Tag Archives: references

Flying Solo: The business of editing references

In her latest Flying Solo post, Sue Littleford discusses how to edit references more efficiently (and more profitably).

When I’m copyediting, the references can take longer than the main text. There’s a lot involved and the scope of work can be quite broad – I’m often required to complete or correct inadequate references, as well as attend to all the styling issues. And on pre-edited files, there are a lot of styling issues!

So it’s clear that editing references can depress your words-per-hour rates, and a bad biblio can absorb almost the whole time or money budget just by itself. And that then depresses you!

So what can you do to avoid being out of pocket?

I recommend a two-pronged approach:

  1. being as efficient in your workflow and practices as you can, to keep your hourly rate nearer to where you want it to be, and
  2. pricing correctly for references in the first place.

If you’re not confident with references, you should take a look at the CIEP’s References course, of course!

So here are my ten top tips to make editing references more profitable.

Curtail the time you spend on them with good workflow habits

1. Be sure you know the referencing style that’s to be used

Refresh your memory even if it’s one you’re familiar with – we have to skip between different styles so often, it’s easy to start using the wrong one. I edit both books and journals for one university press, and the style for references is different for each. So I always look it up and make sure my head’s in the right place before I start.

2. Edit the references first

It eases you into the job, and then you know when you’re checking the citations that the dates, page ranges, author order and spellings you have in the refs list itself are the right ones. If you do references last, then you can find yourself backtracking over the text to correct those things, and that’s wasteful of your time.

3. Consider editing the citations next, in one go

I find this one depends on the editor and the nature of the job. I know some editors who swear this is the way to go, and others (I’m in this second camp) that check them off as they work through the text, so they are edited in context. And we all know how important context is!

Suppose you have two references: Smith and Patel 2018a and 2018b. You can see from the article titles that 2018a is about topic X and the second is clearly about topic Y. If you edit the citations out of context, you may find that the details are fine and match up. Big tick. But editing in context means that you may want to query whether 2018b was meant where 2018a was given.

However, in a law book, the footnotes may just be references to legislation and court cases, and it may be more efficient to edit those together for style and to check them off against any tables of cases and legislation the book contains. Like I said, context matters.

4. Print out the references list once you’ve edited it

I know, I know, we’re discouraged from printing when we don’t need to (I hope you’re using paper from sustainable sources, anyway, and printing double sided if you have a duplex printer). I know you can have a split screen with the references scrolling at the bottom and the text at the top.

I’ve tried all that, and I can say that – for me – having the printed references is the quickest way – especially when I’m working with pre-edited files and I don’t have the luxury of covering the references with highlighter as I mark them off. You could, I guess, have a copy of the references in a separate file, and then highlight to your heart’s content, but now it’s getting a bit messy and open to error. Errors are bad – and take up time to make and to resolve.

Highlighter pens

For author–date referencing, I tick off each reference as it’s used. For a back-of-the-book bibliography, I also note the chapter number that it’s been used in. That can be handy information later, if you’re trying to resolve problems.

For short-title referencing, I tick off each reference as it’s used. But now I definitely mark which chapter it’s been cited in, because most of the short-title jobs I have require the bibliographical detail to be given in full at first use in each chapter. I also underline the words I’m using for the short title. That way I can be sure that short or full titles are given in the correct place, and that the form of short titles is consistent throughout.

I can also jot notes to myself if I spot a missing closing quotation mark, or a reference out of its alphabetic position, or what have you, as I mark off the references as they’re used, then I make those corrections all in one go instead of dodging back and forth between text and reference.

5. Limit your fact-checking

Ensure you’re conscious of the requirements of the brief. For theses and dissertations, it may be completely hands-off for references, so don’t even start trying to fix the content, even if you’re allowed to edit for style.

Some publisher briefs will say to check all the content and find missing details, correct errors and so on, and to check links are working and go to the right thing.

Others will just want you to look at the styling. Obey the brief – don’t feel obliged to go beyond it. You’re not being paid for that work!

If you have a brief that says to correct the content of each reference, then still beware rabbit holes! We tell ourselves it’s faster to look up something ourselves than to raise an author query (AQ). That’s true, very often. But if you find yourself going to three or more sources to try to verify the details, or you’re spending more than, say, five minutes on a particularly recalcitrant reference, then know when to stop. Raise the AQ and move on to the next reference.

6. Be aware what macros might do for you

In his macros book, Paul Beverley has macros that will look up phrases on Google for you, or check places on a map or open Google Translate (GoogleFetch, MapFetch and GoogleTranslate). Try them out and see if they suit the way you work.

