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I’m an editorial project manager, copy-editor and proofreader of non-fiction who makes things happen and keeps projects moving. I manage 10–20 projects at a time and handle over 5 million words per year, project managing academic books and encyclopaedias and copy-editing and proofreading pretty much anything non-fiction. My clients include major global publishers as well as businesses, charities and individuals. When I’m not editing, I’m generally roaming the Mendips with my dog, Darcy, or poring over genealogical documents, trying to corral my ancestors into some sort of order.
ABOUT THE BLOG
This is the blog of Hazel Bird, a copy-editor and editorial project manager who has worked with hundreds of authors, editors, proofreaders, publishing and business clients, typesetters and other publishing professionals on over 400 projects since 2007. The Wordstitch Blog offers a view of publishing and freelancing from the middle: from someone who both tries to get herself hired and hires other people. It also aims to foster great working relationships, from a belief that the best books (and other texts) come out of genuine collaboration and communication.
- A day in a life of a freelance copy-editor and editorial project manager
- Plagiarism: How to spot it and what to do about it
- Monetising feedback and embracing fragility
- Macros, wildcards, editorial project management and a new look
- #sfep16: reflections on the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference
- How to help (and hinder) your typesetter
- Using combo boxes in style sheets
- Respect and the inner robot in editing
Category Archives: Project management
Nope, that’s not a typo. A lot of digital ink is expended by freelance copy-editors and proofreaders on how many hours a day they spend working. Sometimes, this ends up being couched in rather restrictive language: at one extreme, there are people who are so beaten down with all the work they’ve been offered that they never get a weekend off, and, at the other, there are those who declare it’s impossible to edit more than a few hours a day without losing concentration and making mistakes. (Of course, there are many discussions too that buck this dichotomous trend – Sophie Playle’s recent post ‘How Many Hours a Day Does an Editor Work?’ is one example.)
So, to avoid any possibility it might look like I’m trying to say what I think editorial freelancers ‘should’ do, I’ve deliberately titled this post ‘a day in a life’ – just one life, with one set of personal and business goals, one personality, and one set of health circumstances, all of which are unique to this particular editor and project manager’s life.… read the rest >>
I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to three other blogs this year. This is a roundup of those posts and also serves to introduce my rewritten and redesigned website, now at a new home at www.wordstitcheditorial.com. I’d love to know what you think of the new design – please comment and let me know!
Macros and wildcards: essentials or added extras?
Back in April, I wrote a post for the Indian Copyeditors Forum introducing macros and wildcards. I suggested some reasons to give them a go and some ways to start getting acquainted with them. Here’s an extract:
… read the rest >>
On certain editing forums, few topics are more likely to inspire passionate debate than the use of macros and wildcards. For many years they have gradually been seeping into our editing practices, and they are now essentials for some editors while for others they remain irrelevant complications – perhaps even distractions from the ‘true’ business of editing: engaging with a text.
Copy-editors and proofreaders rarely get any direct contact with or feedback from typesetters. As such, we can never quite be sure whether our markup and working practices are helpful and sufficient or whether we’re causing confusion and wasted time. Developments in technology – for example, the use of styles in Word and the use of Acrobat’s built-in markup tools – have led to further options and possibilities, with the result that there is no single ‘right’ way of marking up text.
As a project manager, I am lucky to be in the middle of this process, so I have an insight into what works (i.e., what causes a project to progress smoothly) and what doesn’t (i.e., what causes errors, delays and even additional costs).
I’m delighted, too, to be able to welcome the voices of the major India-based typesetters Aptara and SPi to this post. These typesetters handle hundreds of titles per week for many of the world’s major publishers, so they work with mark-up from huge numbers of copy-editors and proofreaders.… read the rest >>
I am a huge advocate of comprehensive and well-organised style sheets. When copy-editing and proofreading, they help me to clearly summarise the style decisions I’ve made and communicate them to my client. And, in my project management work, they are indispensable tools for corralling copy-editors on multi-editor projects and for keeping styles consistent throughout copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, collating and indexing. I’ve previously written about how editors should never fail to provide a proper style sheet (see point 4).
I’ve recently been experimenting with a new technique in my own style sheets: the use of the combo box (also known as a dropdown list). These allow inputting of a set of pre-defined options, one of which is later chosen by clicking on the list and selecting an item.
So how can combo boxes be used in style sheets? Well, I find that the process of compiling a style sheet can be quite time consuming.… read the rest >>
But, however good your editorial skills, they may not be able to save you from losing a client to certain common etiquette pitfalls. I’ve collected seven of these below. These examples particularly apply to relationships with traditional project managers (PMs) or production editors. However, they can apply to relationships with business or self-publisher clients too.
Avoid these ‘sins’ to lessen your chances of irritating your client into dropping you as a supplier.
1. Bad filing
Unhelpfully named documentation can be a hindrance and gives a poor impression of your professionalism. When communicating with your PM or other members of the project team, try to pick email subjects and file names that will be helpful to everyone. For example:
- Never title an email ‘Index’, ‘Queries’, ‘Complete’, ‘Help please!’ or any other unspecific term.
In my project-management capacity, I generally have an encyclopaedia or two on the go at any one time. These usually range from around 500,000 to around 1.5 million words. The largest modern encyclopaedias are upwards of 40 million words (Britannica’s 2013 print edition has 44 million).
These are difficult works to handle, with a whole raft of consistency and data-handling considerations that simply don’t apply to ‘normal’ books.
Compared to Wikipedia, though, they’re like children’s picture books. The largest encyclopaedia I’ve ever worked on had four volumes and was around 2 million words. That’s 0.075% of Wikipedia, which according to its own figures currently contains approximately 2.6 billion words.
Just for squeaks and giggles, let’s pretend we’ve been asked to manage the production of Wikipedia and estimate the costs and time involved in putting all 2.6 billion words, or around 4.5 million articles, through the standard process of readying a book for publication.… read the rest >>
In a recent post I said that copy-editors and proofreaders should always ask, ask, ask if they find their client’s instructions unclear or aren’t sure what’s wanted. In this impromptu post I’d like to expand on that a little.
When editorial project managers (PMs) write briefs, they try to make them perfect. They really do. They endeavour to make them complete, unambiguous and as concise as possible.
But the reality is that they will make mistakes. Especially with more complex, bespoke books.
I recently wrote a detailed twenty-one-page brief for the copy-editors of an encyclopaedia. I started the brief almost from scratch as I was in the midst of a major overhaul of my paperwork, and inevitably the brief contained some inconsistencies, typos and ambiguities. It would be crazy if it hadn’t; after all, the very premise we editors and proofreaders build our livelihoods on is that no human being – whether publisher, author or indeed professional copy-editor or proofreader – is capable of editing their own work with a clear eye.… read the rest >>
Editorial Pick ’n’ Mix is an eclectic weekly roundup of five tips or news items relevant to publishing, copy-editing and proofreading. The premise is that only a few minutes of semi-targeted reading every day of the (working) week will inevitably expand your editorial brain with new perspectives, ideas, resources and skills. Take a look at my recent post on professionalism – the inspiration for Editorial Pick ’n’ Mix – for more tips on how to boost that all-important asset.
Monday: New editions of Oxford’s trio of style essentials released
New Hart’s Rules, the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors and the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press, are now out in their second editions (confusingly, these are now the second of the ‘new’ editions). OUP are trumpeting that the new-new editions have been ‘updated for the twenty-first century’ in collaboration with professional copy-editors and proofreaders.… read the rest >>