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: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Choosing text for running heads . . . subtitles

Unless I go off on some tangent, this won't be the most exciting post you've ever read. And with a opener like that, is it any wonder I did not follow my forebears into sales?

One of my presses requires me, as part of the copyeditor's duties, to compose a running head list for the typesetter. Running heads are the identifiers that appear with the page numbers to show, for example, book name and chapter title, or chapter title and chapter section, or in the case of the project I just finished, author name and chapter title, because it's a Festschrift.

(Now, there's a word I never came across until I was an editor. A Festschrift is, according to the trusty Merriam-Webster's 11th, "a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar.")

So, the verso (left-hand) pages carry the author's name, and the recto (right-hand) pages carry the chapter name.

But what do you do when the chapter name is too long? Or if the chapter includes a title and a subtitle?

Take a look at a list of recent nonfiction books or peruse the shelves at your local library or bookseller. The title is a hook, something catchy, something that will fit on a spine. And for the most part, the title tells you very little about the subject of the book. For most books, the subtitle is the phrase that's doing the heavy lifting.

Given that most of the books I work on carry heavy bibliographic information, I can say that the same is often true in peer-reviewed journal articles and, often, dissertations.

I am working off and on with an author who is agonizing over the title of his book. He's trying to cram as much information into about five words as he can to tell what the book is about. And so the title changes every few months because he can't settle on something . . . and none of it is catchy.

Finally I told him: forget the title. If the book is ever accepted for publication, it wouldn't surprise me if the publisher has its own ideas anyway because of how the book should be marketed. To tell your potential readers what the book is actually going to do for them, you should put that information in the subtitle.

So, back to the running heads. Here are the titles and subtitles of the chapters for the book I just packaged up:

“. . . Under Pontius Pilate”: On Living Cultural Memory and Christian Confession
“Faith” as a Christological Title in Paul
Hypostasis as a Component of New Testament Christology (Hebrews 1:3)
“Mingling” in Gregory of Nyssa’s Christology: A Reconsideration
Flesh and Folly: The Christ of Christian Humanism
The Corporate Christ
Forces of Love: The Christopoetics of Desire
“But you, who do you say I am?” A Homily on Ideological Faith from the Gospel of Mark
Christology and Diakonia
Children, the Image of God, and Christology: Theological Anthropology in Solidarity with Children
“On earth as it is in heaven”: Eschatology and the Ethics of Forgiveness
“We Knew Him Once from a Human Point of View”
Personhood and Bodily Resurrection
From Easter to Parousia

Obviously, some of those titles are not going to fit on the 4.5 or so inches allotted across the top of a 6x9 page. So what to do?

In some cases, I instructed the typesetter to set the title and in others the subtitle. It came down to which would be more helpful to the reader.

For example, “'On earth as it is in heaven': Eschatology and the Ethics of Forgiveness." Now if you are a reader flipping through a book, and you see a running head that reads, "On earth as it is in heaven," you're going to presume that the chapter has something to do with the Lord's Prayer. And you'd be right, but only partially. More what's going on is that the Lord's Prayer is used as a jumping-off point for the real meat of the chapter, eschatology and the ethics of forgiveness.

(Well, actually, if you're like me, you're reading titles like this and wondering how come no good sports books or lesbian science fiction has come across my desk lately.)

But in another chapter, "Children, the Image of God, and Christology: Theological Anthropology in Solidarity with Children," I went with the title as opposed to the subtitle, thinking that the title was descriptive enough. And when space allowed, I recommended that the title and subtitle both appear. And in most cases, I would prefer just to go with the title -- unless space is an issue and the subtitle says it better.

Another hour in the life of the freelance editor. Boy, if it were any more exciting than this, I'm not sure what I'd do.

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