Get paid for the work: Pricing and time estimation

7. Know how long it takes you to edit a reference

I’m serious – don’t be put off by knowing the range is anything from 15 seconds to 15 minutes or even longer. Log your time separately for references and for running text (and for tables, while you’re at it). Note the time, and how many references you dealt with (and at what depth of intervention: style only, looking things up, supplying additional details, finding replacements for broken links). Do this for a few jobs, then analyse your figures and see what your longer-term averages are. Then repeat the exercise in a year and see if you’ve got faster!

8. Know how many references are in the job before giving a price

Now you know how many references you can do in an hour, hour in, hour out, when you’re pricing a job, you can ask for the number of references, as well as what the client wants you to do with them, on top of the word count for the rest of the text and so on.

You can calculate a per-reference price separately on top of the editing of the running text, or a time-based price, depending on your circumstances and preferences.

An alarm clock

Bonus tips!

9. Know how to handle oddities, and make notes so you don’t keep reinventing the wheel

Epigraphs? Tweets? Do you know how to handle those? The first time you encounter them, make a note (I use the notes function in MS Outlook – nothing fancy, but always findable).

Some people will tell you an epigraph doesn’t need a reference. Well, that’s not so true. Epigraphs are excluded from fair use, for instance, so it’s probably a very good idea to reference them properly.

By all means, don’t clutter the epigraph source line – name, or name and source book is probably going to be fine, but do have the information findable in the references list. Some epigraphs benefit from having the original year of publication appended, if the author is using them to demonstrate how long some ideas have been knocking around.

Well-known quotations can probably do without a reference in some publications, but not in others. If you’re working on a text that is going to omit references for them, it’s still worth checking that the quotation was actually produced by the person it’s attributed to – a lot of them have the wrong name attached.

Protect your author, even if you don’t produce full bibliographical details. Why? I once found that a plausible quotation attributed to Gladstone in fact came from the scriptwriters for the movie Khartoum. That was a rabbit hole worth diving into! Oh, and as Churchill famously didn’t write, ‘That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.’

Famous quotations can be infamous misquotations.

Tweets and other social media ephemera can be a challenge, so know where you’re likely to find good advice. APA, CMOS, MLA, New Hart’s Rules and others all have sections on the unusual kinds of things you may need to style (or find) a reference for.

If the style guide you’re working to omits them, there’s quite often a statement in the style guide that says which of the major published style manuals underpins the client’s own, or you can use the one that’s the closest match to the rest of the styling.

10. Stay up to date

As colleague Ayshea Wild observed to me recently, ‘It’s one of those areas where CPD is so important – citation formats are shifting all the time.’ That’s self-evident, given that we’re on APA7, CMOS17, MLA9 and so on, but it’s frequently overlooked – and house style guides also morph over time, so do be sure you have the latest version when you start each job.

So there we are: ten top tips to help prevent reference lists running away with you, and to help you be paid properly for working on them. If you have a tip you’d like to add, pop it in the comments!


Want to learn more about how to deal with references?

Check out the CIEP’s References course here.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

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: books by Hermann, highlighters by jakob5200, alarm clock by Alexas_Fotos, all on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Talking tech: Find and Replace

In this latest Talking tech post, Andy Coulson looks at how Find and Replace can speed up editing and styling references.

In keeping with this month’s theme of references for The Edit, I’m going to take a look at how we can use one of Word’s most powerful in-built tools – wildcard Find and Replace. References have to conform to tight formatting rules, and these lend themselves to using wildcard Find and Replace to tidy them up. This is particularly handy if you have a paper that was written with one form of referencing that needs to be changed to a different one. I’ll give a brief introduction to wildcards, then share some examples that focus on the type of issues in references and finally I’ll take a quick look at using these with Paul Beverley’s FRedit macro and PerfectIt.

Before we get cracking, a word of warning. Many academic authors use reference management software like Mendeley to produce reference lists. This software manages the references outside of Word and links to the Word document. With Mendeley you see references as form fields in the document. If you make changes, the next time the document is opened with a connection to Mendeley the reference list and links are overwritten, losing your edits. If you think this is the case, make sure you clarify how your client wants references edited.

Find and Replace can also be a blunt instrument, so use it with care. While you are refining your search, work on a copy of your text. And don’t use ‘Replace All’ unless you are very clear what you are replacing. It is safer to step through the things being found by using the ‘Replace’ or ‘Find Next’ (if you want to leave something unchanged) buttons.

Wildcards

Word’s Find and Replace feature has a number of hidden extras. If you’ve not already found these, they can be revealed by clicking the ‘More’ button under the ‘Replace with:’ field.

This opens the menu shown below and, as we are going to look at wildcards, we need to check the ‘Use wildcards’ option.

