Keeping track of multiple-authors, part 3: “Protect documents”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWait – is this a brand-new paragraph? When did that get added to the text? How much other new material did the author add on the second pass? Rats. Do I even have time to do another complete reading of the manuscript?

Microsoft Word allows you to select an option called “protect document,” which means that all changes made to a text will appear in track changes and that no track changes can be accepted or rejected. “Protect document” allows authors to comment on their editors’ changes and to suggest further edits, but none of these edits can be made “silently” – that is, without being flagged in track changes. On a Mac, “protect document” is an option under “Tools”:

protect document

For Windows, you can find the “protect document” under the “Save” or “Save As” options.

But why would an editor even bother to use such a tool?

Once the “first pass” of copyediting is complete (which may actually have required two or more readings by the copyeditor), the text might not be read word for word again until it’s set in pages and the proofreader takes a turn. Project editors are busy people, and they’d prefer to save time and money by reviewing only those passages marked by the copyeditor. (Some publishers even spend very little time proofreading the set pages. I don’t personally think this is wise, but it happens.) So once the copyedited text has been submitted to the publisher, the assumption is that the text has been made as correct as possible – and that all edits have been flagged for the project editor’s attention.

For this reason, it’s important that copyeditor and author alike make all changes in track changes. An author may have a perfectly reasonable edit to make – an additional clause or even a paragraph that will help clarify an idea, for example – but that addition may require further copyediting, like the consistent formatting of numbers, for example, or hyphenation. And what if an accidental typo or dangling modifier crept into the new passage? But if the new text is inserted in track changes, the copyeditor knows to pay special attention to it and to save the author any embarrassment caused by the kind of errors that any of us could make while writing. When a manuscript is already complicated – as when, for example, multiple authors are writing and reviewing the text – having all revisions marked in track changes is especially important.

In fact, it’s so important to make sure that no changes are made silently that many copyeditors routinely use the protect-document option whenever they send edited work to an author for review. Here’s why:

  • It’s very easy to delete or reformat something by accidentally clicking the mouse. (Haven’t you ever clicked the mouse without meaning to and thought, “Wait. What did I just do?”) If the document is protected, the accidental change will be marked so that the author and editor can review it, increasing the chances that any mistakes will be fixed.
  • Protecting a document helps a less-experienced author remember that all communication between writer and editor needs to be completely transparent – which means all changes need to be visible.
  • The protect-document option prevents errors from finding their way into a text that must be reviewed or created by several people. Any time another person adds new material to a document, the chances increase that typos will be inserted into the document – unless the edits are made in track changes so that they can be reviewed.
  • Such a tool also protects the document if an author, for any reason, might be tempted to sneak changes into the text. This doesn’t happen often, but occasionally authors can be angry or offended by the editing process — perhaps by something that happened before the copyeditor even received the manuscript from the publisher. Or an author may think that no one “has the right” to change his or her writing. But no matter how valid in terms of content and authorial voice, any silent changes to the writing might be inconsistent with the editing style already used throughout the manuscript – and therefore the resulting book will look less professional than it should. Because an editor can’t know which authors might be resistant to editing, he or she may routinely password-protect documents. (Authors of course have the right to assert their writing preferences; but it’s best to assert these rights in a forthright rather than a covert way. Editors are used to being open and discussing editing issues – and adjusting editorial approaches as much as possible to please the writer.)

Note that a document that has been protected without a password can be unprotected at any time, even by the author. When you must be absolutely sure that no unmarked edits are put into the text, you’ll need to create a password. But when you use a password, keep these things in mind:

  • You want to create a password that will be easy for you to remember but difficult for someone else to guess. Something like “123” or “password” isn’t a good choice. But something like “UB?2ilQ-802sS~” also isn’t a good choice, unless you keep a record of it.
  • If you decide to use a password, track changes cannot be accepted by anyone, even you, without it – meaning that if you forget the magic word, no one will be able to create a cleaned-up version of the text when the time comes. So you’ll need to unprotect the document before sending the final version to the project editor. For that reason, it’s wise to make a note of the password and keep it in a safe place. A password that seems obvious in the moment might not be so memorable two weeks later.
  • Protect-document passwords are case sensitive. Before you have a moment of panic because your password was rejected, check to make sure the caps lock hasn’t accidentally been turned on.

