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.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The De-Spiriting, or Taking the Wind Right Out of My Sails

It's not worth much, but these days I self-identify as a Taoist-leaning Jewish agnostic -- one who still spends a lot of time up to his eyeballs in Christian theology. MDivs and people who hang around enough Sunday school classes or Saturday morning Torah studies with the rabbi will note the punning in this posting's title. To bring the rest of you heathens up to speed, the word for "spirit" in Hebrew is ruach, which means "wind" or "breath." Greek = pneuma. Same. Think, "pneumonia." Or you could think, "Jesus Christ, doesn't anyone read this stuff?"

The clock says 1:40am, about the same time it was three or four days ago when I discovered paragraphs repeating pages apart and the FUBAR situation known as "indexing implications."

Same thing happening now. Is it Groundhog Day? Four places in the book where paragraphs repeat. And in this case, there's no "near the end of the chapter" possibility that could pull this author's butt out of the sling. For some reason, he wrote this book -- some pneumatological ruminations -- in diary form. I have no idea why. The diary begins around April 2 and ends around November 29. I have no idea why. Is that average "normal time" in the Christian lectionary? Frankly, I don't care.

So the book has no chapters. The "diary entries" run in one after the other. I was wondering when I opened the PDF why this usually sensible press was publishing a book with no table of contents. Now I know. And I also know that it's now 1:46am on a Sunday morning, and while this managing editor might check her office email later today, there's not a damn thing she can do about it either. I have to presume in a book of this relative brevity the repetition is intentional. This author has, according to Amazon, eight books to his credit. I'm proceeding full speed ahead with the index. Let Rev. Smartypants substitute some text.

I mean, this happens so rarely -- so twice in four days is by any standard appalling. By the time I see these books, they've been vetted in-house (one hopes), copyedited (one hopes), and maybe even proofread while I'm doing the index. They may have even been through a stage or two of page proofs. No one notices? Admittedly Land on Demand has some screwy methods of operation, but certain benefits accrue to sitting down with a project and trying not to move my ample white butt until the thing is finished. At least I can remember what happens 30 pages apart.

Time to fix a cup of coffee. Presuming no other freakouts, I should have this wrapped up by dawn. Oh, for some career alternatives. Or a winning lottery ticket. I'd take the latter and probably still proofread. No stress. Read a book, point out mistakes, and send it back. Life used to be simple, not that I remember it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bad Timing

Partially it's my own fault. Whether it's the eight-day workweek or using up all the time my deadlines allow, I find that the most crucial questions that would allow me to proceed safely with a job come at times when it's least likely I'm going to get an answer.

One of my ongoing fears deals with a managing editor who's become a dear friend -- and who is actually one of the folks who admits to reading these little jottings. Since he knows my MO, I occasionally expect him to slip a note buried about two-thirds into a job that reads, "Bob, no matter what time of day or night, call me and leave me a message when you read this note." And it would be 3:30 in the morning the day the job is due, and the response to the message would have some essential information for going forward. Or he'd just want to bust my chops for leaving his work for the last minute.

But he's not alone, not that it should provide him with any solace.

Another common occurrence is that I'll have a more or less regular week going, then pick up a manuscript at 5:10pm on Friday that clearly has some fatal flaw 10 pages into it. Of course by that point, most normal people -- as a good friend once called them, "saps with a day job" -- have gone home, not to check back into their daily grind until Monday. Actually, my friend above, while far from a sap, is one of those who actually has a life outside the office. If one of these jobs ever came from his desk, I knew I'd just be better off putting it away until Monday morning.

I was indexing a book on the graveyard shift last night, and the book started presenting with difficulties. Paragraphs repeating from one chapter to another. Sentences repeating within a paragraph. All kinds of copyediting miscues that I'd have cleaned up or queried as a proofreader, but as an indexer aren't necessary my responsibility.

However, paragraphs repeating is a legitimate big deal at this stage, because you can't just take out two paragraphs on page four of a 40-page chapter halfway into a book. That results in the rather moderately phrased SNAFU known as "indexing implications."

Note to all you newcomers to publishing. If you're dealing with a book in production, and something comes up that has "indexing implications," it generally ain't a pretty sight. Either pages need to be reflowed if text comes out, or the author needs to submit new text to fill the same space -- in which case the indexer might proceed with his work, but the managing editor has to write index entries, not to mention re-proof those pages, when the new copy is set.

