A copy-editor's guide to working with authors
A copy-editor's guide to working with authors
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- 4 courses
Going Global: How to Take a Local Publishing Company to International Heights (PART TWO / Advanced Level)
A module by Filipe Silva
Learning Objective: To develop a deeper understanding of the international publishing business, particularly in targeting to local audiences and reviewing global challenges in selling to local markets. An overview on how to use the power of rights and translations to expand your global footprint, establishing the right business model and creating an international sales force and strategy.
Going Global: How to Take a Local Publishing Company to International Heights (PART ONE)
A module by Filipe Silva
Learning Objective: To understand the broad concepts and partners related to international sales, and exploring Print Book, eBooks and Audiobooks formats in international markets. An overview of the main bookfairs around the world and making meaningful market partner connections.
Questions about A copy-editor's guide to working with authors?
This e-learning module contains exercises and a final quiz to test your knowledge and skills. To start with, rate yourself on the following aspects of working with authors. You will test yourself again at the end to check your progress.
Give yourself a score of 1–5 for the following four questions, where 1 means not confident at all and 5 means very confident.
How confident do you feel in your ability to
...introduce yourself to an author in a professional manner?
...explain the publishing process to an author who doesn't understand it?
...come up with solutions to problems arising during copy-editing, such as an author who is not receptive of your work?
...correspond with an author using courteous dialogue to develop a sound working relationship?
Rate yourself again at the end to check your progress!
Assuming the role of a copy-editor puts you in an interesting position. You are between the publisher, the author and the manuscript on which you are working. This might apply equally to being a substantive or development editor, or a copy-editor (and also a proofreader, although this module is aimed primarily at editors). It applies whether you are freelance or working in house (after all, you are still being paid by the publisher – whether you refer to them as ‘the client’ or ‘the boss’). It applies whether you are working on a typescript that will be printed in the traditional manner or published as an electronic product to be downloaded or viewed online. And, finally, it applies regardless of the subject matter or intended readership.
You are in the centre of a triangle between the publisher, who pays you, the author, whose work you will be editing, and the reader, to whom you are ultimately responsible. You must ensure that the author’s work is as clear, readable and consistent as possible, without upsetting the author and changing their voice. And you need to make sure that the reader gets as much out of the text as the author originally intended, while working to the time scale and budget set by the publisher. It’s no mean task - the publisher wants the work done promptly and efficiently; the reader ‘wants’ (in an abstract, future sense – they don’t yet know they want it from you) a rewarding reading experience; and the author … well, they don’t want you to mess with their baby.
The manuscript is the focus of your efforts. The author will have spent a lot of time and effort producing the manuscript that you have before you. It might be a first novel, a travelogue of a trip around the world, a how-to guide for fixing a bicycle, a revision guide for geography students or comprehensive coverage of the latest techniques in heart surgery. But the people who write all of these books have two things in common: first, they will all have their work copy-edited, and, second, their work deserves the utmost care and attention.
In your work as a copy-editor you must read the typescript closely, checking for typographical and grammatical errors and ensuring consistency of expression and presentation; meanwhile you are preparing the text for the next stage of production, which is typesetting or conversion into an electronic product. As substantive editor (and here I refer to editors who do development editing as well) you will also be looking at the structure of the text, ensuring that it flows from one subject to the next, and is set out in a logical order that does not confuse the reader. You do this work with the end user – the reader – in mind; but all the while you must ensure that the author’s precious text is not changed unnecessarily, and that their voice and intentions are preserved.
It is this engagement with the originator of a work that can be a thrilling part of an editorial career, but also the most challenging. As copy-editor you have to navigate your way through the process of editing, obtaining information from the author as and when it is needed (it may be clarification on the meaning of a sentence, a missing reference or the exact placement of a particular illustration). As substantive editor you may have to negotiate with an author about how to fix problems with the text, suggesting alternative structures to solve an inherent problem. All this must be done while showing utmost respect to the work and its author and meeting the needs of the publisher.
