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If you’re an editorial professional, or you need the help of one, this is a blog worth reading! It’s packed full of useful insights and handy hints, and anyone who wants to know more about ‘making words count’ will not want to miss these posts.

Tips for editing tables in Word

Post by Merle Read and Susan Milligan

February’s Local SfEP Group meeting in Glasgow covered some exciting topics, including training events north of the border, writing more useful blog posts and the coming Scottish mini-conference. But there was also the added bonus of an extremely handy presentation on Word tables by two of the Glasgow Editors’ Network’s most experienced members, Merle Read and Susan Milligan. And this was just too useful not to share!

Whether you’re an experienced copy-editor or just starting out, editing tables can be tricky and, frankly, a bit of a faff. But with these tips* from Word gurus Merle and Susan under your belt, your efficiency will increase in no time.

* Instructions given refer to Word 2013, but plenty of the advice will apply to other versions of the program.

Getting organised in Word

Authors often use tabs or hard returns in the wrong places to make the table look right in Word: toggle Ctrl/Shift+8 to show these (or use on the Home tab). Remove unwanted spaces/tabs/returns. The typesetter will take care of the look.

Show the ruler (via the View tab) to enable easy resizing of columns, alignment of decimal tabs etc.

Use Tab to move forward and Shift+Tab to move backward in a table. Use Tab in the last cell of a table to add an extra row, or press Return with the cursor at the very far end of a row to insert a new row immediately below.

If you want an actual tab, use Ctrl+Tab.

Make a few keyboard shortcuts (instructions below) to add/delete table rows, e.g.

Alt+F9    insert row above the cursor
Alt+F10  insert row below the cursor
Alt+F11  delete current row (repeat as required to delete the table)

Changing the design and layout

To alter the table design or layout, place the cursor in the table and use the Design or Layout tabs that then appear on the ribbon or right-click for a menu that allows you to insert/delete/merge cells/rows/columns, change text direction or alter other table properties. NB merging neighbouring cells can sometimes mess things up: use with care, preferably once the rest of the table editing is complete.

You can also use the mouse to hover over various parts of the table to enable you to alter the design/layout. Hover over a line to click and drag the column width, or click on the 4-arrowed cross at the top left corner (appears when the cursor is within the table) to bring up a mini-ribbon of options:

Screenshot of mouse hover over a Word table

Click on the cross and then press Delete to remove the table content but leave the structure intact (it may be useful to copy & paste the skeleton if you have similar tables to edit).

Use the Border Painter in the Design tab to remove/add lines (set to No Border or a specific line width as required) by drawing the cursor over the lines. Esc key to cancel.

Screenshot of Border Painter

Choose the View Gridlines option in the Layout tab (the cursor must be in the table unless you have set up a shortcut to ShowTableGridlines).

SCreenshot of a Word table with gridlines showing

This allows the structure of the table to be clear even though various cell borders will be invisible in the final version:

Screenshot of a Word table without gridlines showing

To view an extra-wide table that disappears off the edge of the page, use Draft view (but when editing it check that it is not too wide for the page size for which is it destined in print). You could also select the table and reduce the font size for a better fit: let the designer worry about the look! Or change the page format to landscape (you may need to insert section breaks if the other pages are to remain portrait).

If copy & pasting, make sure the number of rows/columns being copied is no larger than the area of the table being pasted to.

Avoid using Track Changes when editing tables if possible (or at least don’t use it when formatting).

Checking your table is correct

Convert table to text and text to table (Insert tab, Table menu) as a temporary tool while editing (e.g. 2-column lists). This is also a way of testing whether a table is presented correctly – a correct table should convert to text and back again (one cell – one entry – no hard returns within cells).

To align numbers in columns on the decimal point (or on the right-hand digit if there is no decimal point), first left-align the column and then select the decimal tab from the top left of the ruler; then, with the whole column selected, place the tab on the ruler above the column heading at your chosen position.

