Tag Archives: typesetting

Proofreading tips for self-publishers (from an editor and typesetter)

iPad stylus

Here are some of my tips for proofreading for self-publishers:
1. Don’t do it yourself unless you absolutely have no choice. I’m not saying this because it’s (part of) what I do for a living and so I would say that, wouldn’t I. I’m saying it because proofreading is hard, and proofreading your own work is harder. It’s harder because you’ve cut and pasted and reworked and reworded and deleted and added and changed … and you know your work intimately – or at least you think you know your work intimately.

A small example: you know you wrote, ‘The milkmaid went to the dairy to make some cheese’, but what you don’t know is that your fingers accidentally typed, ‘The milkmaid went to the diary…’, but your brain ever-so helpfully decided ‘close enough’ so you don’t notice the error when you read it back over. Your readers (pre-publication or otherwise) are coming to it fresh, so their brains might go, ‘Hang on a minute here – that says “diary” – surely a milkmaid would go to a dairy? This word must be wrong.’ Or they might not – brains are funny like that. Then your reader points out (sometimes in rather sneery and sarcastic tones that you wrote diary instead of dairy, and then you can’t see anything but diary and wonder how on earth you managed to let that obvious, glaring error slip though, and you berate yourself for days for your stupidity (or maybe that’s just me). But it’s just a result of your brain trying to be helpful. In fact, it’s also pretty hard for an experienced proofreader to pick up these kinds of errors because we are generally experienced readers too. Once we have got past the learning-to-read stage we don’t read every letter in every word because our brains fill in the gaps. Training yourself to see what is actually there is tough. Proofreading is like doing a puzzle with no answers.

And spelling’s not the only thing you have to look out for. What about consistency, missing words, punctuation, grammar, continuity errors and typographic conventions? Are you really super-hot on when to use its and it’s and there, their and they’re?

2. If you can hire professional services it really is a good idea. If you can’t or won’t, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read your work. The more eyes you have on it the better. (Although be aware that it is a big ask of a friend to read your extended reworking of War and Peace set in the Star Trek universe in their spare time, and for the reasons noted above don’t expect your friend to pick up every error either.) Even if you do hire a professional have as many friends and family as possible read it.

3. Use a spellchecker to pick up the obvious typos – there is no excuse for ‘ebst’ or ‘freind’. Be careful, though, because it won’t pick up a correctly spelled word in the wrong context (see above, and also note from/form, you/your, breath/breathe) or variant spellings such as leant and leaned (see below). Make sure it’s set for the right language – UK and US English have some spelling differences – the missing ‘u’ in US spellings of words like colour, for example. Some spellcheckers can search for duplicated words – another common error. I wouldn’t advise auto-correct unless you really know what you’re doing.

4. Try to keep your spellings consistent. Common variant words are leant/leaned, learnt/learned, burnt/burned, cafe/café, and words with ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ endings (e.g. realise/realize). Compound words should be consistently hyphenated or one word. ‘Search-and-replace’ comes in very handy here. Decide which spelling you are going with and run searches for the variant you don’t want. Don’t forget with ise/ize spellings you also have to look for realisation and realising. But don’t click ‘replace all’ unless you are really sure that your replacement is correct.

5. Try reading the text aloud or at least in your head. It can really help if your mind starts to wander – which it will. If you notice your mind has wandered, go back a few lines and re-read.

6. I work on a laptop, paper printout or an iPad when I’m editing – it’s hard to read sitting at a desktop computer. I often tap each word with my pen or stylus as I’m reading aloud in my head (sometimes I actually read aloud). This can help you spot missing words. We often miss out small words like ‘a’, ‘to’ or ‘he’ and forget to end our sentences with full stops and/or closing speech marks.

7. Think about continuity. Errors often occur during your redrafts. Check that dates, ages and expressions of passing time tally up. Check that your blonde, blue-eyed heroine doesn’t suddenly have jet-black curls – unless she’s showing you her new wig. Pay close attention to your characters’ names and locations. Names tend to change during the editing process, and it’s really easy to accidentally leave in an old name.

8. If you find an error, re-start your reading from a couple of lines before. In all the ‘excitement’ of spotting a typo you could easily miss another error close to it. We have a tendency to imagine that errors are somehow uniformly spread out, but, of course, they aren’t.