Protecting documents is an especially good idea when an editor is working with a multiple-author book. Individual writers in a multiple-author manuscript might make silent edits that are inconsistent not only with the editor’s style but also with one another, increasing the chances that the final text will be extremely inconsistent. Imagine a book with dashes, for example, formatted in four different ways or with key terms spelled several different ways. How much confidence would you have that the authors know what they’re talking about? “Protect document” is just one more tool in the editor’s toolbox for making text look consistent and professional. And when the publication looks professional, so do the authors.


Keeping track of multiple authors, part 2: Files and folders

pencil jarWait — is this the second pass or the first? Did I just accidentally save over the latest edited version with an older one?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been discussing the challenges of editing multiple-author books. Today I’ll discuss taking advantage of folders and file names for naming and organizing all those chapters in their different versions. (You can read what I have to say about adapting editing approaches and creating spreadsheets for books with several authors.)

“Although it’s possible to go through life with all your documents in one huge folder,” Carol Fisher Saller asks in The Subversive Copy Editor, “why would anyone do that?” Saller gives great advice on using “labels and folders,” even “folders within folders,” as “collision insurance” during an editing project (74–75). Here are some ways I’ve avoided “collisions” when editing multiple-author books:

1. Renaming a file whenever it’s being returned by or sent back to the author. There are usually at least two editorial passes that need to be exchanged between copyeditor and author; some complicated files might need more. Not all authors remember to rename the reviewed versions of their files, so be sure that you rename it when you save it to your computer. That way, you retain older versions in case you need to refer back to them ( and the file names in different folders also become a kind of checklist, something I’ll get into more in #2 below). Let’s say our fictitious book title, The Big Book of Moving Forward, has been abbreviated as BB:

You might name the first pass for June Saguno’s chapter “Saguno_BB.docx” or “Saguno_BB_1stpass.docx” and then e-mail it to June for her review.

If June doesn’t remember to rename her reviewed chapter before sending it back to you, you could save this new version as “Saguno_BB_rev.docx” (rev stands for reviewed) or “Saguno_BB_js.docx” (js stands for June Saguno).

Before sending your second-pass version to June, you could rename the file as “Saguno_BB_2ndpass.docx” or simply “Saguno_BB_2docx.”

And so on, for as many passes as you need to send.

It’s a good idea to remind authors that they should rename a file before sending it back to you. But as extra insurance, you can also save returned files into specific folders (see #2 below): “first pass back from authors,” “2nd pass back from authors,” and so on. That way, even files with the same names won’t overwrite one another.

2. Saving the renamed file into an appropriate folder, such as “files sent to authors,” “files back from authors,” “2nd pass files,” “final files,” and so on. Here are some file categories that have worked for me, but you could name them in whatever way will be clear to you, and you can create additional folders as needed:

list of folders

3. Keeping track of your progress within each folder. For the individual files within a folder, I use color-coding. In the “2nd pass” folder, for example, I use gray labeling to indicate which second-pass files I have received back from the authors and cleaned up. Some of the authors remembered to rename/initial their reviewed files; for those who didn’t, I added “rev” to the name. It’s not that important to me that files have identical names, as long as I understand what stage of review they’re in. Here is how the files within the folder look:

2nd pass

Here’s how I interpret, at a glance, the information in this file:

All authors included in this folder have received a second pass from me. Any authors whose names don’t appear in this folder are still reviewing their first-pass files — or their first-pass files didn’t need a second pass, so I simply cleaned them up and saved into the “FINAL” folder. That handy spreadsheet I talked about in a previous blog post will quickly show which option applies.)

Any files names labeled in gray indicate second-pass chapters that I’ve received back from the authors and cleaned up, saving the new versions either in the “FINAL” folder (if they’re done) or a “3rd pass” folder (if they need more review). In fewer words, gray means “The second pass for this chapter is completely done.” File names not labeled in gray indicate those authors who haven’t returned their reviewed second pass to me yet. In other words, those authors are still reviewing their second passes.

