Category Archives: Hints

Five Ways to Find the Right Editor

Thanks to the Internet, and my fantastic designer husband who built my website, my services and resume are on display to the world. No longer do I have to rely solely on my colorless and anorexic Word resume (that has to be no longer than a page in order to be readable) to get the word out. If you google “freelance editor Israel,” I am at the top of the list. And I haven’t spent a shekel. It is that easy.

But if you are looking for an editor online, you need to be sure that you have found the genuine article. These are the questions you should be asking an online editor/proofreader before you sign on the dotted line:

1. Google the editor. www.IAmTheBestEditorintheWorld.com (this is a fictional name for the purpose of illustration. I would actually run a million miles from a website with a name like that.) seems to offer you exactly what you are looking for. Fast, efficient service at an affordable rate. But who is behind www.IAmTheBestEditorintheWorld.com? Do they tell you on the site the name of the editor? I would be automatically wary of faceless services that theoretically could be outsourcing your work for pennies to desperate foreign workers around the globe. It is important to know exactly who you are hiring. If the website does provide a name, do a search on Google for that person’s name. If the person really is such a reputable editor with a stellar reputation, there should be SOME mention of the person online in connection with the books/works s/he edited. If you cannot find this person online, I would think twice before proceeding any further.

2. What Have You Edited? An editor that boasts on his/her website a wide array of editing services should be able to prove it. If you do not see a list of edited works/articles/websites, ask them to send you SPECIFIC examples of published works. If they say that it is confidential, or that the works are forthcoming, and have not yet been printed or published, you should immediately eliminate this person from your search. Any editor/editing service that cannot provide you with at least FOUR examples of PUBLISHED books they have edited, or articles that have been published, is not a credible editor, or at least not an editor with enough experience to give you the best possible service. Editing samples are lovely – and I enjoy providing this service to prospective clients – but, far-fetched as it sounds, you have no hard evidence that the editor in question has not farmed out the sample to ANOTHER editor for a free sample edit. People who are desperate for work will sometimes take desperate measures.

3. How True Are the Testimonials? Often, you will find a Testimonial page that glitters with praise for the said editor’s magical abilities. Praise such as, I cannot begin to thank you for the magic you have worked on our website. You have transformed our website, and we will certainly be working with you again! D. from Plymouth. Or, I am so glad I found you. My book is now on the New York Times bestsellers list, and I will certainly be recommending to you to other writers. Sergio from New York.

Well, if you find a page of testimonials that resemble Lonely Hearts ads, and are predominantly supplied by anonymous initials, such as D. from Plymouth and Sergio from New York, it isn’t looking good. True, some clients may prefer to remain anonymous, but if the editor is hard-pressed to find at least FIVE clients/writers who are willing to stand behind their FULL real name in praise of his/her work, then you are looking at the wrong editor. And if they do provide full names, but no titles, ask the editor for the name of the website/publication that h/she supposedly edited for this writer.

If you want to be especially sure that you are not being conned, do an online search for the writer, and see if you can find any contact details so you can verify whether the recommendation is authentic.

4. How Do You Work? You have checked out that the editor is the real McCoy, and the sample edit has convinced you that this is the right editor for your work. Before finalizing any agreement, or committing to working with this editor, make sure you understand the editor’s method of working. Will s/he be sending you chapter by chapter for your review? Will s/he be working in Track Changes so you can view all of the changes? Will s/he proofread the text after having completed the line-edits? Will s/he be sending you general comments on the structure and content before proceeding to line-editing? How receptive and sensitive is the editor to your feedback? Will the editor be working closely with you, or should you expect to only receive the edited version at the end of the process?

If this is the first time you are working with an editor, and you are not yet comfortable with his/her approach and technique, I would recommend that you search for an editor who is committed to working closely with you, and who will send regular updates and installments for your review.

5. It’s All About the Money. Once you are satisfied that you have found the right editor, there are a couple of steps you can take to protect yourself even further.

a. Ask the editor to prepare a contract that can be sent to you either via email or hard copy with all of the terms clearly written out.

b. Make sure that in the contract the editor has included ALL of his/her responsibilities. If the editor promised to provide you with three rounds of editing, then make sure this is included clearly in the contract. If the editor has agreed to a deadline, make sure this is in the contract. And make sure to include the clause that if the editor does not, for whatever reason, COMPLETE the editing of the manuscript, that you are not bound to pay, even partially, the editor. I would have either a lawyer, or a friend who is familiar with contracts, to review the contract before signing it.

c. I would be loathe to pay ALL the money upfront. I would rather ask if you can pay in installments, so that you can at least be sure that the editor is not going to run off with your money, and there is an incentive for him/her to make it to the finishing line.