Achieving consistency with Word tables

To format a series of tables consistently, use Word’s styles (either in the document or, preferably, in a custom template attached to the document). You can create paragraph styles for table title, column heading, table stub, table body, table bottom row (for tables that have a ‘Total’ row at the end), etc. If you base them all on one core style (e.g. ‘table text’), all will change if you make a change to that style (e.g. to change the font).

Screenshot of Word Styles dialog box

It’s fine to use the same font, size, formatting, and paragraph attributes for all the table styles if you are using styles not for the sake of the appearance of the tables (as it is the typesetter’s job to design them) but for efficiency and consistency. List the styles used for the typesetter, who can then convert the Word styles to the desired formatting in InDesign.

What if there are footnotes in the table?

If your author has embedded tables in a document that have auto-numbered notes, check that the tables don’t contain footnotes that are part of this numbering system. If they do, take these notes out of auto-numbering (or cut and paste the tables into a new document) and manually renumber the table footnotes (using alphabetic rather than numeric numbering). If a table just has one note, you can use an asterisk to indicate it (depending on house style). If it is a note that applies to the whole table, it will just appear below the table as ‘Note. …’.

There may also be a ‘Source’ below the table, normally positioned after any table note(s).

How to add a keyboard shortcut

Go to File/Options/Customize Ribbon/

Creating a Word keyboard shortcut

In the Categories box choose Table Tools | Layout Tab.

In the Commands box choose e.g. TableInsertRowAbove.

In the Press new shortcut key box, type the desired key combination, e.g. Alt+F9 (check it’s not already assigned to something you already use: if so, “Currently assigned to …” will be displayed).

Click Assign (essential!) then either return to the Commands box to add another shortcut, or click Close.

Keep a reminder of your shortcuts by printing them out. Bring up the Print dialog box. Under the Settings heading click on the Print All Pages dropdown. Under Document Info, choose Key Assignments, then click Print.

 

Do you have any tips of your own to add to these? Be sure to leave a comment. Or if you’d like to find out more, we’ve listed some relevant resources below.

Further reading

Butcher’s Copy-editing, 4th edn, pp. 220–9

Scientific Style and Format, 8th edn, ch. 30; 6th edn, ch. 31, pp. 678–93

See also https://wordribbon.tips.net/C0683_Tables.html

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Susan has learned about tables over the years by having to deal with them when editing on screen, as well as from an SfEP conference workshop on the subject by Penny Howes in 2009. Tables used to be a chore but she now enjoys getting to grips with them.

Merle (@MA_Read) has been wrangling with Word tables for over 20 years and tries to do so as efficiently as possible.

Everyone needs an editor

Post by Chris Bryce

‘If only I hadn’t said that’ … a phrase familiar to the broken-hearted following a heated row, or the regretful employee the morning after the office party. What would the miserable lover or tipsy partygoer have given for a filter on their spoken words? The answer would probably be … anything!

Given half a chance, they would have spotted their errors, stopped the conversation, cut out the offending sections of dialogue, reformatted the chat and started again.

Luckily, it’s different for the written word, because the writer can choose to get a fresh pair of eyes to act as that filter. And if those eyes are inside the head of a professional editor, who understands exactly where and why mistakes are made, then the writer will never have the unpleasant task of trying to claw back the words they’ve put on paper.

What do editors do?

Copy-editors know how to make words work well and deal with a wide variety of text – from T-shirt slogans, website wording and marketing materials, to academic papers, technical manuals and published books.

Whatever they’re working on, the copy-editor’s aim is always to improve the wording and format. Often referred to as the seven Cs of editing, an editor’s focus is to make the text: clear, correct, coherent, complete, concise, consistent and credible.

The human brain is hard-wired to fill in the blanks as we read. This gives us the ability to speed-read or scan our eyes over text. It’s a useful skill when we want to take in lots of information quickly, but it can also lead to us skipping over some outrageous errors without seeing them.

Here’s an example of what can go wrong. A healthcare provider had thousands of flyers printed to invite the local community to a ‘Pubic Health Day’. Of course, the flyers were meant to read ‘Public’. A funny mistake? The Chief Executive wasn’t laughing. Money was wasted on printing those useless flyers.

