The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Note from Louise: I'm delighted that one of my favourite editorial bloggers, Rich Adin, has agreed to contribute to the Proofreader's Parlour. I've been following Rich's posts on An American Editor for a good long while now, and I was initially drawn to the blog because of its host's regular attention to aspects of the business of editorial freelancing (something that I have a passion for, too).
Rich is the developer of a macro suite called EditTools, the latest version (v.5) of which has just been released. Below, he explains how EditTools can improve your productivity and therefore your income.
The twin pillars of editing are the thinking and the mechanical. Every editing assignment includes these twin pillars; they are fundamental as well as foundational.
The thinking pillar is what attracts people to the profession. Should it be who or whom? Does the sentence, paragraph, chapter make any sense? Does the author’s point come through clearly or have the author’s word choices obfuscated the message? The thinking pillar is what professional editors live for; it is often why we became editors. The semantic debates thrill us.
Alas, the thinking pillar alone is insufficient to provide us with an income. Every manuscript requires the mechanical pillar and, to earn our wage, editors need to tackle that mechanical pillar.
The mechanical pillar includes many different functions, such as cleaning up extra spaces, changing incorrect dashes to correct dashes, incorrect punctuation to correct punctuation, and, perhaps most importantly, incorrect words to correct words and inconsistencies to consistencies. Many of these things can be, should be, and are done using macros.
Since 1984, I have earned my living as an editor; since the early 1990s, freelance editing has been my only source of income. I am pleased to say that I have made (and continue to make) an excellent income as an editor. The reason I have done well financially is that I have looked at the mechanical pillar of editing as a puzzle to be solved. Essentially, to be profitable and to make editing enjoyable,
I want to minimize the time I need to spend on the mechanical aspects of editing and maximize the time I spend on thinking about what I am editing, while minimizing the time I need to spend on any single project.
Consequently, I developed EditTools, a collection of macros that I use to solve the mechanical aspects of an editing project.
Before I get too far along, I want to make this very clear: EditTools, contrary to the impression of many editors, is usable by ALL editors, even by authors, regardless of whether one edits medical treatises or romance novels or business documents or any other genre of manuscript. I have noted that many editors look at EditTools and see that the display boxes carry medical-oriented labels and that the explanations of the macros on the website use medical examples, and conclude that EditTools is for medical editing only. This is false; the labels and examples are medical-oriented because I am primarily a medical editor and the macros were created originally for my sole use (thus the labels) and the explanatory examples were drawn from my usage. The labels are changeable (just click the Change Tab Name button in the various Managers) to whatever you would like. You fill the datasets that the macros use with whatever data you want. Just as you would look beneath the surface of the words you are editing, you need to look beneath the labels and examples in EditTools.
Getting back to the mechanical aspects …
My business is built around the concept of not charging an hourly rate. If I charge $25 an hour, whether I work 10 hours or 50 hours, I only earn $25 an hour. All that matters is that I find a client willing to let me take as many hours as I desire, and I have a steady income. Unfortunately, in my 30 years of editing and among the many hundreds of books I have edited, I have never had a client tell me the budget was unlimited. But I can still dream!
Consequently, I bill by the page. It doesn’t matter whether you bill by the word, the page, or the project — or any method other than by the hour — all of the methods are basically the same: a flat fee regardless of whether the editing takes you 10 hours or 50 hours. Thus, instead of $25 an hour, I am free to earn an Effective Hourly Rate that is much higher (and on a particular project, possibly lower) than $25. That I can increase my earning power if I am more efficient or productive is an incentive to
minimize the time I need to spend on the mechanical aspects of editing and maximize the time I spend on thinking about what I am editing, while minimizing the time I need to spend on any single project.
(For more information about the Effective Hourly Rate and its importance, see Business of Editing: What to Charge (Part V). Part V has links to the preceding four articles of the series; it is recommended that all the articles be read and in order.)
There isn’t a whole lot I can do about speeding up my thinking processes — I think as I think. But there is a whole lot I can do to minimize the time I spend on the mechanical aspects. Thus, I created and use EditTools.
EditTools currently includes 24 macros. Some I use with such frequency that they are assigned a single keypress to speed their use (e.g., Toggle); others I used to use with great frequency and now only use rarely (e.g., Multifile Find and Replace), but when they are used, they are lifesavers. I suggest going to wordsnSync for information about many of the macros; here I will only mention a couple to give a flavor of the kind of timesaving I get by using these macros.
Some of the macros are intended to be used once on a document (e.g., Never Spell Word, Cleanup), whereas others are intended to be used with frequency as one edits (e.g., Toggle, Enhanced Search, Count, and Replace). Of all the macros, Toggle is my favorite.
My primary Toggle dataset has more than 2,000 entries. The primary dataset is supplemented with project-specific datasets. The primary dataset contains words and phrases that I encounter across many projects; the project-specific datasets contain words and phrases that I expect to encounter largely with just the project at hand.