So, what is a wildcard? It is simply a character that can be used to represent anything else. A very simple example is using the character ‘?’ in a wildcard search. If you have ‘Use wildcards’ selected, put ‘r?n’ in the ‘Find what:’ field and ‘ran’ in the ‘Replace with:’ field then press ‘Replace All’, you would replace all instances of ‘ron’, ‘run’, ‘ren’, etc with ‘ran’. The ‘?’ tells Word to find any letter, so it looks for the pattern ‘r’ followed by any letter, followed by ‘n’. This does require a little thought, because what you have now also done, potentially, is turn ‘iron’ into ‘iran’, and a ‘wren’ would become a ‘wran’.

Now that example should alert you to the problems with this, but this is a very simplistic example and to do something more useful we need to dive deeper. Wildcards allow you to specify more complex patterns in the text, and as we will see in the examples below we can do some quite complex searches, often with a little trickery.

As this is a (relatively) short article I’m not going to be able to go into all of the possibilities. The best way to learn how to use these is to experiment. If you want some help, there are a number of resources available:

Examples

Let’s have a look at a couple of reference-related examples in detail so we can see how these work. For the referencing gurus out there, I am going to omit some required information from the references for clarity and play a bit fast and loose with referencing styles.

Example 1: Initials in names

Different referencing systems use different conventions for citing authors’ names in the reference list. So, you may have Hartley, J.R. (APA style), Hartley JR (Vancouver style) or even J.R. Hartley. Usually a reference list will be (largely) consistent, so it has a pattern we can find and a pattern we can replace it with. We will start with these three references:

A.N. Author. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

S. Editor. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

I.S.B. Nash. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

With Find and Replace we need to break problems down into manageable chunks, and sometimes multiple searches, that can be implemented by Find and Replace. Let’s assume we need to change author-name style in the list to Vancouver. The first issue we can tackle is the structure of the author names – setting them after the surname.

To do this we use the ‘Find what:’ string¹

^013([A-Z.]@) ([A-z]@).

What this does is:

  1. Looks for a line break: ^013 (‘^’ tells Word the number following is a character code. Note that these are for Windows and may be different on a Mac. You can find a list of these in the Wildcard Cookbook and macro book mentioned above).
  2. Looks for one or more initials: ([A-Z.]@) – the round brackets are grouping together and are important when we come to replace things; the [A-Z.] looks for capital letters or a full stop and the @ tells Word to look for one or more occurrences of these. Note that there is a space after this term, like in the text.
  3. Now looks for a capitalised word: ([A-z]@) – a combination of upper- and lower-case letters.

Now we replace the surname first and the initials after using this ‘Replace with:’ string:

^p\2 \1

This replaces the text as follows:

  1. We put the line break back in: ^p – note that we are using a different code here. ‘Why?’ you may ask. Because Word …
  2. Next we put the surname in: \2 – the \2 tells Word to use the second item in round brackets, what we found with item 3 above.
  3. Finally, we add the initials back in after a space – \1 – using the first bracketed item we found in item 2 above.

This leaves us with:

Author A.N. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash I.S.B. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Now we need to remove the extra full points. We have to do that in two steps, by taking out all the relevant full points and then adding back the one after the final name.

So, removing the full points we use this ‘Find what:’ string, which simply finds one capital letter followed by one full point.

([A-Z]).

We then put the capital letter back in using this ‘Replace with:’ string:

\1

This gives us:

Author AN (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Now we add the final full point back in before the bracket with the year. That bracket gives us a pattern we can identify to put the full point in the right place. So, we use the ‘Find what:’ string:

([A-Z]) \(

As before, the round brackets contain a string to find one capital letter; this is followed by a space and finally by \(. ‘What is that?’ you may ask. Well, we use brackets to create a sequence in the search string that we can return to later, so in wildcard searches round brackets (and a number of other symbols) work as commands. In order to refer to those symbols we need to escape it, which means adding a backslash in front, so \( finds an opening round bracket. We can then use the following ‘Replace with:’ string to add the full point.

\1. ^40

As before \1. adds the initial back with the full point and ^40 puts an open bracket back. Again, note the different way that replace refers to the character, but that’s just the way it works I’m afraid. This then gives us:

Author AN. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Example 2: Adding styling

I realise this is not proper Vancouver referencing, but I want to show you how we can add styling using wildcards. In this example we will apply italics to the book titles. As before, we need a pattern to recognise which part is the book title. In this case we have the end of the year ‘). ’ and the start of the edition ‘ (’. However, in order to find the title we have to find more text, the two brackets before and after, which we don’t want in italics. This means we need to be a bit cunning!

To do this we use this ‘Find what:’ string:

(\). )([A-z .]@)(\([0-9])

  1. (\). ) finds a closing bracket \), followed by a period and a space and we want to keep those, so we group them.
  2. ([A-z .]@) looks for a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, spaces and full stops – our surname and initials.
  3. (\([0-9]) looks for an open bracket \( plus a number – the characters at the start of the edition.