Future history

Funky title for a blog, no? Well, it’s my husband’s blog, so head on over there and check it out. He wrote here on this site a month ago with a guest post that was, in my opinion, hysterical if not a little heretical. The title was “God is a mob boss.”

I know I am probably not the most impartial person in the world, but I always love reading his writing because he writes exactly how he speaks. And if you were to listen to him speak, you would realize why that is  so amazing. Anyway, enough blarney. I guess that’s what happens when your father is an Irishman.

Whoever is hungry, come and eat

Pesach of 2001 was a very special year for me. What distinguished this Seder night from all previous Sedarim (pl. Seder) was that the Shlomo Carlebach Haggadah that I was using was edited by none other than yours truly. I have since edited two other Haggadot, but this particular year stays fresh in my memory.

Before I began working on this project, I had been a big Shlomo Carlebach fan, and had even met “the singing rabbi” personally a couple of times in my childhood. I must have been about ten years old when he first stayed at our house during one of his trips to our colorless city (that would be Manchester, England). My father’s close friend was responsible for organizing his performances in Manchester, and asked my father if he could stay overnight at our house – how could you possibly say no to Shlomo Carlebach? Well, anyway, that’s my claim to fame. Shlomo Carlebach stayed at our house when I was a kid.

It’s gotta be said that Shlomo Carlebach’s singing voice is pretty dire – as those of you who are familiar with his music will be able to testify – but his tunes (niggunim) are so uplifting that they leave you soaring in the clouds. It’s other-worldly. All the petty worries and fears that weigh you down on a daily basis are suddenly removed – at that moment, it’s just you and G-d. To this day, I really feel that Carlebach music is therapy for the soul.

So you can imagine my excitement when the Carlebach Haggadah manuscript landed on my desk. Before I began reading it, I knew it would be a success. The idea of relating Rabbi Carlebach’s teachings and stories to the Haggadah and Seder night was ingenious. His insights into the human condition and his profound lessons on the meaning of true freedom raised the Seder night to a whole new level.

A few weeks before the Haggadah went to print, I had to select an excerpt to appear on the back cover. Considering there were hundreds of stories and messages from which to choose, this was not an easy decision. Since food is perpetually on my mind, I eventually opted for Rabbi Carlebach’s interpretation of the words in the Haggadah which translate as “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat.” The words do have a Michael Jackson feel to them, but nonetheless I felt that this excerpt encapsulated Rabbi Carlebach’s philosophy on life:

Friends, this is our generation. This is you and I, but most of all it’s our children. There’s such a hunger in the world for something beautiful, something holy – a hunger for one good word, one holy word, one message from God. People are hungry for something lofty, glorious. So this is my wish for all of us: Let the hungry people get together – everyone who’s hungry for holiness, friendship, for love – with the people who are hungry to give their children one word from God. Let’s get together! Let’s you and I fix the world!

The three dashes (this is for you, Alan)

One of my readers asked me the following grammar question as a follow-up to this post:

I would appreciate a lesson on the use of the hyphen in sentence construction. I use it sparingly when I think I am using it correctly, but I am never quite sure frankly…My question is … can the hyphens be used as a substitution for commas or is their usage different?

Well, firstly, as listed in every editor’s bible, the Chicago Manual of Style, there are three types of dashes – hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. They all have different functions, and to make life fun, are all different lengths (the dash used in this sentence is an em dash):

  1. The hyphen is the shortest of the three dashes, and is used in the following ways:
    1. hyphens can connect two words, such as “hair-raiser,” “eye-opener.”
    2. hyphens are used in compound numbers, “thirty-seven,” “forty-nine.”
    3. hyphens are used with the prefixes, ex-, self-, and all, e.g. ex-boyfriend, self-assured, and all-encompassing.

    The hyphen can be found on the keyboard on the underscore key, next to the “0” computer key.

  2. Now we come to the en dash, which is longer in length than the hyphen, and is used to connect continuing, or inclusive, numbers, e.g. the years 1968-72, 10:00-5:00 P.M.

    The en dash can be found on the keyboard by pressing Ctrl and the grey minus key on the numeric keyboard.

