References often do not get the attention that these important manuscript elements deserve. Scientific and medical journal articles use references to support the authors’ hypotheses, to credit or acknowledge the work of others, and to direct the reader to additional information or resources. The role of the copy editor is to ensure that all references listed are actually cited within the paper, are complete and accurate, and are presented in the correct format and style used by the journal. Frankly, it can be pretty tedious. But, before we explore some time-saving tips, let’s review the basics.
Print Journal Articles
As per the AMA Manual of Style guidelines, a complete print journal reference should include:
Here are some example print journal article references (recognize any names?):
In this digital age, references are now so much easier to access. Unfortunately, an online presence can be much more transient than print. Links break over time, long uniform resource locators (URLs) are prone to typographical errors (and wreak havoc with typesetting!), and websites can be updated repeatedly so there may be many different versions of the same article. For these reasons, it is important for the author to try to capture all relevant information about an online reference at the time it was accessed. At minimum, this requires the URL and date of access.
The sample format is:
Because URLs can break, change, or disappear altogether, many publishers now require more stable identifiers of online material. Two methods are commonly used: the Digital Object Identifier System and the PubMed Identification Number System. A number of journals that I work for use these identifiers to pull references directly and automatically populate the reference list with the correct information in the correct format (such a time saver!).
Digital Object Identifier System
The DOI System was first launched by the International DOI Foundation in 2000. The goal is to provide an “actionable, interoperable, and persistent” digital network identifier used by publishers and other sectors, such as science data centres and movie studios. In 2012, the DOI System was adopted as the International Standard (ISO 26324). They provide a Digital Identifier of an Object (an object can be any physical, digital, or abstract thing). Over 100 million DOIs have been assigned through a federation of Registration Agencies worldwide with an annual growth rate of 16%.
There are 2 elements to a DOI: the prefix and the suffix (separated by a forward slash). All DOIs begin with 10 and are of variable lengths, but they never change once they are assigned. For example, the DOI 10.1183/09031936.02.00088702 for the article listed below begins with “10” like all DOIs, “1183” is the prefix that was assigned by the DOI Registration Agency, and “09031936.02.00088702” is the suffix. Readers can type or paste the DOI name (including the 10 at the beginning and all numbers before and after the slash, but excluding extra characters and sentence punctuation marks) at the DOI website (http://dx.doi.org/). If you have the DOI, you do not have to provide the URL or accessed date in the reference. The DOI appears as the last item in the reference immediately after “doi:” and is set closed up (i.e., no space between):
For journals indexed by PubMed and part of a PubMed citation, a unique PubMed identifier (PMID) is assigned. Readers can enter the PMID in the search box on the PubMed website (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) to find the article. The PMID is not usually included in the reference citation like the DOI is, but rather is used as a “behind-the-scenes” identifier or as a link. For example, the PMID for the following article is 10806140 and is used as a link to PubMed website:
Remember that these electronic identification numbers are only identifiers—they do not provide any information regarding quality of the content or the type of paper identified. They are only there to try to locate a specific article or work in an endless sea of digital information.
Happy Adventures in Editing!
Even in this age when text is often reduced down to 140 characters or less, don’t forget the punctuation. It just could save a life!
I recently went to visit my boys at their summer camp. While driving near Algonquin Provincial Park, I saw a handmade sign posted on a front lawn that read “Slow Kids Crossing.” I was so distracted by the sign (do they mean their kids are physically or mentally slow?) that I could have accidentally hit someone. It is safe to assume they intended “Slow, Kids Crossing” (or “Slow Down, Kids Crossing” would have been better), but this example goes to show the power of punctuation.
The lack of punctuation in this sign obscured the intended meaning. For those of us who notice this sort of thing, it can be annoying—and sometimes amusing. Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, says: “We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we see can see dead punctuation.”
The comma is especially complicated because it plays a grammar role, but also a role as an indicator of the rhythm and flow of the sentence. It is also the most controversial punctuation mark. People have very strong opinions about the Oxford (or serial) comma, but I will leave that heated topic for another post (there has already been enough bloodshed).
The comma indicates a slight break between different parts of a sentence. The function of the comma is to group together words, phrases, and clauses to make a sentence clearer to read. The effect of a misplaced or omitted comma can be quite comical at times. Here are some examples from 25 Biggest Comma Fails on BuzzFeed:
Commas with relative clauses
A trick to make sure you have used the commas correctly is to take the information enclosed by the commas out from the sentence and see if the sentence still makes sense and conveys the meaning you intended.