If we then replace this with:

\1%%\2%%\3

we put %% before and after the characters of the title that we want to italicise:

Author AN. (1986). %%Writing for beginners %%(2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). %%Editing for fun and profit %%(1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). %%Cataloguing books %%(3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

We now have the title clearly marked, so can then style that. We search for the modified title with %% before and after.

%%([A-z .]@)%%

We then replace that with just the title text, which we have put in round brackets, so \1 goes in the ‘Replace what:’ field. Before we replace this, we need to tell Word to italicise this text. If you tap on the ‘More’ button in the bottom left you will see a ‘Format’ button. Pressing on this pops up the menu shown below. If you select ‘Font’ the font dialogue box pops up and you can select ‘Italic’. You will also see ‘Font: Italic’ appears under the ‘Replace with:’ field.

Running that Find and Replace gives us our final list:

Author AN. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Integrating with Macros and PerfectIt

Wildcard Find and Replace searches like this are real timesavers, but there’s no obvious way of saving these and using them again and again. There is a short history for both the ‘Find what:’ and ‘Replace with:’ fields if you click the down arrow at the right of each, but I don’t find this particularly helpful.

Both Paul Beverley’s FRedit macro and PerfectIt support using wildcards, so offer a way to reuse multiple Find and Replace searches. As the point of using things like macros and wildcards is to save you time sometimes the investment of time to set up those searches in a macro or PerfectIt may not add up compared to just running the searches. For example, I do some work on papers for academic journals that are about 6,000 words long. I get material for multiple different journals, so it is quicker for me to just use a few Find and Replace searches rather than setting up, say, FRedit. However, a book or multiple papers for the same journal would change that, and setting up FRedit or PerfectIt would then be worthwhile. Having said that, writing this has convinced me to create a file of Find and Replace searches I can refer back to. I will probably format this as a FRedit list so I can use these with that macro.

PerfectIt allows you to perform wildcard searches in the ‘Wildcard’ tab. This lets you use all the features of wildcards in Word Find and Replace and adds a couple of neat features. The first of these is that you can add an instruction or prompt that explains what the search is doing, because, as we saw above, patterns can crop up in unexpected places. The second of these is that you can add exceptions. PerfectIt’s manual page uses the example of apostrophes being added to numbers followed by ‘s’, so ‘we have 3s, 4s and 5s chosen’ is correct. However, if we talk about ‘Page 4’s content’ we need the apostrophe. We can make numbers after the word ‘Page’ an exception.

FRedit is a scripted version of Find and Replace, so runs multiple Find and Replace searches from a list. It uses all the forms in Word Find and Replace, but has a few little tweaks you need to use in the file of searches we set up. FRedit doesn’t present us with the dialogue boxes that Word Find and Replace does. So in the file we use ‘|’ to separate the ‘Find what:’ and ‘Replace with:’ terms on a line and add ‘~’ at the start of the line if we are using wildcards. We can also add formatting easily. I sometimes use FRedit to quickly highlight things so I can then take my time on a read-through to check the context. For example, if you have an app called Balance it needs capitalising, but if you also talk about keeping your balance it doesn’t, so you have a mix, but the context will determine which you use.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas and encouraged you to go and experiment. I can honestly say learning how to use wildcards and Find and Replace efficiently has helped speed up my editing enormously. Combining these with FRedit or PerfectIt speeds things up even more where you have longer pieces or house styles you use regularly.


1 Paul Beverley has flagged that while ‘[A-z]@’ will find any letter it does not pick up on accented letters. A better solution is ‘[A-Za-z]@’.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

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: magnifying glass by towfiqu barbhuiya on Canva, joker by Roy_Inove on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Curriculum focus: References

In a new regular feature for The Edit, training director Jane Moody shines a light on an area of the CIEP’s Curriculum for professional development.

Knowledge of referencing comes into Domain 2, Editorial knowledge and practice, subdomain 2.2, Editorial knowledge. The competencies that a copyeditor/proofreader would be expected to have are shown in the middle column. A basic understanding of each of the referencing systems is essential, even if you rarely come across them in your day-to-day work.

Knowledge criteriaEditorial competencies, professional skills and attitudesResources to support learning/CPD
2.2.4 Citations, references and bibliographies• Has ability to recognise and edit Harvard, Vancouver and short-title systems
• Is aware of typical styles and variations (data required, ordering/punctuation of data, elision, capitalisation, use of italic and bold)
• Knows the difference between citation (details of a source or authority) and quotation (wording taken from a source or authority)
• Understands how to treat quotations
• Has ability to order bibliographies, cite academic publications, online sources and manuscripts, deal with/create multiple bibliographies
• Understands need to cross-check for consistency
• Understands and can handle footnotes and endnotes
• CIEP suite of courses Copyediting
• CIEP suite of courses Proofreading
• CIEP course References
• Guides to different referencing styles (New Hart’s Rules, Chicago, APA, MLA etc.)