Here's the thing, though. If Land on Demand had its proverbial fecal matter together, I wouldn't be doing this job on the graveyard shift the day it's due (actually, gulp, the day after I told the author I'd have the index). I'd be doing it a few weeks before, giving the author and the press time to come up with solutions and maybe even tell me to stop work and await a new set of page proofs from that point forward. That's no fun either. Picking up writing an index after a forced break must, it seems to me, be part of one of Dante's levels of hell. I typically can't remember what book I invoiced two days ago, much less remember the entries and subentries I've started setting up a week or two ago.

Interesting book, though. I remember a few years ago hearing that someone had discovered that his VCR or DVR had what seemed to be a miniature camera facing out of it. I'd always thought that such a claim could only come from someone who'd just returned from a visit to the tinfoil hat store. Turns out that Samsung has admitted that some of their later-model TVs indeed were outfitted with cameras and microphones that could be activated remotely -- and that a watchdog group had cautioned about positioning such units facing your bed.

This public service announcement brought to you by the Luddites local union 23. Don't stay tuned.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Good Times Gone Wrong

A little job that I'm squeezing in among the more unpleasant ones is four short journal articles on a not-particularly-grueling although academic subject. The writing is fine, but the editorial regime is driving me crazy: MLA, which I work with about once a year, and UK punctuation and spelling.

Of course, only about half of the authors have paid any attention to either, leaving me to transform the documents into styles with which I am generally unfamiliar. MLA is OK, but it usually takes me to the end of the book to really get in the groove. On four short pieces, that groove is hard to find. And transforming 30 footnotes from Chicago style to MLA cites and a Works Cited listing takes about five times longer than it should.

Why can't anything be easy? As another editor and I were commiserating some weeks back, it's hard to believe that some people are paid the same to copyedit young adult fiction as we get to massage square scholarly tomes into artificially round holes.

To make matters worse, I was paid for this job about a year ago (strange circumstances), making this feel way too much like work. I ate the carrot at the end of this stick long, long ago. Tasted good at the time.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chemical Imbalance Finally Pays Off, Momentarily

"Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible" (from a Dow Chemicals Vietnam War-era ad campaign)

A shift in my chemical regimen (for the better [I guess], I should report) has left me with the most uncomfortable side effect of remembering my dreams. It's not that I mind dreaming per se, but my dreamworld usually renders experiences that, as Ignatius J. Reilly said, "[leave] me bruised and muttering." I have a friend who's a recovering alcoholic who reports such a horrid barrage of images each night that he usually has to go for a walk with a cigarette and a cup of coffee just to shake it off. I know the feeling.

Last night offered a few moments of bliss. I slipped into sleep while sitting up on a sofa and trying to finish off the last 20 pages of a manuscript about Muslims in US prisons (yet another barn burner from the desk of Land on Demand). Across the room is the television that I never turn on.

All of a sudden I'm dreaming about seeing Lou Reed and John Cale in concert, except they are playing Cale's songs from his solo career. Reed would start out on the guitar and then push the microphone over to Cale behind the piano for a song like "Fear" or "Guts." This never happened in real life, as their reunions were either doing Velvets material or Songs for Drella, their Andy Warhol tribute. So to hear the boys performing from the Cale songbook is something I'd never hear in conscious life.

The strange thing is that I was watching this concert right where I was, in the seat on the sofa and on the TV in front of me.

I mentioned this to my wife this morning, and she had a bizarre thought: "Do you think Cale might have died?" I am happy for many reasons that today's news didn't present that report. The garbage coming out of my hometown of Staten Island is bad enough.

So after finishing the manuscript a few hours later I actually go up to bed and lay down long enough to have a dream that involved me all of a sudden being on deadline to proofread my 1977 high school yearbook -- like, my 54-year-old self, today. Doesn't my unconscious remember that I worked on the newspaper and not the yearbook?

Prompting thoughts on two pictures and the best email I received this year, work division:

Photo 1:

Police Chokehold Death Staten Island

That would be the Verrazano-Narrows bridge (as the truckers call it, the Guinea Gateway), looking toward Brooklyn. That little tower atop of brick edifice you see off to the right of the bridge would be the school where I spent the years 1969 to 1977. Poly Prep. If you search "Poly Prep sex scandal," you'll find a world of pain and bad times that were in full throttle during my years there, a revelation that only came about recently. This photo accompanied an AP story yesterday about the outsider borough of Staten Island. Why they presented an image of that bridge facing Brooklyn, I have no idea.

Picture 2:

I was working on an index for an author in Israel, and when his name came up attached to a Lou Reed homage, I sent him this picture. His response:

"Nuff said that I'm thanking the gods and [the press's managing editor] for introducing me to you, sure.  But how did you and your wife come to be in a room with a warped acoustic ceiling and John-fncking-Cale?"