9. If you’re proofreading a print book you also have to look out for things such as short or single-word lines at the tops of pages, words hyphenated across pages, words stacking at the end of lines. You have to check for consistent use of page numbers, check the running heads (if you have them) contents pages, copyright details and ISBNs…

10. If you can, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read it too. The more eyes you have on it the better. (I know I’m repeating myself but it really is the most important thing.) And if you are having your work professionally typeset, try to pick up as many errors as you can before it’s set. Once it’s been typeset it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make changes without asking your typesetter to do it, which will probably cost you extra.

 

 

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Good gracious – it’s GREP!

Grep definition
The other day I was asked if I could convert some short ebooks into PDFs using an existing print template set up in InDesign. Only thing was that the contents of the ebooks were edited sections of existing print books, and had never existed as Word files or InDesign files. So how to do it reasonably efficiently? To be absolutely sure that you have the right version of the text ideally you should work with the ebook files.

That’s fine – crack them open and you have HTML. That’s text, right? Well – yes, and in an ideal world InDesign could import HTML and use the HTML code to style your text. But this isn’t an ideal world – InDesign can’t import HTML yet. (I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, right, Adobe?)

But – back to the drawing board for the time being. So I copy and paste the text from my browser… That works, but – hey, hang on! – where’s my formatting? All those italics – gone. Oh lordy, am I going to have to go back over everything and replace the italics? Bolds? Headings!?

Back to the drawing board again. What if I copy-and-paste the HTML into InDesign? Yes but you still haven’t got any formatting? Ah, but you have got the codes for formatting.

HTML code

You can see here, each paragraph is surrounded by a little bit of code and italics, bolds and headings, etc are surrounded by codes too. These codes work with the css files to style the text in your ebook or browser, and the great thing about this is that they won’t ever be wrong or typed incorrectly (so long as the original text is styled correctly of course). So you can do some find/change work using the code tags as a guide and you’ll soon have styled text without having to go through comparing both versions. Hurrah!

The find/change panel in InDesign is really powerful and I spend a lot of time using it when I’m typesetting. But to sort out this little problem more efficiently, it’s really useful to know a bit of grep. I knew some grep and sometimes use InDesign’s built-in grep queries, but I went back to the trusty Lynda video-training site and brushed up on it. And, wowzers, it really is like magic. (I’m nothing to do with Lynda.com, but I cannot recommend them highly enough – their courses are superb.)

What you need to know here is pretty simple stuff, actually, and is only scratching the surface of the capabilities of grep (and don’t even get me started on the possibilities of grep styles). If you’re ever setting long documents, or have to change from one format to another, a little bit of grep is the way to go.

Here I’m clearing out the paragraph tags and styling the body text at the same time – one click (do check your code is working first though!) and the body text is styled and the paragraph tags are gone. You’ll see that the paragraph tags are in the search field and inside them is (.*). This pretty much means find anything inside this text. Then in the replace field the $1 means put in anything you’ve found but only what you’ve found – not the paragraph tags (actually anything inside those parentheses you see around .*). And at the bottom of the find/change panel I’ve asked it to change the style to ‘text’.

GREP

Clearing out paragraph tags

You can use the same method to style headings, opening paragraphs, etc, too. Just substitute your paragraph tags for whatever else you have (H1, div, etc).

Here I’m styling italics with a italic character style and getting rid of the tags at the same time. Again, you can do this with your bold, underline etc – just change the search criteria.
grep codes

You can also use ‘wild cards’ to clear out things like image tags that are slightly different throughout, so that you don’t have to search and delete manually through all the text.

Grep

Using wildcard codes to clear out unwanted text

You could also use grep to convert the image tags to placeholder boxes for the images if you needed too. Finally go through and clear out random div tags, etc. Then I’d do a final check for > and < which means you should pick up any remaining lurking code. Then you’re done. Ta dah! Styled text in just a few clicks.

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More joy of text – Oliver Simon’s Introduction to Typography

Introduction to Typography book

Cover

By a Typographer, I do not mean a Printer, as he is Vulgarly accounted, any more than Dr. Dee means a Carpenter or Mason to be an Architect; but by a Typographer, I mean such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.

Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-works applied to the Art of Printing Joseph Moxon, 1683

Typography may be regarded as consisting of three parts: each distinct and indispensable, namely, punch-cutting, founding and printing. The practice of the different branches produces artists of three different kinds, the first punch-cutters, the second founders and the third printers, but he who combines a knowledge of all three branches is fit to be styled a Typographer.

Manuel Typographique Simon-Pierre Fournier, 1764

• the style and appearance of printed matter.
• the art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it.

Oxford Dictionary of English

This is the revised 1963 edition of Oliver Simon’s classic 1945 book – Introduction to Typography – edited by David Bland. The first two quotes are taken from the definitions of typography printed in the prelims of this edition. The third is the modern definition from the dictionary my Mac uses (the Oxford Dictionary of English according to my preferences panel). Oliver Simon was the typographer at Curwen Press from the 1920s until his death in 1956. This was in the days of the switch from physical type to film setting. I wonder what Oliver Simon would have made of things today.

Introduction to Typography book

Suitable typefaces for display type

Introduction to Typography book

Glossary

I find it fascinating how processes, terminology, ideas, rules and even roles in printing and production shift and change meaning. One small example: we still refer to the author’s final ‘manuscript’, but it’s many years since I received a sheaf of typewritten pages from an author.
Another example: the role of copy-editor isn’t mentioned in this book, but what we would think of as copy-editing tasks are that of the compositor or setter. There is a section at the beginning of the book discussing what to capitalise, use of small caps, quotation marks, parentheses, italics, etc – things that modern copy-editors would concern themselves with. But the onus is much more on the author to supply a ‘carefully prepared MS. [which] must be strictly followed as to punctuation and spelling’. And Simon also notes that: ‘An intelligent interpretation of an author’s meaning by means of correctly placed punctuation marks is an art that can be acquired only by long experience, and for which no hard-and-fast rules can be formulated’. I assume that the copy-editor’s role developed as publishing increased in order to streamline the process and allow typesetters to set type quickly without having to consider the finer points of grammar and style as they went along (I remember seeing typesetters use photosetting machines – speed and accuracy were critical), and presumably as part of trade publishers’ services to authors – longer expected to supply ‘carefully prepared manuscripts’!
Today the copy-editor’s role has changed again – in many cases there is no longer a need to mark up a manuscript for the typesetter to follow – often the author’s Word document is directly amended by the copy-editor before it goes on to the typesetter (if it goes to a typesetter at all) – and sometimes these copy-editing tasks are undertaken by someone who can not only edit, but set the text professionally too. With the rise in self-publishing and small, independent publishers there are definite advantages to being multi-skilled in all aspects of putting publications together, be they print or digital. Maybe we are coming full circle? Perhaps again a typographer will be ‘…such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.’?

Introduction to Typography book

Introduction

Introduction to Typography book

Discussing paper

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The joy of text … or fun with fonts

Alice cover image

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cover image from my version.

I love typefaces, typography and typesetting and generally playing about with how words look. I spent many years as a non-fiction editor, but I always liked to typeset the books I was working on when I could. When I was at Scholastic Children’s books I worked on highly intergrated illustrated non-fiction mainly, such as Horrible Science, Horrible Geography and Horrible Histories, and we had found it was easier if the editors did the layout, because they knew the text, and the designers did the initial spec, detailing and the covers, of course. It was my favourite part of the job, and as I got more senior and had to give some of it up it was something I really missed. Since I’ve been freelance my work so far has been mainly on the typesetting and digital conversion side of things – so hurrah!

A few weeks back I made a couple of sample ebooks using InDesign CC2014 to test out its fabby new fixed-format export, and while I was researching that, I came across a brilliant InDesign script called Wordalizer (thanks, InDesign Secrets!). It makes word clouds like this:

spread from Alice in Wonderland

Or like this:

spread from Alice in Wonderland

Now I love a word cloud! Wordalizer can use words on the clipboard, scan the open InDesign file, or you can type words in manually. I made the clouds in these images by copying a chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the clipboard. You can tweak the list it generates, delete and add words – it will also accept short phrases and give an indication of the weighting of each word. Then you can assign up to four fonts, choose the colour scheme, word orientation, cloud shape, etc. Once the cloud is generated it is completely customisable. Each word is a separate outline object and can be coloured, stroked, deleted, resized, moved, rotated to taste. Or you can go back into the script and tweak to your heart’s content there – you can even recolour without changing the cloud itself. You can also export as an eps, jpg or png and take it into Illustrator or Photoshop if you want. Hours of fun for a type fan like me!

