Inspired by Laura M. Browning.
What do you have to consider when editing copy for a major international sporting event? Sam Corea started off as the director of editorial services for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and later passed the reins to Andrew Tzembelicos, whose department of four editors and one graphic designer coordinated all official Olympic- and Paralympic-related publications up to and during the games. Corea is now preparing for the press coverage he’ll have to help facilitate as the head of Press Services for the upcoming Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto. He and Tzembelicos gave us a glimpse of the fast-paced, high-pressure editorial environment characteristic of these grand events.
2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games
Tzembelicos and his team made up the editorial services department, one of 53 VANOC departments. Their job was to write or oversee the writing of all VANOC publications to make sure that the copy was on tone, on voice, and on brand. For example, VANOC represented Canada as honest, unassuming, and humble. “We’d say we’d stage stellar games,” said Tzembelicos. “We won’t say ‘best games ever’ because that sounds arrogant.” His team tried to use accessible language to reach as wide an audience as possible and kept an eye out for context-specific terminology that might confuse non-Canadians (such as references to the Juno Awards). They reviewed copy for all games departments, CEO reports, sustainability reports, medals, postage stamps, and web content. They also reviewed copy for partners (for example, the four host First Nations on whose land the games took place) and for sponsors. The sheer volume of work meant that the editorial team had to prioritize public-facing documents.
Because Tzembelicos’s team had to rely on external writers and editors, he and his team developed a booklet of writing tips, The Writer’s Playbook, that was shared throughout VANOC to encourage writing that would require less editing.
Fact checking was paramount, because the games were so easily politicized. Inaccuracies or misinterpretations could be fuel for opposition parties to attack the government.
Major challenges Tzembelicos faced included a last-minute decision to publish a 96-page hockey magazine. He also had to contend with a lot of back-and-forth communication with people who fancied themselves writers but lacked an understanding of the publishing process, although The Writer’s Playbook helped mitigate this problem. At the other extreme were VANOC members who simply didn’t care about editorial quality, but “everything is amplified when you have big international events,” said Tzembelicos. “Typos and mistakes don’t just reflect poorly on the event organizers; they reflect poorly on Canada.”
Surprisingly, his work during the games themselves was relatively quiet, because the bulk of the work had been done in advance, although he and his team did have to produce a daily newspaper for the Athletes’ Village, as required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC didn’t enforce a particular style (although the games were always referred to as “the Olympic Winter Games” and never “the Olympics”), but the individual sports federations occasionally had specific requirements (for example, in the use of ladies versus women).
2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games
In July, athletes from across the American continents will descend on Toronto for the Pan Am Games. Unlike the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, which had to produce copy in French and English, Pan Am copy must be trilingual—in English, French, and Spanish. The event will feature 7,500 athletes, making it larger than the Olympic Games hosted by both Calgary and Vancouver. For many athletes, their performance at this event is what will determine whether they qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Despite the event’s size size, the Pan Am Games don’t come with the sponsorship that comes with the Olympics, meaning Corea must coordinate communications on a smaller budget.
Corea will oversee press operations‚ including media relations, broadcast relations, and press logistics. There will be 1,900 accredited members of the press covering the games, mostly from Canada, Brazil, and the United States. Part of Corea’s job will be to coordinate the Games News Service, an international wire service that will provide the media with quotes from the athletes seconds after they leave the field of play (known as “flash quotes”), games news, and press conference highlights. Corea is aiming to have flash quotes transcribed, edited, and posted within twenty minutes. Corea’s team has also researched and compiled athlete profiles for easy press access. Corea estimates that 1.11 million words will be produced over the course of the games, with more than 740,000 from flash quotes alone.
I’d heard only good things about PerfectIt, the consistency-checking software, but I work on a Mac and didn’t want to run Parallels, so I’ve resisted buying it. Still, I wanted to attend developer Daniel Heuman’s EAC conference talk about the software so that I could learn more about what it can and can’t do.
PerfectIt, by Intelligent Editing, is an add-on to Microsoft Word for PCs, and it runs from the toolbar or ribbon. It’s a consistency checker that alerts you to inconsistencies in your text. These alerts don’t prescribe—it’s quite possible that what PerfectIt flags is all correct. “There are exceptions to every rule,” said Heuman, “so PerfectIt does make you slow down and evaluate each situation.”
PerfectIt will find inconsistencies in:
- hyphenation. Although right now the software only works for open versus hyphenated compounds, Heuman says that checking for open versus closed versus hyphenated is “on the list” of future improvements.