The myriad problems that can be uncovered while editing, coupled with the personality of a work’s author, make every encounter on every job practically unique. Some may be happy to place their work in the hands of an expert editor. Some may be very inexperienced and want your guidance. Some may have had previous bad experiences with editors and be very mistrustful of the process, or you and your abilities. Some may have very senior roles and be time-pressured. You need to engage with them all, and build a relationship with them so that you can do your job and produce an edited manuscript that is fit for typesetting.
This e-learning module will outline the lifespan of a project and the ways in which your relationship with an author will develop and change. It will describe the various characteristics of authors that you will work with, and it will tell you the types of potential problem that you will encounter. It will give you strategies for resolving problems and developing fruitful, lasting relationships.
a. The project brief and introductions
At the start of an editing project it is important to obtain as much information about the author as possible. It’s likely that your brief will give you their contact details, but with luck there may be more, such as their approach, their availability, their experience as an author and any points to be aware of. If you have the opportunity, ask the client or colleague about the author, as no doubt the person handing you the job will have dealt with them prior to editing.
The first task is to introduce yourself to the author, with whom you will be working over the duration of the project. The majority of contact will probably be by email, and this is assumed throughout this module. It is easy to swamp someone with detail at the outset, and so keep your first contact business-like and to the point. Wait until they have replied before giving a lot more detail or sending the first batch of queries; this will give you a chance to assess their approach, and to let you decide how to handle future correspondence.
In your first email:
introduce yourself, and explain that you have been hired/asked to edit their typescript
give a small amount of detail about what your task entails
tell them how long the job will take you and how you need them to participate
if the schedule is tight, and you need them to work quickly, say so in the politest possible terms
ask whether there will be any periods during which they are unavailable
tell them how and when they can contact you; this is especially important when working with authors overseas (“I am available during UK business hours, Monday to Friday”)
tell them that you will be in touch with your first set of queries soon, and that you look forward to working with them
When addressing an author for the first time, use their title – Dear Mr …., Dear Ms …., Dear Professor …. With subsequent correspondence you will likely progress to first names, but in the first instance keep it courteous and respectful. This presents you as an editorial professional and will help to reassure them that their typescript is in a safe pair of hands.
b. Early stages - establishing working practices
Once the author has replied to your first email you can begin to establish a picture of them.
Consider how long they take to reply: a delay can be for many reasons. The author may be a busy professional who has many things to attend to during the working day. If you have sent them an introductory email saying, in essence, “here I am and I’ll be in touch with you soon with some queries” then they are not obliged to respond.
An author may not check their emails very often. A retired person who has written a memoir may not check their emails as often as a professional writer who creates revision guides for a living. Establish what’s right for the person you are working with. Everyone is different, and you have to adapt to their mode of communication to make the relationship work.
You may need to phone someone to make contact, or they may phone you. If they do call you often, then decide whether you can persuade them to use email for resolving queries, or whether it can be done on the phone (it is sometimes easier).
When the author receives your first set of queries you must wait for a response. How they respond will shape what you should do from that point on. Consider the following points:
have they coped with the technology? If you sent a Word file edited using Track Changes with queries in Comment boxes, have they managed to add their replies? If not, you may need to consider changing the method you use, or explaining your requirements more carefully
have they responded promptly? If not, then remind them in a diplomatic way that the publisher has asked for the files back by a certain date, and that you need their help to proceed. If they can’t comply then consider ways to ease their burden. Some authors, especially academics, travel a lot and don’t have much time to spare. You could offer to resolve reference queries yourself (using the internet) and leave just the most essential queries for them. They will appreciate your efforts
have they taken your editing well? If not, then take some time to explain your approach. Mention the publisher’s style guide and explain how you will be altering certain things to fit that. Reassure them that in doing so you will not be altering their voice
have they rejected some of your changes? If so, then consider how important each point is and concede the ones that don’t matter
In all of the above, your response to problems that arise should have the following aims:
reassuring the author that you are handling their text with sensitivity
showing them that you are responsive to their views and willing to adapt
showing that you will make the process as easy as possible for them, and that you can help solve mechanical problems such as difficulty with software (or at least, you can work around the problem)
All of this, coupled with a friendly, helpful manner, will show the author that you are an editorial professional who can be trusted. That is your primary aim: to get the author to trust you so that they are willing to help you complete your task with their help.
