Friday, May 28, 2021

Copyediting: Little things I learned along the way

Here are a few little things learned by experience (read: I screwed up!):
  • If the publisher doesn't already state it, ask if they want track changes on or off
  • Look through the entire document before doing global changes
  • Always, always, always keep a backup copy of the originals
  • Use a cloud service as well as a local backup for everything in case your computer dies (it will at some point)
  • Clarify the hierarchy of styles
  • Even if you are sure you will remember why you made the changes you did, keep a style sheet recording them. You will be glad you did.
OK, why did I say these things?

Every publisher is different. Some want track changes always on; some want it always off. Others (most, in my experience), even if they want track changes, don't want global changes marked. E.g., most don't want the elimination of double spaces tracked. I failed to ask about track changes for a publisher once, and consequently haven't worked for that publisher since. They wanted them and when I didn't do it (because most of the ones I had worked for at the time didn't), that was the first and last time I worked for them.

Caution!! If there are graphics in a document, they are frequently surrounded by extra spaces. If you do a global search and replace on double spaces, you will delete the image too! Yes, I know, it's screwy, but that is how Word works (or doesn't!). Which is why, you always, always, always look through the document first. And, it is why you always, always, always keep a backup of the originals. Two reasons: the one I just mentioned, and two, to refer to if something looks screwy—especially if there is Hebrew or some other right-to-left language. Word doesn't do well with them and sometimes you delete something without knowing it.

And while we're at it, beware of paging in Word. It can make it look like there is something missing or something duplicated at automatic page breaks. If it looks like that is true, always do a couple of page up/page downs to get Word to rewrite the screen.

Also, Word likes to automatically repage things and that frequently makes the first couple of footnotes disappear. The only way I've been able to make them reappear (short of restarting Word) is to do a global paragraph reformat (Cmd-A, Cmd-opt-M). If it shows up as a tracked change, do a Cmd-Z to reset; the footnotes will remain visible.

And, do not ever do a global change in the footnotes that involves the final paragraph marker! You will no longer see that footnote and won't be able to edit it.

OK, enough about Word.

I can't stress enough to use a cloud service (or two) for backups. I use two: One for deep storage, and one for day-to-day. I'm cheap and don't want to pay for them, so that's why I have two. But, redundancy is also a good thing. I also have Time Machine on my computer for local backups. But, someday, your computer will die at the most inopportune time. If that happens, and your backup computer (you do have a backup computer, don't you?!) isn't able to access the Time Machine backup, guess what? Yep. If you aren't live saving to a cloud service, you're up that proverbial creek.

I always tell people there are three kinds of people: Those who have lost a file they desperately need, those who will, and those who lie. I've been messing around with personal computers since 1982 or 1983, when I built my first one from a Heathkit (remember them?). I accidentally deleted an important system file on the original disk in the first month. Fortunately, my dad had the identical computer and I was able to recover it from his. But I learned right there to make backups, make backups, make backups. And even so, I've lost files. Like the time that the removable hard drive failed. No, it didn't just fail, it deleted everything on the disk! And, not content to do that, it corrupted the original, too, on the hard drive it was backing up from.

Keep a style sheet. Notate anything you do that deviates from the hierarchy of styles for whatever reason. Also, keep a record of unfamiliar place names, people, or words that you had to look up in the dictionary because there are multiple options, or you couldn't remember whether they were open or closed compounds. You will forget!

OK, that's more than I intended to write today, so until the next installment...

Here's the table of contents for all the copyediting stuff.


David Reimer said...

This looks like a fascinating series! Question for you: is there any sign in the industry from your perspective of moving away from such heavy reliance on Word? Personally, I don't get on well with it (have had too many glitches with it!), and far FAR prefer working in LibreOffice Writer for a word processor. But between Markdown and Pandoc, there shouldn't even be a need for a word processor! Any thoughts on these sorts of issues? Thanks!

jps said...

I wish! As I've said many times, I've disliked Word since version 1, way back in the mid-1980s. My preferences then were WordPerfect and a small outfit called WatchWord that allowed extensive customization—I also used WordStar a lot.

I've used the Open Office suite quite a bit, but with track changes, etc., it just doesn't work. I suspect we are stuck with Word for the foreseeable future. I know some presses have gone to importing the manuscript into InDesign and editing it there, with mixed success. I've not used InDesign, so I'm not competent to comment on it.

Sorry I don't have better news from my perspective.