Sometimes I organize the folder by “date modified,” which tends to bring the unedited versions up to the top of the list; at other times I’ll be looking for a particular author’s file, so I switch to organizing by “name.”

By the way, all this information takes much, much longer to explain to someone else than it does for me to understand as I go through my folders. I look at the files in this folder and immediately think “done” or “not returned to me yet.”

As another example, in the “FINAL” folder, I use gray labeling to indicate which completed versions I’ve already pasted into the manuscript; any unlabeled files are the ones I still need to do. So color coding lets me keep track of not only the authors’ progress but my own. When I look at the folder below, I see that I still need to paste the final Garcia, Jackson, and Pacelli chapters into the manuscript:

final files color coded

And, again, any author names missing from the “Final” folder are chapters that are still in process, still in their first- or second-pass versions.

4. Recording files that have been OK’d but not returned. Sometimes an author won’t return a file but simply e-mails me to let me know that he or she has reviewed and accepted all my edits. Because I use my folders as a way of keeping track of each step of the editing process — letting me know what I need to do next — I save the e-mail message as a PDF and stick it in the appropriate folder. If June Saguno, for example, simply approved all my edits of the first pass, I’d save her e-mail as a PDF, naming it “Saguno approval” in the “files back from authors” folder. That’s my cue to open the Saguno file that I had originally sent her, accept all track changes, and save the resulting version in the “FINAL” folder.

As I said about spreadsheets last week, the point of using separate folders and color-coding is to make each step of the editing process visible. When you do so, you will always know what editorial stage you’re in for every chapter. Separating out different versions under different names also means that you’re less likely to copy over a newer version of the file with an older version by simply saving the wrong file. To realize that you lost all your editing work — or all your author’s editing work — is really an awful feeling.

Are there other ways you’ve found to keep track of your files and progress? Let me know!


Saller, Carol Fisher. The Subversive Copy Editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Text and file/folder graphics, © 2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley. Photo of pencils courtesy of

Keeping track of multiple authors, part 1: The trusty spreadsheet

colored pencile ends freeimagesWait — do I already have this author’s reviewed chapter — and will I annoy her if I send her an e-mail asking about it?

Last week I mentioned that record keeping is crucial to editing a multiple-author book. Investing in a few minutes updating your records as you go along can save you hours of headaches later. In the next few posts, I’ll discuss some of the ways I keep track of different authors and different versions of their files. I freely admit that I haven’t invented any of these methods, but it’s sometimes helpful to see what such records look like.

The more authors who are contributing to a book, the more important it is that the editor keep careful records. (I’ve edited multiple-author books with as few as thirteen authors and as many as one hundred.) The best advice I can give is not necessarily to do exactly what I do but to use the tools already available on your computer and in your software in ways that make sense to you. Think through all the steps you’ll go through to complete the editing — and then find ways of making that process visible so that you always know what editorial stage you’re in for every chapter.

Because not everyone finds organization to be a scintillating topic, I’ll be discussing my techniques one at a time, to keep each post relatively short. First up? Spreadsheets.

A spreadsheet is extremely helpful when you’re editing a multiple-author book: you’ll be able not only to keep names, titles, and contact information handy but also to track the progress of each individual chapter. Here’s a mock-up of a style sheet for a multiple-author book:


Note that I have columns for information (Author, E-mail, Title) and for important stages in the process: when I sent out the first pass, whether the author has confirmed receipt, when the reviewed file was returned, when the second pass was sent out, and when the editing was completed. (Wait – aren’t the Garcia and Garner columns missing information about the second pass? Well, no. Those two chapters didn’t need a second pass of editing, so I jumped to the “Editing complete” column and marked both “FINAL.” I use all capitals simply because it makes me happy every time I’ve successfully completed the editing of a chapter.) I’ve even included a “Notes” column, to remember any special situations that might affect meeting my deadline.