- numbers. It will alert you if you’ve deviated from your style and used numerals where you should have spelled out a number, and vice versa. It will not, however, find inconsistencies in the use of a comma or a nonbreaking space in a numeral (e.g., 5,000 versus 5000 versus 5 000).
- spelling. Not only will it catch “adviser” versus “advisor,” but it will also flag usage inconsistencies, such as “preventive” versus “preventative.” Embarrassing errors that a spell check wouldn’t catch—such as using “pubic” instead of “public” or “mange” instead of “manage”—are also programmed to pop up on a PerfectIt scan.
- abbreviations. Have you defined an abbreviation? Have you continued to spell it out once it has been defined? PerfectIt will also let you generate a table of abbreviations. (Heuman’s demonstration of this feature prompted a lot of oohs and aahs.) However, the software will not detect inconsistent use of full caps versus small caps.
- capitalization. PerfectIt will alert you to inconsistencies such as “parliament” versus “Parliament.” It will also check for consistency in header cases—a good reason to use Word’s styles to define your headers.
- lists. PerfectIt will flag inconsistencies in capitalization and punctuation in lists—but only those styled as lists in Word. It won’t work with manually inserted bullets, for example.
For each potential error that PerfectIt finds, a dialog box pops up that describes the inconsistency; shows you how many cases of each form you have in the document and allows you to choose your preferred form; shows an excerpt of text around each instance of the error, letting you fix each case individually or all of them at once; and states any exceptions to the rule or special considerations in a note box at the bottom.
I asked if PerfectIt could be told to ignore block quotes or text style as quotations. Heuman told me that it will respect the “Do not check spelling and grammar” checkbox, but only after you’ve gone into the advanced settings and told it to, specifically.
PerfectIt will not check grammar, nor will it check references.
One feature that makes the software particularly powerful is the ability to create a style sheet for each client or to import an existing style guide, such as ones from the WHO, UN, EU, or The Economist. PerfectIt can then check your text against the selected style sheet and flag any deviations from it. If you’ve created a style sheet and would like to share it with a client or colleague, it’s easy to export it and send it along.
For those of us who don’t have a PC and aren’t using Parallels, Intelligent Editing does offer an online consistency checker, but it is a “shadow of the full suite.” My fingers are crossed that one day, PerfectIt will be available for Mac users. It does seem to be a powerful time saver, and I imagine that future tweaks to its functionality will only make it better.
We kicked off the 2013–2014 EAC-BC meeting season last evening with a packed house and an editors’ show and tell of some of our favourite time-savers. Here’s a summary*:
- Frances Peck showed us CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute database, which is handy if you need to work with a document that has legal citations or references to acts and regulations. The searchable database covers both federal and provincial case law and has up-to-date wording of legislation. The University of Victoria Libraries vouch for the database’s reliability.
- I mentioned the Library of Congress Authorities as a reliable place to check names.
- Lana Okerlund told us about GeoBC for fact checking B.C. place names.
- Naomi Pauls and Jennifer Getsinger both mentioned the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base for place names within Canada.
- I also told the crowd about SearchOpener, which I’d mentioned in a previous post. The tool lets you perform multiple Google searches at once—a boon for checking fact-heavy texts.
Notes and bibliography
- Stef Alexandru told us about RefWorks and Zotero, which are bibliographic management programs. The former costs $100 (USD), whereas the latter is free. In both of these programs, you can enter all of your bibliographic information, and it produces a bibliography in the style (e.g., Chicago) that you want.
- Microsoft Word’s bibliography tool does the same thing (under “Manage Sources”)
The trick to all of these programs, though, is that you would have had to work with your client or author early enough in the writing process for them to have used them from the outset. Nobody knew of any specific tricks for streamlining the editing of notes and bibliographies, although Margaret Shaw later mentioned a guest article on Louise Harnby’s blog by the developer of EditTools, Richard Adin, in which he writes:
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.
- For fact checking bibliographical information, one suggestion was to use WorldCat.
- Jack Lyon’s Editorium has a FileCleaner Word add-on that helps with a lot of common search-and-replace cleanup steps. NoteStripper may also help you prepare a file for design if the designer doesn’t want embedded footnotes or endnotes.
- Grace Yaginuma told us how to strip all hyperlinks from your file by selecting all (Ctrl + A) and then using Ctrl + Shift + F9.
- To remove formatting from text on the clipboard, suggested apps include Plain Clip and Format Match.
