Category Archives: Editing

Editing Jamboree!

Finally got through two very difficult jobs, both math papers, both the products of erudite Chinese authors. One is a pretty interesting study of the ways air pollution flows around a highly urbanized area of China, shifting along the roads from city to city. The other: a very technical piece comparing four strategies for predicting the likelihood, by genetic analysis, of endometrial cancer.

It’s been a quiet summer of loafing, but now that September is y-cumin’ in, the academics are flocking back to their universities, and with them comes the imperative to publish or perish. So they’re sending new stuff my way.

The math stuff is particularly arcane, rife with Greek letters (often in subscript position) and the mathematicians’ own peculiar jargon. It’s hard to stay focused on it, because it really is, basically, a kind of mental exercise whose applicability to the real world is difficult to discern. Sometimes, one suspects, it has no more applicability to reality than do angels dancing on the head of a pin.

But I will say…it sure is better than reading freshman comp papers! 😀

Meanwhile, progress on creative work goes very, very slow. I find myself dreaming up scenes while driving or ironing or mopping floors, but when it comes down to…oh, you know…actually writing the stuff down? Well, not so much.

Plus lately I’ve had a social life, something I hardly know what to do with. Yesterday a group of friends coalesced over here, partying most of the day. We cooked up plans for a couple of girls’ day trips, which sounds like fun. Choir starts this Wednesday, and I see we have another potluck next weekend.

And a painter has been here, wrestling (in the ungodly heat!) with the job of repainting the Funny Farm’s exterior. As part of the job, he also agreed to lay on another coat of the gray I applied over an orange-colored interior wall, with surprisingly modest success. Mine, that is — not his. In under two hours, the guy had it looking gorgeous.

The inside of the house now looks very nice, and the outside is shaping up handsomely. So soon I will have to decide whether to stay here and brave the onslaught of derelict vagrants that have been transported into our neighborhood on the new light rail train, which goes up the main drag just to the west of us, or to sell for as much as I can extract and then take the money and run as far away from Bum Central as I can get.

My house is paid off, and you may be sure I do NOT want to take on another mortgage in my dotage. Because my pleasant little neighborhood serves as a buffer zone between a much fancier enclave to the east of us and a crime-ridden slum on the west of said main drag, prices here are depressed just enough that there’s no way in hell I could get a comparable home on a comparable lot in the area where I wish to live…not without putting myself in hock up to my schnozz.

That leaves, really, very few choices. One is Sun City: a ghetto for old folks. The other is Fountain Hills, a development on the far side of Scottsdale, pushing toward the road to Payson.

Both of them are very far away from my friends, my son, and all my social activities. And truth to tell I really don’t want to start my life all over again. So this situation has become something of a distraction.

Once the house tune-up is done, I’ll probably ask a friend who’s a Realtor if she thinks she can find me a place to live that I wouldn’t hate at a price that will not put me in hock.

But god…how I resent it!


Back on Varnis, the world with two moons and one empress of the known universe, our hero (one of them) is getting settled in his new position.

After three weeks on the job, Chad was looking forward to the day off he would earn after a double-moon of good service and acceptable behavior. It would be great fun, he imagined, to tell his mother and the Old Man all about life at a Great One’s estate. Particularly this great one: the Kai Suhuru himself. And his daughter. The daughter of the late Kaïna Djietti DelaMona, possibly the most exalted Kaïna in the entire ch’Molendi dynasty. He could still barely believe he’d landed in any such otherworldly service.

Things were going pretty well, so he thought.

Merren had kept Chad at his side during the first couple of weeks — for what felt like every living, breathing moment. They manned the Kai’s guard station together through cycles of swing shifts, stood guard together at the entrance gate, waited table together, and invariably worked out, practiced fighting, practiced shooting, and studied surveillance and intelligence reports together.

Eventually Merren had posted him at the station outside Rysha’s suite, where he could be watched from the far end of the third-floor hallway, and let him stand a few watches with other guys on the guard team. Pretty soon, he expected, he would get his own assignments, free of eyes over his shoulder.

Rysha — the Kaïna — seemed not to mind him so much, after all.