I’ve wanted to make a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a while, but I’m certainly not an illustrator, so I’ve used the Alice word clouds I generated as illustrations for my version. I did very little to these clouds once they were generated as I wanted to see what Wordalizer was capable of. More tweaking to be done to the book, but I’m pretty happy with the way it’s going. I’ve converted it to fixed-format ePub, and it’s set up in a Blurb template so I might get it printed too.

spread from Alice in Wonderland

spread from Alice in Wonderland

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Some formatting tips for self-publishers or It’s all about consistency


shelves with books on

Formatting your book isn’t just about correct use of grammar and spelling. Here are some tips and pointers to making your book look like it’s been set by a professional.

  • Search-and-replace is your friend – but use it wisely. Always check that your search query is set up properly and never ‘change all’ unless you are absolutely sure you really want to ‘change all’.
  • Search and replace multiple spaces. In the past if you used a typewriter you would type a double space at the end of every sentence to create a clear sentence break in the monospaced typewritten text. Many authors still do this – particularly those who were brought up using typewriters. It’s not necessary anymore and can create weird spacing. This is one of the first things I do when I’m setting text.
  • Change double dashes – – to n – or m — dashes. Again this is a hangover from the days of the typewriter. Typists did this to distinguish an n dash from a hyphen. The typesetter would change these into n or m dashes as indicated by the copy editor. On a Mac keyboard an n dash is created by typing alt hyphen and an m dash alt shift hyphen.
  • Change default (′straight′) quote marks to typographers’ (or ‘curly’) quote marks.
  • An ellipsis … is used formally to show some text has been omitted, for example in a long quotation. But it is more common these days to use an ellipsis to indicate a tailing off or pause in thought. Ellipses are three dots – not four, five, or as many as will fit on a line. On a Mac keyboard type alt semicolon (…) not dot dot dot (…) or, worse, dot space dot space dot (. . . ). If you use dots (particularly in ebooks) you could end up with a dot or two at the beginning or end or a line. There’s no need to add a full stop after an ellipsis at the end of a sentence – although some people do. Don’t use a comma after an ellipsis in the middle of a sentence.
  • Check numbered lists are in numerical order. It’s very common to mis-number your points, and unless you are using an automatic list function it’s easily missed.
  • Be consistent about how you treat numbers. Which ones do you spell out and which do you write as numerals?
  • Check whether your numbered lists need to be numbered at all. Will bullet points do? You only generally need a numbered list if you are describing a sequence (eg a recipe) or where the amount of items on the list is an important point.
  • Widows and orphans. Try to avoid having the last line of a paragraph at the top of a new page or the first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page.
  • Avoid having only one word on the last line of paragraphs.
  • Avoid having words stacking on top of each other – particularly at the beginning and end of lines.
  • Check you’ve punctuated the ends of your sentences and that there is no space before the punctuation. […end of sentence. NOT …end of sentence .]
  • Paragraph spacing. Either have a line space between paragraphs or indent the first line of each paragraph. Don’t do both. Don’t indent the first line of the first paragraph after a heading.
  • Decide if you’re using double or single quotes (speech marks) and use them consistently.
  • Make sure your heading styles are consistent. Generally the more important the heading the bigger and bolder it should be. Make sure you capitalise your headings consistently too. Don’t have:

Heading Number One

Heading number two

HEADING NUMBER THREE

Heading no 4.

Lastly – a little bit about spelling

  • Make sure your spellings are consistent. There are often perfectly correct variant spellings (eg: OK or okay; curtsey or curtsy). Pick one and stick with it.
  • Use your spell-checker, but don’t rely on it. It won’t usually pick up words that are spelled correctly but in the wrong context. The girl wrote in her dairy. The girl wrote in her diary. […are two very different things!]
  • A spell-checker won’t be able to tell if you mean you or your and breath or breathe either. These come up a lot. For some reason we often miss the r off your and the e off breathe when we type.
  • And watch out for auto-correct – it’s often more trouble than it’s worth!
page showing typesetting issues

A couple of pages of Lorem ipsum showing typesetting errors and issues.

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