I like to take advantage of the bells and whistles built into my spreadsheet program, and I recommend that you do the same. Excel, for example, allows me to add “fill” colors to certain cells. The ability to color-code completed chapters (in gray) and authors who haven’t even confirmed receipt yet (in yellow) lets me know how many chapters I can relax about and which ones I need to pay special attention to. In fact, I might use that handy “Notes” column to jot down when I send certain authors a reminder to confirm with me that they’ve received their files. (If there’s a problem with e-mail, I need to know that well before the deadline.) Here’s the color-coded version of the first column of my spreadsheet:

color coded first column

I find it enormously satisfying and reassuring to see the gray cells for completed chapters start to fill up that first column. (Think of the pleasure you get from checking things off your to-do list.) This spreadsheet may look complicated, but I need only a few seconds to update it. Knowing when I sent and received files saves me from having to search through my mailboxes and computer folders to see if I’ve sent a reminder or received a new version of a file. By the way, it takes much longer to describe a spreadsheet to readers than it does to actually update one.

Have you used spreadsheets to keep track of your editing projects? If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I’ll be sharing more tips next time.

Text and spreadsheet graphics, © 2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley. Photo of pencils courtesy of

Editing style meets … multiple-author books

tilted pencilsEditing a book that is a compilation of works by several different people poses a special challenge to copyeditors. All the tact and attention that we typically lavish on a single author now has to be given to several writers, with equal care. So what changes does the editor have to make to his or her editing approach? Here’s what I’ve learned from the process:

Expect the first pass to take more time: you’re going to be repeating yourself. Copyeditors often make more comments at the beginning of a project than later on in the text. We might say something positive a time or two in the first chapter (“Interesting insight”), to demonstrate that we’re on the author’s side and to build trust, and we’ll also explain language issues if we think the author might wonder why, for example, we’re removing commas (“I’m formatting this phrase as a restrictive appositive”). Of course, we’ll continue to comment and query as needed, but as time goes by, we generally explain less, knowing that the author will remember what we said earlier in the text. Saying less lets us pick up speed; saying less over the course of the project will also allow the author to review the editing more swiftly.

But when each chapter is written by a different writer, I often find myself explaining the same issue over and over — otherwise, the author of chapter 3 won’t see that helpful explanation I made about nonrestrictive appositives in chapter 2. It’s important to resist the temptation to skip over “repetitive” comments. Skipping your usual commentary may make you sound brusque, and that’s not a helpful tone for creating a strong working relationship with a writer. The author of the last chapter deserves as much consideration as the author of the first.

Pay special attention to documentation. Check with your project editor to be sure whether all documentation (endnotes, bibliographies, or in-text citations) should be formatted in the same style throughout the manuscript. Some authors may have followed Chicago style, for example, while others may have used APA citation style. If your project editor wants the citations to conform to a single style manual — and I’d be surprised if he or she didn’t want this kind of consistency — you’ll have to work slowly and carefully, chapter by chapter, to impose the same format. You’ll also need to let authors know in your cover letter why you’ve changed their documentation and to reassure them that consistency across all chapters will make the book look professional. (If you’re lucky enough to have a multiple-author text that doesn’t require documentation, you have permission to dance around the room in joy.)

Be alert to inconsistencies. Especially if the chapters are addressing the same subject matter, be alert for inconsistent spelling and hyphenation, especially of key words. Should the noun phrase, for example, be childcare, child care, or child-care? In fact, all spelling should conform to the same dictionary and the same variants within that dictionary (so the final book won’t include some chapters discussing dialogue and others discussing dialog, for example).

Expect the review process to take more time. If you’re the editor responsible for sending files for author review, you’ll need to schedule extra time to prepare all those individual electronic files (or hard copies) to be sent out to authors. I recommend sending all authors the same style sheet and basic cover letter along with their individual files. Be sure to ask each author to confirm that he or she has received all the materials. If you have only six or ten authors in a collection, this process isn’t too bad. If you have fifty, sixty, seventy, or more authors, this step will take a good deal of time, even when you’re using e-mail to deliver the edited texts.

Remember to express appreciation and enthusiasm. It’s easy, when you’re faced with a big task, to focus just on the work at hand. But in that initial e-mail or cover letter to your authors, remember to express some enthusiasm for the book. Congratulate the authors for being included in the text. Edits are easier to review (and accept) when the authors realize that the editor supports them and finds their work worthwhile.

