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Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.
Editorial Pet Peeves, Part 2

I just finished editing a paper that really made me crazy. It wasnít so much that the author wasnít a strong writer as it was that he was deeply lazy. He just trusted that Iíd repair and tidy up, and that somehow Iíd do all the icky stuff that he didnít want to do. Yet heís the one getting the big bucks. Grrrr. Iím sure I spent WAY more time cleaning up his mess than he did writing it or responding to my edits. Hereís another list of things that make editors spit nails.

 

Donít turn a paper in without the images. Often, the text is hard to follow without the images (thatís why you wanted an image in the first place, right?), but there is no way for an editor to know if capitalization or terminology is accurate without itóespecially if itís a product in betaóand thereís no way to catch that youíve inadvertently included vacation pictures or screens from another product.

 

Number your images as you go, and then check the numbers when youíve finished writing. Itís surprising how common it is for perfectly logical and literate authors not to be able to count consecutively to ten. If youíve used a place holder to mark the number as you go (although I donít know why youíd do that), you know you did it, right? Well, an editor can surely manage to count those silly things and enter the numbers in the figure slugs and in the textural references, but how is an editor supposed to know if the image you provided actually belongs where you slugged it if you donít number images and slugs?

 

Donít turn in images without numbering them. If youíve provided the images late, and you find that all the images donít have accordant numbers in the text, it is your responsibility to figure out what goes where. If youíve made a gap or duplication in your numbering, itís your responsibility to figure out the corrections. Editors only know a lot about writing and editing. You mustnít depend on us to know whether the image is correctly placed.

 

Donít turn in the first draft. It doesnít matter how great an author you are, you made embarrassing mistakes in the draft version. If you are not a great author (and you know it), why would you expect anyone else to slog all the way through if you canít make yourself do it? Thereís really no excuse for leaving spelling mistakes that the word processing program flagged, or a spot where youíve cut and pasted a portion of a sentence twice. Even if your paper is late, how much longer would it really takeóan hour?óto reread it once?

 

If youíve worked with the editor or project manager before, donít say ďIím never late.Ē We know that you were late on the last project, and we remember the excuse you made then, too. Iím sorry if some of you think this is presumptuous or defamatory, but frankly, Iíve edited hundreds of authors. I can only think of one author who was actually never late (hi, Mikey). Good authors call in advance, say they are going to be late, and provide a realistic new estimate. Itís still not a good thing, but at least the rest of the production team can make a plan. Really good authors donít make commitments that they canít keep. If youíre late and your editor pings you to see whatís up, unless you are buried in rubble from a 10.0 earthquake or you have been transported to a colorful other world by a tornado, you need to respond. We know youíre human and that things crop up. Just tell the truthódonít disappear.

 

Donít leave queries unanswered. Your editor didnít spend hours slogging through and thinking intelligently about your piece just to make comments. We made a comment or a query because something wasnít clear, and it wonít be clear to the rest of your readers either. Frankly, editors study your work more closely than most readers, so we are less likely to have a question than the rest of your readers. The only difference is that editors have the chance to ask for clarification. Your other readers will just turn to another document and think grumpy thoughts about you and your work.

 

Donít answer a query or comment within the query or comment. Editors donít ask questions for our own edification; we ask because your text has left a question for ALL your readers. Respond to the query or comment by changing or adding text.

 

When youíre rereading, be sure to look for repeated words or expressions. Every paragraph should not have the expression ďfor example,Ē for example, even if you are providing an example in every paragraph.

 

Unless youíre writing marketing copy for the box, donít say ďand moreĒ or ďthere are others.Ē You need to tell us how many more or others there are, and generally what their nature is. You also need to explain why youíre not covering these subjects. Itís okay to say something like, ďitís beyond the scope of this paperĒ or ďyouíll discover these tools and others as you explore on your own.Ē

 

When youíre responding to edits, donít stop half-way through. Itís more than a little annoying when your beloved but ragged editor is trudging through, dutifully responding to every change you made, just to find that you didnít finish up. Even if you made it all the way through, if you didnít respond to ALL the comments or queries, you are not finished. Perhaps you need to make a pass just for comments and queries, to make sure that you have addressed all the issues. I make a comments pass, before I send the piece back to you, to make sure that my queries are clear. When Iím cleaning out our edits and our comment conversations, I certainly notice when you miss a few. If you find that you canít bear the sheer number of comments and queries, you might consider turning in clearer copy in the first place. Read your paper a bunch of times before you turn it in, and I promise, the number of comments and queries will drop on the editing side.

 

There. I think Iíve vented. Phew. Thanks for listening.

 

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