Ah, authors. I occasionally love 'em.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Question That Always Drives Me Crazy

It's not this one.

My wife and I were at a party this evening -- the annual holiday party following the board meeting of the regional theatre where my wife works. A woman who has known me for probably eight or ten years asks, "So, are you still editing?"

This woman is not unintelligent. For that matter, when she worked for the theatre, she used my services. She was directly involved when I copyedited, proofread, and indexed the self-published book the theatre put out about the theatre's founder.

Why people ask me if I'm still editing is a mystery. Has anyone since I was 24 years old ever known me to do anything else? (Throw in proofreading, and you can back that number up to 20.) Have I ever exhibited any other marketable skill? Can I build anything, design anything, fix anything, sell anything, create anything, or perform anything?

In order, the answers are no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.

Is editing a way station, a hobby, a disreputable pursuit, or a stage in life?

Um . . . no, no, no, and no.

I think I once responded to an MD who asked me this question, "Are you still a doctor?"

Drives me nuts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Gem from an Awful Book

et all

Yeah, I guess that works.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Update on If Indexing Was That Easy . . .

1. See http://boblandedits.blogspot.com/2014/11/if-indexing-was-that-easy-more-people.html (or scroll down a few posts).

2. The (gut) punch line: 

Hello Bob, 
Sorry for the delay in response. After going over things with our project lead, we've decided to go in a different direction and will not be needing your services. I am very sorry about all of the back and forth with the staff. As I mentioned, this has been a tricky time for us, and unfortunately budget and time constraints mean that we simply cannot do this work in the way that we had anticipated when our staff was first in contact with you. 

I appreciate your patience with us during this process, and the time you've put in. Feel free to contact me with any questions. 

Best of luck, 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Quote of the Day

As even the vastly popular science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov understood, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Another Dictionary Rant

One of my jobs is for an internet publishing company. You can call it a content mill or a content farm if you so desire. I call it a paycheck.

It's not one of my favorite gigs -- not that I mind the work so much, but it's not particularly remunerative and it's one of those jobs like the post office: it never stops. Unlike a book project, which like the book itself has a beginning, middle, and an end, this gig's like the US Mail. There's always more of it, and the production line never ceases. "Going postal" is a term that comes by itself honestly.

My job is primarily to review the work of copyeditors on very specific 400- to 500-word articles with such scintillating titles as "How to Become a Butler," the actual title I'm reviewing now. In the comments back and forth between writer and editor, the writer offers, "Butling (one t) seems to be the predominant spelling."

"Predominant" for whom, you might ask. "Damn if I know" would be my answer.

Merriam-Webster's (MW) does not recognize "butler" as anything but a noun, and "butling" is not a mentioned alternative form. MW also doesn't recognize "butle" as a verb.

Step 2: Because this august client uses AP, and AP uses Webster's New World College Dictionary (NWCD), I go there. Indeed "butle" appears as a verb:

butle (Source: Webster's New World College Dictionary)
but ´ 'l vi. -lied, -ling , [[< fol.]] [Informal] to serve as a butler: a hugmorous usage

Well, that's just freaking dandy. "Butling." (By the way, Oxford Dictionaries [OD], which you'd suspect would have something to say about "butlering," does recognize "buttle" and "buttling," but not "butle." OD also cites "buttle" as US usage, a statement about which I can find no evidence.)

However, like peeling an onion, one has to wonder about NWCD's "a hugmorous usage." Of course, no one on God's green English-speaking earth knows what the hell "hugmorous" is, but a look back at OD states that "buttle" is "humorous" usage. 

All this leads me to believe that (a) NWCD is a crappy plagiarizer, (b) OD is an equally crappy plagiarizer, (c) the writer is fond of composing material in apparent slang, and (d) OD has a strange sense of humor.

To me, "butlering" sounds right. "Butling" is affected and dumb.

On the other hand, I decided to look up a word close to "butler" that the English might know something about. The Oxford Dictionary's grasp on "bugger" seems to be rather authoritative.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Also Applies to Letters to the Editor and Internet Comments Sections

"Some people speak uncontrollably in tongues, so that no one understands anything. Paul tells them: 'In church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue' (1 Corinthians 14:19). And they need an interpreter: 'If there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God' (1 Corinthians 14:28)."

If Indexing Was That Easy, More People Would Do It Well

Another day, another (potential) client education:


Thanks for the email.

The problems with an indexer receiving a list of terms come down to a number of items. 