So where do you go to gain this knowledge? As the introductory note indicates, there are more resources than can be listed in the curriculum itself, which lists some obvious resources in the third column, in addition to the general ones given in the introduction. The CIEP online course References goes into great detail about the topic and includes several pages of links to useful resources. If you need to deal with citations, references and bibliographies on a regular basis, this course will help you to master them. The CIEP’s new ‘References’ fact sheet also provides an introduction and brief overview of this subject.

Judith Butcher’s Copy-Editing (4th edition) covers the basics of bibliographical references in chapter 10. The Chicago Manual is now in its 17th edition. Part III covers ‘Source citations and indexes’ – a full third of the book. The manual is available online and some helpful resources are freely available there. One page you might find useful if you work with author–date referencing systems is the Chicago style citation quick guide. This page gives examples of different reference-list entries accompanied by an example of a corresponding in-text citation. If you need more detail, there is a link to the full contents page but, frustratingly, that’s the end of your free access and you need a subscription to get to the text of the manual itself. On the CIEP blog (25 November 2020), the ‘wise owls’ talked about references, too.

Many institutional libraries provide excellent guidance on referencing and citations. For example, the De Chastelain Library of the Dundalk Institute of Technology has a useful page analysing Harvard referencing. The Open University library has a publicly available page (Quick guide to Harvard referencing) that is very useful. The University of Sheffield library includes video tutorials on referencing, among other useful topics such as detailed referencing style guides that you can either consult online or download as PDFs. Some services are generally available; some are only fully available to alumni. If you are associated with an education institution, you may be able to access Cite Them Right, from Bloomsbury, for example. Cite Them Right demonstrates the principles of referencing and how to avoid plagiarism, and you can create an accurate reference in a variety of styles.

There is a wealth of information available to help authors to create accurate references in the correct style for their publisher. It’s a shame that they rarely consult these resources – although the time spent correcting authors’ idiosyncrasies is the bread and butter of many a CIEP member, so perhaps it’s just as well that they don’t!

About Jane Moody

Jane has worked with books for all her working life (which is rather more years than she cares to admit), having started life as a librarian. She started a freelance editing business while at home with her two children, which she maintained for 15 years before going back into full-time employment as head of publishing for a medical Royal College.

Now retired, she has resurrected her editorial business, but has less time for work these days as she spends much time with her four grandchildren and in her garden.

 

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: library by Skitterphoto on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Wise owls: references and citations

References and citations play an important role in many publications, providing evidence to back up an argument or prove a hypothesis, or to encourage the reader to find out more.

This week, the CIEP’s wise owls reflect on references and citations they have known, and the common issues that they come across while working with them.

Hazel Bird

The most glaring issue I tend to come across when I’m editing references and citations is a complete lack of references and citations.

As issues with references go, it’s a pretty big one. But it’s understandable: not all authors have the academic background or training to know how to construct a reference list or even to know that referencing is necessary.

Editors can do a lot to help you work out what needs a reference and how to present your references, but here are a few basic tips that pretty much always apply:

  • If you’ve quoted somebody else’s words, you need a reference.
  • If you talk about a specific idea or concept originated by someone else, or if you discuss their ideas (even if you don’t quote them directly), you need a reference.
  • If you include statistics or results of analyses, you need a reference.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s exact words and present them as if they are your own, even if you provide a reference. You either need to quote them (and provide a reference) or paraphrase their ideas in your own words (and, in almost all cases, still provide a reference).
  • Make the reference as precise as possible – for example, include the page number or the exact URL where you found the quote.
  • If you want to include a quote you found on the internet, you need to check whether the person credited with the quote actually said it. Websites that host collections of quotes are notorious for their inaccuracy. Quote Investigator is a good place to start, but you might need to do some digging.
  • Referencing doesn’t have to be obtrusive: there are all sorts of minimal and even invisible referencing styles that editors can help you implement.

But above all, if in doubt, include a reference!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I don’t often edit books or papers that contain references or citations, but by far the commonest issue I come across is that they have not been properly formatted. Often, it’s a case of not having read the style guide for a journal, or someone has merged the Harvard and Vancouver styles of citation, not understanding that they are very different. The latter can take some untangling. I once had a client whose journal style guide required authors’ first names in the bibliography – there were a dozen pages of citations so I had to send that back with a note after fixing the formatting. There may be fewer rules for a bibliography in a book – here the most common problem I find is duplicate entries or incomplete entries. It can be quite time-consuming to hunt for information such as the publisher’s location or the relevant edition. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle and can be satisfying when you complete it.

