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Category Archives: Copyediting

What’s an acceptable error rate for an editor?

I have found this article from the marvellous industry journal copyediting.com considering acceptable error rates for editors extremely useful for sharing with clients and setting expectations. Although editors/proofreaders do tend to be perfectionists, we are human, and it’s good for us and our clients to remember this.

If a piece is full of errors, even a 99% accurate editor will leave some errors behind.

Read Adrienne Montgomerie’s article, “Error Rates in Copyediting” here.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Copyediting, proofreading

 

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What do I actually do? What do you actually do? Who does an editor or transcriber work for?

Taking a well-earned coffee break this week, my friend Jen challenged me to draw a Venn Diagram of what I actually do, for whom. I accepted the challenge.

Libroediting services venn diagram

Especially if you have a portfolio business, where you offer more than one service, can you draw out your customer base and services? How many attempts do you have to make (four for me!)? Can you see any patterns?

 

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How do I know when Track Changes is turned on? Word 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016

This article quickly explains how you know when track changes is turned on.

Do also read these articles to find out more about track changes: what Track Changes is, why we use it and where to find it, and how to customise Track Changes to suit our own preferences and learned how to work with a document that has Tracked Changes.

We turn on track changes to make sure that whoever else is using the document can see what changes (additions, deletions, moving text) we have made in the text. If you are working with an editor, they will typically turn track changes on so you can see what they have suggested. When my clients send me back amendments to a text they’re working on, I ask them to turn track changes on so I can see easily what they have done to the document.

How do I know when track changes is turned on in Word 2007 and Word 2010?

Word 2007 and Word 2010 look a bit different from later versions.

When track changes is turned on, you will see the button highlighted in orange:

This means that every change you make will be displayed in Word and other people will be able to see them if they have the correct view in their version of Word.

If the button is white, like the rest of the area, track changes it not turned on.

How do I know when track changes is turned on in Word 2013 and Word 2016?

Word 2013 and Word 2017 look different and the highlighting is more difficult to see, in my opinion.

When track changes is turned on, you will see the button highlighted in blue-grey:

This means that every change you make to the document will be displayed in Word and other people will be able to see them if they have the correct view in their version of Word.

When track changes is off, the button will be white, like the rest of the area.

If you want highlighting to be in a different colour, you will need to change the theme, and that’s for another article!


This article has taught you how to check whether you have track changes turned on in your Word document. See the links below for more track changes articles.

If you have found this article useful, please share or “like” it using the buttons below, or leave me a comment to tell me what you think. Thank you!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Relevant articles on this website

Track changes 1 – why use it, where can you find it, what can you do with it?

Track changes 2 – customising Track Changes

Track changes 3 – working with a document with tracked changes

How do I accept one reviewer’s changes?

Why are my tracked changes changing colour?

 

 
 

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How do I combine Word documents without losing the formatting?

I’ve written about how to combine Word documents in this article. But what if combining documents loses the formatting?

I had a question in a comment from someone who had used my method to combine several chapters of a textbook. But the formatting all got lost. What should she do?

How to combine Word documents and not lose the format

Before you combine the documents into one big document, add a Section Break at the end of each document you want to combine.

I’ve covered this in more detail in this article, but here’s a summary with a screenshot from Word 2013.

  • Go to the Page Layout tab
  • Find the Breaks section and drop it down using the little arrow
  • Select Section Break – Next page

Once you’ve done this to all your documents, combine them. You might find you have some extra blank pages at the end of sections: turn Paragraph Marks on (see this article for how to do that) so that you can see your Section Breaks. Carefully delete the blank pages but leave the section breaks there.

This should retain your individual formatting in each individual document that you’ve combined.


If you’ve found this article on how to combine Word documents without losing the formatting, useful, please comment or share using the buttons below. Happy document-combining!

Other useful articles on this website

How do I combine several Word documents?

How do I insert section breaks in Word?

Viewing paragraph marks and other mark-up

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Copyediting, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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How do I set expectations with my professional services provider?

When you’re hiring a professional services provider, you need to set expectations for your project before you even agree the contract. If you don’t agree the terms and conditions and specific requirements upfront, in the worst case, you might find that your project is cancelled before it starts, or you may get a result which doesn’t match your expectations.

In this article, I’ll share a few points to consider and ways to make sure that you have a good start to your relationship with your service provider and a good experience (for both of you) throughout the project.

I’m addressing this issue as a provider of editing, proofreading, transcription and localisation services, but I’d welcome comments from service providers in other fields, too.

In this article, I pay specific attention to people who work at agencies which work as a middle-provider between the client and the professional services provider. All of the points apply to agencies, too – some of them are specific to agencies and I highlight when that is the case.

Think about what you want before you seek a service provider

Before advertising, searching boards or doing a Google search, think very carefully about what you’re looking for and the kind of person you’re looking for. Write down the parameters of what you want, in detail. This can include, but not be limited to:

  • The scale of the work – whether that’s in words to be translated, minutes of tape to be transcribed, number of receipts and invoices to go to a book-keeper. This must be honest and measured, not a guess. Typically, you will underestimate what you need to be done. It’s a good idea to check it.
  • The deadline for the work – both your ultimate deadline and one for your service provider which will enable you to ask questions or make the changes that might arise. For example, I recommend a Master’s student keeps at least 24 hours aside for checking my suggested corrections. Bear in mind that you will need to interact with whatever is provided to you in some way (for example, following up unclear names on a transcription; answering an accountant’s queries on your plastic bag full of receipts). Note, if the deadline is “two weeks from when I finish writing the book” be clear about when you intend to do that!
  • The details of the work – this is one you need to think really carefully about, and not make any assumptions. Does your manuscript have to be in US English or fit a particular journal’s article submission requirements? Do you require your transcription to be time-stamped every minute?
  • Get a sample of the work ready – an extract from your document, part of the tape you want transcribed, a scan of what your receipts are like.
  • If you are working at an agency and preparing to tender for a job for a third-party client, try your best to gather this information from them in advance.

Note: a good service provider will know about this stuff and is likely to ask you about it. But it’s best to be prepared and to provide this information up-front when you’re looking for someone to do the work for you.

Provide potential service providers with full information

However you contact potential service providers, do give them all the information you worked out above. They will need it in order to be able to assess the project, give you a fair quotation and let you know whether they can fit it in. If you give them all the information at the start, it will:

  • Save time as they won’t need to ask for any further information.
  • Lead to a fair price (fair to you and the service provider) because it’s based on the full parameters.
  • Lead to an achievable turnaround time which is not going to slip – if you change the parameters or explain the project in full once the work is underway, it may take the provider longer to do it.

This is such an important point that I’m going to put it in bold: If you’re working at an agency and this is an enquiry to allow you to bid for a project yourselves, please inform the service provider when you make the initial enquiry. Most people will still give you the information you need, but promising a project you haven’t yet got yourself isn’t very kind or transparent, and multiple examples are likely to put people off working with you.

Answer any questions from the service provider as fully as you can

If your potential service provider comes back to you with questions of their own, or with a questionnaire to fill in, make sure that you answer it as fully as possible. Explain your terms in detail. For example:

  • What you call “line-editing” or “proper time stamping” can mean many things to many different people. Explain exactly what you mean.
  • One person’s “flexible deadline” is another person’s “one more job I can’t fit in in the time”. Be clear on dates and times.

If you don’t understand what the service provider is asking you, ask them to explain rather than making an assumption or ignoring the question. We all have jargon we think is clear, and I’m always happy to explain a term a potential client is unfamiliar with.

Set expectations on the process and be fair and transparent

You can find information on booking in an editor and handling the process in this article and my advice here is basically the same:

  • Tell the service provider you’re negotiating with when you expect to make your decision.
  • Don’t play multiple service providers off against each other: examine each offering on its own merits but don’t try to start a bidding war.
  • Tell all of the service providers when you’ve made your decision, even the ones you don’t offer it to.

If you are working for an agency, it’s really important to:

  • Tell the service provider when you expect the client to make their decision.
  • If your agency gets the job, tell the service provider who will be doing the work and inform anyone else you were talking to who you haven’t chosen to work with.
  • If your agency doesn’t get the job, still inform the service provider(s) you’ve been discussing it with.

Typically, your potential service provider(s) will be holding open a slot in their schedule for your project, in case you assign it to them. So it’s only fair to make sure that you tell them when they’ve haven’t got the job, as well as when they have. Otherwise, they may continue holding the spot open, turning down other enquiries in the meantime.

Once the project is confirmed and underway

You may need to do contracts, either from your end or the service provider’s end, at this point.

  • Make sure everything you’ve discussed and agreed matches the contract.
  • Do not change anything once the project is agreed, if you can possibly help it (I do understand that agencies’ clients can add demands; if this happens, consult with the service provider and get back to the client with any changes in deadline).
  • Accept that any changes you do make will affect the deadline.
  • Understand that the service provider has set aside a time slot for you. This means
    • you must deliver the project to the service provider when you said you would.
    • if you increase the parameters of the work, the service provider might not actually be able to complete the job if it goes outside the amount of time they’ve set aside for it.