c. Settling in/the ongoing project
Once working practices are established, the remainder of the project should be easier to conduct, because you will be working with someone who is cooperative and can provide information when you need it. Maintain a respectful tone and courteous manner throughout your dealings. It is likely that informality will develop as you get used to each other, but remember to be professional at all times.
d. Finishing up/signing off
At the end of the job, wish your author well. They may have questions about the next steps, in which case answer their questions or refer them to someone who can help. Wish your author all success with the publication of their book; after all, you’ve put some effort into making it a successful venture. As a freelance, it pays dividends to end with a good impression as they may request you in the future; and as an employee of a publisher, it puts the company in a good light.
Part 1: Write an introductory email to an author whose book you are going to copy-edit
Tourism in North Africa, Ace Academic Press
You have taken on the job of copy-editing an academic textbook about the effect of tourism in North Africa. It is written by a professional geographer, Dr Susan Jacobs, who studies the effects of Western influences on traditional societies. Its audience will be undergraduate students and researchers and other academics working in the fields of human geography, sociology and anthropology. The author is an academic in a university in the UK. She travels a great deal with her research work.
There is an important conference coming up at which Dr. Jacobs is a keynote speaker and the publisher intends to market the book. However, the typescript was late to production because it contains a lot of photographs that needed copyright clearance before production could proceed. Consequently, the book is on a tight schedule and there is little room for delay. You have four weeks to do the work, and deliver the edited manuscript to the production editor, coded and prepared for typesetting. The manuscript is well written, but there are a lot of incomplete references. You have enough time to edit the book and resolve author queries if the author replies promptly. The publisher has an extensive style guide.
Task: Write an email introducing yourself to the author of this book, explaining your role in its journey towards publication. Include information about what you will be doing while copy-editing and what you require of her. Consider the information above and the particular problems that could arise: try to anticipate these at the outset and explain to the author how she can help. Your letter should be professional and to the point, but courteous.
Type your answer in the space provided on the worksheet.
Important note: the worksheets for this course's exercises are editable PDFs. Therefore, you will need to open them in a PDF programme such as Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, rather than just in a browser window, so that you will be able to save your work.
If you do not have a suitable PDF program already installed, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC for free from the Adobe website.
Dear Dr Jacobs,
Use the person's title in the first correspondence
I am the copy-editor appointed by Ace Academic Press to copy-edit the typescript of your book. Over the next four weeks I will be working my way through the text, sending you editorial queries as they arise.
A general introduction as to who you are and what you will be doing
I will be checking for detail to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, and reading for sense and consistency. I will also be applying Ace Academic’s house style, which covers aspects such as hyphenation, reference formatting and capitalisation of headings. I will not be altering your expression or rewriting the text.
A more detailed description of your role and a reassurance that the author’s text is in safe hands
The schedule for production is rather tight: I need to return the book in four weeks in order that the book can be published in time for your conference. For this reason we shall need to correspond promptly over editorial queries.
The tricky bit: an important and clear request that the author reply to you on time. Giving the reason for this need will help persuade a busy author to work with you
If you have any questions or comments about the above, please do let me know. I am available via email or phone during UK business hours. If there are any times when you are unavailable over the next four weeks, please let me know and I will try to work around them.
Make your availability clear, along with your willingness to be approached if she wishes to speak to you
I very much look forward to reading your work and collaborating with you over the next few weeks.
Finish on a positive, friendly note
Formal sign off, to match salutation above
Part 2: Reply from the author
Following your initial email you get a response from Dr Jacobs. She is currently in the UK but in a week’s time she will be going on a three-week trip to Morocco. During that time she will have intermittent access to email and no way of referring to the original typescript files. It will not be easy for her to check references, either. She is willing to reply as quickly as she can.
Question: What three things can you offer to do in order to lighten the load and help Dr Jacobs respond to your queries? Return to the worksheet to fill in your answers.