Liz Jones

I’m not one of those editors who loves working on references and citations (apparently they do exist), but they are an essential part of our work. One of the best tips I was ever given was to work on the references before the rest of the text. For me, this has two benefits: first, I have an overview of what’s cited, can get a feel for the consistency of the references as a whole, and see what’s missing. Second, this can be a surprisingly time-consuming part of an editing job – so once it’s done, the editing part feels more relaxed (dare I say fun?).

These are some of the most common issues I encounter in references:

  • inconsistency of capitalisation
  • varying elision styles in number ranges
  • inconsistency of author names where they are mentioned more than once
  • problems with the punctuation between elements of a reference.

At copyediting stage, I find the numbering of references is less likely to go awry, as this is built into the working of the Word document, if it’s been done correctly (I realise this is a big if). Sometimes, though, note markers will exist in the text that are not linked to any reference, which can upset the numbering sequence and necessitate an author query. At proofreading stage, one of the main issues I encounter is text markers not matching the numbering of the references in endnotes, so I make sure to check this very carefully, and to double-check it if I need to suggest a change that results in renumbering.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I spend a lot of my time editing references. Here’s what I see too much of – and something I’ve only ever seen once:

  • Ignoring the house style – and, indeed, all issues of consistent style, including the use of et al.
  • Citing impossible page numbers.
  • Still having ‘forthcoming’ for something that was actually published in 2013.
  • Getting the author names out of sequence in the reference and/or citation (or spelling them four different ways within two paragraphs).
  • Missing out elements – I’ve had references that had the author name and an approximation of the chapter title, and nothing else.
  • Cutting or adding text, but not updating the references list accordingly.
  • Conflating references is another good one – easy for the author to do when there are several references by the same people, or similar-looking people, or similar-looking titles.
  • Using the reference list from an earlier version of the work (especially when theses are repurposed as books), as ‘that’ll be close enough’ (I’m quoting a client) despite the cuts and additions made to the original text. I had to polish up my crystal ball for that one.
  • Missing out a hard return at the end of the reference, so another one hides inside it (one of the many reasons I always edit the references first).
  • And in my last book, instead of using the hanging paragraph setting for the bibliography list – or even using hard returns and tabs, as too many authors do – the author used section breaks to change the margins, so each reference took two sections, one for the full-out line and another for the indented lines. Just imagine how much work that was for more than 500 references – only for me to hoick it all out without a second thought.

The CIEP’s References course helps you to:

  • learn how to deal with references
  • find out what you didn’t know about references and fill any gaps
  • explore unfamiliar reference systems
  • discover ways of referencing less typical sources.

Photo credits: Owl by Joe Green on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls on editing non-fiction

Non-fiction covers a vast array of topics, including music, psychology, architecture, science, and memoirs, and new editors may find learning and following the conventions of non-fiction daunting. Editors will be asked to work with authors who are experts in their chosen field, and you will need to (tactfully!) help them bring structure to their work as they share their extensive knowledge with their audience.

This month, the SfEP parliament of wise owls share their experience of editing non-fiction, including tips on references and style guides, and working efficiently to meet clients’ needs for consistency within an often limited budget.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Learn to love references, in all their multifarious glory. I get great satisfaction from making a clean and orderly references list from the dog’s breakfast I was handed. I edit a lot of academic tomes in HSS (humanities and social sciences) and have long realised that there are almost as many variations of Harvard as there are authors.

This is why it’s important to get a clear brief from your client. The publishers I work for vary greatly in how closely they want references to adhere to house style. Indeed, some are becoming more relaxed about it over time, often settling for ‘apply author’s style consistently’. If you are to avoid wasting a lot of time, do talk to your client about how much of your effort they want spent on changing the style of references.

One trick I’ve recently adopted is to make my own sample list of references for each of the variants in the job in hand (such as book, chapter, article, website, grey literature and archive – and some of those will have print and online variants, too). This is particularly helpful if I’m working with the short-title system, where a reference will look a little different in the note and in the bibliography, so my own note of the same reference in both presentations is an efficient way of checking I’m applying the correct version of the style in the right place – far easier than flipping through the pages of a style guide.

