Do I Need a Writer, an Editor, or Someone Else?

If you are unfamiliar with the publishing process, you may wonder how a writer, editor, copyeditor, or proofreader can help you. I have worked on projects in all of these roles, and here’s my brief overview of how they serve a publication.

Writer: You may need a writer if you have a lot of ideas but you can’t seem to get them down on paper. A writer can take your stream-of-consciousness thoughts or interview you to create the document you intend to publish. That may be a website, a book, or something else. Writers can also create documents with prompts you give them or a research topic to investigate. I write for many different clients and some of my projects have included writing articles, ghostwriting books or blog posts, summarizing case studies, and more.

Editor: This is a very general title and I would lean toward putting the word “developmental” in front of the title as it concerns an individual seeking help. This person can look at your work so far and give you ideas of how to reshape or retool it to meet your intended audience. A developmental editor can also help you work on flow and ask probing questions to help you dig deeper into your document. At a publishing house, an editor may also be a managing or acquiring editor. A managing editor coordinates all aspects of the publishing process and an acquiring editor finds content to publish.

Copyeditor: This person will copyedit a document that is in very good shape and almost ready for publication. This person uses a style book or style guide (and a dictionary!) to correct grammar, usage, and style errors. A copyeditor may also point out sentences that need clarification or suggest adding headings to improve readability. A copyeditor will also format references in a bibliography or notes section as well as inquire about permissions for artwork or long passages that you borrowed from another source. Your copyeditor may also be willing to fact-check a document if you request it.

Proofreader: A proofreader looks at a nearly published document usually set in its final form. A proofreader will only correct egregious errors like misspellings or the odd (or missing) punctuation mark. The proofreader ensures that everything looks clean and tidy to avoid embarrassing mistakes appearing in the final publication.

There are of course other roles in publishing like typesetters, designers, agents, reviewers, fact-checkers, translators, and more. Before you get too far with your work, however, consider whether you need one (or more) of these types of people involved in your document. Feel free to contact me to chat about your project, and I can provide you with an assessment of what I think you need.

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Treading Lightly

Recently, I read The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller. Saller is a copyeditor at the University of Chicago Press, home of the celebrated stylebook, now in its seventeenth edition. She also manages the question and answer feature on the stylebook’s website, which has been a huge resource to me over the years. I’ve followed happenings at the University of Chicago for quite some time — since the fourteenth edition!

I wholeheartedly agree with Saller’s take on copyediting and the Chicago philosophy in general. One of the sentences in the opening pages of the book sums it up perfectly:

Your first goal isn’t to slash and burn your way through [the manuscript] in an effort to make it conform to a list of style rules. (p. 7)

Unless you want someone to change your work radically (which I would suggest is substantive editing, not copyediting), this lighter and sensible approach to copyediting should put you at ease. When you hand over a manuscript for copyediting, you feel the work is in pretty good shape and that it needs some fact-checking and smoothing (and, in many cases, formatting help for references and bibliographies).

So remember that unless you are submitting an article for a publication with strict guidelines or your work needs a lot of retooling, the copyediting process should be pretty gentle.

First Quarter 2017

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The Japanese maples outside of my office’s picture window finally leafed out. It must really be spring now!

Before I get swept away in milder weather and late April deadlines, I wanted to reflect on my winter projects. These kept me busy and challenged from January through March this year:

  • Writing articles on health and lifestyle for Healthline
  • Copyediting several journal issues for University of Illinois Press
  • Copyediting a book on race in America
  • Editing and formatting chapters for a nursing textbook
  • Editing a dissertation for a doctoral candidate in social work at Temple University
  • Proofreading a book on religion
  • Editing a resume and cover letter for a teacher searching for jobs abroad
  • Writing biographies for two professionals to use in their marketing materials
  • Collaborating with Nicole Pica of Reinvent U with resumes and LinkedIn profiles

I am lucky to have a job that allows me to work in so many subject areas. There is so much to learn out in the world.

If I can help you with a writing or editing project, let me know. natalielsilver(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 

Numbers: 2016

I realize that January is halfway over, but I wanted to post a review of 2016. Last year was hugely successful for me as a freelance writer and editor, so I wanted to mark the occasion by running my work by the numbers. Without further ado:

  • Number of clients: 13
  • Number of books copyedited or proofread: 6
  • Number of journals copyedited: 10
  • Number of articles written: 50
  • Number of huge nursing education textbooks or supplemental materials edited: 3
  • Number of dissertations edited: 2
  • Number of individual clients who I collaborated with on resumes, websites, and marketing copy: 7

And here are a few approximate numbers, just for fun’s sake:

  • Number of times I reviewed a style book (including Chicago, APA, and AP): 5,000
  • Number of times I looked up a term in Merriam-Webster: 7,000

Thank you to all of my clients who keep me working so hard year-round. I am lucky to be in this profession, and as a lifelong learner and avid reader, working on a variety of topics couldn’t be more thrilling.

 

Highlights from May, June, and July

It’s nearing the end of July, and we’ve got a heatwave in Philadelphia. I’m beating the sweltering weather during these dog days in the central air, as I wrap up several projects with impending deadlines.