- Nobody in the room had tried PerfectIt, but there seemed to be positive views of it on EAC’s listserv. It catches consistency errors that Word’s spelling and grammar checkers miss, including hyphenation, capitalization, and treatment of numbers. You can also attach specific dictionaries or style sheets to it.
Author correspondence and queries
- Theresa Best keeps a series of boilerplate emails in her Drafts folder; another suggestion was to have boilerplate email text as signature files.
- For queries that you use again and again, consider adding it as an AutoCorrect entry, a trick I use all the time and saves me countless keystrokes. Store longer pieces of boilerplate text as AutoText.
- Naomi Pauls and Theresa Best talked about the utility of checklists. I concur!
- A few people in the audience mentioned that a surprising number of editors don’t know about using Outline View or Navigation Pane in Microsoft Word to do outlining and structural editing.
- One person said Scrivener is a fantastic tool for easily moving large chunks of text around and other aspects of structural editing.
- Janet Love Morrison uses Billings for time tracking and invoicing, and she highly recommends it. Other options recommended include iBiz and FreshBooks. (Someone also mentioned Goggle as a time tracker, but I can’t find anything about it. Can anyone help?)
- Theresa Best has just begun using Tom’s Planner, which she described as a free and intuitive project-management program.
- Peter Moskos mentioned that years ago, his firm had invested in FastTrack Schedule, which cost a few hundred dollars but, he said, was worth every penny, especially for creating schedules for proposals.
- One recommended scheduling app for arranging meetings is Doodle.com.
Editors’ wish list
- Naomi Pauls said that she’d like to see a style sheet app that lets you choose style options easily rather than having to key them in. (Being able to have your word processer reference it while checking the document would be a plus.)
- Someone else proposed a resource that would be a kind of cheat sheet to summarize the main differences between the major style guides, to make it easier to jump from one to another when working on different projects.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting and especially those who shared their tips and tricks!
*Although I knew some names at the meeting, I didn’t catch all of the names of the contributors (or I’d forgotten who’d said what). If you see an entry here and thought, “Hey—that’s me!” please send me a note, and I’ll be happy to add your name.
Checking facts in the realm of general knowledge is a part of a copy editor’s job, and for some genres, like history or biography, it can be one of the most time consuming. Fortunately, a couple of really simple tools can help make the fact-checking process a little less tedious.
Record a macro to create a list of terms to check
I used to fact check as I worked through a manuscript, interrupting my own reading to plug a name into Google. This practice was probably a relic of working on hard-copy manuscripts, and it took me much longer than it reasonably should have to realize how dumb I was being. Instead, I now copy the terms into a separate document and deal with them all at once in a focused fact-checking session, then I go back to the manuscript and fix any discrepancies. Handily, the list of terms you create in this process can also serve as the basis of the word list in your style sheet.
To cut down on the number of keystrokes you have to input to make your word list, record a simple macro in Microsoft Word. (If you’ve got Word 2008, you’re out of luck here, but you can still copy and paste manually and use the tool in the next section to save you time.)
- Open a new document, and save it, giving it a descriptive name (e.g., [Project name] word list).
- Open your manuscript document in Word. *Note: your word list and the manuscript must be the only two documents open in Word for this macro to work.
- Highlight the term you want to copy.
- Under Tools, point to Macro, then click Record New Macro.
- Give your macro a descriptive name, and assign it a shortcut key combination. Click OK.
- Input the following:
On a Mac
- Command + c (copies highlighted text)
- Command + ` (tilde key; switches to the other open document)
- Command + v (pastes copied text)
- Command + ` (returns to manuscript document)
On a PC
- Ctrl + c
- Alt + Tab
- Ctrl + v
- Alt + Tab
- Under Tools, point to Macro, then click Stop Recording.
Now anytime you want to copy a term into your word list, all you have to do is highlight it in your manuscript document and press your macro’s shortcut key combination.
Note that your word list doesn’t have to be limited to names; it can include any search terms you’d plug into Google (e.g., Indian Act 1876)
Once you’ve got all of the terms copied out of the manuscript, you may want to scan the list and tweak it a bit so that a Google search will return meaningful results. For example, very common names (e.g., John Smith) may need more specific context (e.g., John Smith Jamestown), or you may have to put quotation marks around terms you want to search exactly.
Use SearchOpener to do multiple Google searches at once
Plug your word list into SearchOpener and click Submit. Then click Open All to have each search open in a separate tab. Now you can go through each of the tabs to confirm your list of terms, refining your searches as needed.