Liz Jones

It can seem that editing non-fiction is more bound by conventions, formats and rules than fiction. Whether you think that makes the task easier or harder is all down to personal preference! Often a non-fiction client will supply a style sheet, and even if they don’t they might indicate an established style guide that they’d like you to follow. In this way it can be quite different from editing a piece of fiction, which is much more likely to follow its own internal logic. Remember that the author’s voice can be just as distinctive and important to a piece of non-fiction – they’re still telling a story, even if it’s rooted in fact – so there’s a need to be sensitive and to think hard about what to retain as well as what to change. You might require a certain amount of tact to negotiate changes with the author to help their work conform to the required style, without applying rules slavishly and arbitrarily. Finally, non-fiction is often quite clearly structured, and this can be really helpful to the editor. Tweaking text to better fit the structural patterns that run through it can be immensely satisfying, and might make all the difference to a piece of writing – transforming it into a polished and coherent document that’s ready to be sent out into the world.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

Whenever I tell someone what I do, pretty much the first question they go on to ask is ‘What do you edit? Fiction?’ When I say that I work in non-fiction – generally economics and social policy – there is slight dismay in their faces. Fiction is the glamorous face of publishing, and non-fiction is seen as its frumpy but reliable best friend.

It’s fulfilling when my knowledge overlaps with the content I’m editing, and I can ask informed questions and add substantial value. When it’s a subject area I haven’t worked in before, I’m exhilarated by learning new things and I’m often prompted to go and read something related for pleasure.

Just as with fiction, it is critical to keep the author’s voice (or brand voice) intact and use a delicate touch to enhance the content rather than interfere with a heavy hand. Non-fiction brings with it tables, charts, diagrams and the mighty references list – they may appear intimidating at first sight but all they need is to be handled gently but authoritatively.

Non-fiction has been my bread and butter for over 17 years and I still get excited when a new project pops into my inbox – who knows what joys (and possibly terrors) those documents hold?

Sue BrowningSue Browning

In my experience, non-fiction publishers rarely have generous budgets, so one of the arts of making a decent living out of it is to master the various tools that can make you more efficient. These include the features available in Word, in particular keyboard shortcuts, wildcard Find & Replace and macros. Many of mine are home-grown, but I also plunder Paul Beverley’s magnificent and generous Macros for Editors. It’s also worth exploring the various add-ins you can get. I regard PerfectIt as an essential, and I also have Reference Checker (sadly no longer supported), both of which save a lot of time and help you produce a more consistent result – something that non-fiction publishers tend to be especially concerned about.

So once the mechanical style aspects have been tidied up and the references thrashed into submission, I can get down to the fun part – engaging with the content and the author. Here I particularly love the challenge of phrasing queries collaboratively (‘Perhaps we could…’, ‘Do you think x would be clearer?’) and sometimes catching the odd boo-boo, usually to the author’s heartfelt gratitude. But oh, the angst of querying a missing ‘not’ – have I completely misunderstood? will the author think I’m dumb?

Editing non-fiction can sometimes be challenging and frustrating, but it also brings the pleasure of working with subject experts and contributing to the spread of knowledge in a small but, I would argue, essential way.

 

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

Beyond the proofreader’s remit?

By Liz Jones

When proofreading materials for book and journal publishers, we are not always presented with a thorough brief and there is often a tacit understanding of what the role of the proofreader includes … and what it does not include. The CIEP sets out some commonly understood responsibilities of the proofreader and the copy-editor in the traditional publishing process. However, it’s apparent that these roles are becoming increasingly fuzzy in the academic publishing world.

In 2015, a discussion arose in the SfEP forums on the thorny topic of whether a proofreader should check references in an academic book as a matter of course, and exactly what that checking should entail. The original poster referred to a proofreader being expected by a client (an academic publisher) to cross-check a reference list against the in-text citations. Many experienced editors weighed in on the debate, and gradually a consensus emerged. The general understanding was that such detailed checking of references should be part of the copy-editor’s role, not the proofreader’s. In an ideal world the proofreader would then simply need to read the reference list, checking for small inconsistencies of styling or typos. Several posters said they would perform spot-checks of a few citations during such a proofread to ensure that the reference list seems to be in accord with the main body of the text. It was also pointed out that it is certainly not the proofreader’s job to check the factual accuracy of references, or even that authors’ names are spelled correctly.

work stressThe problems start when a proofreader finds (perhaps through performing spot-checks) that the references have not been properly edited, or that other errors are present, perhaps as a result of formatting. In more extreme cases the proofreader may suspect that the text and associated references have not been copy-edited at all. In this case, the proofreader is presented with a difficult choice:

  1. They can carry out the proofread as briefed and within budget, but without doing any work that might be considered beyond the remit of the proofreader. The proofreader knows that some errors are likely to remain, but decides it is not their responsibility to make the text perfect, and is not willing to reduce their hourly rate to compensate for shortcomings earlier in the publishing process.
  2. They can go beyond the standard proofreader’s remit in order to bring the book up to a publishable standard. This means the proofreader carries out a proportion of what might be considered ‘higher-level’ copy-editing work, while being paid as a proofreader. It may also entail significantly more time being spent on the job, reducing the hourly rate still further.

Neither of these solutions is ideal. As editorial professionals we tend to be hard-wired to want to help the client produce excellent work … but at the same time, as business owners we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

What should make a proofreader wary?

