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

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Writer-Responsible Versus Reader-Responsible Languages

The blog Language Log has a wonderful post on that discusses a major distinction in the mind-set of writers with different native languages: writer-responsible languages versus reader-responsible languages. This distinction is one that I had intuited after years of editing manuscripts for authors who are non-native English speakers from many different nations, but until now, I had not had terminology for it.

The post quotes this excerpt from the 2011 post "Who Is Responsible for the Message?" on the CAL Learning (Culture and Language Training for a Multicultural Workplace) blog by Lauren Supraner:

English is a writer-responsible language. That means it is the responsibility of the writer to make sure the message is understood. Writing is clear, direct and unambiguous. Schools teach from early on the importance of structure, thesis statement and topic sentences when writing in English. A good writer assumes no or little background knowledge on the part of the reader.

Korean, Chinese, and Japanese are reader-responsible languages. That means the reader is responsible for deciphering the message, which is often not stated explicitly. For an American who is expecting direct and explicit information, this style can be very confusing.

I can say with confidence, because of my work with authors from other nations, that Korean, Chinese, and Japanese are not the only reader-responsible languages. Reader versus writer responsibility is the element that causes my international authors the most difficulty in writing for US English-language biomedical journals, because they are asked to write in a style that they see as antagonizing readers:

  • It's rude because it's direct.
  • It's rude because the writer doesn't take time to build a rapport with the reader.
  • It's insulting because it assumes that readers don't know much about the subject matter and thus it entails explaining and defining material that intelligent, experienced readers likely already know.
  • It's stiff because it requires many levels of parallel structure (such as parallel headings).
  • It's unimaginative because writers are expected to avoid speculation about the meaning of their scientific findings.
My international authors are used to writing in a way that they see as more reader friendly:

  • Most important is not explaining material that readers with advanced experience in the subject matter likely already know. This is seen as respectful of the reader's intelligence.
  • Readers, being intelligent, are expected to read between the lines and interpret what they read.
  • The writer uses a good deal of description.
  • The writer tries to draw the reader into a discussion of the possibilities. This may involve expressing opinions rather than just reporting findings.
If we, as editors, can understand both styles of writing, we will be better able to assist our international authors when they are required to write in the arena of US English.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Perfect Bound: A Guide Through the Book-Publishing Process

Confession: I haven't read all of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro yet. My paperback copy of it is shipping out to me now. So this isn't a book review, but I already know I want to use the book for two purposes:

  • To help my book authors understand what to expect
  • To teach myself more about the current indie publishing processes
If you are an editor too, consider doing the same.

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro
I've worked in the publishing industry, both as an employee of publishers and as a self-employed editor, for 30 years. And things have changed a lot since I started out in 1984. I'm at the top of my game as an editor, polishing manuscripts until they sparkle the way their authors intended. But truly good editors know that to maintain their expertise, they must constantly take part in continuing education about their industry. What I've read of Perfect Bound so far has convinced me that it will be an excellent continuing-education tool. And I intend to recommend it to my authors, whether they plan to work through traditional publishers or to self-publish.

The book covers these topics:

  • Choosing a publication route
  • The acquisitions process
  • Manuscript development
  • Copyediting and query resolution
  • Design and layout
  • Proofreading, author review, and final revisions
  • Printers, distributors, and e-book companies
  • Marketing and publicity
Why do I think this book is going to be top-notch industry tool? First, author Katherine Pickett has worked in publishing for 15 years, working for major publishers McGraw-Hill Professional and Elsevier before choosing self-employment. Second, on her blog, Jane Friedman has shared an excerpt about developmental editors from Pickett's book. You know—that Friedman, the cofounder and publisher of Scratch magazine, the web editor of the Virginia Quarterly, and the former publisher of Writer's Digest. Third, Pickett works with authors, doing developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading for them, so she knows their needs. Fourth, I've followed posts that Pickett has made in various online arenas frequented by fellow editors, including the email discussion list of the Editorial Freelancers Association (which we're both members of), and she knows what she's talking about. And fifth, I've read some chapter excerpts, and you can too.

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, by Katherine Pickett, from Hop On Publishing LLC. Available in two formats: paperback (9780991499113; US$12.99) and ePub (9780991499120; US$7.99); 240 pages.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Make Your Own Video Tutorials to Remember Computer Skills

On the email list of the Editorial Freelancers Association, my colleague Martha Carlson-Bradley shared an excellent self-teaching and memory aid for editorial types. She has given me permission to share it here. It sounds to me like a good tool to use when we're learning new computer skills or want to be able to remember later how to perform a skill that we use only occasionally.

I've used iShowU to record myself using a new skill—sometimes right after watching a video tutorial, sometimes while someone kind is showing me how to do something. (iShowU records what's happening on my computer monitor and also records sound.) So I have a little video of myself going through all the steps, with my own commentary. I've also used iShowU to make little instruction videos for a friend. They're not finished or professional videos, but it's comforting to know that I have my own little set of instructions, especially for tasks I don't do very often and tend to forget.

Note that iShowU is for use on the Macintosh. But an online search shows me that there are also several screen-capture tools available for the PC, including Wink.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Working Directly with Authors: Hand-Holding Required

Often when we editors work directly with authors instead of through publishers or other intermediaries, part of our job is hand-holding nervous writers. I just had to send this to a talented, kind, but apprehensive young physician-researcher whose journal manuscripts I edit:

Here is a secret:

Even if a manuscript differs in a few places from a journal's preferences, most journals will not reject the manuscript because of that. But I have found that if we try our best to follow a journal's preferences, then the reviewers will focus on the ideas and research in the paper and not get distracted by little details such as whether an amount should be a word versus a number. No journal will expect that an author has perfectly followed the journal's minor preferences.

However, some journals will return a manuscript if authors don't follow their major preferences, such as preferences for reference citation (e.g., chronological order versus alphabetical order), for types of headings (e.g., "Materials and Methods"), for type of abstract (e.g., a single paragraph versus several short paragraphs, each with a mini heading), and for blinded versus unblinded manuscripts.

End of secret.

I will always do my best to make sure that your papers follow all of the major preferences (i.e., the preferences noted in the instructions to authors) and as many of the minor preferences as possible. Note that journals' author instructions don't often explain these minor preferences. But I figure out what their minor preferences are by studying articles that they have recently published.

What I am trying to say is this: You can relax because you are in good hands. I have been an editor for 30 years now. I am here to help guide your manuscript through the turbulent waters of manuscript submission. But because I know how important publication is for your career, I completely understand why you worry.

My author wrote back:

Thank you for your kind reply. I feel refreshed.

Thank you [also] for your useful ... secret. ... I learned a lot. In the future also, please teach me [the] knack and pitfall[s] [of] writing [in] English ... in addition to editing my manuscript. ^_^

Always I am counting on you! I appreciate your continued support and encouragement.

Taking just a few additional minutes to compose a longer explanation for my author made things easier for me (I now have a calmer author to work with) and made it very clear to my author that he has an advocate during the sometimes confusing and worry-making publication process.

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