First, even well-intentioned authors aren't indexers. They often don't know how to phrase index entries in such a way as to capture the content as the reader might expect it, or even according to general indexing guidelines. Often, terms might be too broad to be useful, start out with adjectives when the nouns are more important, or -- and this is very common -- present terms that don't actually appear in the book (yes, that happens, more frequently than you'd expect).  I've also seen authors try to make connections in the index that aren't explicit in the book. The best way to ensure presence of a topic in the index is to discuss it in the book. And looking at the list provided, "Institution that shaped family," for example, is not a useful index entry. 

Editing and massaging an Excel document into a shell of an index would actually be counterproductive from my standpoint -- as I'd prefer to write all the entries in a consistent style, instead of trying to match terms and their syntax to someone else's work.

Second, having a list of terms doesn't really reduce the amount of work I need to do. I still have to read the book to index it properly. Given a list of terms, one could easily search for use of the terms and input the relevant numbers, but that's not an index. That's a concordance. It also doesn't account for the same concept presented with different phrasings. Having a list of terms also doesn't save on keying time, because I still have to verify the accuracy of the author's entry -- and, especially for proper names, I often just cut and paste them from the PDF to make sure there are no keying errors.

Lists of terms also don't present complete subentries, and that's often where a lot of the indexer's work takes place. A category such as "Staff, consultants," and a subentry of "consultants" presents obvious logical and logistical problems.

Let's step back a little and see what we can do. What is the current number of indexable pages (introduction to the end of the running text, inclusive)? What is the trim size of the book? Needless to say, I'd much rather index from scratch and use your Excel document more as a guide to see if I've missed anything. I might be able to meet you halfway, but I don't think $3/page would be possible.

I'd also need a PDF with one-up pages, not spreads. If you could send me that, I'd have a much better idea of what the project entails.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dictionaries for $100, Alex

Usually I'm a supporter of Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary. One of my clients has me use Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary, which is growing on me, and I've been dabbling some in oxforddictionaries.com, just because Oxford University Press wants it, which makes sense.

An editor I work with says that he has a shelf full of dictionaries, and he can justify pretty much any usage he wants if he looks long enough.

But back to MW11 . . .

I looked up "discursive" in Merriam-Webster's because it's a word that I always think of when I'm actually trying to come up with something else -- a word that still eludes me -- so I want to make sure I'm using correctly whatever word I'm remembering or forgetting.

Here's Merriam-Webster's 11th on "discursive":

1a : moving from topic to topic without order  : RAMBLING
1b : proceeding coherently from topic to topic

Ehh, maybe it's time to switch allegiances.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Phrase of the Day

"an assorted plethora of different issues and topics"


Has it really been a month? 

One of the biggest pieces of news in this blog's history developed over the last week, dating back to a post I made about three years ago. 

But I'm going to let it simmer and play out a little bit before doing any big reveal. 

If you want a hint, go up to the left corner of this blog and type "Fred Neil" in the search box. And for four minutes of bliss, click on the YouTube part of the video link.

Quoting the man, although from a different work,

I missed my connections and I'm late for work again
You know they'll probably drop the atom bomb the day my ship comes in. . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Please Leave the Language Alone

Two verbs I saw (or, as many locals would say, "I seen") this week I never want to see again:


Merriam-Webster's 11th recognizes neither as a verb. Oxford gives "overview" a nod with some of their 1.9 million real English sentences.

I think it's just wrong.




Give a general review or summary of:
the report overviews the needs of the community
  • Three of these initiatives are overviewed below.
  • Pieces had been written immediately after the accident overviewing migrant life, but none really had scratched the surface as to what it had been like for the ten dead men in the truck.
  • In this chapter, a holistic approach will be taken, overviewing the parameters of infringing treatment in light of decisions taken by the various international bodies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pick a Sentence, Any Sentence

I'm using www.oxforddictionaries.com for the current project, and I'm liking it, as much as one can derive satisfaction from looking up words. The site has plenty of options, paid and unpaid. In advertising one of its paid services, the nice folks at Oxford offer this beauty:

Reinvigorate your writing by drawing on our vast bank of 1.9 million real English sentences.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Today's Time Waster: Ngrams

I'm indexing one of the most fascinating books I've worked on in a long time -- a book that I'd copyedited some months back about the field of digital humanities. Came across this:

"The Google n-grams viewer (https://books.google.com/ngrams) offers a view of the Google Books collection not as a set of texts, but as a set of word groups that can be filtered by time and language."

First search was interesting (it's 1:20am, I'm indexing, and free association or lack of too much creative brain power is kicking in):

Allen Ginsberg/William S. Burroughs/Hunter S. Thompson

I figured Ginsberg to be in the lead. Burroughs and Thompson at this point are neck and neck.