If your list of search terms is long, you may want to do this process in batches, but the approach will still save you time, and it certainly beats copying and pasting each term separately into Google.
A style sheet is distinct from a publisher’s style guide (which applies to all of the publisher’s books) and is a list of words, terms, usages, etc., that the copy editor creates when working through a particular document. Ruth encourages editors to create a style sheet for every document they work on, no matter how short. Even a two-page pamphlet requires decisions about the serial comma, capitalization, and so on. We freelancers especially must rely on style sheets to keep ourselves organized, since we’re often working on several projects at once, each with its own set of style decisions.
Ruth suggests that as you put together your style sheet, keep in mind that it’s a form of communication with others in the editorial and production process. The proofreader will certainly use it, and the author, designer, and indexer may also look at it.
Style sheets can be an invaluable piece of archival material; it means that you, or another editor, won’t have to start from scratch if the document you’re working on has to be revised. As a freelancer, Ruth says, she keeps all of her style sheets. In corporate world, she’s often the one introducing all of the styles. Style sheets can serve as a building block for the organization to start developing its own style guide.
So what should a style sheet include? Two mandatory elements are (1) which dictionary you’re using and (2) which style manual you’re using—editions are important. Whether or not to use the serial comma is also almost always on the style sheet. Even if it’s in the organization’s style guide, it’s helpful to repeat that information, particularly if those who will be working with the document after you is not in house or is not focused on editorial issues.
The style sheet is basically a record of everything you’ve had to look up—proper nouns, titles of books, acronyms, and the like—and everything for which you’ve had to make a decision about
- spelling (words with more than one accepted spelling),
- hyphenation (e.g., hyphenated compounds before and after nouns, hyphenation of noun forms but not corresponding verbs, etc.),
- abbreviations (e.g., periods or not, small caps or full caps, etc.), and
- foreign words (e.g., accents/diacritics or not, italics or not, etc.).
Style sheets often include how numbers should be treated. When should they be spelled out and when should numerals be used? What date format is used? What units of measurement? Cookbook style sheets may also have a list of measurement abbreviations, conversions, and even standard sizes for pans and other kitchen equipment.
If the book has back matter, it’s often helpful for both you and the proofreader to include on the style sheet not just a description but a sample of a typical note and bibliographic entry to show how these should look.
Finally, any deviations from the norm or from the organization’s house style should be noted. An author may have a strong preference to spell or format a term a certain way that may not be what the dictionary or style manual recommends.
Once you put your style sheet together, proofread it. Make sure the word processor hasn’t autocorrected or autocapped your terms, and run a spell check. Date the style sheet, archive it for yourself, and pass it on.
What shouldn’t go on the style sheet? If there’s only one way to spell a word, don’t include it. “You don’t want to display your ignorance on a style sheet,” Ruth says. “It’s your job as copy editor to fix the spelling errors and typos.” She will usually list place names with difficult spellings but not, say, Paris or London—names that everyone knows how to spell. Also, says Ruth, list just the words and terms—there’s no need to write a story or justify the style decision you’ve made.
The sample style sheets that Ruth brought prompted some discussion about categorization. She referenced one of my earlier posts about style sheets, where I noted that proofreaders generally prefer an uncategorized word list. Eve Rickert chimed in to say that as a proofreader, she often finds that she’ll look for a term in one category on a style sheet, not find it, and look it up in anther source, only to discover that it had be listed under another category all along. When she receives a categorized style sheet, she simply removes the headings and consolidates the word list. Ruth explained that while editing, she finds it can be helpful to compartmentalize. I wondered if the preference had to do with workflow and where you choose to check your facts. If you have to check a list of place names, for example, against a specific authority (like the B.C. Geographical Names database), then it may help to separate out the terms into categories, but if you’re plugging everything—people’s names, place names, organization names, titles, etc.—into Google, then that kind of compartmentalization may not be necessary. Ultimately, Ruth says, it’s prudent to simply ask the publisher or client what they prefer.
An audience member asked if made-up words in a science fiction book, for example, should show up on a style sheet. To ensure consistency in spelling, says Ruth, absolutely. Another audience member asked if words deliberately misspelled to convey a character’s accent should be included. Ruth replied that, as a proofreader, she would certainly find that helpful, but the question morphed into a discussion about whether such misspellings were derogatory. Is it better to describe the accent but not misspell the dialogue? Would that be telling rather than showing? Not being a specialist in fiction, Ruth didn’t have a definitive answer, but it was interesting to hear the diversity of opinions on the issue.