  3. Last but not least, the em dash, which is double the size of the en dash, and is used in the following ways:
    1. The em dash, or a pair of dashes, can be used to denote a sudden break in thought:

      I know a person—let’s call her Elizabeth—who is extremely gregarious.

    2. And now, in answer to your question, Alan, an em dash can also be used to separate ideas in a sentence which is long and complex, or in one that has an excessive amount of commas:

      On our way to see my brother and sister-in-law in Modi’in—which is located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv—we stopped off at a cafe for a bite to eat.

Rules are made to be broken

Any self-respecting editor or publisher will tell you that it is all well and good to have your own individual preferences when it comes to style issues, but what is critical at the end of the day is consistency. Always be consistent. If you choose to italicize a certain transliterated word, make sure to do this throughout. People can forgive a strange spelling of a word, but what is truly unforgivable is inconsistency.

Be warned, though: Do not get caught in the following trap. Word has a feature called Find and Replace, which enables you to make global changes to the file by finding the word in question and correcting it. NEVER select “Find and replace all” – there may be certain instances where the correction should not be applied. For example, you may want to replace the word “apple” globally with “fruit.” If you were to do a global Find and Replace, you run the risk of inserting the word “fruit” with a lower-case f at the beginning of a sentence, where a capped letter should really be used. As tedious as it is, you need to search through each example of the word, and determine whether the correction is appropriate.

Another little tidbit of information relating to consistency. Let us look at numbers. If your work is filled with a lot of mathematical and statistical data, you may decide to use numerals. For example, “There are 25 graduate students in the French department, 22 in the classics department, and 270 in the physics department, making a total of 317 students in the three departments.” The exception to the rule of using numerals is when the number is the first word in the sentence. At the beginning of a sentence, any number that would ordinarily be written in numerals is spelled out, regardless of any inconsistency this may create:

“Twenty-seven percent of the cost was guaranteed.”

Ten tips on how to turn a writer into a friend, not a foe

During the last seven years of my career, I have not only sharpened my skills as an editor, but I (believe that) I have become a more sensitive human being. 

I have worked with so many authors of different types and stripes that I have come to the realization that as much as it is my job to perfect and polish the text, it is equally my role to hold the writer’s hand, so to speak, and guide him or her through the editing process. 

Writing a book is no mean feat, and revealing your writing – which often, directly or indirectly, exposes your innermost thoughts – to an anonymous editor who is itching to roll up his or her sleeves and take out the unforgiving red pen can be an extremely intimidating prospect.

On that note, implement the following pieces of advice, and you, too, will have your web page filled with glowing testimonials will achieve a harmonious working relationship with your client.

Are you ready?

 1. Meet the writer first. Ideally, you should try to meet your client before you begin the writing process. Nowadays email is the standard means of communication, but it is crucial that you start off on a more personal note. Your client will be entrusting his or her “baby” into your hands, so it is advisable that you meet face-to-face in order to build a rapport. While emails are useful and efficient, they can often be misinterpreted, and it is hard to “read” warmth from impersonal messages. If it is an impossibility for you to meet the writer, pick up the phone.

2. Be friendly. When you write emails to your clients, always try to start off on a light and friendly note. Here is a sample of such an email:

Dear Henry,

I hope you are well.

 I read through the first two chapters, and I have the following comments. Please see the attached document. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.

Best regards,

Sorelle

3. Explain the process. Do not enter a project with the expectation that the writer is familiar with the editing process. Often writers have never worked with editors before, and are not familiar with Word and track changes. Before you begin editing, send the writer an email explaining to him or her (in a bulleted list) the process of editing, and ALWAYS stress at the end of such an email that if anything is unclear, he or she should not hesitate to ask you any questions. 

When working with a writer, your aim should not only be to dazzle him or her with your brilliance, but also to put him or her at ease. Presuming knowledge from clients is a big no-no, and can often end in tears. If you have a preferred method of working, such as always making a point of renaming drafts, make sure that you tell your client from word go about your preference.

4. Be positive. OK, you have read through the manuscript, and it is going to take a great deal of work and many mugs of coffee to get you through this project. Do not project frustration into your emails. You should adopt the attitude that this project is going to improve your editing skills, and will result in you becoming a sharper editor. When you write an email to the writer with your general comments, try to start the email on a positive note. (There has to be SOMETHING positive you can write about the manuscript, and writers really appreciate any positive feedback you can give them.)  