Second search:

New York Mets/Georgia Republicans/peyote

The results were rewarding.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not-So-Social Media

I'll admit it: I occasionally troll Comments sections -- especially my hometown newspaper's, especially the Letters to the Editor -- under an assumed nom de Facebook.

I posted a response under my alias on a Publishers' Weekly article today, and I received blowback from two people who said I really had no place calling other people's opinions into question.

Excuse me?

Cream and Sugar with That?

From an article about a coffee shop that hires the homeless:

For some of the critics at that neighborhood meeting, “It challenges the idea that people who are homeless are lazy or just aren’t working hard enough,” he said. And Seth was effusive in his praise of his homeless employee. “He’s an incredible guy. You would never know he was homeless. He used to be an editor for novels. . . .”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

When Worlds Collide

The title for this posting is the name of a Philip Wylie science fiction piece, seminal in its genre, published in 1934 -- the same year Wylie published Finnley Wren, a novel that my father recommended to me in my teenage years that has affected me ever since.

Two other people whose efforts have had a truly disproportionate effect on my life -- and which influence has played out in surprising ways -- are the subjects of the following article: The Fraught Friendship of T.S. Eliot and Groucho Marx. An entertaining and highly enlightening read.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Straight from Central Cast(e)ing

Finishing a gruesome tome about India, and I came across the concept of "upper-class peasant." Not sure where such folks fit in the grand scheme of things, but frankly it doesn't sound like a bad way to be. For all I know, I've just endorsed something horrific. Let me know if I'm wrong -- and how it might be any better or worse than working on this damn book.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dumbest Sentence in a Long Time

For analysts, the year 2000 marked the beginning of a new millennium for the natural gas industry.

Well, stop the presses.

I'm proofreading this book, and I've queried the statement above to the managing editor. Hopefully the press changes the sentence before publication, because I'd sure hate -- six months down the road -- for someone to see this quote, search for its origin, and find the sentence on Google Books, thus revealing its author. Yeah, I'd just hate that.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Follow-Up to Previous Post: Careful What You Wish For

Bad copyediting is making my proofreading life hell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Looking Forward . . . to the Past

Other than one index in progress, for the next 29 days I have nothing but copyediting and proofreading on the schedule. Feels a little strange. Can't say I mind it entirely.

Although an easily indexable book generally offers better compensation per hour than the other two tasks, unfortunately most of my clients don't dabble in easily indexable books.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Unattributed Quote of the Day: Government

"Indeed, nearly every new goal or purpose the American people have defined for themselves over 230 years has been anchored in the Constitution, or at least in constitutional rhetoric. That has proved vital to the survival and stability of the nation, but it has also made everything else that has come after seem merely instrumental in character. The ideal end-state, presumed to be readable between the lines of the Constitution’s text, is a perpetually receding horizon. The American people are ceaseless in their pursuit of that horizon, rarely pausing to reflect on how they may have changed in their relationships with one another as citizens during the pursuit or how their perception of what stands on that horizon may have changed as well."

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Am He as You Are He . . .

Copyediting a huge tome (the second of 18 volumes over the next eight years or so), and I'm glad that the indexes that I'll eventually do for each volume are names only. Why?

But I am able to experience God by experiencing myself as a you of God when I discover myself to be “His,” that is to say, when I feel that I am yours, the you of the I. I discover God not when I discover Him as a you (to whom I address myself), but as an I who addresses himself to me, and for whom my “ego” is His “you.” I am then a you of God. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Subheads, Indexing and

Today's gripe is one I've been harboring for some time.

Authors, take some notes.

When you're writing subheads within chapters, you'd be doing your readers -- and your indexer -- a great favor if the text of the subhead actually bore some resemblance to the content following it.

Some authors and publishers present an indexer's dream: accurately and concisely written subheads that from word one of the new section -- or at least beginning in the second paragraph -- address the stated topic. They are in the minority.

Many offer a page or so of introductory or transitional material before getting around to the topic.

The outliers, though, are the ones who drive me crazy. They'll take a phrase such as "Morality and Essential Freedoms" and not address essential freedoms by name for the next eight pages. Maybe the topic appears in the section summary.

I suspect this writing approach also leads to authors who feel that some subjects don't receive enough treatment in the index. I can hear it: "But, but, a whole section on morality and essential freedoms started on page 27 and ran for 10 pages."