Ruth ended the evening by showing us an example of a style sheet (created by Ann-Marie Metten) for a novel because she’d been asked what the difference was between fiction and nonfiction style sheets. The answer? Not much. You still have to make the same kinds of decisions.
The evening’s presentation and discussions showed that although all style sheets have some common elements, there is no one right way to compose them. However, as with all facets of editing, using your judgment is key to ensuring that the style sheets will be useful to you and everyone who will use them after you.
At last evening’s EAC-BC meeting, David Harrison spoke about academic editing. His perspective was quite a bit different from mine—he seems to have gained most of his experience working directly with academic authors, often helping them prepare a manuscript for submission to a publisher, whereas I’ve worked on the other end, editing text that a publisher has already accepted.
Harrison has worked with authors as diverse as literary biographers, CGA systems analysts, expert witnesses, and public policy specialists. One client had initially hired Harrison to edit a grant proposal, so, Harrison emphasizes, academic editors can do more than work on just journal articles and books.
He says that, as with other editing, it’s important to understand the author’s purpose. Academic editors may wish to
- create new knowledge
- share ideas
- challenge the ideas of others
- support the research and findings of others
- reach a wider audience
- reach a more specialized audience
- promote a cause, a policy, a theory, etc.
We must also not forget that they may also have some more practical motivations; “publish or perish” still very much persists:
- get published in a journal
- get a paper accepted for a conference
- get a research grant
- achieve tenure
- get promoted
- sell a book and life off the royalties
- get invited to address prestigious audiences in exotic parts of the world
An academic editor must also have a good handle on what the final product will look like. Fortunately, says Harrison, academic papers generally have a very predictable structure. The first time you work with a particular author or in a particular genre, look online or in a local university library for samples of the type of publication the author wants to create. Alternatively, have the author send you a sample.
Academic publishers may have very specific guidelines that they expect authors to follow—these dictate everything from article or abstract length to preferred spellings to formatting. It’s the author’s responsibility to make sure he or she adheres to these, but it’s helpful for the editor to know about them. If a particular publisher doesn’t have such a “Guide to Authors,” follow some exemplars of that publisher’s existing publications or follow an established style guide, such as Chicago or APA, but be sure to communicate your decision to the author. Keep a style sheet for each project. In fact, archive those style sheets; if you ever have repeat work with that author, the existing style sheet will save you a lot of time.
The contract, says Harrison, is very important; make sure you get the deal in writing. Share your expectations. Is the bibliography included in the cost? Is fact checking? Build in some milestones at which you can be paid. Professionalism is key. Stay within your area of competence.
Harrison could find only a handful of books relating to academic writing and editing, but he mentioned Writing for Scholarly Publication by Anne Sigismund Huff, who encourages authors to think of writing as conversation. She, in turn, suggested Making Sense of the Organization by Karl Weick, who elucidated the cycle of writing as it related to clarifying thought. If thinking is writing and writing is thinking, Harrison says, the editor’s role is to mediate that cycle.
Harrison’s presentation sparked some lively discussion about contracts—whether to charge a project rate or hourly rate; how to educate clients about the difference between an estimate and a bid; how to clearly delineate the scope of the work (e.g., specifying the number of revisions). Harrison himself quotes a project fee, saying that an hourly rate can be intimidating to clients. “Think about it from the author’s perspective,” he advised. “How would you react to someone saying, ‘I charge this much per hour but can’t tell you definitively how long it will take me?'” But what Harrison does is charge an up-front fee of commitment and then use an instalment plan for when certain milestones have been attained (e.g., first three chapters finished, halfway mark, initial edit, final revision, etc.).
The audience also asked about what to do in instances of plagiarism. Harrison doesn’t check for plagiarism as a matter of course but encourages editors to make use of the Editors’ Association of Canada’s “Guidelines for Editing Theses” as a tool to educate authors about an editor’s limitations, especially when it comes to dissertations. Jean Lawrence suggested a helpful strategy for diplomatically flagging instances of plagiarism: give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that he or she has simply left out a citation.
I asked how polished the final product would have to be in such an author-editor relationship given that the paper or book would then go through the publisher’s own editorial process. Harrison said he’s found that less editing is happening at the level of the publisher. In fact, some publishers’ “Guide to Authors” explicitly mentions that if English isn’t your first language, you should strongly consider having your work looked at by an editor prior to submission, and he’s gotten a lot of work that way. He added that he works under the assumption that he’ll be the last person to touch the manuscript from a language point of view.
