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Tips on editing

Today I am mostly editing book chapters – this is the fourth book I’ve edited and also have done two sets of conference proceedings. So there are some things I possibly do as rote now that might not be obvious. Although most are:

The obvious ones are good discipline with organising directories with the various versions in them. If I’m writing my own stuff it’s easier, the date of the file goes in the file name (in a YYYMMDD format obviously) so the most recent one is always at the bottom. When you have loads of different authors, all using different naming conventions, and when you might have to take a break of a month or so, while they do rewrites, or you go off and do things that earn you money, then it’s important to make sure they’re always sorted into the right directory, properly labelled, so you know where everything is when you come back to it. And have another directory with things like author emails addresses and so on so it’s to hand. And a list of what everything is and which chapter it is too.

Create a style sheet. It’s a bit laborious but the minutes you spend doing it at the start will save you hours at the end. Create a template using that style sheet and send it out to the authors. You’ll probably need to do some tidying up at the end, but it will save you a lot of hassle.

Get the authors to submit pictures as separate files, and inserted into the text. Publishers want them as separate files and it saves you having to mess about at the end, but it’s good to see where they belong. Find out what the minimum dpi your publisher insists on too.

Here’s the least obvious one … tables should be submitted as images, not spreadsheets. You want the author to be deciding which bits go where and how it should look, not the publisher, leaving it to that stage creates all possibilites for error. Particularly if the table includes images. As few a files as possible is always a good practice.

Check references tie up with citations. The easiest way i’ve found to do this is to go through checking citations tie up with a reference at the back and while doing so highlight the reference the first time it’s cited. When a reference is missing, it’s easy to flag. And at the end you have a mass of yellow (or whatever) at the end. Where there are gaps do a word search on the name. If it doesn’t return anything, then you’ve an uncited reference. Flag that for the author. Then remove the highlights.

The most common mistakes academics make? Plurals. “Data is.” “Media is” or pluralising “medium” as “mediums”. Mixing up phenomenon and phenomena. I even saw “dices” the other day. Sure there are some tricky ones, (octopus for example, but that one doesn’t crop up often), but those are worth always checking.

It’s worth looking up some of the references too. Sometimes they’ll misquote, or misinterpret. Usually common sense will flag those. If you’re thinking “really?” it’s worth a look.

Oh yeah the reviewing thing as a whole is worth another post. I’m really in this one thinking about the bits that are specific to editing, organising, copy editing, since that’s the stage I’m at with this book.

EDIT: Some more points occur to me.

Don’t use the bullet point tab to create bullet points. Create your own style called “bullet” and mark the bulleted lists up with that. Chance are you may want to change your mind about how to lay them out, and then you have to go through changing them all manually. Or you may change the Normal style and it re-sets all your bulleted lists, or just some of them.

Leave the formatting till last. There are lots of reasons for this, one is during the editing process your authors may add new stuff (so you have to do it again) or delete stuff (so you’ve wasted your time). It’s unlikely that they will do the formatting themselves. If they haven’t started off using your template, then they won’t. The golden rule of anything to do with editing anyway is that it’s less effort to do it yourself than get someone else to do it.

The other reason is there is something exhilirating (by my standards anyway) at seeing all of the disparate chapters, with various naming schemes and formatting, and with variations in spelling, all coming together into a uniform look. It’s at that point you really feel like you’ve got a book. At the moment I’m about half way through and have them all for the first time in a single directory with all the figures etc with a standard naming. At the moment, with the chapters that aren’t formatted properly (and bless, the current one I’m working on has tried but the styles on the headings and subheadings are switched).  I usually paste a new chapter into a previously created file, save it as a new file and then delete the old text. It’s the easiest way to import an established style sheet.

Oh and if possible, if it’s a book in a series, have an earlier edition in the series to check against.

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One thought on “Tips on editing

  1. Nice set of tips. I am lucky in that I can write quickly, kind of a stream of consciousness, but then I have trouble spotting errors. I need to leave the piece for a while and then come back to it with a fresh set of yes. Find I still need to print it out interestingly.

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