Offer to resolve reference queries yourself, looking up the missing details online
When sending editorial queries, rather than submitting just a list of questions, attach the edited typescript for her to use
Offer to batch the queries so that you are not drip-feeding her with continual emails, but allowing her to work on chunks of the book at a time
Now that you have had an insight into some of the techniques required to build a good, lasting relationship with your author, we move on to some generalised characteristics of author attitudes and behaviours. These descriptions are obviously simplifications, and their incidence will vary, but each trait is symptomatic of a person’s personality, their motivations and their personal and professional circumstances. By recognising the sensitivities of your author, as judged by the way in which they interact with you in the early days of a project, you can adapt your approach to optimise your chance of gaining the author’s trust.
Some authors want to improve, update or add to the typescript while you are editing it. They may wish for extra time to go over your edits when you simply want them to answer your queries, and they may even want to send you new versions of the typescript (unconnected to the copies you are editing) while you are working. They may have identified topic areas that need expansion or revision, and ask if they can add whole new sections.
There can be legitimate reasons for requesting such revision, such as an academic typescript having been in production for so long that the subject area has changed significantly, or recent developments that have arisen in a fast-changing field of study. A copy-editor should consider the interests of the author in this case: the author wants to produce the most up-to-date and relevant text possible, and by agreeing to changes you will be helping to improve the finished product. However, this type of revision can seriously affect the schedule, and should never be agreed to without conferring with the publisher first. You may be well placed to represent the author in such discussions.
Another reason for perfectionism may be that the author is new to writing and publishing. A novice author may not have complete confidence in their own work, hence their desire to tinker in the never-ending hope of improving their text. In addition, they may be unware of the mechanics of the publishing process, and the workflow through the stages of production. In such cases it is your job to explain tactfully and sensitively how the workflow operates: the reasons why the typescript should be ‘finished’ before copy-editing starts and what processes ensue at each stage of production. You can also explain the need for a 'finished' manuscript to be received before copy-editing starts. Reassure your author that if anything is amiss you will raise it with them, and give them an opportunity to clarify the situation.
Firmness and education. The reason for perfectionism can be twofold, as outlined above. Your approach should be informed by those reasons. A novice author can have the process explained to them, which will help them be more confident next time. A wish to revise an out-of-date text should be met with sympathy, but do not act without recourse to the publisher (if the schedule is tight, it may be a case of ‘that can wait until the next edition’).
Often, busy people don’t read the whole email before responding. You may have an author who misses the detail of your emails and doesn’t answer all of your queries in one go. In such cases it’s important for you to keep records of what has been answered, and to persevere in obtaining the missing answers.
Organisation and clear signposting. When faced with an author who misses detail you must impose order and utilise a strategy of brevity and clarity, plus a willingness to ask questions more than once in a diplomatic manner. Keep your emails short; avoid long paragraphs and any extraneous detail and make use of lists. Start with clear signposting, such as ‘There are six questions listed below. Please send me an answer to all six.’ Keep accurate records of what has been addressed, and be prepared to send follow-up emails summarising points that haven’t yet been dealt with, so that the list of unanswered questions can be whittled down.
Some authors may hold very senior positions in their company, institution or chosen field, or they may have become a very successful writer in their own regard. It is possible that answering your queries will be low on their list of priorities. Senior people are often time-pressured and difficult to reach. Some may be unresponsive, or unwilling to consider issues they view as unimportant. Very occasionally they can be rude. This rudeness may stem from the pressure that they are under professionally: don’t take it personally. It is important to build an effective working relationship with all authors, and never to reciprocate.
Respect and a business-like approach. Keep your correspondence respectful at all times. Keep your emails brief and to the point, and consider offering to do minor jobs yourself (such as reference checking) if it will ease the way to getting your queries resolved. Consider ways to make it easier for them to answer your queries. For instance, if they need to refer to a particular chapter or file to answer a query, even if you know they have that file, send it again with the question.
A senior person may not have time to respond to your emails promptly, or at all. If a question is not asked you may not get a reply. Some people may reply with a ‘thanks, got it’ in response to a file being sent, but a busy person whose every working minute is accounted for may not have the time to do this.