Sara Peacock, former chair of the SfEP, provided examples of the problems she sometimes encounters as a proofreader:

  • None of the citations cross-checked against the references list.
  • References wildly inconsistently presented, with lots of missing information.
  • Bullet lists inconsistently presented, in terms of capitalisation and punctuation.
  • Figures not correlating to text in terms of style and sometimes content, or the text referring to coloured portions when the figures are reproduced monochrome.
  • Inconsistent capitalisation in headings.
  • Lists of what is to come in the text not corresponding with the text that actually follows.

These are clearly the responsibility of the copy-editor, but as a proofreader, we do not know the reasons behind problems we may find with copy-edited text.

Experienced editor, trainer and long-standing SfEP/CIEP member Melanie Thompson made the point that errors might be ‘potentially down to problems of the files not being imported correctly (tracked changes carrying across by mistake) … Could the author have been given back the [copy-edited] file and undone a lot of the good work? And then of course there’s the possibility that the publisher/client never had the material copy-edited in the first place …’

Veteran editor and SfEP member Kathleen Lyle pointed out that ‘one problem is that things can happen to the references in the gap between copy-editing and proofreading – for example, an author may decide to add some new references to bring a chapter up to date. Depending on the publisher’s workflow this new material may be dealt with in-house and not be seen by the copy-editor; this could well cause discrepancies of style or content between text and list. As a proofreader I’d expect to pick up discrepancies of style in the text or list, and cross-check any strange-looking items.’

From these comments alone it is clear that text may appear badly edited for a number of reasons, including lack of time and budget, or technical glitches. There is also the possibility that the copy-editor lacked training, or tried to get away with providing substandard work due to other pressures. It is also a fact that many in-house editors and project managers are very pushed for time and may not be able to closely monitor and assess the work of all their suppliers on every job. (I say this as a former in-house editor.)

What can we do?

If we find ourselves presented with poorly edited text as a proofreader, there is a third way (beyond the stark dilemma presented above).

First, we can establish the brief. Gillian Clarke, trainer to many editors over several decades via the SfEP and the PTC, said simply that ‘it is hugely important to establish from the very beginning exactly what the client wants’. This can help at whatever stage in the process we are working. If the client hasn’t provided a clear brief, consider sending them your own checklist of tasks covered by proofreading (and not).

Assuming that the brief is clear, you can then try the following if presented with text from a publisher that needs a lot more attention than a straightforward proofread.

  • Assess the work: Does the budget cover what you need to do? Is it within your capabilities in the time allowed? If the answer to these questions is yes, and the job is fairly self-contained, you might decide in that case simply to get on with it and provide feedback for the publisher along with delivery of the completed work.
  • Raise the issue: If the budget and schedule do not allow for satisfactory completion of the job, or if you feel the work goes beyond what you are comfortable doing – in short, if there is any reason why you think a job is not possible within the given parameters – tell the client straight away, and wait for their response before proceeding. If they don’t answer first time, try again – this is important.
  • Ask for more money/time: If the client can offer more of either or both, the issue might be resolved in the short term, enabling you to complete the job.
  • Adopt a pragmatic attitude: If the client will not budge on money or the schedule, and you decide to proceed with the work, be strict with yourself about what you can and can’t do with the available resources, make sure the client is aware of this, do the job and move on.

However you deal with the job, you should make it clear in your handover notes to the client what the editorial shortcomings were when the project reached you, and what you had to do as a result. Be clear and matter-of-fact about the ways in which you needed to go above and beyond in order to complete your work, without making assumptions or personal attacks. You need to do this because the client might otherwise remain unaware of the issue. However, you don’t need to start telling them what to do with this information.

Questioning clients and (re)negotiating rates can be daunting, especially for newer proofreaders and editors. It’s also tempting for proofreaders just starting out to go above and beyond to try to impress new clients and secure future work. This is where discussion in the SfEP forums, on other online platforms or with your local group can help enormously.

Summary

This really all boils down to the simple question of whether the proofreader should have to compensate for inadequate copy-editing. It’s the client’s budget or yours – something has to give.

However, it also has wider implications for our industry, perhaps most pressingly in the academic publishing sector. A lack of investment in careful editing by trained professionals may help publishers balance the books in the short term, but the eventual outcome will surely be a drop in the overall quality of output, and a growing reluctance among the more experienced proofreaders to work for certain clients at all, which would surely be much more detrimental in the long term.

Next controversial topic: how far should a proofreader go in checking an index …?

Liz JonesLiz Jones (www.ljed.co.uk) has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She specialises in trade non-fiction and educational publishing, and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

 

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

The SfEP became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) on 1 March 2020.

Originally published November 2015; updated June 2021.