KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Getting Unstuck from the Editorial Mire

Publishing consultant Iva Cheung has posted her coverage of the panel discussion of project management at the recent national conference of the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. This point from Cheung’s write-up struck me as most important:

Sometimes we all find ourselves so mired that we feel we don’t have time to plan ahead or hire someone to help, but that attitude is self-defeating, said [panelist John] Marsh. “Take the time now, even if you are very pressed, to save time later on.”

Besides applying to project management, Marsh’s advice applies to several other facets of editorial work:

  • We get attached to our slowpoke ways of doing things and tell ourselves that we don’t have time to learn faster ways, such as using macros and wildcard searches, using new-to-us software, and using Microsoft Word templates and styles. We wind up working far too many hours on a project and may lose money because our client won’t pay for time that wasn’t in the project budget.
  • We work ridiculously long hours to finish a huge project, paying penalties of sleep deficits and poor mental and physical health. But if we take just a little time upfront and determine whether we can ask for an extended schedule or hire a subcontractor (or both), we might not end up frazzled or burned out.
  • We mistakenly believe that marketing (1) is all about coming across as self-important, (2) requires a huge time investment and thus is intimidating or not doable, (3) is only for marketing experts, and/or (4) doesn’t really work for editorial professionals. Not surprisingly, not too many new clients will find us when we think like that . . . because they don’t know we exist.
Do make time to find ways out of the mire. Getting unstuck feels great, will keep burnout at bay, and will make your joy in your work evident to your clients—which will bring clients back to you for more projects.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Resources Discussing the Use of Singular "They"

Not being a linguist, I don't usually write posts detailing linguistic matters. This post is a reference list of good reading rounded up by my colleagues rather than a discussion of the use of the singular pronoun they. I am for the widespread use of they; the following items explain the issue much better than I can.

Dear readers, if you have links that you think should be added here, please leave them in comments. Thank you.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Why Does Editing Take So Much Longer Than Reading for Pleasure or Interest?

Dear authors of articles for biomedical journals:

Editing is very unlike reading for pleasure or interest. It involves considering many issues. Here is a partial list of the issues that I address when editing your manuscript:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Syntax
  • Good transition from one topic to another
  • Overall topic organization
  • Logic
  • Accessibility:
    • Did the author present enough information so that readers with various levels of expertise—longtime physician, nurse practitioner, intern, medical student—can understand what is meant, or are there info gaps that should be explicitly addressed?
    • Even though a specific abbreviation is already defined in the text, is it also defined in the caption for the figure where it is used, so that skimming readers don’t have to go search the entire article to find out what the figure’s abbreviation means?)
  • Consistency (e.g., did the author use the abbreviation throughout, or did she use the full term sometimes and the abbreviation at other times?)
  • Topic, figure, and table cross-references in text
  • Verification of names of drugs, genera and species, and actual people, places, and organizations
  • Appropriate citation of references
  • Wordiness (getting rid of it)
  • Jargon (making sure jargon is used appropriately—and that’s if it needs to be used at all
  • Bias-free writing:
    • Sex
    • Gender identification
    • Parents versus nonparents
    • Emotions (e.g., in research papers, using "killed the rats" instead of the emotion-laden "sacrificed the rats")
    • Additional issues
  • Style:
    • Uppercase versus lowercase
    • Standardizing references to follow AMA style
    • Trademarks versus generic names
    • Additional issues
  • Presentation (What works best for reader comprehension here: straight text, a bulleted list versus a numbered list, a sidebar, a table, a figure?)
  • Meta-issues (e.g., can I add an editorial comment referring readers to another article in the same issue or in a past issue that is about a topic related to the one covered in an article in our current issue?)

It takes time for your editor to address all of these issues and additional issues in helping you make your writing its very best, so please be patient. We editors are on your side.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Teach Yourself AMA Style

If you need to learn AMA style (AMA Manual of Style, 10th edition), you can check the websites of various editorial professional associations for courses on the topic. The American Medical Writers Association and the Editorial Freelancers Association, for example, periodically offer courses, workshops, and webinars on medical style.

But while you're waiting for courses to open up, you can cobble together your own program for learning AMA style:

  • Buy a hardcover copy of the style manual and a subscription to the online version. There is an online form for ordering an individual subscription. Each day, spend 30 minutes to a half hour studying a different portion of the manual until you've worked your way through it.
  • Follow the advice in the handout "How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days" (a PDF) from the 2012 conference of the American Copy Editors Society.
  • Bookmark the following sections of the manual, both in the hardcover and online:
    • Proper usage: chapter 11
    • Abbreviations for clinical, technical, and other common terms: chapter 11, section 14.11
    • Units of measure: chapter 14, section 14.12
    • Terminology for various medical specialties: chapter 15
    • Reference lists: chapter 3
    • Style for reference-list entries, within chapter 3:
      • To a journal article: section 3.11 (pages 47–52)
      • To printed books and chapters within them: section 3.12 (pages 52–56)
      • To newspaper articles: section 3.13.1 (page 57)
      • To government or agency bulletins: section 3.13.2 (pages 57–58)
      • To theses or dissertations: section 3.13.4 (pages 58–59)
      • To unpublished material: section 3.13.8 (pages 59–61)
      • To electronic media (such as online journals, websites, online conference proceedings, email list messages): section 3.15 (pages 63–72)

Sunday, July 05, 2015

When to Give It Away: Helping Writers Help Others

Sometimes we editors have the pleasure, after helping writers who create educational articles for people in service-related professions, of realizing that we have played a small part in making the world a better place. This is the story of one such case.