If she did, she had suppressed her ire.


Computer: Read Me My Story!

UPDATES: Un-fucking-BELIEVABLY, Apple dorked up access this wonderful feature in updates to its operating system. In OS 10.11.4 (El Capitan), you have to go to system preferences > dictation and speech. (Note how conveniently this is different from the earlier process.) Once there, click on “text to speech.” To get the Mac to read the highlighted passage in your Word document, FIRST you have to find the “speak selected text when the key is pressed” choice in “Text to speech.” If you click on this, it should show the default keyboard command, Option+Escape. It will not run this automatically. Even though the command appears to be a default, you have to proactively SELECT it to make it work. Once you’ve done that, your Mac probably will read a selected passage in Word aloud for you.



I, Reader...

I, Reader…

Here’s something fun, kinda silly, and useful: If you have an Apple computer, you can make your Mac read copy from Word out loud.

It is a hoot. You get a half-dozen choices of “voices”:  three female and three male. They all sound equally robotic. But surprisingly, they get most of the pronunciation right, they interpret the punctuation correctly, and the result is clear and easy to understand. And — here’s the thing! — listening to some”one” else read your copy aloud helps you to catch typos and glitches that you miss when you proof your own stuff. Even when you read your own stuff aloud, that gold standard of DIY copyediting.

I tried this out on a passage from an abstruse scholarly paper emanated by one of my clients. These things start out difficult to read because they’re about as exciting as watching a tree stump disintegrate. Then the task is complicated by the fact that my clients are native speakers of languages other than English. This author, for example, is in India….

Academic paper

There are also studies that compare Indian and foreign firms. Valuation of R&D is higher in India when compared to the US or Europe, and it is much higher for Indian firms than foreign firms invested in India, although the difference is smaller in science-based industries (Chadha & Oriani, 2010). Although average R&D levels have decreased, evidence is presented of rationalization and more efficiency of R&D spending, which rises faster with firm size and is directed toward assimilation of technology imports and toward support of exports (Kumar & Aggarwal, 2005). Both studies (Chadha & Oriani, 2010; Kumar & Aggarwal, 2005) also highlight the different profile of R&D pursued by Indian firms and subsidiaries of foreign multinational enterprises. These studies indicate a need to investigate the specific approaches adopted by Indian firms as opposed to foreign subsidiaries to improve returns on R&D investments.

Ah,  yes… another eye-glazing review of the literature. But note that our robot reader has no problem pronouncing Indian names — indeed, “he” does better with those than “he” does with an Italian name. And multisyllabic words are no problem.

Here, when we hear the copy read aloud, we quickly recognize that the word “when” in the second sentence isn’t quite right — possibly “as” would work better, because he’s not talking about something happening in response to an event or a trigger. Then we see that Author uses the word “although” twice in a short span, almost back-to-back: one of those needs to be fixed. These are small things we can massage to make the English sound more idiomatic.

Having plowed through 10,000 words of this and sent the thing back to the client, I decided to try Robo-Reader on my own golden words. Here’s what happens when the thing is applied to the rawest of rough drafts:

Draft fiction narrative

When they reached the corner Merren had specified, they climbed out of the car. Merren led Chadzar to a narrow alley. The buildings’ walls blocked most of the sunlight into the tunnel-like walkway. “You say there’s a restaurant here?” Chad asked after they’d gone a few hundred feet through the gloom.

“Right up that way.”

“I don’t see any sign.”

“This place doesn’t need a sign.”

He stopped in front of a small, unmarked entrance and pushed the door open. It led into a narrow entryway and a flight of uncarpeted steps. Merren took the steps up to the landing two at a time, followed more tentatively by the Michaian. Again they came to an undistinguished door, and again Merren walked through it as though it belonged to him.

Light poured through the opening into the dark hallway. The sound of voices came with it. Inside, groups of men and women sat around long, narrow, tables. A few children played here and there or loafed with the adults, some of whom were eating, some chatting, some betting over games of budil or cards or tiny multicolored twirling tops. The windowless room was brightly lit with glow-panels that covered all four walls. A few decorative lights graced the ceiling. The scent of roasting meat and aromatic vegetables perfumed the air.

“Hey-hey!” a voice called out across the room “Here’s the Bear!” A broad smile crossed Merren’s face and he delivered a mock salute. The decibel level rose briefly as others greeted him with “Bear!” “Come on over here!” “We’ve got a seat for you, brother…” and “Who’s the new boyfriend?” A lithe brown woman bearing a large bowl of steaming food sidled up to Merren, murmured “Bear-Bear,” and hugged him with her free arm. He kissed her on the lips, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

Not bad, for a robot, eh? He kind of sounds like a character in a computer game. But he gets most of the pronunciation right — even of invented words and names — and about 95% of the time even the intonation is pretty good. In translation from the machine reading into QuickTime, our robot guy affects a whistley lisp that’s kind of annoying here but that doesn’t appear in a Mac reading before it’s recorded in QT.

Our robot reader picked up a typo that I missed over many readings and attempts to revise: the unneeded and unwanted comma between “narrow” and “tables.” And another effect of allowing the machine to read the copy while I follow along: lo! It highlights the fact that I used the word “narrow” three times in 219 words.

I have no idea whether this will work on a PC. On a Mac, though, go to System Preferences > System > Speech to bring up the program.

Interestingly, because QuickTime (the program I used to make these recordings) will pick up any sounds in the room, you could in theory add your own comments and reminders to a recording of a passage — for a writer, this could be handy. It also would be very helpful if you’re teaching writing to visually impaired or severely dyslexic students. Dang! Wish I’d thought of this when I was at the community college!

It’s kind of fun to hear some”one” read your emanations. But it also may be a powerful revision tool.

Writing? Get to Know a Style Manual

How to choose the right style manual for your writing.Even if you hire a professional editor before self-publishing or sending your manuscript to an agent or publisher, you need to get to know the style manual that applies to your type of writing.

The standards are The Chicago Manual of Style, the American Psychological Association Style Manual, the Associated Press Stylebook, and Modern Language Association style, outlined in the MLA Handbook. There are also specialized style manuals for the sciences and the professions, among them the American Medical Association Manual of Style; The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation and the Association of Legal Writing Directors Citation Manual; and the Council of Science Editors’ Scientific Style and Format. There are others.

Each of these serves a different purpose and a different market. Chicago, for example, is the standard for the book publishing industry. Almost all publishers of fiction and nonfiction follow Chicago style. APA (American Psychological Association) is used by writers in business, education, psychology, and the social sciences and is the standard for scholarly journals in those disciplines. MLA style is used almost exclusively by journals in literature and languages; most college students learn to use it because research writing is taught in freshman composition courses, which are always based in English departments and taught by English faculty. AP (Associated Press) style is used by newspapers, magazines, and public relations professionals. And obviously, AMA, Bluebook, and CSE style are used by doctors, lawyers, and scientists.

They’re all different from each other!

For that reason, the MLA style you learned in college will not suffice for the book you hope to self-publish. Nor will it do for a manuscript to be submitted to a traditional publisher, since typesetting is now foisted on the author: your book will be typeset from the manuscript you submitted, and so your copy will need to be correctly formatted, no matter who publishes it.

Get it wrong, and you’ll look like an amateur.

Consider a passage describing research done by the eminent Professor Boxankle. APA style would format first the narrative passage and then the reference to its source (in the “References” section) like this:


In Chicago style (author–date system), the same passage with its source information would look like this:


And Chicago’s notes-and-bibliography system would elicit these:


And that, let me re-emphasize, is from just two of the many manuals in use.

Yes, there’s software to help you with this task. But it’s strictly garbage-in, garbage-out: if you don’t know what to enter in the program, it won’t produce accurately formatted documentation.

Few authors come to know these manuals in exquisite detail—research and writing are quite enough to take up one’s time and attention. That’s why authors and publishers hire copyeditors.

However, it’s wise to have at least a working knowledge of the manual your publisher wants you to use. First, obviously an acquisitions editor will be more impressed by a manuscript that looks reasonably clean.

Second and less obvious is that a sincere effort at formatting your work according to the desired style can save you money. That’s so even if you don’t get the result 100% right, because editors set their rates to account for the difficulty of the job.

Some editors charge by the hour. Clearly, a job that takes six hours because the editor has to reformat all the citation and documentation will cost you more than a job that takes four.

Others charge a page rate based on the editor’s estimate of the copy’s difficulty. This is especially true if English is your second language, since the challenge of editing ESL copy varies wildly according to the author’s facility with the target language. My rates, for example, range from $4.50 to $15 per page. If the client asks for an hourly rate (some business executives are more familiar with this), it will range upwards of $40 an hour—depending on how complex and demanding the job will be.

So, even though you needn’t be an expert in every style manual on the market, it’s in your interest to build a working acquaintance with the manual your publisher uses. If you’re self-publishing, get a current edition of the Chicago Manual and use it.

The Copyeditor’s Desk works with businesses, nonprofits, professional practices, scholars, and select self-publishing authors to produce the best for their clients and customers. For information, please get in touch through our contact page.

Every Writer Needs An Editor

Feast or Famine in the Editing Biz

My  friend and neighbor Carol is an accountant with a pretty solid small practice. Every year she faces several frantic weeks of nonstop work. Sometimes it’s hard for a writer & editor to appreciate the hectic stress of the annual tax-season ritual, because most of the time our work is self-inflicted. Lately, though, I’ve come to grasp something of her experience.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working 14-hour days, seven days a week on editing and indexing projects. It has been “feast or famine” elevated to the nth power. Two of my heaviest-hitting writers are in-house. One will be back in the country in a week or so and wants to take his 385-page book to press. Now. The other dropped 60 chapters on me, and then rhapsodized about his plans for the next book.

Just as these projects were beginning to coalesce, a new academic client showed up at the door with a handsomely paying indexing project.

Well. I wasn’t about to turn that guy down, you can be sure of that. So I took on the index in addition to the sprawling international memoir and the never-ending story.

Meanwhile, another Chinese Ph.D. student emitted a cry for help. This author’s dissertation director remarked that her English was “appalling” (it’s not that bad, for crying out loud!) and apparently threw several other brickbats at her. So we’ve gone through her first three chapters, trying to render them into English and still preserve her meaning. Political science cum communications studies at “the Princeton of the Pacific Rim.”

The result was, to put it mildly, a killer. I shipped off the last of these things on Friday and have been comatose all weekend.

HowEVER! Despite the pain this tsunami of work engendered, it also engendered three months’ worth of projected revenues: almost enough to cover the losses I’ve accrued a-sailin’ the Amazon.

If I could get this kind of work coming in steadily — say, two such projects a month — it would more than meet my annual goals. It would handily replace the adjunct income, in a fraction of the number of hours required to earn that much through teaching.

The question is…how? How to get paying work to come in at a steady pace? Weeks — sometimes months — go by with no significant projects in house, and then it all comes cascading down on your head. To get it done on deadline, you have to farm stuff out to the underlings, meaning you don’t earn what you need to live on.

I think (hope) the answer is more and better networking. I need to meet more of the kind of people who send me the kind of work I want. More people referring jobs my way should mean fewer long, dry spells.

So late last week I joined the American Society for Indexing, a venerable group if ever there were one. They have a list of indexers for hire, which is good…and even better, they have special interest groups (SIGs! Remember those from AOL days?) where people apparently get to know each other virtually and that also have their own, more specialized referral lists. Tomorrow (with any luck), I’ll begin trying to build a little presence there.

And I also joined the Author’s Guild, which has a variety of services and blandishments to attract passers-by. I’ll see what I can do about making myself apparent there.

I’d like to pick up more indexing work. At $4 to $6 per indexable page, an index is not a bad gig. It’s surely no more eye-glazing than reading freshman comp papers, and the pay is one helluva lot better. This last book, a collection of essays on the Anglo-Saxon visual imagination, was actually very interesting. Who knew the Ango-Saxons got up to so much? It was a far more cosmopolitan culture (at least, it was among the privileged classes) than I’d realized.

Anyway. Indexing. Editing. More, but less. Less at a time, that is.

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