This example also perfectly demonstrates the unreliable nature of spellcheckers. ‘Pubic’ wouldn’t have been picked up by a computer program because it is a word; just not the right word here. Involving an editor or proofreader in the process would have saved a lot of time, money and embarrassment.

Who edits the editors?

It’s amazing how often good writers develop blind spots and fail to notice clanging typos and clichéd or overused words or terms.

Mismatched images and captions are another common area for mistakes, along with wonky formatting, punctuation and grammar. A text can have too few or too many headings, a variety of fonts and a host of other issues. Even copy-editors benefit from help with their own text and regularly seek the assistance of proofreaders to pick up on the unintentional typos and grammatical slips that can plague even the most elegant writing. Proof-editing (a combination of copy-editing and proofreading) is a comprehensive way to capture all of the problems with a piece of text, and turn good writing into excellent writing.

Don’t live to regret your words

It’s an editor’s job to help you make the most of your writing. But, perhaps more importantly, an editor will also help you to keep your reputation intact, making sure any written mistakes are never made public. (Or should that be pubic?)

As far as a verbal filter is concerned … well, drop me a line if you find the answer to that one!

 

For local, qualified copy-editors and proofreaders, take a look at our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris is an editor, proofreader and copywriter, with over ten years of experience across business, organisational and creative writing areas.

 

Cutting … cutting … cutting

Post by Lucy Metzger

Have you seen the Python sketch (episode 9) in which Michael Palin is a barber who is clearly disturbed and constantly almost on the point of stabbing his client, while trying to restrain himself? The client (Terry Jones) just wants a haircut.

Barber  You wouldn’t rather forget all about it?
Customer  No, no, no, I want it cut.Barber  Cut, cut, cut, blood, spurt, artery, murder, Hitchcock, Psycho … right sir … well …

Barber [later]  I’ve finished cutting … cutting … cutting your hair. It’s all done.

Because this leads into the Lumberjack Sketch, people tend not to remember the psychotic barber. But I do.
I mention this because I have an enthusiastic and perhaps unhealthy interest in cutting text. An early editorial gig of mine was in encyclopedias. I would be given an entry of perhaps 2,000 words, written by a specialist who just wanted to say everything about the topic, that I had to cut down to 200 words. I loved doing this.It wasn’t purely destructive: I liked the challenge of preserving the best and most interesting of the author’s offering while paring away the unnecessary. Destruction is fun, though. I like stripping wallpaper and breaking down old cupboards and chopping dead bits off trees. But there again, I’m getting rid of what I don’t want and leaving the good stuff.

An experienced colleague told me ‘You can cut anything by ten per cent’. (One time when I couldn’t sleep I tried to work out if you could go on doing this and have anything left. You approach zero pretty fast.) I tend to cut my own writing obsessively. You have no idea how long this post was before I posted it. Sometimes I feel I should just let myself write and leave it, but then I spot a word I don’t need … and another …

I bet YOU could cut this post by ten per cent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucy Metzger is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader, working mostly in teaching materials and academic and reference books, and a member of the Glasgow SfEP group. She is also the vice-chair of the SfEP.

How I got into editing – Max’s story

Post by Max Hepburn

Ever wondered how a person becomes ‘an editor’? This post is the first in our ‘How I got into editing’ series. These pieces are designed to give you some insight into the varied backgrounds of our members (we’ve come from all walks of life) and how we became embroiled in the wonderful world of editing.

Here is Max Hepburn’s story.

After completing my degree in French and German at Strathclyde University in the 1990s, I planned to pursue an academic career. First, I taught English at university in the north of France and then I spent two years as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in French back at Strathclyde. These years in academia helped me to work out where my true passion lay – not in teaching, but in pure language itself. (I attribute this in part to a rather unhealthy addiction to French puns, which I developed while teaching in Amiens.)

