The Wordstitch blog

Category Archives: Proofreading

In the editorial world, it’s generally thought that the person who copy-edited a text shouldn’t also be the person to proofread it.

This is a sound rule to follow wherever possible: a proofreader is often referred to as a ‘fresh pair of eyes’, and this freshness can be invaluable. In the same way that an author can become blind to the errors in their own work through overfamiliarity, a copy-editor tends to lose that ‘edge’ that comes with seeing a text anew.

Therefore, having a separate proofreader is usually the best strategy.

However, there are various valid reasons that an editor might find themselves proofreading text they’ve already copy-edited. For example, the anticipated proofreader might have dropped out at short notice. Alternatively, it can be attractive for authors if an editor offers a package of services containing both copy-editing and proofreading.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, what should you keep in mind?… read the rest >>

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At some point (hopefully very rarely), every proofreader and copy-editor will find themselves working on a project where it seems that somebody, somewhere, at some point, dropped the ball in a big way.

As a copy-editor, you might discover that the developmental editor seems to have let through major inconsistencies and that swathes of detail are missing. Or, as a proofreader, you might find that the copy-editor appears to have fed the style guide to a passing llama or didn’t seem to heed that the order of words in a sentence is actually somewhat important.

It can be really difficult to determine the most ethical and professional way to approach a situation of this kind. On the one hand, you might feel that the issues are so bad – so systemic – that they raise serious questions about the quality of the previous work. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that you have the whole picture: there are all sorts of potential reasons a manuscript could have reached you in a poor state, and you have no way of knowing who is responsible – if, indeed, any single person is responsible.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Freelancing, Paperwork, Project management, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The basics of proofreading are easy, right? You read through the text and mark errors to be corrected. Simple. But of course, as any competent proofreader at any level of experience knows, that’s not the whole story. A proofreader has to carry out numerous tasks to do with technical aspects, style and sense – not just spot where a crucial name is misspelled. As a result, a great deal of finesse is needed to pull off a truly professional proofreading job.

During nearly 12 years in publishing, both in-house and freelance, I’ve seen and done a lot of proofreading. As well as proofreading for other project managers, I manage upwards of 5 million words per year as a project manager of academic encyclopedias and books. Most of those words have to be proofread, so I spend a lot of my time briefing proofreaders, answering their questions, and checking and collating their corrections.… read the rest >>

Posted in Popular posts, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Whether it’s done accidentally, unthinkingly or with malice aforethought, plagiarism is a perennial problem in publishing. Sometimes it might result from an author’s genuine ignorance of the rules and conventions surrounding the reproduction of others’ work; sometimes it might be a shortcut (for example, if an author is commissioned to write in a language other than their own and struggles to formulate their own words); and sometimes it is simply the deliberate theft of another author’s words.

Whatever the case, it is deemed ethically unacceptable and may lead to major legal and reputational damage for the plagiariser and the publisher.

Definition of plagiarism

Plagiarism is the reproduction without credit or permission of material (text or images) previously published elsewhere in such a way that the material appears to be one’s own. It applies to material of any length, even a few words, and it encompasses ideas as well as actual words.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Monetising feedback and embracing fragilityNot long ago, I met up with three old university friends who are all employed by (or have been employed by) large public-sector organisations. Their work environments (the support and demands of a corporate structure; the necessity of wearing shoes with rigid soles) couldn’t be more different from mine (the freedom to improve or damage my business unchecked by rules set by others; an office six metres from my bed). Yet I always learn things from our work-related chats, whether in the form of direct tips to apply to my business or reflections that give me an altered viewpoint on how I exist as a small business owner. I’d like to share two of those reflections with you.

Next to money, feedback is the most valuable commodity we get from our clients

Whether through direct reporting, receipt of career mentoring, performance evaluations or 360-degree reviews, my employed friends receive a vast amount more feedback on their work than I do as a self-employed person.… read the rest >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Getting work, Professional development, Proofreading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I spent the weekend just gone in Birmingham at the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference – my fourth. There were over 30 hours of excellent CPD and networking opportunities, and I’ve emerged re-invigorated and with plenty of new ideas for my business and personal development, if a little brain-weary:

This year I was also asked to be a speed mentor, and I spent a stimulating hour chatting to three other SfEP members about their professional goals and helping them with sticking points and hurdles. And it was fabulous to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and put faces to names and Twitter handles.

Sessions

I always enjoy how the SfEP conference blends opportunities for reflection – on what it is to be an editor and on editorial practice – with more direct and specific chunks of learning.… read the rest >>

Posted in Editing, Getting work, Paperwork, Professional development, Project management, Proofreading, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

TypesettingCopy-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 >>

Posted in Client relations, Editing, Paperwork, Project management, Proofreading, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Combo BoxesI 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.

Why?

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 >>

Posted in Editing, Paperwork, Popular posts, Professional development, Project management, Proofreading, Tools | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Respect and the inner robot in editingI recently edited an academic book on Nazi Germany and, as is standard copy-editing practice, checked the spelling and diacritics of all proper nouns and non-English words: the Polish ‘el’ in Che?mno; the triple-consonant ‘sch’ in Mischlinge; the umlaut in Röhm. I’ve found that, with experience, copy-editing functions like this have become almost automatic. A ‘bzzzt’ noise in my brain flags that I’ve just read something I need to check, and I’m consulting the client’s house style guide, Alt-tabbing to my style sheet or copy-pasting into an appropriate dictionary or Google almost before I realise.

But in some books, like the one mentioned above, this mechanical approach jars with the content. My editor brain is tripping happily through the text prissily pouncing on errors while my human brain is fixated on the horror or the sadness (or in other cases the hilarity) of what the author is describing.

This calculating approach can seem cold, inadequate, insensitive.… read the rest >>

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Authorial voice - the bogeyman?‘Don’t intrude on the author’s voice’ is one of the first things every new proofreader or copy-editor is told. This is both a very helpful and an utterly useless piece of advice. It is helpful because it is absolutely true, but it is useless because it rarely seems to be defined just what on earth authorial voice is.

Is it just one of those conveniently nebulous concepts that can be thrown down as a trump card to back up a quavering argument? Or can it be pinned down as a real ‘thing’, distinct from all the other aspects of written language that editors have to worry about?

Let’s ponder.

Things authorial voice probably isn’t

1. Grammar, or the disregard thereof (see also below). The conventions according to which other human beings understand punctuation marks and sentence syntax must be adhered to if your author wishes to be understood (though less so in fiction than non-fiction).… read the rest >>

Posted in Editing, Proofreading, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments