Style manuals and why I love them (no, that isn’t sarcasm)

I recently bought a gently used copy of a common style manual which I will be spending a large part of this week learning. (Aside: If you want to save money on a style manual, buy it used from eBay.) There is a wonderful PDF presentation on the internet (“internet” is lowercased according to The Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition, one of my favorite manuals) called “How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days,” which is highly useful for learning the style manual of your choice. It can be found at https://askcopycurmudgeon.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/learn-a-style-guide.pdf

For an editor like me, who specializes in scientific manuscripts, being proficient in more than one style manual is very important. Scientific journal publishers tend to want manuscripts to conform to either the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) or the AMA Manual of Style (AMA). Some publishers even have their own style guide. APA is now on its 7th edition and AMA on its 11th. CMoS is on its 17th edition, as I noted above, and just about every editor should know CMoS because it is considered the “gold standard” of editing, and is defaulted to whenever another style guide has not been specified.

My copy of the new-to-me style manual which I will be learning for the next 10 days is currently sitting on my desk, having arrived less than half a week ago. I cannot wait to crack it open and begin developing proficiency; I will begin tomorrow, since Monday is a good day to start things like this. Personally, I love how the style manuals all have their different nuances and guidelines for things such as the treatment of numbers in text (do we write out one to ten or use the numerals 1 to 10?), capitalization (do we capitalize “Internet” or leave “internet” lowercased?), and closed versus open compounds (is it a “bar stool” or a “barstool”?). If the guidelines in every manual were the same, the world would be a dull place.

If you are an editor or writer, how do you best learn a style manual?

Isn’t technology something?

Earlier this month, I completed a project for a good friend who is writing a book with one of her other friends. No, I did not edit their whole book (although I would love to someday). I did, however, format the book’s references. The co-author (my friend) asked that the references be in APA format, and we agreed that the 7th edition of APA would be the one used.

I formatted and formatted and formatted. The co-author was very satisfied with the work I did. Happy ending, right?

Yes, but it could have had a happier ending for the co-author.

Before she even handed me the project, I told her about Edifix (www.edifix.com), a web-based paid service that will format an author’s references for them.

I have used Edifix once so far, to format 146 references in a scientific review; the journal to which the review was to be submitted required that they be formatted in a specific style. Can you imagine how long it would take an editor to format 146 references by hand?

With Edifix, however, I copied the list of references, pasted them into the indicated space on the web page, selected which format I wanted them in (and there are many choices), clicked a button, and waited for maybe four minutes. Edifix then gave me a document with the references all in the desired format.

Edifix charges for its services monthly and is not cheap. However, for an editor like me who works regularly on scientific research manuscripts, it is worth it.

Back to the story involving the co-author. As I said before, I told her about Edifix before she handed me the project. I wanted her to know that there was a much easier way to format her references than to have me do them by hand. Not that I didn’t want to work on her project, but I felt that it would not be honest to let her know there was an easier (and less expensive) way.

She said to me, “I would feel better having you do them than an automatic service.”

Awww. How sweet.

But she knows for next time.

As for me…of course I enjoy editing, working hard, and making money, but any tool that makes everyone’s life easier should not be kept under wraps.

Testing…one, two, three…

Nobody likes tests. Am I correct? There is pressure involved. Someone is either literally or figuratively looking down at you, judging your performance.

Unfortunately, tests are a large part of life.

Even professional editors have to take tests sometimes in the form of editing tests.

Whoa! you might think. You mean editors have to be tested at something at which they have proved their worth for years?

Well, sometimes, yes.

It is mostly freelance editors such as myself who need to take editing tests. Sometimes a lucrative gig will make itself known to me, but the person(s) offering the gig want to see how well I can edit before they take me on.

If you, dear reader, are a freelance editor, you have either found yourself in this position before or are soon going to find yourself in this position.

So what is the best way to take an editing test?

The first thing to do (after downloading the file and saving it under the same name with your initials added to the end) is turn on the Track Changes feature in MS Word and set it to All Markup. (If you don’t already know how to do this, please either Google how to do it or purchase a copy of Word 2019 for Dummies by Dan Gookin. Don’t worry, I am not calling you a dummy—this is the actual name of the book.)

Next, make a first pass through the written piece. During this pass, fix obvious spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. Check for consistency in things like hyphenation and the use of the Oxford comma.

Then, make a second pass through the piece. Rewrite sentences that sound awkward or incorrect and explain why in the margin comments. If you read any sentence or phrase that is confusing and makes you ask what the author means, query the author in the comments.

Run a spellcheck, do a final save, and you are done! (I should add that you should save the document frequently while you are working.)

Finally, try not to imagine a mean-looking professor breathing down your neck as you edit the test. This is completely counterproductive.

After you have uploaded your finished test, sit back and relax and tell yourself that you are a good editor regardless of the outcome.

Whew! Is it any wonder that so many of us editors have impostor syndrome?

When Times Get Tough

Hello again, dear reader. I have to be honest with you when I say that I almost did not write this post, due to the fact that so many things seemingly have gone wrong in the last few weeks that I am absolutely emotionally drained. If one more thing happens in the wrong way, I may have a nervous breakdown.

Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but is sure feels that way. Besides my laptop having to be repaired (which I wrote about last week), there have been things which have evoked feelings in me that range from anxious to ashamed to heavy-hearted. I will not list them here out of regards for my privacy and that of the people I know and love.

So what keeps me sane and functioning?

Well, first of all, there is my faith in Jesus Christ, and talking to Him regularly comforts me a lot during hard times in my life.

Second, there are my loved ones, mainly my husband, family, and friends. They are a great source of comfort as well.

Third, there is editing. For me, being absorbed by a written piece which I am editing is the same as escaping into a good book. I can shut out the rest of the world and my own noisy thoughts and concentrate on the writing in front of me. The more I edit and polish the piece, the more at peace I feel.

When one’s life is hard, one has to continue to work, as we all know. When I worked in laboratories, this was often very hard to do, since one’s joy and happiness often depend on experiments working out…and oftentimes, they do not. But since I enjoy editing so much, I derive peace from working.

Do you get peace and comfort from your work? If not, from what do you get peace and comfort during the hard times in life?