An intriguing job advertisement in Strathclyde’s careers advice department caught my attention with its headline ‘Linguists for Translation Work’. A technical translation agency near London was looking for Translation Checkers (bilingual proofreaders) to work in their office, and I leapt at the chance.

Exercising the little grey cells

For 10 years, I munched my way through thousands of intellectual property documents, ensuring the accuracy of translations from German and French into English. I also had to correct grammar, punctuation, syntax etc. to make sure that the text of the English translation flowed smoothly, and that it was easy to understand. The source documents we worked from were often full of mistakes, and so I had to draw on all my language training to untangle the mess. It really was a full workout for the brain every day.

The scientific, technical, legal, financial and medical texts we dealt with were very often exceptionally complex, especially the German ones with their mile-long sentences and sub-sub-sub clauses! I seemed to encounter every subject matter under the sun: gene technology, automotive engineering, nuclear power plants, shampoo formulae, cutting-edge medical research papers, underwear fabric design, bouncy castles, cow-scrubbing devices … the list is infinite.

GSOH required

It goes without saying that this kind of work could become tedious after a while. Of course, it was always fun to receive an amusing document, the subject matter of which raised the occasional eyebrow, but for the most part the reading was mind-numbing. Therefore, my colleagues and I would devise various ways to amuse ourselves and stave off the inevitable boredom that stalked us daily. Puns were our favourite, and whenever someone in our team happened upon a ripe phrase in the document they were working on, he or she would announce it, and the pun marathon would begin. Chickens, cheese and anything vaguely saucy were always reliable subjects for endless hours of linguistic tomfoolery.

This work, I have to say, embedded in me a profound affinity with, and love for, the myriad intricacies of language in all its manifestations, especially at the interface between different languages. Needless to say, my ‘proofreader’ head is now permanently on, as it will often be for most editors. I have worked in other industries, completely unrelated to language, but those 10 years in England put me squarely on the path to becoming an editor.

Support is all around

It has been a real boon to discover the Glasgow Editors’ Network, and to get to know other editors through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Glasgow area group. The meetings are always fun and I am absorbing lots of useful advice from fellow group members about starting out as a freelance editor. I look forward to developing my career in such great company.

Just beginning a career as a freelance copy-editor or proofreader? Come along to the next SfEP Glasgow group meeting. Contact Denise Cowle for details.

Looking for an editor or proofreader? Head to our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Max Hepburn is an Entry-Level Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, after 10 years working in the translation industry. Alongside building up his career as a freelance editor and proofreader, Max enjoys singing in choirs, playing piano, cycling long distances and eating cake.

How to return a job to your client

Post by Jill Broom, based on meeting notes written by Lucy Metzger

While it’s true that there are lots of ways to go about returning a piece of work to a client – every editor has their own ‘style’, and every job is different – there are some things that we commonly include in our handover notes. For example, we’ll often compile a style sheet and word list; notes for the typesetter or designer; and a list of queries or issues that the client will need to resolve or be aware of. Clients also regularly ask for a list of running heads and/or a list or log of artwork, figures and tables. But is there a ‘best practice’ for returning a job?

Recently, members of the Glasgow Editors’ Network got together to explore this idea. We shared our approaches to producing comprehensive, clear explanatory notes to accompany our work. And it became clear that the following practices work well for many in the group.

3 tips for producing a stellar handover note

1. Produce a good style sheet with the job.

This may evolve into a style guide, particularly with an ongoing project involving multiple publications. Note: Could you get yourself commissioned to produce the style guide for an appropriate additional fee?

One of our colleagues uses an Excel workbook to send information to the client, with different tabs for general style principles, exceptions to these, a word list, and a list of outstanding issues needing the client’s attention. (This is handy as it collects all the info into one easily referenced file.)