Commas with dependent clauses
Commas with introductory words and phrases
Commas with independent clauses
Commas with parenthetical and descriptive phrases
I hope you learned something from this very general introduction to using the comma. Stay tuned for a separate post in which I will discuss the use of the comma in lists.
Happy Adventures in Editing!
In my last post, I discussed the results of a recent study that found our sedentary editing and writing jobs increase our risk for some cancers. In part two, I offer some tips that may just save your life (I like to think so anyway).
Move during the day
“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Brigid Dineen, Life Coach, yoga instructor, and organizer for the Yogapalooza festival in Toronto. “Although you can’t quit sitting, you can take action to minimize its consequences on your health and well-being.”
Brigid suggests we take a break and get moving at least once an hour. “It will help to improve your posture, your circulation, your stress levels and mood, and your mental focus. You will also reduce your risk of back pain, weight gain and becoming a ‘zombie’ from staring at the screen for too long.”
Any activity will do. Take a walk, do some stretches, or—Brigid’s favorite—take a dance break! Be intentional about taking a break or the day will get away from you (even set a timer to remind you). Here are some great options:
Get your vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency may be the biological pathway through which excessive sitting increases cancer risk. If you can’t get outside during the day for a walk to catch some natural vitamin D, take a supplement.
Be more active outside work hours
Sitting risk is cumulative. If you work at a desk all day and spend your evenings sitting on the couch watching TV, you are in real trouble. Spend your leisure time being more active. Take a walk. Take up a sport. Learn ballroom dancing. Just get moving!
For your workspace
Some people like to use a standing desk or sit on an exercise ball while working. Even just placing your garbage can or printer on the other side of the room will help because you will have to get up to use them during the day.
Tell us, what do you do to break up your sitting time during the day?
I never considered editing a dangerous job. In fact, editing fulfilled all my safe job criteria: it involved a lot of sitting and could be done in my pajamas. The only danger was an occasional coffee spill. New research finds sedentary desk jobs, such as writing or editing, can increase our risk for cancer—and even exercising every day does not reduce this risk.
Sitting is the new smoking
Excessive sitting has already been found to increase our risk of obesity as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and even depression. According to a recent meta-analysis of 43 observational studies that included over 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases, increased sitting time each day also increases our chance of colon, endometrial and lung cancers. In addition, each two-hour per day increase in sedentary time was related to a statistically significant 8% and 10% increase in colon cancer and endometrial cancer risk, respectively (a 6% increased risk of lung cancer was borderline significant).
Several mechanisms were suggested including increased weight gain and obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and inflammatory responses triggered within the body.
All sitting is not created equal
Sitting watching TV was found to more detrimental than occupational sitting. Another prospective study reported that each two-hour per day increase in TV time was associated with a 23% increased risk of obesity, but only a 5% increased obesity risk for sitting at work time. The authors suggest that this is because we are more likely to snack on unhealthy food while watching TV.
Exercise isn’t enough
Perhaps even more concerning was that adjusting for exercise did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer in this most recent study. This means that the increased cancer risk is not just due to inactivity and that exercising after sitting all day isn’t enough to counteract this risk. It is like thinking that going for a jog will make up for smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
But wait—you don’t need to change careers! Read part two to find ways to lessen your risk.
“Too many cooks spoil the broth” –English proverb
Today’s adventure in editing was an “offer” I had not seen since I first started out in editing. An author wanted me to edit a chapter of his book—for free (“it was only one chapter”). Presumably as many editors as he had chapters in his book were also contacted with this deal. His goal was to end up with an edited book for nothing. Almost every editor has been approached with this scam at some point during their career. Sometimes we are offered a pittance; sometimes we are promised “great exposure.”
“Next time I go grocery shopping,” said fellow editor Katherine Barber, “I’m going to say, ‘Hey Loblaws, give me my groceries for nothing and I’ll tell all my friends on Facebook and Twitter how wonderful you are.’ ”
You wouldn’t do it with your grocery store—it is just as inappropriate when dealing with a professional editor.
It is usually an inexperienced author who tries this, one who does not understand the role or the value of an editor. One of the primary goals of editing is consistency, consistency, consistency. How do you achieve this with a dozen different editors?
Yes, editing can be expensive (it is a professional service after all). If you truly think you have “probably the greatest story ever written” (actual quote), don’t shortchange your work by farming it out in small chunks to many different editors in an effort to save money. You might actually have the greatest story idea ever, but if you are an inexperienced writer it takes a lot of work—by you and your editor—to get it to greatest story level.