Be prepared to find alternative ways to reach the person. Many people in important positions have a secretary. A phone call and a chat to the person who fields their emails can be the way to get your queries resolved. If you cannot get any response from a senior author, then speak to the publisher. A well-placed email from a commissioning editor can act as a helpful introduction to you, the copy-editor.
Occasionally you will work with someone who has had a bad experience with a copy-editor or a publisher. In the past, someone has done a bad job on their beloved text: altering wording unnecessarily, changing meaning, introducing mistakes. Hence they may not be willing to let you edit their text without checking every change, scrutinising every edit. Your task is to reassure them that their previous experience was the exception and that you will pay a great deal of respect to their manuscript. You are the ambassador: it’s a great opportunity to show the author that editors can be trusted.
Reassurance and transparency. Ensure that all of your changes are visible. Use Track Changes if editing in Microsoft Word, and discuss with the author what your approach will be. Let them see the files you have worked on and for each type of change add a Comment box to explain your decision. Make it clear what you will and will not be doing. Be prepared to justify your work. Equally, be prepared to concede points in debates about your work. Remember that many style points are simply a point of view and not ‘right’ or set in stone.
The author may try to micro-manage you, and it’s important to allow this to an extent if it reassures them. (Resisting their attempts at scrutiny is likely to worsen their view of copy-editors, not improve it.) If the micro-management is extreme, and the author continues to analyse every comma or point of house style, notify the publisher, because the job may prove more time-consuming, affecting your fee (if you are a freelance) and the schedule.
You will probably find that the close supervision does not last for long. After a few chapters they will become more comfortable with your working practices and their trust should increase as the project continues. With luck, your careful handling, diplomacy and willingness to concede will reverse a mistrustful author’s dim view of editors, and make future book projects less of an ordeal for them.
There are plenty of other traits that authors may display. Rudeness, tardiness, lack of attention to detail, a wish to rewrite or non-responsiveness can arise at any time. The bottom line is to understand a little of why the author is acting towards you in that way, and to tailor your approach accordingly. Always deal with authors with the utmost respect. Remain diplomatic, business-like, respectful and courteous in all situations. You are representing the publisher and – if you are freelance – yourself. A less-than-professional attitude from you could lead to a complaint to the publisher, tarring your name with a valued client (or employer). It may even influence the author’s decision to use that publisher on future books, which will certainly not reflect well on you!
A copy-editing project should proceed smoothly if the manuscript is well presented and well written, the author friendly and approachable, and the schedule generous. Often, one of those things is not the case, and that’s where your adaptability, even-handedness and willingness to work hard are called for.
As we have discussed, some authors – for a variety of reasons – will not accept your work without scrutiny. That’s why transparency is required in everything you do, so that the author can see, if they wish to, everything that you have done. This means that the author can look at your editing and see how you have altered their text. Be prepared to answer questions about your work and be able to justify your changes. The style guide you are working with is often the first point of reference. Whether it is a published style guide, such as Hart’s Rules or The Chicago Manual of Style, or a company document, tell the author about it. Explain what it covers, and that you are following it.
It is also important to remember that a style guide is just that – a guide – and that it is not set in stone. There are many different style guides available commercially, and every publishing company has one too. They all differ in a small or large way, which tells us that there can be flexibility in our approach. If an author objects to a change you have made, they may have a very good reason why, and you have to understand their reasons. Although points of grammar are less flexible, points of style can be altered if there is good reason to do so. Sometimes that reason can simply be that the author wants the change, and to agree to it will show them that you are flexible and amenable. Discuss the matter with the author, and allow the change if they show strong feelings about it. A pragmatic approach pays dividends.
b. Difficulties with communication
Lack of response from an author can be frustrating because it delays the project, potentially threatening your deadline and the schedule. It is important to try to work with the author to find a solution, and work out how best to communicate. Avoid showing your frustration: it is counterproductive, and your copy-editing queries may not be the most important thing in their life at that moment!