Yeah, but you didn't get around to talking about it specifically until page 36. Not my problem, bub.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Today's Charming Website

Found this when trying to track down first names for some folks who lost their lives at the Bastille:

Hallmark really needs to pair this up with birthday greetings.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Word for Today

I'm proofreading a horribly copyedited book on the Obama presidency from a publisher that should know better. Came across the word "suppositiously," and I thought, That's not a word.

Well, sorta. It's an alternative for . . . supposititiously.

Frankly, I think English can do without either one.

And the context . . .

Other items in the book: Hilary [sic] Clinton, Ross [sic] Limbaugh, Mitch [sic] Romney. Not to mention zero command of en dashes and capitalization. Your basic train wreck.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In Memoriam: Cecily Kaganov Land Kass, 1934-1994

My mother would have been eighty years old today. She died thirteen days after her sixtieth birthday.

Red hair and freckles . . . just like every other nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Lost Art

"Also, according to best documentary editing practice, all documents were tandem oral proofread (one person reading aloud from the original and another correcting the transcription against it) for accuracy."

With the person reading aloud banging on the desk and making different guttural noises for varying types of punctuation, in the hands of a master, read-alouds can be rather entertaining.

Leaving the House Is Always an Adventure

In preparation for summer I went up to the Exalt Academy of Cosmetology -- one of the great rackets of all time. They train hair stylists there, so you're paying to have your hair cut, and the people cutting your hair are paying to cut it. How did I miss out on this action?

For $6, they can shave my head as close as they dare.

I'm sitting in the chair with my eyes closed, which is how I spent forty-eight years getting my hair cut, because I couldn't see a thing without my glasses. I had two hours of sleep last night / this morning, so I was dozing. Besides, being in a barber's chair with sight makes me uncomfortable.

All of a sudden, I hear this voice: "Excuse me, excuse me." I figured I was being served some warrant for an unknown offense.

There's this mammaw on a rolling stool next to me saying, "I really like your hair that like. Do you do that often? Your hair looks so good like that. I just wanted to tell you that looks good." This is like being told, "Put the Halloween mask back on."

Finally she rolled away, and before I went back to sleep, I told the girl cutting my hair, "That woman scared the hell out of me." At least I got a chuckle out of the trainee.

End of story.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Index Review Instructions for Authors

Well . . . there's a searchable title, if the Google ever condescends to picking up this blog again. Maybe soon.

Working on an index for an author who has never been through the process. The author asked what to look for upon receiving the index. I'll post my response here, which also means I might be able to find it for boilerplate in case I ever need it again:


I'd just make sure that the index accurately captures the themes in the book and presents them in a way that your intended readership would expect.

Not that I want to forecast anything, but a lot of authors will say, "Looks good" and maybe reword an entry or two. Occasionally an author will ask for more detailed treatment of a subject. Very rarely, I'll have an author request wholesale changes; usually it's a case of an author expecting a concordance (which an index is not) or trying to make connections or pump up coverage of a topic in the index that the text itself doesn't necessarily justify.

One place your input would be welcome would be on consolidation of subentries, especially under an all-consuming entry such as "Internet." Sometimes my indexes get a little too granular or detailed, and if you can help me in tightening up subentries, if you think it's necessary, that would be great.

Today's Unattributed Quote: Social Sciences

[might be a few more of these. sort of an interesting book]

The North Korean Chosun Central TV channel reported the results of a survey which confirmed that North Korea is the second “happiest” country in the world, beaten only by China. The other countries that round out the top five happiest list include Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, in that order. Perhaps not so shockingly, South Korea ranked near the bottom at 152, while the United States came in dead last out of the 203 countries “surveyed” (International Business Times 2011).

Monday, June 2, 2014

APA Derangement Syndrome

I can recommend absolutely nothing about the work pictured here -- from the design and organization of the printed volume to the style regime recommended therein.

The only thing I can imagine is that the book is a revenue generator for reasons that have nothing to do with editorial style. The American Psychological Association publishes this monstrosity to drive people into the arms of the people whose careers the APA supports.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Great Index Entry

I am pretty certain that deep in the bowels of this blog I've already noted this name, but here he is again:

Dear, John, 225

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Plea to Authors

When writing a 230-page book with seven chapters, please don't make the first chapter 60 pages long. You're not going to make any friends among your readers . . . or please your indexer.

Not that the length of the chapter affects the index much, but I'd sure like to feel that I'm getting somewhere.

Thank you.

The management.

Today's Unattributed Quote: Theology

"If understood properly, suffering has teleological value; it is life’s warning system, causing us to reevaluate our life direction, moving us toward eventual fulfillment, deepening our sense of compassion, and requiring that we seek companionship and community along the way as we travel toward an uncertain yet promising future."