How can you afford an editor? You are creative—think creatively! But be sure to discuss your proposal with your editor before editing begins. After you receive the invoice is not the time to propose your idea. Here are some suggestions to get you started (with many thanks to the members of the Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group for their wonderful recommendations and anecdotes).
Everyone has something to offer and many editors are open to bartering. The EAE editors have received bottles of wine (what wouldn’t I do for some bottles of wine?), pieces of art, laundry or grocery delivery, meals, or services such as house painting or installing carpet. Remember that bartering is still counted as income and subject to tax (editors will have to issue a receipt with an equivalent dollar amount and submit at tax time).
Crowdsourcing is splitting a large task up into very small projects that are completed by many different people. Instead of splitting up the job into pieces, split the cost of hiring a good editor. Crowdfunding is raising money through small contributions from a large number of people via the Internet and social media. Pubslush is a crowdfunding platform specifically for authors, but there are many other crowdfunding sites, such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. You could offer contributors a signed copy of your book once published, a chance to name a character, or an acknowledgement within the book.
Hire a recent grad
It is very difficult for a new editor just starting out to establish themselves and generate clients. A recent grad from a publishing program may be willing to do the project for less money to build their project list. They should have formal editing training. You want them to have the skills—they just may not be as quick as a more experienced editor. The Publishing program at Ryerson University in Toronto (where I studied publishing) offers a job announcement service for grads. You can contact them with the details of your project and they will distribute your job posting to current students and alumni free of charge. Check your local universities for a similar service if you live outside the Toronto area.
Do the work yourself
Maybe hiring an editor is completely out of the question for you financially. There are many books out there that can teach you the basics. It just takes an investment of your time—and a library card. The bonus is that you now will have these self-editing skills for your next project. Here are some of my favourites:
Get a little help from your friends
Have as many people as possible—your spouse, friends, relatives, the guy down the street—read your manuscript and provide feedback. This is a good start, but know that because these people have a relationship with you, their feedback is going to be censored somewhat. As famous editor Alan D. Williams has said, “An editor [does] something that almost no friend, relative, or even spouse is qualified or willing to do, namely to read every line with care, to comment in detail with absolute candor, and to suggest changes where they seem desirable, or even essential. In doing this the editor is acting as the first truly disinterested reader, giving the author not only constructive help but also, one hopes, the first inkling of how reviewers, readers, and the marketplace…will react, so that the author can revise accordingly.” You do need unbiased eyes to assess your work, so another option is to join a writers’ group or writing circle. They are all writers and committed to writing. Their input could be invaluable. But it is not a one-way street. You will be expected to help with other writers’ works too. Check your local library for a group that meets face-to-face or check the Web for online writing groups, such as Scribophile.
Share some of your creative ideas or your past experiences. Happy Adventures in Editing!
P.S. Make sure to visit Katherine’s Wordlady blog too—it is wonderful.
The question came up today about when to use who versus whom. Let us seek the answer from The Oatmeal. They provide far more entertaining answers to grammar questions than I could offer (I am just not that inspired by the apostrophe). Check out the links below. Do you agree? Is the semicolon the most-feared punctuation on Earth?
As a medical and scientific editor, I use different editing add-ins and programs for Microsoft Word that do a lot of the editing grunt work. I use these tools to clean up and prepare a paper before editing, to simplify and quicken the process while editing, and to verify that everything is consistent after editing. They are all real time savers—I never want to go back to editing on paper!
I use a number of different add-ins and programs for Microsoft Word on PC. I don’t know if these are available for other word processors (are there others?) or if they are also available for Mac. Note that I am using Word 2010 and that these may not be available for earlier versions of Word. I have included current prices for them, but many do offer a free trial. Here is a list of the ones I use in the typical order that I use them.
FileCleaner for Microsoft Word by The Editorium (US $29.95)
Some papers arrive as a bit of a visual mess with multiple fonts and font sizes, weird spacing, and unusual punctuation styles. With these papers, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Before I even start editing a paper (except those preformatted by the journal), I clean it up with FileCleaner. I use it to strip all of the formatting, get rid of all of those pesky double spaces after periods, and any multiple returns or unnecessary tabs. It can also automatically put punctuation within quotation marks, change hyphens between numbers to en dashes, and even change a capital O used as number to zero. It can do this for a single active document, all open documents, or even a whole directory at one time. After running FileCleaner, I can change the paper to a consistent font and a comfortable font size and it is ready for editing.
FRedit by Paul Beverley (Free!)
