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Editing Made Easy
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
It’s copy editing we’ll be dealing with for the most part. This is going though and looking for grammar, spelling, diction, flow and so on. First, know (and you may already) that there are many types of “editing.” Manuscript editing, for example, is basically advising an author on flow, characters, and more major components of a manuscript. But for copy editing we are out to:
- Correct any obvious spelling/grammar/punctuation or usage errors,
- Ensure consistency in capitalization, hyphenation, and so on,
- Query questionable word choice, repetition, awkward phrasing, or anything that’s confusing to the reader,
- All using Track Changes for corrections and Comments (features in Microsoft Word), of course.
Making Edits and Additions
Word makes this easy. I’ll walk you through using Word 2007, but 2003 and 2010 versions are the same or almost the same as I understand, and Word is even available for Mac:
- Open the document In MS Word.
- Under the REVIEW tab, click the top part of the TRACK CHANGES button in the ribbon. It should now glow orange. Now, if you go into the content and delete a word or type new ones you’ll see it creates different colored line-throughs or text, usually red. Later, when one mouses over the changes, it will actually show the time and date the change was made, and even the initials of the one who made the changes. The document can even be edited again by another and Word will (intelligently) use a different color, different initials. That’s almost there is to it! I’m eager to get this in the hands of well-meaning clients because many will write out long emails or letters explaining, “On page 7, paragraph 3, second line in, instead of ‘client’ use the word ‘patient,’” or some such thing, when if they had simply made the change there in the spot, tracking them, it would save everyone a lot of time and provide better accuracy. In fact, page numbers change from time to time as documents are opened in different programs or after changes are made. (TIP: if you need to find something quickly in a Word document, press ctrl+F and enter a word to search for, and Word brings you there.)
- ADDITIONS: Clients often want to add content and well they should! It’s assumed they won’t add very much, otherwise why hire the ghostwriter? But it’s the client’s knowledge and experience we want in this thing, anyway! To make additions to content simply place your cursor where you want the addition and start typing. The words will appear in the color of the edits (usually red) and be quickly visible to all who review thereafter. In fact, one could easily say that this cuts down on the time involved in collaboration.
- COMMENTS: It’s common to want to explain something or ask a question when editing and the best way to do so is to place your cursor where you’d like it or highlight a word or section and, again under the REVIEW tab, simply click NEW COMMENT. Word then creates a little text bubble in a newly created right column for you to make notes to the next person to see the document. Again, it’s all time, date, and initial stamped.
- SELECT LANGUAGE: This is another important thing to have set up correctly, especially prior to your GRAMMAR AND SPELLING CHECK. About five columns in from the left side of the REVIEW tab should be a button called SET LANGUAGE. Ninety-nine % of the time we keep grammar and spelling in US English, as it’s just the largest market in the world for books and a language most recognizable for an international audience. Click the SET LANGUAGE button A LANGUAGE window will open revealing what language is selected. If ENGLISH (UNITED STATES) is not the selected language find it in the list and click it. Then click the DEFAULT button in the lower left of the window and YES to set US English as the default. Then click OKAY.
- GRAMMAR AND SPELL CHECK: Before leaving a document you’re editing you should always run an easy GRAMMAR AND SPELL CHECK before you go. I normally place the cursor at the very beginning of the document and then, also under the REVIEW tab, just click the SPELLING AND GRAMMAR button at the far left side of the ribbon and follow the prompts as Word walks you through the check. You may have noticed that questionable grammar is usually underlined by Word in green and questionable spelling underlined in red.
- One more thing, and this is important: Don’t just SAVE the document, be sure to use the SAVE AS function so you can rename it now. The format for file names we use like this:
Notice this is client last name, dash (no spaces), project name (not necessarily book title), dash (no spaces) and a number—in this case Book 2. That’s a brief, descriptive and useful file name. If you’re making revisions or editing, can I please suggest you add something like this:
This shows the file was revised (r) on August 1st, 2014, by someone with the initials “JS.” Later revisions can simply replace the date and initials without making the file name longer, and one can then have a list of files in different versions, by date and editor. Easy peesy.
We have actually had it happen that a client kept saving with the same file name and it caused all kinds of confusion, so this easily prevents that.
Reviewing and Accepting Changes
If you’re the writer, you will be very interested to see what someone else, a colleague no less, has to say about your writing. This is an opportunity to develop. You might even disagree with the edits and that’s fine. Ultimately the Managing Editor has final say, but getting the team editing each other’s work and using a professional editor is a great benefit to us all.
The beautiful thing is when you look over a Word document that has been properly edited and added to with TRACK CHANGES and COMMENTS, the changes appear in red strike-through’s or text, or in text bubbles in the extended right column. You can find changes even easier if you look down the left side of the content, as Word places a vertical bar to the left of any sections where changes have been made.
And you absolutely should take a few minutes to review what has been done to the draft by an editor or the changes you’ve made as a client, of course.
Upon review of an edit made by someone else you can proceed accepting or rejecting changes either one-by-one or all at once at the end. Under the REVIEW tab, to the right of the ribbon (in Word 2007) there is an ACCEPT and a REJECT button. If you click the lower portion of either you can choose to accept (or reject) one change at a time or simply handle them all at once with one big click at the end.
Note that after accepting changes a page-through should be done just to be sure your layout hasn’t been changed for the worse in any way, as this is not always clear when changes are still appearing in red on top of or next to the original text.
Editing is a vital tool and a valuable skill. The real pros appreciate it, insist on it even, on their own work.