What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)
My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.
You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.
Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
1. an author figures it out. 2. the pronoun "per"
(Class, take notes: In a publishing house, "managing editor" is the title of the person who keeps me busy -- that is, the person who manages the production process, farming work out to freelancers, among other duties.)
We were discussing, of all things, indexing when I don't have a clue about the topic, which if you've been following the story to date is my present albatross, and it continues. I'm still struggling with the index I mentioned yesterday, with much of today being consumed by yard work, planting ground cover on a hill at the house, a trip to the dentist, and making dinner (untried crockpot recipe). Hoo boy.
Anyway, we were discussing two particular authors in the last few months who had written books that are way over my pedestrian head, but for which the indexing duties fell to me. One author loved my work (and has loved it for each of his books, and each book of his baffles me more than the last). He liked the detail, thought I had covered the topics very nicely. Amazing, given that even some of the chapter titles might as well have been written in Finnish.
The other author thought the index could have been better. While my managing editor reviewed the index and thought it was fine, the author said that I did not seem to have a grasp of the overall concepts of the book, and thus the index did not present those concepts accordingly. Well, damn. Bingo. Amazing that an author gets it right now and then.
He nailed the problem on the head. I do not have an overall understanding of the concepts and the book's central theme(s). I'm the first to admit it, just couldn't find the proper words during my years of bitching and complaining. The author said that perhaps he should have written the index. I couldn't agree more, except that it's the rare author who also knows how to write an index. One day, and perhaps that day has come, a geneticist will determine which gene causes one to be able to compose an index. I suppose it'll be a gene that is also common to people with names like Manson, Gacy, Berkowitz. (Note to self: a subsequent post on bizarro characters who have been proofreaders.)
In this case and in similar cases, a number of options are available. Yes, the author can write it. Or, better yet, the author can compose cross-references (See; See also) that direct his or her readers from the larger concepts to the more specific entries and subentries in the index. Thus the heavy lifting of the entries is provided by a professional indexer, but the conceptual work is done by the author, who obviously (hopefully) has a grasp of the material that goes beyond what is written on the page.
(Another note, class: the index prior to this one was for a book on heterosexism in the world's religions -- actually kind of interesting if you go for that kind of thing. I believe the chapter I'm thinking of was dealing with intersex individuals, that is, those born with physical attributes of both sexes, which happens far more often than one might think. [This is a topic for a different post, if not a different blog entirely.] Anyway, the author used the pronoun "per" as a unisex version of him/her . . . given that "him" or "her" would not have been appropriate. So, if you're writing and you're using "he or she" -- and I really don't mind s/he for those cases -- then "per" might be a good if somewhat unusual approach for the related pronoun. Of course, it would require explaining. Use it in a sentence, class: "Pat retrieved per laptop from the car." Something to think about.)
Do I have to get back to work now? (Yes.) Did it rain today? (Of course not.) My son turns eighteen tomorrow. Is that possible? (No way in hell.)