If you follow these guidelines, I think you will have a higher rate of success in interacting with professional service providers and engaging their services, and everybody will have a fairer and smoother time.


Thank you for reading this article on setting expectations with service providers. Please do share and comment if you have found this useful, or share other hints and tips. I will put together specific guidelines for dealing with transcribers and localisers soon.

Other useful articles from this blog

Working with an editor 1: Asking for a quote

Working with an editor 2: Negotiating and booking in

What does my transcriber need to know?

What information does my localiser need?

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Business, Copyediting

 

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How to Make the Switch to Fiction Editing (by Sophie Playle)

How to Make the Switch to Fiction Editing (by Sophie Playle)

I’d like to welcome Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages to my blog today: Sophie is a fiction editor and also trains other editors to do what she does. I tend towards working on non-fiction, marketing, informational and academic texts myself, but if you’re interested in moving into fiction editing, Sophie outlines here the ways to start going about this. I hope you enjoy reading this excellent article; do post a comment or share the article if you’ve found it useful. Over to Sophie …


So you’re a freelance editor. You’ve done the training, built up your business, maybe even tucked a few years’ experience (or more) under your belt. By day, you edit textbooks. Or technical papers. Dissertations. Journal articles. But by night … you lose yourself in the latest Man Booker Prize winner, or perhaps a heady romance or a brain-tingling sci-fi.

And you wistfully think to yourself: I wish I could spend my days editing books like this. Editing novels. But you don’t have the right skills, you tell yourself. And besides, you’ve already built your business, and fiction editing doesn’t really come into it. (Other than the occasional proofread that comes your way.)

If you harbour the desire to become a specialist fiction editor but are worried about changing your business model, I’m going to tell you step-by-step how you can make the switch. Really – it is possible! What you need most is a shift in focus and a plan.

Step 1: Change your mindset

We build our identities around a number of factors. One of the more dominant is what we do for a living. It’s often the first question we’re asked when we meet new people. ‘So, what do you do?’ Changing our profession feels like changing a core part of our existence. Scary stuff, no?

But you’re more than your job; your job doesn’t define who you are. We grow and change throughout our lives. Just because you’ve set yourself down a certain path doesn’t mean you have to stick to that path forever. ‘I’m a biomedical-sciences editor’ can become ‘I’m a fiction editor’ if you want it to.

If you’re not entirely happy with the business you’ve built, you can change it. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed at building the right business for you. It simply means the time has come for a change. Your business has served you well to this point, but you’re ready to steer it in a new direction.

Big change can be scary. But if you’re feeling stuck in a rut and wish your professional life were different, it’s scarier to think you’ll be in the exact same position feeling the exact same way ten years down the line.

Step 2: Build your confidence

Editing fiction can be quite different from editing other kinds of text. You need to pay extra-close attention to the author’s style. Different characters will have different voices, too – you can’t make them all consistent. Then you might have to consider whether the author has deliberately deviated from convention for effect. (Did the author mean to use the passive voice continuously throughout this passage?)

But don’t panic. I want you to remember two things.

  1. You’re already skilled. Proofreading and copy-editing focus on the technical side of writing rather than the artistic side of writing. A misplaced modifier is still a misplaced modifier whether your editing a thriller or a journal article. And a homophone is still a homophone. You already possess the skills to spot and correct these mistakes. And if you’re proofreading or copy-editing a novel, that’s still exactly the kind of thing that’s required.
  1. If you’re an avid reader of fiction, you’re already an informal expert. Reading fiction might seem like just a hobby, but I bet you’ve subconsciously absorbed a whole lot of information about what makes for good writing in fiction. If you know your stuff as a reader, you can apply this knowledge to editing novels.

For more tips in this area, read my guest post on Louise Harnby’s blog: How to edit fiction with confidence.

Step 3: Increase your knowledge

A lack of confidence almost always comes down to a lack of knowledge. I hope the above points will make you realise that you know more than you think, but there’s even more you can do.

