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
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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

Spellism

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.

Respectfully,
Katharine




Thursday, March 05, 2015

Learn About Medical Editing at the American Copy Editors Society Conference

What? You haven't signed up yet for the 2015 conference of the American Copy Editors Society in Pittsburgh? It's coming up March 26–28, and online registration closes Tuesday, March 10. So get cracking! Go here to register:

Betcha didn't realize that Friday, March 27, is practically Medical Editing Day at the conference. Look! Four separate sessions (see the blue arrows in the picture below) on various aspects of medical editing! And I'm leading the first session at 9 a.m.: "Avoiding Pitfalls in Medical Editing."

In my session, I'll focus on

  • Conventions in medical editing
  • Editing research reports versus materials for laypeople
  • Coping with jargon
  • Ensuring that language is patient-friendly
  • Dealing with statistics
  • Editing reference lists
  • Preventing word pileups
  • Other reference works you'll need access to
  • How to move into the niche of medical editing
  • Where to find clients who need medical editing done
See you there!







Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learn More About Medical Editing From Me This Spring

Listen up, you freelance editors who do medical editing or want to move into the field: I'll present "Avoiding Pitfalls in Medical Editing" at the March 2015 annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society in Pittsburgh!

Medical editing has its own special considerations and pitfalls. In my session, I'll focus on

  • Editing conventions
  • Research reports versus materials for laypeople
  • Jargon
  • Patient-friendly language
  • Statistics
  • Reference lists
  • Word pileups
  • Necessary reference works
I'll also give you tips on how to move into the niche of medical editing and where to find clients.

Sign up now for the conference before spaces run out!






Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution for Editorial Workers: Build a Better Network

If you're an editorial worker, one New Year's resolution that you might make is to build a better professional network. These tools and tips will help you:

  • Check out the links on the Networking page of the Copyeditors' Knowledge Base. For all organizations included there, I've provided links to their website and to their Facebook page, LinkedIn group, and Twitter account where available. The organizations are from all around the world, not just the United States of America, and they are targeted at various editorial specialties. If you know of additional organizations that should be listed there, please send the appropriate links to me at editor@kokedit.com.
  • The Editors' Association of Canada has on its website a chart of Canadian associations that compares them on the basis of
    • Services offered
    • Amount of membership dues
    • Membership requirements
    • Organization publications and communications
    • Organization marketing and job-search tools
    • Legal and administrative activities
    • Discounts offered to members
    • Opportunities for professional development and education
  • If you do have a paid subscription to Copyediting newsletter, read my column The Business of Copyediting in the April–May 2014 issue ("Why Join and Be Active in Professional Associations?" on page 1) for a rundown of how to make the most of your association memberships.
I'm not wealthy, so how do I afford all of those membership dues? I signed up for each organization at a different time of year, so that the dues for all of them are not payable all at the same time. You can use the same trick to stay within your budget.

Here's wishing all editorial workers an intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding 2015!




Friday, December 19, 2014

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

This guest post was written by my colleague Carolyn Haley, a talented editor and author. She last wrote a post here in 2011. Today she provides helpful insights for editors who suspect a particular project needs more editorial work than the author or other client requested.


Most independent editors, somewhere over the course of their careers, find themselves stuck with a project that needs way more work than they were hired to do. Much angst and frustration usually result, and sometimes damaged client relations.

How to fix this is a two-part equation. The first part is actually the second part: how to avoid a rerun in the future. That boils down to learning what kind of editorial work you are best suited for and how to acquire it, along with learning how to see undesirable projects coming and heading them off at the pass. Such foresight takes experience, starting with savvy communication with your prospects, and performing sample edits before you accept a job.

The real first part is getting through a project already on your desk that has expanded—or exploded—and still ending up with a happy client. The internal conflict often arises from editorial integrity—in other words, the personal need, compounded by the professional drive, to “fix” a poorly written work that seems doomed to publishing failure.

What’s Good Enough?
It’s not always possible to recast the contract. In those cases, your choice comes down to adapting to the changed circumstances or bailing out.

Bailing out is rarely desirable, leaving coping the better plan. To do so, you must spend some time thinking about broader issues. For example, what does “fix” or “make it right” mean? And what guarantee is there that any two editorial professionals are going to have the same understanding of what “right” is?

Most editors are uncomfortable working with subpar writing, at least when we do not have control and/or the remuneration to compensate for the labor and stress. As editors we are charged with helping authors make their work the best it can be, but who gives us the authority to deem that it’s good enough—or isn’t?

Is it more important to protect authors from making fools of themselves, or to accept that other parties are the ultimate arbiters of what’s “good enough” and just provide the service requested?

Keeping Perspective
I had to resolve this in my conscience and business strategy early on. I make my living editing mainly slush-pile-quality material. Occasionally something excellent comes along, but for the most part I get work that needs developmental editing—if not a full rewrite—for which I’m hired only for copyediting. (Sometimes I can talk clients up a notch but that’s the exception, not the rule.)

Learning how to deal with this has been a painful challenge. It helps to remember that I write dreadful stuff, too, and know how hard it is to do even that, much less learn what’s needed to improve the work and make it sellable or comprehensible to other people.

Within that frame of reference, I am able to keep in mind that just because I think somebody’s work needs significant rewriting, not everyone else does. If the entire professional cadre of editors went to the library together and each chose one book we think is superb and another we think is awful, we would likely end up with a stack a mile high in each category with few or no overlaps.

Point is, it’s not our job to judge our clients’ work. It’s our job to help them make their work shine, and educate them as best we can without overdoing our investment of time and effort, disproportionate to our pay.

A Win–Win Option
So, when you get stuck with a crummy project, here’s one way to deal with it.

Don’t waste your breath telling authors they need to rewrite; give them an idea how to go about it. This comes from showing via your edits, and telling via your comments, along with providing helpful resources. (For book-length work, I start with recommending Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, then work down a list.)

Focus on the mechanics—clarity, consistency, choreography, comprehension—and present your comments and queries from a reader’s point of view. The work’s quality will be judged by readers and any acquiring editors or contest judges; not your problem if it’s doomed to rejection. All you can do is improve its chances in a harsh world.

When the job is finished, thank the author for the chance to work with him or her and wish them success. If the author is happy and wants to thank you lavishly in the acknowledgments, and you don’t want to be associated with the work, politely decline. You need only say that your policy is to remain neutral and invisible, as an editor’s job is to support an author’s work, not share credit for it.

Then ask for referrals.

Unless you’re operating at the topmost tier of the publishing world, it’s likely you’ll go around again with the same issues sooner or later. Only by keeping your workflow vigorous do you have a chance of attracting the best authors and enjoying the best jobs. So instead of griping about the quality of your clients’ work, dive in and become their partner to elevate it to the next level.

____________________

Carolyn Haley operates DocuMania, a freelance editing, writing, and reviewing service based in rural Vermont. She works with a diverse mix of commercial, indie, and academic clients on their works for publication, as well as teaches novice authors and editors.

Where to find Carolyn: businessLinkedIn profilebooksblogbook reviews







My Teacher in Freelancing

My son Neil, who taught me how to balance self-employment and parenting

This is my son Neil, 20 years old today, who spent years teaching me how to be self-employed with a baby/toddler/child/young adult around. And he taught me so well that I was confident enough to have one more baby after him while I kept my business running.

publishing




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