2. Include author queries and the author’s answers with the returned job.

And here’s some food for thought when it comes to framing and formatting those queries:

  • Prepare three columns: the first with a pasted-in chunk of text, the next with the associated query, and the third with space for the author to answer.
  • Remember that brief, succinct queries are more likely to get useful answers.
  • If it’s a sizeable job, you could send author queries in batches, e.g. a list for each chapter or group of chapters.
  • Do a preliminary read-through or skim to assess what kinds of issues, and therefore queries, are likely to come up.
  • Send a document to the author with Track Changes, allowing him/her to reply to particular comments on the spot. (But watch out, some authors may be tempted to tinker with other parts of the document while they’re doing this.)
  • If more than one person is working on your document, take care! For example, a shared document in Dropbox can cause difficulties. Avoid problems by taking the document out of Dropbox, working on it, and then putting it back with a different version name. This also avoids the problem of thousands of notifications being sent to all sharers of the document while you edit it.
  • Use Google Docs? Ever had the creepy experience of working on a document at the same time that another person is observing what you are doing and commenting on it? Ask them to stop (politely).


3. ALWAYS return a job well.

Ok, so some clients appreciate a good handover note more than others. Some, perhaps in particular non-publishers, may not be interested in (or just don’t have time to go through) word lists and style decisions. They simply want the job done well. However, others WILL be grateful and perhaps surprised to know about what kinds of issues have come up and what decisions have had to be made.

A good handover note can help the client to see what value you have added to their project, and – importantly – how you could help them in the future.

Need an editor or proofreader with great communication skills? Search our Directory now.

Want more tips from Glasgow’s best editors? Come along to the next local SfEP meeting. Contact Denise Cowle for more info.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Broom is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing/editing skills – adaptability! Check out her LinkedIn page or follow her on Twitter @honeybroom
Jill based this post on group meeting notes written by Lucy Metzger. Lucy is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader, working mostly in teaching materials and academic and reference books, and a member of the Glasgow SfEP group. She is also the vice-chair of the SfEP.

How to market yourself (& where to find other great tips for freelance editors)

Post by Jill Broom

Despite being chained to our desks, dealing with looming deadlines most of the time, every so often Glasgow’s freelance editors like to get out to catch up with other like-minded beings. Consequently, many of us belong to the local Society for Editors and Proofreaders group which meets once a month at The Singl End café in Garnethill – where, by the way, the cakes are delicious.

But we’re not just there to guzzle great food and bemoan the misuse of apostrophes (there’s another dedicated society for that). We’re there to get support from our freelance colleagues and gather useful tips that will help us in our quest to become editorial ninjas.

Often, one of us will share our expertise on a particular topic – for example, using Word Styles or PerfectIt – or lead a discussion about how to improve or update our methodology. As freelancers, these meetings are an invaluable part of our ongoing professional development.

In March, it was time to find out more about how to market our services. And our resident expert, Chris Bryce, was there to help. Chris holds a Masters in Business Administration and has spent the best part of a year refreshing her marketing mojo in preparation for ramping up her editorial business. Here are her eight top tips …

8 steps to marketing magic

1. Get a marketing plan

The very nature of freelancing means that marketing yourself often ends up being bumped down the to-do list in favour of getting actual paid work done. But it should really be treated with the respect it deserves – especially if you want to ensure your quieter times are no longer quiet.

Good information about building a marketing plan specific to our kind of business can be found in the SfEP guide by Sara Hulse, Marketing Yourself: Strategies to promote your editorial business, and Louise Harnby’s Marketing your Editing and Proofreading Business.

2. Prepare a CV

You need something written down that tells people about your experience and what you can do for them. This could be in the form of a CV that’s informative but concise and easily adaptable to each target client. Or, if a traditional CV seems a bit stuffy, change it into a smart, compelling flyer instead – sell your skills! And, when you know exactly what services you’re going to provide, get yourself listed on as many free online directories as possible.

3. Nail your direct marketing

Even though you’re just a little-ol’ sole trader, you should be thinking of yourself as a brand. And to help ‘build your brand’, you must have a consistent style across your communication formats. Your website, flyers, social media profiles and business cards must all look, sound and ‘feel’ the same. This makes you more memorable, and ­– hey ­– you’re an editor, so consistency’s kind of important anyway.