Keep detailed records. I can’t stress this enough. Especially if you’re responsible for sending out review files to authors and doing the final cleanup, keeping careful records will be a life saver. In fact, I have so much to say on this subject that I’ll be devoting my entire blog post next week to ways of keeping track of multiple authors and their various files. For now, remember that you will need to be able to quickly check which authors have confirmed receipt of their edited texts, which authors have reviewed your edits and returned the first-pass files, which chapters need further review, and which ones are complete. Authors won’t return their materials all at the same time, so you’ll need to impose some order on what arrives in your inbox.

Rely on your higher-ups. When you’re in doubt about how consistent you need to be from chapter to chapter — or how you might respond to a particularly unhappy author — remember that you have people to turn to: your project editor at the publishing house and the general editor of the book. Rely on their experience with the material, with editing, and with the individual authors. When you can figure something out yourself, you should, especially for routine copyediting issues. But whenever there’s a gray area or a particularly sensitive situation, ask your supervising editors for advice.

Multiple-author texts are challenging to edit. But it’s also enormously satisfying to succeed in making such a text correct and consistent. When you’re done, you definitely have earned bragging rights.

Next week: keeping track of all those individual chapters.

© 2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley. Photo courtesy of

Don’t be bossed around by spell check!

mispelled_graphicDon’t get me wrong — I find spell check useful. But too many writers use the spell-checking tool in Word as their final authority on spellings, variants, hyphenation, when in reality this tool often challenges terms that are not only acceptable but preferable, while allowing genuine mistakes to pass by unchallenged. Spell check is a first step in finding errors in your document, but it’s not an adequate substitute for a dictionary. (By the way, should the term be spell check, spell-check, or spellcheck? It depends on what dictionary you’re looking at.)

Spell check in Word has a particularly hard time with prefixes. While many dictionaries and style guides routinely drop hyphens between prefixes and root words, creating closed compounds, spell check doesn’t recognize words like preapprove and nonfiction and multisyllabic. For this reason, many writers assume these spellings must be “wrong” and put in hyphens, in good nineteenth-century style — when most of the twenty-first-century publishing world routinely drops hyphens in such terms.

On a similar note, spell check won’t be able to select the appropriate use of hyphenated versus open compounds, as in thank-you and thank you. Either could be correct, depending on the context: the author or editor needs to be able to distinguish the elliptical sentence form (as in “[I] thank you”) from the noun or adjective form (“As a thank-you, I sent both a gift and a thank-you note to the host.”)

I also find spell check frustratingly limited in its vocabulary. And I’m not talking about technical terms or newly coined phrases. Word’s spelling tool flags dumbed (as in dumbed down) as an error. It challenges pronation and campground and barre. All of these terms appear in my Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

And, of course, spell check doesn’t identify misused homonyms. It won’t challenge heel when you meant to write heal, or peak when you meant to write peek or pique, or its when you meant to write it’s, or pour when you meant to write pore. The spelling tool is not a substitute for an informed human brain, which can recognize which terms are appropriate in a given context.

So why — and how — do I find spell check “useful”? It’s your first line of defense against simple typos. Spell check will help you spot teh instead of the, for instance. The tool will also pick up on words that are commonly misspelled: Is it meteorology or meterology? Is it attendence or attendance? Accommodate or accomodate? The spelling tool is also good at finding dropped spaces, as in snafus like he didn’t watchhorror movies.” (Of course, spell check has a harder time recognizing when an unnecessary space appears: it will flag fo otball as an error, for example, but won’t pick up at tend as a misspelling of attend.)

If you use it slowly and carefully, spell check will help you pick up on inconsistencies in the text. Once you’ve clicked “add” or “ignore all” in a spell check, the same term shouldn’t get flagged again; if it does, something is wrong. Is a character’s name Flyn or Flynne or Flynn? Is her brother named Topher or Tofer? Is the artist’s name Georgia O’Keefe or Georgia O’Keeffe? I once edited a scholarly book that spelled Khrushchev three different ways. Spell check helped me notice the inconsistency. You should note that spell check routinely flags possessive forms as inconsistencies: it will ask you to confirm Khrushchev’s, for example, after you’ve already approved Khrushchev, and vice versa. Once you know this, you can gloss over possessives when spell check flags them.