  • Learn about all the different types of fiction editing. The path to publication for novelists is not quite the same as it is for other types of writers, and editors can come into the fold at different points along the way. You might already possess the skills to provide proofreading and copy-editing at this point, but perhaps line or development editing interests you, too – in which case, you’ll likely need to bolster your knowledge.
  • Learn how to adapt your editing style. I’ve already touched on this point, but generally being open to rule-bending to allow for style while still applying a degree of consistency is key. This is where your informal knowledge comes most into play, and where you’ll need to both exercise your judgement and hone your querying skills!
  • Study the craft of writing. There are many excellent books out there on how to write fiction. If you want to develop your copy-editing skills, focus on books that talk about style, self-editing and point of view. (Try The Art of Fiction by David Lodge, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne and The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley.) If you want to develop your line or developmental editing skills, read books on bigger topics like plot, story and characterisation. (Try Monkeys with Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated by Roz Morris.) You could also take a fiction writing class and learn by doing!
  • Read novels analytically. As an editor, you might find you do this already. (I know I always have ­­– I can’t seem not to!) Read slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. Take notes in the margins and underline passages, if you like. Keep a reading log and write out your thoughts. You’ll learn so much about fiction editing by simply reading with awareness. Grab a copy of Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose for more advice on how to do this.

Step 4: Re-do your website

Now that you’ve built your confidence and knowledge, it’s time to take the leap. If you want to edit solely fiction, I strongly advise that you market yourself as a specialist fiction editor. Not as a generalist who also happens to edit fiction. But as someone who just edits fiction.

Why? Imagine for a moment that you’re an author who wants to self-publish. You have a crime novel that’s ready for copy-editing and you’re looking for someone to take on the job. Who do you choose? An editor who works on business flyers, cook books, journal articles and the occasional novel? Or the editor who focuses solely on novels? It makes sense to choose the editor who has their head firmly in the novel-editing game.

It makes sense to make fiction editing your niche.

The most important thing you can do now is totally re-do your website. Your website is one of your key marketing tools, and you want it to attract and engage the right clients – people looking for a fiction editor. This may seem like a big task, but it’s essential if you want to make the switch to fiction editing.

Step 5: Build your client base

It would be short-sighted to immediately sack all your current clients and expect a boatload of fiction clients to land straight in your lap. I know you don’t think that. In fact, it’s probably one of the things stopping you from making the switch.

Instead, keep working with your current clients – even though you’ve now totally changed your website. (They probably won’t notice anyway.) As the fiction editing enquiries start trickling in, start dropping your existing clients. You can always keep the ones that bring you the most benefits if you really want, but eventually you’ll be able to transition to full-time fiction editing, at your own pace.

Of course you’ll also need to start marketing yourself as a fiction editor. Most people won’t land on your website by chance, so you need to start point prospective clients towards it – through directory entries, online and in-person networking, advertising, content creation and so on.

And there you have it!

Switching your business model to specialise in fiction is perfectly doable but requires a little courage and some careful preparation.

If you’d like to know more about setting up a fiction editing business – and would also like some guidance and feedback as you make the transition ­– my online course, Start Fiction Editing, goes into much more detail.

 Come and join us – and make the switch! Visit www.startfictionediting.com to learn more.

Sophie Playle runs Liminal Pages (liminalpages.com), where she offers editing to authors and training to editors of fiction. She’s a Professional Member of the SfEP and often packs her laptop into a rucksack to run her business while traipsing around Europe.

 
 

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Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

This article follows on from Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?, where I explained what an editor needs from a prospective client in order to give them a price and turnaround quotation. Now we’re going to look at where you go from there – what will the editor/proofreader send you, is it OK to ask for a sample edit, and how to proceed with negotiating and then – hopefully – booking an editor.

What does a quote from an editor include?

Your editor will usually quote you a price and a turnaround time. I work in a price per 1,000 words (different people do different things: I like my clients to know up front how much they’re going to pay) and will tell the prospect how much time I’ll take to do their work and when I can slot it into my schedule. So I might say something like “I can take on this project for £7.50 per 1,000 words, I’ll need 2 weeks to do the work and I would be able to start it on 1 May”.

Be assured that a good editor will have thought very carefully about the pricing before they send it to you. I try to be as fair as I can to myself and the author, basing my price on the amount of work that the edit will involve. This is why most editors and proofreaders will offer a “from” price on their website if they have a price at all, as that’s a guide to the least it will cost (for something involving a very minimal amount of editing). Some editors offer discounts for students or self-publishers, so make sure you’ve explained if you’re one of those categories.

How to negotiate with an editor

In my opinion, the negotiations should be about dates and turnaround times, and about what you want your editor to do, not about price. I don’t offer a high price so that I can be beaten down to my “real” price, and I don’t know anyone who does.