The table below lists some of the problems that may be encountered with communication, and some suggested solutions.
|Problem with communication||Potential solution|
|Author has never replied to an email from you||Check that you have the correct email address, and whether there is an alternative email address (many people have home and work accounts)
Try reaching them in a different way, such as by phone
|Author is very busy and rarely responds||Ask how you can help: it may be that sending queries in a different format, or resolving some basic problems yourself, will help
Does the author have a secretary?
|Author is travelling, is on holiday or has important work commitments which mean they cannot reply until after your deadline||Discuss the schedule with the publisher, to develop as much leeway as possible; schedules can often be changed without affecting the publication date|
|Author’s emails do not contain all the necessary information/have incomplete answers||Be meticulous in recording what you have asked
Make your requests plain and clear, to help the author answer all of your queries
Send summaries listing what is still needed
|Author says that Track Changes are not working/visible/do not work on their PC||Take time to explain a little about how to use the Comments feature; if that doesn’t work, use a different method, such as [bold queries] in the text or a list|
c. Problems affecting the schedule
Many problems, occurrences and circumstances can threaten the schedule. Some are fixable, some are not; some can be helped by the author, some by you and some by the publisher.
A poor typescript may simply require more time than has been allocated to finish copy-editing. In such situations, you must talk to the publisher. There may also have been lack of communication prior to your involvement and it suddenly transpires that the author is going on holiday. This, too, may require publisher involvement. But there are other scenarios over which the copy-editor has more control.
|Problem that threatens the schedule||Potential solution|
|Author is slow to respond||Explain, diplomatically, that the publication date for their book has been set and that the author’s swift resolution of queries is important for keeping production on track|
|Missing material from publisher, e.g. illustrations||Ask for an exact date
Establish whether it can be inserted later (such as making space for a missing figure on first proofs)
|Missing material from author, e.g. late copy||Ask the author and find out how long it will take for the author to supply the missing material; give a firm deadline Decide whether it can be inserted later (such as making space for the missing text on the first proofs; this may be possible if the amount of missing text is small)|
|Author is travelling with limited email access||Establish how you can help; perhaps by sending material in batches, forwarding files they may not have, or sending lists of queries instead of large typescript files (easier to download)|
A note about email courtesy
Email is a fabulously useful tool. It is used a great deal in publishing, as in many other businesses. It is the default mode of communication for many types of transaction, including corresponding with authors. This is a double-edged sword. Email can be quick, efficient and allow us to organise a project and get things done. It can also mask effective human interaction to the point where it is difficult to communicate clearly, especially if there is disagreement. Often, if things get bad it is worth picking up the phone; a two-minute chat can clear up a week of tit for tat via email. A misunderstanding or cross word is easily sent by email, but it is harder to be curt or rude to someone over the phone, and a phone call can help to restore relations.
Before arriving at the need to make a phone call, practise good email etiquette:
Be friendly and open at all times
Keep communications as light as you can without losing the professionalism
Above all, avoid being officious. Officiousness is defined as being ‘assertive in a domineering way, especially with regard to trivial matters’. It appears high-handed when that approach is not called for. It makes people clam up, resent the correspondence and respond in an equally terse way. Avoid it
Below are some helpful suggestions for right and wrong practice with email.
|You must...||Please could you...|
|Can you help me understand why...?||Is there a reason why...?|
|It's too late for a new version.||I’m sorry that I can’t accept a new version because…|
|Why are your answers late?||I’m keen to remain on schedule, so please let me know when you will be able to reply to my queries.|
|That’s not house style, so I can’t accept the change.||I’m able to make changes A, B and C, but change D contradicts house style (and would make the text inconsistent) so I’d prefer not to apply it.|
|This change is wrong.||I agree with your changes to A, B and C, but I’m not sure that D is correct because…|
|Your software isn’t my problem.||Software can vary from machine to machine. I can try to help, but otherwise I can suggest another way to share queries.|
Firmness, and when it is needed
Occasionally, you need to push on. If things aren’t going smoothly, and an author is slow to respond, doesn’t provide all the information that you need or is obstructive in some other way, there are various approaches you can take. While it always pays to be courteous to an author, and there may be good reasons for a delay, you have to consider the company that is paying you, the publisher (this harks back to the triangle shown in the Introduction, with you at the centre). Persuasion usually relies on reminding the author that inactivity jeopardises the publication of their book, or that readers may not understand a particular point. Some examples of direct but diplomatic statements are shown below.