Here’s what I’ve been working on for the last few months:

  • Contributing to finalizing chapters of a nursing textbook, including finding art and editing references
  • Coding and finalizing chapters for another nursing textbook
  • Editing a graduate-level dissertation on neuroscience and information technology
  • Copyediting journals on Mormon history and music education
  • Proofreading a book on the physics of nothing and a small gift book on the virtues of Christmas
  • Reviewing updated resumes
  • Writing articles on diabetes, yoga, gluten free diets, and other health subjects

When I’m not working, I’m balancing this docket of work with some pretty breezy summer reads–mostly celebrity memoirs. It’s fun to take a peek into some icons of our present day, including some pretty funny ladies who’ve enjoyed success at Saturday Night Live and beyond.

Six Writing and Editing Resources

In my line of work, we use several resources to guide our decision-making. These are our tools of the trade, helping us keep things consistent and in order. If you are writing or editing any type of content, I recommend you utilize one or more of these resources and keep your own in-house style sheet (I’ll be posting about that soon).

Here are my top resources for writing and editing:

Stylebooks

The_Chicago_Manual_of_Style_16th_edition1. The Chicago Manual of Style

Here’s the style guide I used at my former job at an independent book publisher. The Chicago Manual of Style is very comprehensive (and thick!). I swear, it answers nearly every question that might come up when you are working on a document. I highly recommend this style guide for books.

Why I love Chicago style:

  • Comprehensive
  • Helpful chapter on punctuation
  • Great advice for notes, references, and bibliographies
  • Informative for beginning editors and writers who are learning about the process

Last year I began using the online version of the guide, making my editing work even more transportable. For just $35.00/month you can have access to the book as a searchable resource — making it easier for you to look up a term, question, or style preference.

51Ejt8rMFaL2. The Associated Press Stylebook

I first used The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook when I worked for my college newspaper. I loved this resource for many reasons at the time, mostly because of its cut-and-dried approach to punctuation, terms, and formatting. Now, I have to admit, my love of the serial comma is strong, so exclusively referring to this style can be difficult (sorry to any of you who love the omission of that last comma in a series!). I recommend this style guide for writing intended for the web, newsletters, and magazines.

Why I love AP style:

  • Definitive
  • Easy-to-use
  • Good style for short-form writing

Make sure you start with the most recent edition of this book to avoid making any style decisions based on previous issues. In our constantly changing world, many of the terms and recommendations will change related to the web and other emerging technologies.

apa-style3. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Of all the style guides, I find this resource the most helpful and the most frustrating. You may be asked to follow this style book (hereafter called APA style) for higher education courses or for professional writing. Its main focuses are avoiding bias in your writing (important!), formatting academic papers (crucial if that’s what you need to do), and ensuring that your references are consistent and match the manual’s recommendations (I can guarantee you’ll never stop checking for ampersands and appropriate periods). These sections of the book are immensely helpful, though I find it difficult to use when I have higher-level grammar or style questions. Sometimes I will confer with Chicago to confirm those questions.

Why I love APA style:

  • Great for academic writing
  • Helpful tips for bias-free language
  • Straightforward approach to references and citations

If you are using APA style and need more help, be sure to use the Publication Manual’s blog. It will provide you with plenty more information on writing and editing in APA style.

Web Resources

Okay, enough with the stylebooks! Here are some great web references that you can utilize for quick grammar, usage, and style questions.

4. Merriam-WebsterMerriam-Webster_logo.svg

I use merriam-webster.com as my go-to dictionary and thesaurus. It’s wise to have one specific dictionary to source for consistency. I recommend this tried-and-true version, and it’s the favorite of many stylebooks. You’ll be able to confirm spellings and capitalization as well as determine good synonyms when writing punchy copy. It even has a great medical dictionary and fun words of the day.

ud-logo5. Urban Dictionary

Okay, this is a little out of left field, but a lot of my clients use slang and colloquial language when writing blogs, newsletters, and other personal communications. Urban Dictionary is my source for looking up terms not in the Merriam-Webster (think figuring out what YOLO or FOMO means or deciding on a consistent spelling for “biznass” or “hair-did”).

duVKyUtt_400x4006. Grammar Girl

I have a professional crush on Grammar Girl. She’s all-knowing and is great at explaining problematic grammar issues, such as affect vs. effect, split infinitives, and parallel construction. Whenever you have a grammar question, this site can give you helpful information and tips without a whiff of grammar snobbery (a pet peeve of mine!). It’s a great way to answer specific questions or to relearn grammar that you last thought about when writing your final school paper a decade or two ago.

I hope these resources can be helpful to you as you create and edit content. I am always here to help you with any type of writing or editing. Contact me at natalielsilver (at) yahoo (dot) com to discuss your project and needs.

Highlights, July and August 2015

I hope you had a fun and relaxing summer. School’s in session in these parts today, and I am ready to dive in to some fall writing and editing projects. I’ve got some exciting things on my docket, including copywriting for some amazing small businesses.

Before I get ahead of myself, however, let me give you an update of what I’ve been doing during these hot and steamy months:

  • Writing articles for Healthline. Topics have included the best baby monitors, specific weeks of pregnancy, skin conditions, and, most recently, allergies.
  • Writing and editing copy for various small business owners, including bios, websites, blog posts, and newsletters.
  • Copyediting a book on metaphysics.
  • Proofreading Small Steps to Slim.
  • Compiling a glossary and journal list for a nursing textbook.

And here are a few highlights from my Facebook page (please like if you haven’t already!):

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I love to leave you with some reading for pleasure that I’ve done recently. I read Wild in August, and it gripped me from the beginning. Cheryl Strayed told her story in such a compelling way that I could not put the book down until I had finished the whole thing. It was a great summer escape!

Stay tuned for more client profiles, writing and editing tips, and other content this fall!