Category Archives: In-house life

Posts about working in publishing houses.

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreadersThanks to continuing developments in computer technology, there are more and more tools available for editors, but is there any help for proofreaders? The short answer is yes. To start with, there are tools for on-screen mark-up of PDFs, but they only give you a more efficient ‘pen’ to put your mark-up on the ‘paper’. To see how computers can help more fundamentally, we need to think about what you, as a proofreader, actually do.

Obviously, you have to read every word of the text, to check that it conveys the author’s meaning properly. But you also have to watch out for all sorts of other things: spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, layout glitches, numbering, etc. And that’s just the words – there are also figures, pictures, tables, etc. to check.

You have a lot to think about as you read, and you can easily be distracted from the meaning of the text by the smaller, mechanical changes needed, or you can miss some of the mechanical changes while concentrating on the meaning. This is where using computer tools can help, because they are good at dealing with the routine changes so that you can concentrate on the communication of the author’s ideas. You can rely on the computer, knowing that it will work consistently, without being distracted by the phone or by the cat walking across your keyboard.

By ‘computer tools’ I’m talking about powerful programs that you can buy, such as PerfectIt, as well as the sort of pre-programmed macros that I use. Now, to many people a ‘macro’ is just ‘a shortcut to a task you do repeatedly’, to quote one website, but pre-programmed macros are far more powerful and versatile than that.

There are plenty of pre-programmed macros available, and you even can tailor them to your own way of working with very little programming knowledge – Jack Lyon’s Macro Cookbook is a very useful resource.

So, the main way that computer tools help me in proofreading is by analysing the text as a whole and alerting me to issues of (in)consistency, and they do so before I start to read. Am I the only person to have made a hyphenation decision (say, changing ‘non-linear’ to ‘nonlinear’) based on Chapters 1 and 2, only to find that Chapters 3 to 12 are consistently the other way round? What a waste of time! Do I undo my changes in Chapters 1 and 2, or persist in deleting all the hyphens from ‘non-linear’?

Now, I can’t tell you the ‘best’ way to use computer tools, because every job is different; proofreaders are all different too, in the way they like to work. And I certainly can’t give you unbiased advice, because the only tools I use are my own home-grown macros, but I hope I can give you an idea of what’s possible. Here are some areas where macros can provide aids to consistency – the macro names in italic will allow you to find details of them in my free book, Macros for Writers, Editors and Proofreaders:

• Hyphenation – HyphenAlyse provides a list of all the hyphenated words (or potentially hyphenated words, e.g. nonlinear) in a document, showing how often they appear as a hyphenated word, two words, or one word (e.g. sea-bed, sea bed or seabed).

• Proper nouns – ProperNounAlyse creates a list of proper noun pairs that could possibly be variant spellings of one another, and how often each occurs, e.g. Brinkman (3), Brinkmann (1).

• Spelling – With SpellingToolkit, you can create a copy of the document (in Word) with all the likely misspellings highlighted, and IStoIZ or IZtoIS will indicate all the -is/-iz inconsistencies, e.g. organise/organize.

• Other inconsistencies – DocAlyse creates a list of the frequency of other issues, such as inconsistencies in capitalisation, alternative spellings, and serial (or not) commas.

Other tools that can be used for proofreading include MatchBrackets, MatchSingleQuotes, MatchDoubleQuotes and AuthorDateFormatter.

Using these tools does take time and effort – both in learning how to do it, and also in implementing them on a given job – so only you can decide if it’s worthwhile. Certainly, the longer the job, the bigger the pay-back from the time spent in preparation.

But, regardless of the time saved, if these tools enable you to produce a better standard of work, it seems to me to be a good investment.

Members and associates of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) can find out more about macros on the SfEP discussion forums.

Which computer tools do you find most useful when proofreading?

Paul Beverley

Paul Beverley

At 65, Paul Beverley doesn’t want to retire – he finds freelance proofreading and editing far too enjoyable. He loves polishing text for optimum communication, and finds it very satisfying to use his programming skills to write macros that increase his own and other people’s efficiency and effectiveness. As an OAP with government support he can also cherry-pick his jobs – a great privilege.