But when it comes to targeting the right people, you’re also going to have to be prepared to engage with them for the long haul. And this means gathering and storing knowledge about them. Build a database detailing conversations you’ve had with individuals in organisations you’d like to work for … Remembering someone’s birthday or asking about their holiday in Greece might just swing a job in your favour.

4. Network, network, network

I know, I know … I give an involuntary shudder at the thought of this, too. But, as Chris points out, networking is really just making the most of human connections.

In Glasgow there are loads of networking opportunities, for example, Jobs and Business Glasgow and Business Gateway hold regular events. And (the one we all can’t wait to try) Weegie Wednesdays is a regular meeting of people interested in all aspects of publishing. So, why not give it a whirl? You never know what might turn up as a result of simply getting to know more people.

5. Get any financial help going!

Setting up as a sole trader and new business? There IS funding out there! You may be able to apply for a New Enterprise Allowance (approx. £1200), which will give you access to advice and support as well as money. Or try Jobs and Business Glasgow for help with your plans and access to a £200 start-up grant. This funding can help cover the costs of training, equipment and professional development as well as marketing.

6. Take advantage of free marketing courses

Did you know that you don’t even have to pay a fortune to learn the basics of marketing? Scotland’s Local Authorities run free training courses in things like Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. You don’t even have to live in a specific authority to access its events!

7. Head to your local library

If you can trust yourself not to get distracted by all those fabulous books you’ve been meaning to read, Glasgow’s libraries provide resources that can help you target your direct marketing. For example, you can search for the contact details of up to 1000 businesses each year. And, the good news is, you don’t have to pay a penny.

8. Always ask for client feedback

This is for three reasons. One, you can find out where a new client got your details from (i.e. ‘Yes! That flyer was a winner’) and use this information to inform your marketing plan. Two, you can address any concerns that may not lead to repeat business. And, three, if your client is delighted with your work, you can ask them for a testimonial – one of the best marketing tools out there.

To find out more about Chris Bryce, head to her website at www.spotlighteditorial.com

Like to learn more about how to run your freelance editorial business, or how to improve your editing/proofreading skills? Come along to the next Glasgow SfEP meeting on Wednesday 18th May. For more information, contact Group Coordinator Denise Cowle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability! Check out her LinkedIn page or follow her on Twitter @honeybroom.

The ups and downs of working from home

Post by Carolyn Fox

Before I get started, I should probably explain that I say working ‘from home’ because that’s the phrase to which we are all accustomed. Strictly though, I think that applies to the increasing number of employees who work a day or two a week at home instead of the office, rather than someone like me who is self-employed – I work ‘at home’. And, of course, we mustn’t forget people who work ‘in the home’, as I did when I gave up my full-time job as a solicitor to care for my children … But, semantics aside, let’s get to the point.

Whenever I tell anyone that I work from home I’m usually asked two questions:
1. Don’t you get distracted/find it difficult to concentrate?2. Don’t you get lonely? (Particularly pertinent as I’m now officially an ‘empty-nester’ – my youngest son has just gone off to university!)

The answer to number one is easy: there is nothing like a looming deadline to concentrate the mind! I know that if I miss a return date my client is not going to employ me again. Experience tells me that reliability is one of the qualities that clients value most in a freelancer so, if I want that all-important repeat business, I must get the job back on time.

Do I get lonely? Yes, of course one can feel a little isolated at times, but there are ways round this. As a freelancer, it’s up to me when I do my work and so a few times a week I will make sure I go out for a walk or have coffee with a friend, either at lunchtime or perhaps first thing in the morning. And because I don’t have to spend hours commuting, I have time in the evenings to pursue my other interests.

Also not to be forgotten are professional contacts – not least our Glasgow SfEP local group. It’s amazing how quickly our monthly meetings come around! It’s a real tonic to meet other people in the same line of work and to have the opportunity to discuss issues we’ve encountered in the weeks between meetings. In short, I choose who to spend my time with (and when) rather than becoming embroiled in office politics.