But don’t be too speedy in your use of spell check. If you’re mindful when you use this tool, you’ll find yourself thinking, “Wait a minute — didn’t I already approve that spelling? So why is it coming up again?” And once you ask that kind of question, you can use “Find” in Word to track down inconsistencies in the text and fix them.

I think this is spell check’s true gift: it presents us with red flags to follow up on. The next step is ours. Rather than accept that nonfiction is a misspelling, we should turn to our trusty dictionary to make sure. Rather than gloss over Topher and Tofer, we should query the author to be sure that the preferred spelling appears throughout the text. Rather than let O’Keefe stand, we can find the proper spelling of the artist’s name in the dictionary or another trusted resource. Whenever spell check challenges something, don’t think of it as the final word: consider it an opportunity to ask a question and seek out the answer.

Text and graphic, © 2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley

Verbs with hyphens? Sometimes yes, sometimes no

cast_off_graphic“Slow down,” I used to tell my editing students when they used the dictionary. “Just because you find backup in Merriam-Webster, that doesn’t mean that back up isn’t also listed. You need to read both entries to see which term is right for your text.”

When you get in the habit of using the dictionary — carefully — you start to notice patterns in the way compounds are made. I’ve noticed, for example, that terms made with prepositions tend to have similarities in the way they’re spelled. Generally,

  • verb phrases made with prepositions tend to be open compounds (the words are neither fused together nor joined by a hyphen, as in “look out”);
  • noun phrases and adjective phrases tend to be either hyphenated compounds (the words are linked by a hyphen, as in the adjective “cast-off”) or closed compounds (the words are fused together without a space, as in the noun “lookout”);
  • the noun phrases and adjective phrases are often — but not always — spelled the same way.

See Merriam-Webster spelling for these verbs, nouns, and adjectives:

  • It’s a good idea to back up your files. Once you have your backups safely stored away, you’ll know what to do if your computer suddenly dies, as when you accidentally back up the car over your laptop.
  • Check out that cute kid in the checkout line.
  • Look out for any deviations in our branding. Our manager will be on the lookout for any inconsistencies. Sally will be our lookout: if she sees him coming down the corridor in an angry mood, she’ll warn us.
  • You need to follow up on that reading assignment. Your instructor wants you to prepare some follow-up questions. We’ll do the follow-up on Wednesday in class.
  • The designer will lay out the pages of the catalog. Once the layout is completed, you can proofread the text.
  • January is a good time to declutter and to cast off some of your old clothes. But remember to donate them: one person’s castoff is another person’s treasure. That cast-off coat will keep someone else warm this winter. (Here, the noun and adjective forms are different both from one another and from the verb form — at least according to the Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition Collegiate Dictionary.)

But terms that are made from two nouns follow a different pattern. Generally,

  • two nouns functioning as a single noun phrase appear as an open compound;
  • a verb phrase made from two nouns appears as a hyphenated compound.

See how Merriam-Webster spells the noun and verb forms of these phrases:

  • Because she loves to ice-skate, she asked for new ice skates for her birthday.
  • Because doing a double check can help you spot embarrassing errors, you should double-check the spelling of words in your cover letter.
  • He wasn’t sure how to do a jump start, so he asked his brother to jump-start the car.
  • As a child, he was obsessed with booby traps. He used to booby-trap the back door all the time.
  • Doing an auction as a kick start is a good idea: the event will kick-start our annual fund campaign.

Merriam-Webster doesn’t list adjective forms for these phrases. So I would hyphenate them, following the guidelines in The Chicago Manual, section 7.85 in the 16th edition, for “noun + noun” terms: the “adjective form [is] hyphenated before a noun.” So I’d spell noun-plus-noun adjectives with hyphens:

  • His booby-trap campaign was meant to be only a kick-start action in a yearlong attempt to thwart his sister’s ice-skate dreams.

(But if you’re following a different style manual — such as the Associated Press Stylebook or the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association — you should look up how noun-plus-noun adjectives should be formatted in that editing style.)

Of course, many noun-plus-noun phrases have become closed compounds over the years: horsehair, paperback, cookbook, wheelchair, and so on. (In general, the older a technology is, the more likely its terms will be closed compounds.)

