Category Archives: Copyediting

Introducing …

This is my “official” introduction to “Arzooman Editorial Services.” After much contemplation, I have settled on a name for the business and I’ve officially upgraded my blog to a real website.

Further updates will follow. I’ll be offering an initial discount (to the end of August) to those who find me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I haven’t joined Google+ yet but I expect to soon, and the discount will be available there as well.

I am available for book editing and proofreading, as well as smaller projects such as website corrections, ebook formatting, blogging, and editing articles and papers.


21st century editing … almost

Recently, as part of my job search, I took a proofreading test. I was surprised to find that the test was on paper, to be done with a red pen. Not a problem, it’s just that I’ve gotten used to electronic editing–tracking changes on a screen.

It wasn’t too long ago that this was a new idea for me. When I was working for a publisher a few years ago, most of the book manuscripts were printed out and were copyedited and/or proofread by hand. They were mailed back and forth from the author to the publishing house to the copy editor, and a lot of money was spent on paper and shipping, not to mention the time spent making the corrections by hand and then inputting them.

I was in newspapers for a long time and when I edited a story it was on a computer screen. That was normal to me. In spite of that, the idea of a longer manuscript or a book corrected electronically seemed foreign. It wasn’t as widely acceptable to edit books on a computer screen … probably because most authors didn’t have the technology at home to view the tracked changes and accept them. When I edited longer documents, it was on paper. I could take the manuscript with me to mark it up while sitting in a diner or on the bus — I felt it was “easier” to do it this way; I believed that I caught more mistakes that way than on a computer screen. I also didn’t trust the computer’s spell-checker — I still don’t, but it often helps spot typos.

At my last job (I’m talking about 2011), our editing method was still to print everything out and mark it up by hand, so that a manuscript could be passed around among various editors. Tracking changes electronically hadn’t been established, and this added a lot of time to the process.

My feelings have changed about electronic editing, if for no other reason than speed and convenience for the author. It’s so much easier for a writer when you send him or her a document with the changes tracked. He or she can simply accept the changes and they’re done–they don’t have to be added in by hand. The notes in the margins are clearer, and you can easily redo them if necessary without leaving a mess. For that matter, everything you mark is cleaner.

Not every author wants to do it that way; some still like to work with changes marked on paper, and that’s fine. There are times when I still edit on paper, too. My old laptop computer died and a new one is not in my immediate budget. So when I have to work on a manuscript on the train or on a trip, I can’t do electronic changes. I usually print out a portion of the manuscript I’m working on so that at least I can keep on editing while away from my desk.

I like that I have the background, that I know proofreading marks and how to do it the old-fashioned way. But I am happy to leave that behind for a more convenient process for all.

The price of typos

BBC: Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales

“An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses. Charles Duncombe (who runs travel, mobile phones and clothing websites) says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been ‘shocked at the poor quality of written English.’ Sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility, he says. (Source: BBC News, 7/13/11).

“When recruiting school and university (graduates), Mr Duncombe says too many applications have contained spelling mistakes or poor grammar. ‘Some people even used text speak in their cover letter,’ he says.”

New York Times digital and pop culture writer Virginia Heffernan had this to say about the importance of spelling correctly online:

“While the idea that sloppy spelling can sink whole businesses seems far-fetched, even casual bloggers recognize the imperative to spell well online. This is because search engines look for strings of characters in sequence, and if your site has misspellings, Google is less likely to list it at the top of search results. With misspellings, according to the tech site Geekosystem, ‘You aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve.’  The imperative to spell correctly on the Web, and attract Google attention, means that even the lowliest content farmer will know that it’s i-before-e in ‘Bieber.'”

(Source: The Price of Typos, 7/17/11)

For more feel-good stuff, check out Chris Epting’s blog on AOL News, “Notorious Spelling Mistakes.” I especially loved this excerpt:

“In 2004, an artist constructing a mural at a library — of all places — botched the spellings of some famous names, including Einstein, Shakespeare, Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Artist Maria Alquilar fixed the names but was unapologetic about the spelling mistakes on the $40,000 ceramic mural, which was installed at a new city library in Livermore, Calif. 

“‘They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work,’ she said back then. ‘The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake’s concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words. In their mind, the words register correctly.'” 

Not sure which “people that are into humanities” she was speaking for. I do have to admire her for her chutzpah, though.