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Interesting Phrase

Came across the phrase, “The game is not worth the candle,” which I'd never heard.


“The returns from an activity or enterprise do not warrant the time, money or effort required. For example, ‘The office he is running for is so unimportant that the game's not worth the candle.’ This expression, which began as a translation of a term used by the French essayist Michel de Montaigne in 1580, alludes to gambling by candlelight, which involved the expense of illumination. If the winnings were not sufficient, they did not warrant the expense. Used figuratively, it was a proverb within a century.”

From Dictionary.com, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Today's Unattributed Quote: International Relations

Bring it on:

"Finally, as a society transitions to the postmaterial stage, its citizens will increasingly favor the values of self-expression and prefer leisure to work, and they will give decreasing emphasis to survival concerns, that is, the need to attend to their basic material needs for physical existence."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Those Wacky Germans

Reminds me of our trip to the dominatrix’s studio in Berlin back in 2000 (purely for research purposes and local color, of course. And who could turn down such an invitation?).

From the current project:

Berkeley, CA, 1916:

Kem Weber designed another party, held at the Forkes’ house on Berryman Street in mid-May. It was “for the benefit of the German bazaar” for war-relief. The theme was a “baby ball.” All of the attendees, including a number of other Berkeley professors and the German consul and vice-consul, dressed as infants, in diapers, with little bonnets. Weber designed the program, invitations, many of the costumes, and the decorations, transforming the Forke home “into a giant nursery.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Testimonials: A Letter Rolled In

In case you’re not familiar with the phrase in the blog title, it’s typically used when a group sends a mass of letters to the editor that are obviously all the same text, just submitted by different people.

A new and welcome author came in over the transom a few days ago, and I asked how the person was familiar with my services. The response: 

A mentor of mine, a serial entrepreneur, asked a couple of his contacts on my behalf. He stated your name was given on multiple occasions. 

Not sure there were actually either a couple of contacts or multiple occasions. Smacks a little of an echo chamber, but I’m happy for the buzz.


More on the testimonial front. Received a 120,000-word novel for copyediting, and the publisher couldn't take the job unless she could get quite hasty turnaround on the job in order to meet a print deadline: 

Getting this done so quickly has helped me and the author so much, Bob. I can’t thank you enough. 

And from a university press whose name you’d know:

The level of indexing was very thorough and the author was very pleased with the detailed index. The index was sent to me on time which was appreciated because of the short turnaround. 


All this feels very nice, because the month has been brutal on numerous fronts. I'll get back to whining and complaining about work soon.

On a personal note, about 8 minutes ago, I turned 54 years old. In a hospital room on Staten Island, New York — same hospital where my father was born in 1932 — came one of the ugliest children on record. Badly jaundiced, dent in the head, ears rolled up. Story I once heard was that the nurse said, “What a beautiful baby," and one of my grandmothers burst into tears. I understand my dad went to the track for three days.

Notable things that happened on March 28? Three-Mile Island. Eisenhower died. However, my dear, departed Aunt Muriel was born — one of the wildest women I’ve ever known, and I wish I had known her better. And, damn, I wish I could be more like her. If we ever run into each other, ask me to tell some Aunt Muriel stories. She was seventy years old when my wife and I married, and friends of mine who were in their twenties would have been more than happy to hit on her. She looked kinda like Joan Collins, if Joan Collins was prettier and a lot classier without effort.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"If Understanding Was to Be Achieved."

Tell me about it.

I've almost forgotten what it's like to index a book in a different language. Now I'm remembering how little fun it is:

This is what effectively makes sense perception an unsuccessful competitor to a micro-corpuscularian natural philosophy. What Malebranche had offered was a comprehensive vindication of the sole legitimacy of micro-corpuscularian explanation. If Malebranche were right, the phenomenal level could not possibly have any explanatory autonomy, and the realm of sensation had to be bypassed in favour of a theoretical and wholly reductionist natural philosophy if understanding was to be achieved.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again, but You Can Get Stuck There

Supposed to fly out of my hometown, New York City, later today for home in southwestern Virginia via Atlanta, my second hometown, but a bad winter storm is affecting the Southeast Wednesday and then moving up to New York on Thursday. Stuck in New York until Friday afternoon -- thankfully at a dear friend's apartment in Manhattan, which beats the hell out of sleeping on top of bags in an airport, or paying for two more nights in a New York hotel room. The poor bank account is hemorrhaging money. Maybe I can pull a shift of legal proofreading with my brother.