This one is a bit more complex to use because it uses macros (an alien language to me), but it is very powerful once you get the hang of it. FRedit is a scripted global find-and-replace macro. You write in a Word file a list of words to find with their replacements. FRedit then uses this script to search an open document for these words and then replaces them with the words that you indicated (don’t forget to turn on Track Changes beforehand!). This is a very simplified description of what it can do. The power is that you can have multiple scripts with multiple find and replaces within each script. For example, one script that I use for an American journal changes spelling from UK to US (and I can keep adding words to the list), changes numbers to numerals, removes hyphens from prefixes (as per AMA style), changes certain words to preferred spellings, and italicizes statistical terms, such as P, F, r, and d. I have another script that I run without Track Changes on that highlights tricky words and phrases that are commonly misused. I don’t even scratch the surface of what FRedit is capable of doing, but it already saves me so much time. Paul has always been helpful when I have had questions or problems. He also has a free 600-page book, Macros for Writers and Editors. And you can’t beat the price (he does suggest a £10 donation to charity)!
EditTools by wordsnSync (US $69.00)
This add-in has many functions, but what I use it for is its Insert Query function. Like you, I have standard queries or comments that I use all the time. With Insert Query, I don’t have to write these out over and over again. I can insert them with just a click of a button. The Insert Query function allows me to organize the queries by journal or topic (e.g., “statistics queries”). Under each of these tabs, I have saved the queries that I use most often or ones that are quite lengthy. The queries can be inserted inline or as a comment, whatever you prefer. EditTools offers many more functions (Wildcard Find and Replace, Language Conversion, Page Number Format, etc.), but I do not use them so I cannot comment on them. The Insert Query function alone is worth the price for me.
Stedman’s Medical/Pharmaceutical Spellchecker by Wolters Kluwer Health (US $99.95)
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary is a must for any medical writer or editor. The Stedman’s Spellchecker is a software program that integrates with the existing spellchecker within Word to automatically spellcheck all medical words. Do you really want to look up words like myringostapediopexy every time? Stedman’s Spellchecker runs automatically (you don’t have to run a separate application) and it contains nearly 500,000 medical, pharmaceutical, and bioscience terms as well as medical equipment, surgical procedures, diagnostic tests. The new 2014 version includes a universal spellchecker that will spellcheck across your entire desktop. The software comes on CD-ROM that you install onto your computer.
Editor’s ToolKit by The Editorium (US $29.95)
Editor’s ToolKit includes a lot of macros with many of the most frequently accessed functions assigned to the function keys on the keyboard. By hitting a F1–F12 key with or without shift, control, or control+shift, I now have 48 tools easily accessible through my function keys. They provide a template that you can print out, which I laminated (of course!) and taped onto my keyboard above the function keys so I can reference it easily. I use these all the time. The F9 key will cap all selected words; F10 makes them lowercase. And you have 46 other functions, including open, close, small caps, insert em dash, and so on. Many people write their own macros for many of these, but what I like about this is that they are all assigned to the function keys (I am guaranteed to forget a macro 5 minutes later) and the template is an easy reminder that does not take up a lot of real estate on your desk. You can purchase Editor’s ToolKit Plus which also includes FileCleaner (and QuarkConverter and NoteStripper) for US $69.95—a savings of $50.00 if you bought all separately.
Tabs for Word by ExtendOffice (US $15.00)
This add-in is not specifically for editing, but it is extremely useful. It adds a tab bar to Word that displays all open documents so that you can quickly jump back and forth between the journal article you are editing and the journal style guide all within a single window without having to close and open different windows. A simple but handy tool.
PerfectIt by Intelligent Editing (US $59.00)
There are different ways to use PerfectIt. I know some editors like to use it before editing as a sort of first pass. Personally, I use it as the very last step in the copy editing process. The copy editor’s mantra is consistency, consistency, consistency. PerfectIt is genius because it finds inconsistent spelling, hyphenation, and capitalization throughout the paper. It has many other functions, including generating a table of abbreviations that are used within the paper. After a final edit, it can also search for comments or edits that have accidentally been left in the paper. And it is completely customizable. I have different style sheets for every journal as well as other general ones for Canadian or American spelling.
There you have it—my little army working behind the scenes. Could you just run these programs and add-ins and hand the paper back to your author? Absolutely not! These tools can make your job easier, not make it disappear altogether. A computer program can’t replace a good editor because the computer can never understand the author’s intention or meaning. My job is safe for another day.
Is there an add-in or program that you use while editing that you can’t live without? Let us know about it.
Happy Adventures in Editing!
I am freelance copy editor, proofreader, and instructor based in Toronto. Enjoy my adventures in editing! (Note: I transferred my blog over and lost my comments along the way, unfortunately. Please add new ones.)