Not the grammar police

On being a tactful editor:

“Most professional writers appreciate being edited for consistency and clarity; they want an editor to go over their copy with a fresh eye, to spot errors, to point out gaps in logic or sections that need cutting, to suggest where style can be improved – but they want this to be done with respect and tact. …  Copy editors should be grammar coaches, not grammar police, and the final stage of editing the manuscript should feel like a collaboration, not an inquisition or a day of judgment. Some copy editors come across as school marms, with rigid sets of rules and an urgent need to rap knuckles every time they are broken.” (Copyright (c) Pat McNees [http:/​/​])

As I told a client recently, I use the Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. I prefer not using “their” and “them” as singular pronouns. But I know this is gaining wider acceptance. So I simply pointed out the first few instances where he’d used this style and wrote, “OK?” in the margin notes. Since I was giving him several sections at a time, after he saw my initial comments he emailed me and said he preferred that style–he said it seemed more natural to him. So I didn’t mark any further instances of this usage.

In another instance, he asked me about my changing all caps (used for emphasis and/or shouting) to italics. I suggested he not use caps as much, but explained that since this wasn’t a hard and fast rule, it would be his call.

For the most part, unless it means a significant change, I don’t think that it is important to explain my grammar or style corrections to an author. If he or she were really curious he or she could check my reference books or could ask me (as he did).

For another book, the author had asked me to do a heavy edit. At one spot I questioned whether it would make sense for a certain character to be doing something, based on what had happened up to that point. This gets trickier, when you get away from grammar and style and delve into the actual characters and plot. This is the writer’s baby. I’m not there to rewrite the book. I’m there to help him or her make it read smoothly and not let mistakes jar the audience out of the story.

It is the writer’s call–even in spelling a word wrong or using a phrase incorrectly. But he or she relies on an editor to tactfully point out places where improvement is needed, or simply recommended.

Hey, about that typo …

I can almost excuse this  … but this school-related sign?

I was at a party recently and a guy I know was wearing a black t-shirt that said, “Taste’s Like Chicken.” I can’t help myself. I’m an editor. I felt he was familiar enough to me for me to get personal, so I poked at the apostrophe and said, “Taste’s”?

And he had no clue what I was talking about. Sigh. I’m sorry to say this, but my opinion of him dropped a tiny bit. Why would you wear a t-shirt–which I’m assuming he wanted people to look at and find amusing–with a glaring typo? (I tried to find a picture of this t-shirt–yes, I was too tactful to take a picture while I was talking to him–and, sadly, my Google search revealed that many, many other people think that “taste’s” in this context is correct.

As I was going through these links I started to get a little woozy and even began to think, “Am I wrong?” Maybe there really should be an apostrophe there … (anyone else ever have that feeling?)

With friends, I excuse typos (mostly). In emails and texts, I simply can’t be that critical. In someone’s social networking profile, with many opportunities for correction, I form opinions when there are errors. When I’m reading strangers’ material on the internet, I overlook most grammatically incorrect comments and chalk them up as either non-native speakers, or people rushing to post something. I feel embarrassed when I see typos on a forum populated by professional editors. But I won’t say anything. Basically I look at it this way: If you are in a situation where you can’t correct a typo (as in a comment thread), it’s understandable. (If I make a mistake myself, I feel compelled to post a second comment correcting it.)

Typos on a printed sign, on a professional website, or on a resume are a bit different. But what do we do about them?

What’s a tactful way to tell a company they’re in dire need of an editor?” a person asked on Yahoo Answers: “In the process of purchasing a home, I stumbled across a custom builder in my area. The content on their website is chock full of spelling and punctuation errors. I’d really like to call them on it, because for one, I don’t think it’s professional, and second, I’m sure they’ve driven potential customers away for the same reason. I just believe that the care you put into any writing that represents your company reflects the care that you will exhibit toward your clients. I’m an editor, so I could do it myself, but I’m wondering if I should take a tactful approach to telling them this, or if I should just move on. What should I say, if I do write to them?”

As usual, there was only one response to this question (Yahoo answers can be less than helpful for this reason), but it was pretty good: “Write them and tell them what you said here. If you want, extend them an offer to edit their site. It’s possible they may not think it is worth the time and effort to correct, but at least you will have tried.”

That’s a no-lose situation. The company wants her business and she’s simply expressing a reason why she might not use them. (They might not care; however, if the company were in the sign business, it might be a pretty serious problem.)

Would I go to this store? I guess if there were big sales and it was nearby, but this sign is appalling. I’d definitely be tempted to comment. Sure, one could blame it on the sign maker — but what company would accept that sign? The sign company owes them a new one!