The price an editor offers you reflects …

  1. Their experience and training
  2. Their knowledge of your subject area or genre
  3. Their knowledge of English grammar, sentence structure
  4. Their ability to help you to express yourself in the best way possible, while retaining your unique voice and writing style
  5. Their knowledge of standard style sheets
  6. Their ability to match the style sheets of publishers, journals, etc.

But within the negotiation, it’s fine to, for example, ask for a sample edit, or ask if the work can be done in a shorter time period (this may involve an urgent fee but your editor will explain that).

Regarding time slots, it comes as a surprise to some people to discover that their editor / proofreader has other clients on the go. We have to keep booking in clients and rebooking regulars in order to have a constant stream of work and, basically, a continuous income. So if your editor really can’t start working with you until the week after next, there will be a good reason for that and they may not be able to move that commitment. However, do give them a chance and ask, just in case.

Is it OK to ask for a sample edit?

Some people are nervous about asking for a sample edit but most editors are happy to provide one. We usually limit it to about 1,000 words, which should show up any major issues that are going to come up in the job as a whole. I use Tracked Changes in word or marked-up PDF as appropriate, and I also send back a skeleton style sheet detailing the decisions I’ve made so far, so you can see how I work.

It’s a good idea to send your sample text from the middle of the work in question. You will typically have gone over and over the start of your manuscript, but not paid so much attention to later sections. A section from the middle will offer a truer representation of the level of editing needed.

Asking for quotations from more than one editor

It’s of course fine to do this, and good practice, as I would do when engaging a plumber. There are some other elements of good practice here, though:

  • It’s polite to let an editor know you have asked other people for quotes and may need time to make your decision
  • It’s not polite to play editors off against each other. Editing is quite a small world, and if you claim to Editor A that Editor B has offered a very low price, well, they might just know each other and check … Be honest and fair as you expect others to be fair to you
  • Let the editors know when you are going to make your choice
  • Let the unsuccessful editors know the result, as well as the successful one

This last point is really important. If I’m negotiating with a client on a job, I’ll be holding open a slot for that job for the time frame we’ve been discussing. It’s only fair to let me know if you don’t want to book my services, so I can accept another job in its place.

Choosing an editor or proofreader is a whole topic in itself. You need to feel comfortable with them and they need to work in your subject area or genre. You might think I’m great, but however lovely I am, I’m just not going to be able to edit your horror novel! It’s fine to look at references (a good editor will have references or testimonials on their website) and to discuss how they would approach your book. It needs to be a good fit from both sides. If I don’t think I’m a good fit for you, I will usually be able to recommend on someone who will be more useful, but an editor’s ability to do this does rely on the networks they’re in.

Booking in your editing or proofreading project

So, you’ve chosen your editor, you’ve told the ones you don’t want to use that you have no need of their services. Now you’ve got a slot and a price that you’ve accepted. These are the next stages:

  1. Signing a contract or accepting terms and conditions in writing – I ask people to do the latter, but will create a formal contract if one or other of us thinks it’s necessary. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions carefully and ask about any you’re not sure of.
  2. Maybe paying a deposit in advance if your editor requires it.
  3. Submitting your work.

Now, most editors and proofreaders understand that the date you think you’re going to have your work completed isn’t always the date you’ll have it completed. Even if you think you’re ready, something might come up. If you’re using the booking to force yourself to finish the job (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that in principle!) then something might come up.

The golden rule for me is: it’s fine if you get delayed, as long as you let me know.

If you’ve booked to send your work to your editor next Monday and it’s Friday and you’ve not finished, then let them know. Preferably let them know before that, so they can book another job into the space. Let them know when you think you’ll be ready, and update them. As I mentioned above, most editors have more than one job going on at the same time, so it should be possible for your editor to shuffle work around to leave your slot open in a week’s time, say. However, if you don’t let them know and don’t keep them informed, then suddenly expect them to edit 100,000 words for you with no notice and a month late, they simply might not have the time in their schedule to do that!

Don’t miss your slot: if you get delayed, let your editor know as soon as you can.

Negotiating and booking in with an editor or proofreader

This article has given you, the author or writer, some hints on negotiating with editors and getting your job booked in with them. Everyone works slightly differently, so I’ve tried to keep this as general as possible, and based it on my own practices.

If you’ve found this article useful, do please comment and share using the buttons below! Thank you!

Other useful articles on this website

Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?

Do I need editing or proofreading?

Working with Tracked Changes

What is a style sheet?

On completion of your edit, will my manuscript be ready for publication?

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Copyediting, Ebooks, proofreading, Writing

 

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