To market your book effectively, we need to publish by X, and so I need to return the edited manuscript by Y. This is because typesetting, proofreading and printing will take Z months. To achieve this I need your replies in the next few days, please
I don’t think the readers will understand that point without some explanation of X. Can we add a short paragraph here?
I’m sorry that I can’t accept a new version of the chapter because I have already spent time editing it, and the publisher will not pay me twice. Can you annotate the attached version with your amendments?
In summary, effective communication with authors is about being open, approachable, helpful, adaptable and professional. You are both working towards the same goal, to issue a polished publication, and authors often look to you to suggest a solution to their problems. A can-do attitude will help you get on and work effectively with any author.
The worksheet gives examples of some unnecessarily curt, blunt or just plain unhelpful copy-editor comments. In the space provided, rewrite them in a more diplomatic manner to give more information to the author and maintain courteous communication.
|Original phrase||Suggested rewrite||Explanantion|
|There were lots of mistakes in your typescript, which I have corrected. I had to define the abbreviations that you missed.||You will see from the Track Changes that I have made some changes to the text. These fall into the categories of house style (mainly hyphenation issues and use of the serial comma), correcting spelling errors and adding definitions to abbreviations at first mention.||Simply pointing out that a typescript contains mistakes is unhelpful and undiplomatic. Many errors are not the author’s fault; rather, they are matters of house style. Giving the reasons for why certain things are changed gives credence to your work.|
|This isn’t house style.||I attach the house style guide to show you what it covers. The use of a hyphen in website isn’t house style, and I have made it consistent across the book.||Rather than alluding to a mystical ‘style’ it’s worth giving the author a copy to show them what you are following.|
|I must have your corrections by Friday.||In order for us to meet the deadline I need your corrections as soon as possible. Would Friday be possible?||
Even if Friday is essential, ask rather than tell. The author is more likely to respond positively if they can see you are working hard to meet a deadline.
You could also suggest a false deadline: asking for Friday when in fact you don’t need the material until the following Tuesday. This gives you room for manoeuvre.
|What does this sentence mean? I can’t understand it.||In this sentence, do you mean X, or Y?||Don’t make an author work harder than they need to: summarising missing answers will help them focus on what they need to do for you.|
|You haven’t answered all of my questions. Please send me the complete list again.||Attached is a list of the points we still need to resolve. Could you send me your answers, please?||Don’t make an author work harder than they need to: summarising missing answers will help them focus on what they need to do for you.|
You are copy-editing a book about the history of steam railways in north-east England. The author said he was happy to receive queries as Comments boxes in the edited Word typescript, with Track Changes, but on receipt of the first chapters he has run into problems. He says he can’t see your changes or the Comments. What two suggestions can you make for an alternative way of working?
Return to the worksheet to write your answers.
You could provide a list of queries in a plain Word document, with a description of the exact position in the text given in each question, for ease of location
You could add bold/coloured/highlighted text to a version of the edited typescript without Track Changes, telling him that you can provide detail of the editing if he wishes to see it
At the start of this e-Learning Module you rated yourself on four attributes. Test yourself again to see how you have progressed.
Give yourself a score of 1–5 for the following four questions, where 1 means not confident at all and 5 means very confident.
|How confident do you feel about your ability to||Outcome|
|…introduce yourself to an author in a professional manner?||If you scored poorly on this measure, re-read Part 2, and try Exercise 1|
|…explain the publishing process to an author who doesn’t understand it?||If you scored poorly on this measure, this is a good online resource outlining the publishing process.|
|…come up with solutions to problems arising during copy-editing, such as an author who is not receptive of your work?||If you scored poorly on this measure, re-read Part 4 and consider enrolling for the PTC e-Learning Module Author Queries.|
|…correspond with an author using courteous dialogue in order to develop a sound working relationship?||If you scored poorly on this measure, re-read Part 5 and consider enrolling for the PTC e-Learning Module Author Queries.|