Freelancing is not for everyone: you have to be self-motivated and self-sufficient, but I for one would not swap it with my old life in the office.

Want to give freelancing a go? Have a look at the SfEP guide Starting Out: Setting up a small business available at http://www.sfep.org.uk/resources/guides/#SO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn is an advanced professional member of the SfEP and specialises in law. A number of years ago she left her job as a solicitor in the south of England for working at home in the beautiful East Lothian countryside and has never looked back. Find out more about Carolyn here: www.carolynfox.co.uk.

To e-read or not to e-read?

Post by Jill Broom

… That is the question. Well, at least, it’s a question that’s come up a lot recently during my conversations with fellow book lovers.

A few years back, there was a flurry of excitement when it seemed everybody I knew, including me, got their first e-reader. Wasn’t it great how we could take it anywhere? It was cheaper (not great news for my chosen profession). It might be better for the environment (jury’s still out on this one). And – hooray – when we all eventually get arthritis, we’ll still be able to read without having to negotiate a cumbersome tome …

Yes, this did actually cross my mind. And, yes, I’m only in my 30s.

However, after all that initial gushing, we seem to have got over our devotion and more and more of us are delving back into a paperback or – shock-horror (and even more devil-may-care) a hardback. There are actually only a few folk that I know nowadays who rely completely on their e-readers. We all tend to move happily between the two forms.

Why do we still like print?

Well, there are a whole load of reasons for this. And good ones for your health too …

In an era when our online usage has skyrocketed, a good old-fashioned book gives us the opportunity to disconnect and switch off from the white noise, and it allows us to rest our eyes properly. There’s even some evidence to suggest that reading in print supports better comprehension and retention of the subject matter. And this brings me on to something else I noticed.

For me, there will never be anything like the smell of a new book … Secret shame: I don’t always go into a bookshop to buy; sometimes I just pop in for the aroma.

The scent of all those books is an instant comfort to me, and it’s this sensory impact that got me thinking about the other ways I use my senses when reading.

A ‘sense’-ible assessment?

I recently proofread a textbook written for teenagers that contained helpful tips about HOW to learn. Everyone is, of course, different – some are auditory learners, some visual learners and some simply learn from doing – kinaesthetic learners. Having never really thought about it before, it was while working on this book that I realised that I am, primarily, a visual learner.

This means that I’m good at visualising where on a page I might have seen a particular name, reference, fact, or part of the story. And this helps me remember it. Not exactly a photographic memory, but handy all the same.

Coupled with the ability to recall where roughly in the book I saw something by the thickness of the pages already read and those still to go (i.e. by touch) – I find e-readers are not my particular friend if I want to go back and check something.

The personal preference factor

So it seems I’m better off reading a hard copy, particularly if I’m reading something big and meaty. Or when I’m having a tired spell and reread the same three pages over and over again each night before falling asleep onto my e-reader, inadvertently pressing the touch screen, flying forward hundreds of pages and losing my ‘location’.

Just me? Maybe.

But that’s the point. I think it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks. And what suits them one day might not the next. So, it would be reasonable to conclude that both options are very much here to stay … and that we editorial types should always keep our options open.

If you need an editor to look over your e- OR print book, take a look at our Directory now.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability!

Why your business needs a proofreader

Post by Denise Cowle

The idea of somebody changing so much as a comma of your text may seem unthinkable. However, your familiarity with your work means that sometimes you see what you want to, rather than what is there. That’s how we can all miss obvious errors in our own work – we’re just too close to it. A ‘fresh eye’ is the best way to overcome this. A proofreader is sufficiently detached from your writing to spot mistakes and inconsistencies that distract the reader.

Not everyone is confident with spelling and grammar, but you shouldn’t rely on spelling and grammar checkers. Did you mean to say stationary or stationery? Compliment or complement? Automated spell checks can identify if a word has been spelled correctly, but not whether it was the correct word to use in the first place.