What does all this mean? With time, you can learn to recognize general rules of thumb about hyphenation: but when in the slightest doubt, a copyeditor — or a careful writer — needs to look the term up. Merriam-Webster reveals all. Well, it reveals most. What the dictionary doesn’t say about hyphenation should be covered by your chosen style manual.

And these guidelines really aren’t all that technical. You need to be able to distinguish nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Most writers and editors can do that without breaking a sweat. And, yes, writers: you can wait to check until you’re revising and polishing your work.

For more discussion of hyphenated terms, take a look at these resources:

  • Pam Nelson, “Hyphens: Compound (word) interest,” ACES, May 28, 2012, (Nelson discusses hyphenation and also notes, “Bryan A. Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage, Third Edition, has a bit more than four pages on ‘Phrasal Adjectives’ and ‘Phrasal Verbs,’ pp. 625-629.”)

Are there other terms that you find frustratingly inconsistent in the way they use (or don’t use) hyphens? Maybe we can figure out a pattern.

Text and graphic, © 2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley

Editing with style (sheets)

style image mcbIf you ever get a job as a copyeditor — or have your book manuscript copyedited — you’ll become acquainted with one of the main tools of the trade: a “style sheet,” which The Chicago Manual describes as “an alphabetical list  of words or terms to be capitalized, italicized, hyphenated, spelled, or otherwise treated in any way unique to the manuscript” (16th ed., 2.52). The style sheet is also the place to note how numbers, acronyms and abbreviations, and documentation should be handled, even if it’s simply to note “follow Chicago Manual” or “use MLA style.” Looking at style sheets is enlightening: writers can learn just how much detail their copyeditors are wrangling, even for a light editing job, and editors can pick up tips for organizing their own style sheets by looking at the way other editors handle the task.

Though a copyeditor usually follows a particular style manual, like The Chicago Manual of Style, he or she also creates a unique style sheet for each editing project. These editorial style sheets are useful for keeping track of small editing decisions and for making clear — to the author, to the proofreader, to the publishing house — which editing decisions have been thought through carefully and confirmed as correct so that only the most consistent, polished version of the text goes public.

And such style sheets are useful to the copyeditor during the editing process so that decisions don’t have to be figured out over and over again. Should naive be spelled with or without an umlaut over the i throughout the book? Should numbers be written out as words — and under what conditions? When should terms like president, director, captain — or gothic, progressive, democratic — be capitalized and when should they be set in lowercase? (Perhaps in a book on history, some politicians are progressive in a general sense, but some are also Progressives, part of a specific party.) And so on. The editor notes his or her decisions, based on authorities like the style manual and dictionary, and then just refers back to the style sheet the next time the issue appears in the text.

The art of creating a style sheet is setting it up so that it’s easy and quick to use. It should be detailed enough to be helpful, without being so loaded with basic information that it becomes cumbersome. It would be a waste of time to simply retype everything that the style manual has to say on endnotes, for example. But for unusual citations (references to TV commercials, say, amid more-typical scholarly references to books and journals), a sample endnote in the style sheet could prove helpful.

Some editors also like to organize style sheet information into broad categories (punctuation, numbers, documentation, abbreviations, etc.) rather than in one long alphabetical list. Style sheets for works of fiction often include a list of character names and descriptions, for making sure that “Warren” doesn’t mysteriously become “Werner” later in the book or that Luz’s gray eyes don’t somehow turn brown in the middle of a chapter.

If you’re new to creating style sheets, here are some additional sources of information:

— On An American Editor recently, Amy Schneider posted a discussion on creating a style sheet specifically for a work of fiction.

— Beth Hill has also posted a discussion of style sheets, in “Style Sheets—The Setup and the Benefits,” The Editor’s Blog, July 12, 2011.

— On the Library page of the KOK Edit website, Katharine O’Moore-Klopf offers three sample style sheets:

— The third edition of The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn (University of California Press, 2011) offers a detailed sample style sheet on pages 47–51, and the discussion of style sheets continues through page 53.

— The 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press, 2010) briefly discusses editorial style sheets in section 2.52, showing an excerpt from one in figure 2.3. (The quotation in the first paragraph of this blog post comes from section 2.52 of this edition of this manual.)

Text and graphic, ©2015, Martha Carlson-Bradley