The idea of Toggle is to minimize the time I need to spend doing a task by turning multiple keystrokes into a single keypress. For example, because I work largely with medical texts, it is common for authors to use acronyms or symbols where they shouldn’t according to the publisher’s style. A popular thing to do is to use acronyms rather than the expanded version, such as “the results showed that TCDD”. Clients do not want the acronym used unless it was previously expanded in the chapter; they want the text to read “the results showed that dioxin (TCDD, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin)”. Toggle lets me make that change (with Track Changes On) by a single keypress. Try typing it out and compare the time to type it error free to how much time it would have taken you to press a single key or a key combination. The more you do via Toggle, the less time you take and the more money you earn.
Entries in my Toggle dataset range from the above example to such things as changing 29th to twenty-ninth (or vice versa), > to larger than, 1/8 to one-eighth, have shown to demonstrate, JCAHO to Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), principle to principal, less and less to decreasingly, there to their, his to the patient’s, over to more than, etc. Just about anything can be toggled!
Another macro example is Enhanced Search, Count, and Replace (ESCR). My clients want acronyms (including initialisms) expanded at their first use, but subsequent expansions converted to the acronym form. Before ESCR, this was difficult because in a long document it was easy to forget that on page 3 “to be decided” was “TBD” when faced with “to be decided” on page 51. ESCR lets me search for multiple variations of both “TBD” and “to be decided”, tells me what it has found, and lets me choose to highlight or change each variation it has found (or do nothing). For example, if it found five instances of “to be decided”, three instances of “To be decided”, and one instance of “To Be Decided”, it would report each of the variations and the number of times it was found. I could then tell the macro to highlight the five instances of “to be decided”, change the three instances of “To be decided” to “to be decided”, and ignore the one instance of “To Be Decided” — and the changes would be made with Track Changes On so that I would see them as I came to them and could undo any wrongly changed.
An excellent example of why I rely on EditTools to increase my earning power is an editing project I just completed this week. This manuscript had 368 author queries in 487 manuscript pages. Many of the queries were like the following two examples in terms of length and content:
AQ: The URL you provided goes to a page where there is a note that the document sought has been replaced by an updated version and a link to the updated version is given. This is the link to the updated version. Please review this link and confirm that the updated document is appropriate and that this link is acceptable.
AQ: The guideline to which the URL takes the reader is no longer available. It has been updated and a new guideline at a different URL is available. Please check this URL and decide whether to update or remove
That is, they would be lengthy and tiresome to repeatedly type, especially to retype error-free. My savior was EditTools’ Insert Query macro.
Insert Query provides five basic tabs for sorting macros: Text Queries, Reference Queries, Specialty, Miscellaneous A, and Miscellaneous B. Each of these tab names can be changed to something more appropriate for you. A sixth tab is for project-specific queries and it picks up the name of the file that contains the project-specific queries.
Each tab can hold an unlimited number of queries and within the tab, they can be reordered so the most frequently used ones are near the top. For example, under Text Queries, I have 51; under Reference Queries, I have 21; under Specialty Queries, I have 12. Once I enter a query into the IQ Manager dataset, I am able to select the appropriate query with a mouse click and with a second mouse click, insert the query, either as a Word comment or inline. Project-specific queries can be queries copied from one of the other tabs or newly created just for this project. For the just-completed project, I had 18 project-specific queries, all but 3 of which were special to this project; the other 3 were copied from the standard queries. Most of the 18 queries were similar in length to the examples above.
If I had to retype queries like the two samples above more than 300 times, I would become war-weary and unable to either keep a schedule or earn a profit. In this one project alone, Insert Query provide its worth to me.
One final example is the Journals macro. I have several journal datasets. My most frequently used one changes journal names in reference lists to conform to the AMA (American Medical Association) style (e.g., change New England Journal of Medicine to N Engl J Med.). That dataset currently has more than 11,000 entries. Every time I come to a new way for an author to write a journal name, I add it to the dataset.
The books I work on often have reference lists of several hundred entries. Using the Journals macro, I can check and correct most of the entries in the list automatically. I once timed it and found that I can check about 600 references in approximately 15 minutes; it used to take me hours, especially if I had to look up obscure and rarely cited journal names. Now I look them up once, enter them in the dataset, and move on.
If you take the time to look at EditTools and, better yet, try it, you will discover that many of the macros will help speed up the mechanical aspects of editing, leaving more time for the more pleasurable thinking aspects. EditTools is part of a triad of macro programs that I use, although the only one I develop. The other two are Daniel Heuman’s PerfectIt and Jack Lyon’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus. They are also available on a trial basis and should you decide they would be useful in your business, we offer a special package price for all three programs. More information is available here.
Copyright 2013 Richard H. Adin
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