 

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five reasons editors love Twitter

Five reasons editors like Twitter

Five Reasons Editors Like Twitter

If Twitter has so far passed you by, congratulations – you’re probably more productive than the rest of us. But you’re missing out if you think it’s just about Lady Gaga’s latest selfie or what a stranger’s had for dinner. Here’s why the micro-blogging site is so popular with editors around the world.

 

1. You can learn new things 

Hands up who reads The Bookseller every week. Thought not. But you can easily keep up with industry news by reading tweets from @TheBookseller and other publishing organisations such as @SYP_UK, @PublishersAssoc and, of course, @TheSfEP. If a headline grabs your attention, simply click through to the website. That way, you absorb the information that you want to – or need to – know, without it feeling like hard work.

People use Twitter because they have something to share. You can learn a lot if you follow the right users – those who do what you do, those who are influential in areas you’re interested in: publishers, agents, authors, potential clients, and yes, even celebrities (or at least those with opinions worth discussing). I’ve learnt a lot about publishing, marketing, language and linguistics that I never would have found out any other way.

2. You can market yourself – painlessly

Many editors, shy and introverted types that we tend to be, find the idea of networking intimidating. But with Twitter it’s easy to get out there and get known. Chatting to people on social media isn’t like trying to explain to your local accountant at a business breakfast what a proofreader does.

You can follow any account that takes your fancy, and you can also start or join conversations with anyone you like, without them thinking you’re odd (although that, of course, depends on what you say).

As with all marketing, it’s helpful to have an objective. For example, if you want to find work with businesses near you, most counties and regions have a dedicated Twitter networking time and hashtag (a label to identify it) to help you jump into the fray easily – mine is #Norfolkhour but there are many others.

I can’t claim to have actually got any work as a direct result of Twitter, but many editors have. I’ve certainly raised my profile and got to know many other small businesses nearby.

The only proviso, if you’re running a company, is to stay away from controversy. You might have heard about some high profile corporate Twitter embarrassments – one thoughtless comment could destroy your reputation. But then, that could happen when you’re talking to an accountant at a business breakfast too.

3. You can get to know other editors and proofreaders

Editing can be a lonely job and it’s easy to go feral when you’ve not seen anyone all day. But there’s a whole online community of people like you. Just as many of us share our experiences on the SfEP forums, social media provides an opportunity to chat to others who share your pain about hyphenated adverbs and comma splices.

There’s nothing competitive about building relationships with people who do what you do. They might be looking for the same type of work but they can also be partners, supporters, sharers, colleagues. You might not be able to do a job for a new client but perhaps you know someone who can. And then they return the favour. It makes business sense.

A good place to start is @TheSfEP list of members and associates who tweet. And when you finally meet them in person at the SfEP Conference, you’ll find you have readymade friends.

4. You can practise your editorial skills

Tweets are 140 characters. That’s not much. Putting your message across focuses your thoughts and hones your editorial skills.

That was only 126 characters, by the way.

5. You can win books

Still not convinced? This is the clincher. I’ve won around 100 books on Twitter, mostly in publishers’ prize draws, simply by retweeting their post or answering a simple question. Once I won a beautiful book on the history of home décor by tweeting a photo of my ugly bathroom. My husband would prefer me to win holidays and cars but, hey, I work in publishing. I like books.

So yes, Twitter is educational, sociable and sometimes lucrative – but most of all it’s fun. It opens your eyes to how fascinating and diverse and creative people can be. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

If you’d like some guidance on the technicalities of starting up your Twitter account, join me at the SfEP Conference, where I’ll be holding a ‘something for everyone’ session called Twitter for Beginners.

And when you do take the plunge, follow me @JuliaWordFire and introduce yourself. I look forward to tweeting with you.

Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications

Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not on Twitter or contributing to the SfEP’s Facebook page, she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy for a pub chain, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.