It’s easy to understand how a book’s style sheet can fall off a copy editor’s priority list in the rush to meet a deadline—and how tempting it can be simply to alphabetize the word list and send it in. But I’d like to argue that editing a style sheet is just as important as creating it.
Indexers understand that up to half of the time spent indexing is devoted to editing the draft index—ensuring consistency in entry structure, eliminating wordiness and unnecessary entries and subentries, correcting spelling errors, etc.—to make the final product as useful as possible to the reader. An index and a book’s style sheet have a lot in common; in fact, the word list of a style sheet could almost be considered a most basic, preliminary proper noun index, without the page numbers, so it’s not surprising that a lot of the simple editing techniques for the index could also be applied to the style sheet to produce a more polished product.
But why bother? After all, doesn’t the style sheet have a very limited lifetime and an even more limited audience? To address this question, we’ll have to look at the style sheet’s end-users:
- The author. I always include a copy of the style sheet when I send an edited manuscript to an author, because I feel that it’s foundational to good author relations. Not all authors will look at style sheets, but those that do read them carefully, and presenting a well-edited, consistent style sheet helps authors understand that you aren’t just making arbitrary changes to their text. Conversely, a poorly organized style sheet could potentially torpedo an attentive author’s confidence in his or her editor’s competence.
- You—the copy editor. When the author returns the copy-edited manuscript, you’ll have to refer to and update the style sheet. Why not make it easier for yourself?
- The proofreader. This person will undoubtedly use your style sheet the most. An inconsistent, disorganized, or contradictory style sheet can be an enormous source of frustration for a proofreader, as it leads to a lot of duplicated fact-checking work. Think about how a proofreader will use your word list, and refrain from the (indexing!) sin of overclassification: there’s no need to divide your lists into names of people, names of places, names of organizations, etc.; in such a case, the proofreader has to pause, decide what category a term falls under, then find it in an alphabetized sublist, whereas a single alphabetized list makes confirming a word or term simpler and easier. Even if you and perhaps the author find the classification helpful, a proofreader will probably prefer the single master list.
- The indexer. As an indexer, I rarely import the style sheet directly into an index, but I do use it to double-check the spelling of my entries and confirm the style for the wording of headnotes and subentries. I’ll also look through the style sheet to ensure that I haven’t missed any important names or topics. (Importing the style sheet word list into an indexing program isn’t something I’m fundamentally opposed to—it’s just something I’ve never tried. For a proper noun index, doing something like this may significantly expedite the indexing process.)
- Any member of the editorial team that may have to work on a new edition of the book, a spinoff, or a new book within the same series. Here is where a style sheet can have a much longer lifetime than just the production cycle of the book. Think about the editor who will have to use the style sheet when writing cover copy for a new format reprint or the editor who has to work on a revised edition. A well-organized style sheet can be a major time saver in these situations, where sometimes the fact that these books are “just revisions” means that they aren’t allotted much time in the schedule.
All of this is not to say that my style sheets are always (or ever) perfect. But I feel that at a minimum, a copy editor should do the following after alphabetizing the word list:
- Go through the list and cull duplicate entries. This exercise not only eliminates redundancy, but it can also help identify missed inconsistencies and errors, particularly if you notice two distinct entries that you think ought to be the same.
- Run a spell check. This process can be slow, since a style sheet is typically loaded with names that don’t appear in a word processor’s dictionary, but it’s helpful in identifying not only spelling errors within the style sheet itself but also in the manuscript, essentially forcing you to pause and double-check your fact checking.
- Spot check a handful of entries against the manuscript. Using judgment, do global searches for a selection of style decisions, especially those that can have variants in spelling, hyphenation, or capitalization—and those entries that just look kind of funny and that you’d like to confirm.
Another strategy, given the similarities between style sheet word lists and indexes, that I haven’t yet attempted (and that non-indexer editors will probably not want to try), is to use indexing software to create and maintain the style sheet. In theory doing so would eliminate the duplicate-entry problem; facilitate cross-references within the word list; allow for special glyphs, such as initial punctuation, without throwing off the alphabetization; and may allow errors to be identified earlier on, since the word list can be sorted and resorted in a number of ways, including alphabetically and by order of entry, that may highlight inconsistencies. I’ll post about the experience if I ever have the chance to try this.