of course there are all sorts of things we can do to increase it further. But that’s another story.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

Asking how long it will take to edit or proofread a document is akin to asking what it will cost. As with pricing, it depends. I know from experience that my average editing speed is around 2,500 words per hour. If I’m given a text that is very clean, which is to say the writer has already gone through it to check for typos, errors and other possible issues, and for clarity, I could work as fast as 3,000 words per hour.

However, I have a number of clients outside the UK whose first language is not English. I’m likely to receive a file from them that has either been written by them or badly translated. For those clients, I will probably have to do a lot of rewriting and thinking through what they actually mean, and my speed will be more like 1,000 to 1,500 words per hour. And I could be as slow as that even when editing for someone who does speak English as their first language, if the text needs a lot of work, or if there are a lot of tables.

I log all this data on a spreadsheet that also records my time for each client, so I have a good idea of my range of speeds for different proficiency levels in English and the condition of the text. The data acts as a good comparison chart when I’m approached by new clients. I always ask for a sample of the text, as I can assess my likely speed and that will form part of the pricing. My speed includes everything: hours spent on the actual editing or proofreading, plus time reading the style guide if there is one and other prepping, plus all the time taken to administrate the job – that’s the number of words divided by the total time spent on the job.

It depends

As with so many aspects of editorial work, the simplest way to sum up the answer to a question about editing speeds is ‘it depends’. Each editor, client and project combination is different, and thus so is the time the edit or proofread will take.

What are your experiences of editing and proofreading speeds? Do you see yourself as ‘fast’ or ‘slow’, or somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments below.

Increasing editing and proofreading efficiency

If you are looking for ways to use your working time more efficiently, there are plenty of CIEP resources to help.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: fast owl in flight by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.