You may feel that it’s enough to have a colleague or friend who looks over your content. Are they always available when you need them? Are you confident in their ability to assess and improve your spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout, consistency and overall message?

Here are four reasons to consider using a professional:

  1. Knowing that your copy will be professionally proofread allows you to write the way you think, saving you time and allowing a professional to smooth your words into a clear message.
  2. You won’t have to ask friends and colleagues to take time out from their work to deal with yours – there’s only so much goodwill you can rely on, and eventually it just might run out.
  3. It will give you credibility. Can someone trust what you’re saying when your written work is inconsistent and contains errors? A poorly proofed report, brochure or website (or one that has not been proofed at all) will reflect badly on you and your company. Regardless of what you are saying, the reader will be distracted by errors and may even equate sloppy writing with sloppiness in other areas of your business. Professional proofreading eliminates errors to give your writing – and therefore your business – a professional and credible feel.
  4. Aim higher than ‘good enough’. Use a proofreader to polish your work, ensuring that you leave readers with a clear, error-free message.

Find a local, qualified proofreader in our Directory. Why would you settle for anything less?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Denise is an advanced professional member of the SfEP. She lives in Glasgow and her clients range from local individuals to global organisations. She was a chartered physiotherapist for 25 years but has moved on from manipulating joints to manipulating text. Check her out at www.denisecowleeditorial.com, or follow her on Twitter @dinnydaethat.

How to avoid ‘author query rage’

Post by Stephen Cashmore

There is plenty of advice in the textbooks and elsewhere about how to deal with queries you have for the author. Most of it is common sense:
  • Don’t write, ‘Dear author. This sentence is gobbledygook. Please supply something that is comprehensible,’ no matter how tempted you might be to do so.
  • Do write, ‘Dear author. I don’t quite follow [insert sentence here]. Can you clarify it for me?’

Oh yes, a copy-editor or proofreader’s shoulders need to be broad. (That’s not in the job description, is it?)

What else do the textbooks say?

Give an alternative where you can. Don’t just say, ‘I’m not sure that “serendipity” is quite the right word here,’ but add, ‘What about “luck”?’ More common sense, and often tedious to put into practice, but authors will thank you for anything that saves them some work.

Make sure they know where to look. ‘Dear author. I don’t think you can start this sentence with “Therefore” as there is no causality implied,’ might just get you the response, ‘Where is this?’ Much better to put a detailed reference in the query [‘Dear author: p6 l5’] or make inline queries in the document itself, depending on your preferred style.

You’ve heard all this before, and even if you haven’t seen it set out explicitly, you’d have the common sense to do all these things anyway, wouldn’t you?

But one piece of advice I don’t often see in print is to make sure that the query is actually a query, and that it is as closed as possible:

  • ‘Dear author. Should there be a sentence in between “… Armageddon.” and “The next day…”?’ Answer: ‘Yes.’
  • ‘Dear author. Is the Bloggs (forthcoming) reference still forthcoming?’ Answer: ‘No, it was published last year.’
  • Or even, ‘Dear author. Shall we use “serendipity” or “luck” here?’ Answer: ‘OK.’ Urgh.

There’s nothing worse than having to go back to clarify one of your own queries. Even if you are actually conveying more of a decision than a query, make sure the author can make a simple response:

  • ‘Dear author. I notice you capitalise Gamma more often than not, so I propose to standardise on Gamma rather than gamma. OK?’

Adding that simple ‘OK?’ can save you a lot of grief.

So next time you write out your author queries, by all means follow the textbook advice, but also make sure that your author knows exactly what is being asked and has a simple way to respond. If you don’t, you might find yourself subject to an intense bout of author query rage, for which there is no simple cure.

OK?

For a list of easy-to-work-with editors and proofreaders, head to our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen Cashmore is an advanced member of the SfEP who lives in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland. He is an ex-teacher, ex-accountant, ex-bridge player and ex-auditor, but threw all that over to become an editor after taking early retirement. Check out cashmoreeditorial.com