In June 2012, my colleague Laura Poole wrote a well-done and thorough guest post on my blog called "Copyediting Drug Names," dealing with trademarks, capitalization, and other usage points.

In March 2015, Sergeant William A. Doherty of the Floral Park Police Department, about 50 miles away from where I live on Long Island, wrote to me after finding Laura's post. He was writing an article for The New York State Chief's Chronicle, the journal of the New York State Chiefs of Police Association, and had questions about whether to use the "registered trademark" symbol (®) with drug names, about whether to include disclaimers stating that by mentioning drug brand names the Floral Park department wasn't necessarily endorsing the particular drugs, and whether and how to mention drug manufacturers' names.

Now, I earn income by editing, so I generally don't give away my services without charge. But I couldn't pass up the chance to help out a police sergeant who was reporting on patrol officers' use of a particular drug to help reverse opioid overdoses among people they encounter in emergency situations. So I answered his questions, and he turned in his article.

Now the article has been published (see this also), and Sergeant Doherty and the journal's editor have given me permission to share his article here.

His article will help other officers save lives. And the advice he obtained from Laura's blog post and from me helped ensure that the drug names used in his article were handled in a standardized way that is recognizable across professional disciplines. Sergeant Doherty, I salute you and your colleagues for the help you give to many citizens!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Editors are detail people; we pay attention to the smallest parts of every manuscript. Thus, when my people get together in groups, sometimes they'll talk about their pet peeves regarding grammar, clichés, and spelling.

The longer I've been an editor, the less inclined I have become to engage in this airing of gripes. First, life's just too short to focus on irritants. Second, to me it smacks of intolerance for individual differences. The form of this peeving that bothers me the most is what I call "spellism." What is spellism? It's looking down on people who have difficulty spelling correctly.

Being a poor speller does not necessarily indicate low intelligence or a poor education. For example, my husband has always had difficulty spelling. So do our two sons, and so does my daughter from my first marriage. All of them are quite intelligent and have had (or are getting) good educations. Edward O'Moore-Klopf​, my husband, is a gifted cabinetmaker whose custom creations are lovely works of art. Neil​, our oldest son, is a talented apprentice cabinetmaker. Jared, our 13-year-old son, is a highly skilled gamer with an interest in history. He is an avid reader, is a budding leader, and has a wicked sense of humor. Rebecca Sanchez, my daughter, is an empathetic social worker who puts her heart into getting her clients the help that they need within confusing health-care, housing, and financial-aid systems. Should any of them think less of me because I am spatially dyslexic (my self-diagnosis), dislike gaming, or am not cut out to be a social worker?

Spellism doesn't do the reputation of editors any favors. Some people already see editors as hidebound rule followers, comma and hyphen freaks who are out to surgically remove authors' voices and make authors' works into our own because we're failed writers whose work can't find an audience on its own merits. So why engage in spellism? I think it's a tool for setting oneself apart from those "undesirable" others.

But my friend Martha Schueneman, an editor and writer, said today via a Facebook group and a private discussion, quoted here by permission:

This is one of my least favorite topics that comes up among editors. My ex is such a horrible speller that he frequently gets his name wrong. Give me someone who makes me laugh and is good at all the stuff I'm not good at—I'll discuss great books and parse grammar with colleagues, you know? Give me someone who's nice to a hotel maid and a waiter and who makes me laugh, and I'll put up with "between you and I." Even if it takes me a while to figure out what "ornches" [oranges] is on a grocery list.

So yes, if you're an editor, correct the spelling in documents you're paid to edit. But if you want to be seen as a scold and want to lose out on some potentially wonderful relationships, go ahead and make fun of those whose spelling is poor and reject them as unfit to be your friend or mate.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Letter to My Colleagues Who Want Referrals

Dear colleagues:

I am always happy to pass along your professional contact information when I post about a project opportunity in private Facebook groups for editors or via profession-related email discussion lists. [Please note that this post is not a request for you to send me such information right now.]

I worry about those of you who don't have links to places online where potential clients can find out all about you. I'm talking about a business website, LinkedIn profile, some other professional profile, or even a business-related blog. You don't need all of those items; most times, just one of them is enough.

Because potential clients don't want to be overwhelmed by lots of email attachments, I don't pass along your résumé or curriculum vitae. In fact, lots of corporate email systems automatically strip out email attachments. Thus, if you haven't provided links to any sites where people can learn about you, then giving just your name, phone number, and email address isn't going to get you many responses from potential clients.

Even if you can't afford to maintain a business website, please, please at least set up a free profile for yourself at LinkedIn or some other respected website. For example, editorial associations often allow their members to set up a personalized listing in the societies' online directories. Please take advantage of that service. It doesn't take much time to put together a profile, and it will help clients find you.


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