Even if you believe that the manuscript is in an appalling state, starting off your email with a message similar to the one below is only going to alienate the writer and put him or her on the defensive:

Hi John,

I have just finished reading the first five chapters. I am sorry to say that they are incomprehensible and poorly written. Much work is needed to make these chapters publishable.

Sorelle

No good. Try the following tactic:

Hi John,

I have just finished reading the first five chapters, and am attaching my general comments to this email. From what I have read so far, I believe that the book has a great deal of potential. I have outlined in my comments those issues that I feel need particular attention. Please let me know if you have any questions.

I am very much looking forward to working with you on this project.

Sincerely,

Sorelle

5. Consolidate your comments. If you have multiple comments about the work, it is better for you to write them up in a Word document, and attach them to the email. It is tedious for your client to scroll through an email with fifty points. An added advantage of such a method is that you have your saved file for your records. Emails can get lost.

6. Be clear. If you are inserting comments into the Word file, make sure to phrase your question or comment clearly, and write in full sentences. Don’t fall into the trap of writing short comments that resemble text messages. It looks sloppy.

7. Be humble. The following point cannot be reiterated enough. Always make sure to stress to your client that your editing suggestions are exactly that, suggestions, and that ultimately any major editorial decisions are in the writer’s hands. It is counter-productive to present your argument as an indisputable fact. I find that when I have given the writer the option of rejecting my comments, most times he or she will be more amenable to my suggestions.

8. Be organized. If you are working with a writer who is disorganized and sends you vague emails with vague responses to your questions, it is very important that you formulate your emails in such a way that he or she will be forced to answer your specific points. Number each of your points in a bulleted list, and end the point with a direct question that clearly requires a direct answer.

If the lines of communication seem to be broken, make a point of ending your emails with the following request:

“Please acknowledge that you have received this email.”

9. Keep a list. Keep LOTS of lists. Always keep a running list of the issues that you discuss in your email correspondence with your client. Often interesting ideas will be suggested but sadly forgotten in the midst of more pressing issues, so it is extremely useful to have this list handy.

10. Be humble. Yes, I’m repeating myself. Being an editor requires humility. You are not competing against the writer, you are helping him or her. You are in effect finessing someone else’s work for which you will not receive any credit (aside from a few complimentary words in the Acknowledgments, if you are lucky). If you cannot derive satisfaction from the fact that you have helped steer the writer towards an excellent final product, then you are in the wrong profession.   

Online resource for copy-editors and proofreaders

If you are an editor or proofreader living in Israel, and would like to share or receive information about all editing-related topics in this country, there is an email list to which you can subscribe – COandPI@yahoogroups.com.

You need not be embarrassed about asking the most simple of questions on this list. There are editors who ask for help in basic grammar, such as where to place a comma or semi-colon in a sentence. 

Identify your audience

Before you submit your manuscript to a publisher, or better yet, before you begin writing your book, sit down for a minute and consider the potential readership. Ask yourself who you think will most likely want to read this book. This will influence the tone and direction of your book. For example, if you are writing a book about Kabbalah, we all know that you’re not the first or last person to do so; there are a plethora of Kabbalah works out there on the market. You will need to provide a fresh perspective on the subject in order to make your book stand out from the 150 other Kabbalah manuscripts on the publisher’s desk. If you are writing about a subject that requires specialized knowledge, but want to target your book to a wide audience, make sure to explain and define any complex concepts and language.

It is the publisher’s and submission editor’s job to weed out those manuscripts that are cliched and lack originality. They will only take on your book if they can identify a potential market, and unless your writing is of an excellent literary standard, your manuscript will gather dust on their desks and will eventually end up in the garbage.

One final word of advice: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your first page, your first paragraph, your first sentence, needs to grab the reader. Don’t expect the reader to persist through 100 pages of waffle to uncover the point of the book. From word go, you need to engage your readers.

On that note, I will get back to work.

The joys of bathroom reading – Part Two

I just know that you have all been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for a second installment of weird and wonderful words with which to impress your friends, so here goes. I couldn’t resist. (Brownie points to those who already knew these words, and yes, I am spending far too much time reading this bathroom book.)

Franch: To eat greedily

Rhotacism: Excessive use of the letter “R”

Wamfle: To walk around with flapping clothes

Charientism: A veiled insult

Moll-buzzer: A thief whose specialty is robbing women

Mubblefubble: Mental depression