But my wife and I did go to the Westminster Dog Show this week -- the ultimate in low-stress entertainment -- and Pinter's No Man's Land and Beckett's Waiting for Godot in rep on Broadway last Saturday. (See website here.) As I mused to some friends beforehand, seems like anyone sitting through these two plays in one day deserves lollipops if they haven't started carving on their own wrists by the middle of act 2 of Godot. Great performances.


Our personal favorite in the Best of Show round. You can keep those goofy standard poodles. The corgi would have made us happy, too.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

So, Why Do I Love Sports Books?

On ballplayer/broadcaster Richie "Whitey" Ashburn:

From 1971 until Ashburn’s death, he was joined by Harry Kalas in the booth, where the two became best of friends and almost inseparable on road trips. During his speech at Ashburn’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York, Kalas paid tribute to his colleague and friend of nearly 30 years in the most fitting way by acknowledging Ashburn’s professionalism as an astute broadcaster and his sense of humor as a regular person. Kalas said the following:

>> People ask me what it was like working with Richie. His Whiteness and I were together for 27 years, and it was such a joy. He not only brought to the booth baseball experience but also laughter. Whitey had a marvelous sense of humor. I remember doing games with him, and it would be getting late in the game, late in the evening, and Whitey would say on the air, “I wonder if the people at Celebres Pizza are listening tonight?” Well, within 15 minutes, bang, pizzas are delivered to the radio booth.

This went on for a while, and pretty soon the Phillies management summoned him and they said, “Richie, Celebres Pizza is not one of our sponsors. We can’t give them free plugs.” Now we do birthday and anniversary announcements on the air, so shortly after his meeting with the Philadelphia brass, it’s getting late in the evening and he’s getting hungry. He said, “Well, I have very special birthday wishes to send out tonight to the Celebres twins—Plain and Pepperoni.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just My Luck

I have moved from a lengthy project in which the authors wrote innocently with footnotes and in American style, not knowing (apparently) that their chapters were going to be published author/date and in British style (love that British spelling and punctuation -- 98,000 words of it, with about a third to come) into a project written by a couple of individuals from a city area east of the Mississippi who seem to think that titles, quotes, and random phrases need enclosure within single quotation marks. In front of the period.

Unfortunately, it's also of the genre that I occasionally think, I'm getting paid to read this?

Happens about once a year or two. A sports book. From an era I can relate to, early to mid-1960s. I'm more familiar with these names than I am with 95 percent of the All-Stars in any of the major sports in the last 20 years.

The book I worked on about Sandy Koufax many years ago was probably the last time I was paid to read the words "Harmon Killebrew."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Don't Go to This Author If You Want to Keep a Secret

Author has put the following text for a source line on a prose extract:

L2, 1994, 7.2.1; typographical errors silently corrected

With friends like this one . . .

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Constructive Criticism on Indexing, Hitting Me Right at Home: UPDATE

Longtime readers of this blog know that I’ve been proofreading since adolescence. Copyediting and certainly indexing came much later.

My proofreading hasn’t changed much. Except for items that might appear in technical manuals, I’ve seen about everything a proofreader can see. Neither the marks nor my approach to the task has changed much over the years. Be aggressive, and be friendly about it.

Copyediting: I go back and forth. I used to put commas after short introductory phrases; now I’m as likely to delete them. I used to think style sheets were more trouble than they’re worth; I’ve changed my mind. Used to be that I’d want to strip out every “there is” in a manuscript. I’ve relaxed a little and figured (and been told) it’s not necessary. Even Chicago Manual of Style standards change over time, as has some of the technology (e.g., XML coding).

Indexing is the strangest bird, for many reasons. I’m embarrassed by my early indexes (almost 20 years ago now -- gulp), and I still mull over the best way to approach the task.

Presses are also different -- as are authors -- so the matter of managing expectations comes into play. I recently had an exchange with an author for whom I was writing an index, and we came to a mutual conclusion that I’m more of an author’s indexer than a publisher’s indexer. I tend to overindex, which delights the former and can frustrate the latter.

Consider two highly regarded scholarly presses:

Press 1 allows the indexer free reign. The managing editor’s attitude is not to restrict the indexer at all, page count be damned.

Press 2 sets strict guidelines for length of the index and allows me to exceed that number only reluctantly and with good reason from me. Some of the books they send . . . I swear that I could not deliver a useful or comprehensive index in the space allotted.

I have one of those books coming up from this press, although I’m working directly for the author. I wrote the press’s managing editor, groveling in advance for some extra lines and asking for any advice.

In response I received some wonderful thoughts that were really a pretty severe critique of my work. It’s one of the most helpful emails I’ve ever received. Now it’s just a matter of putting it into practice.

Thanks, AW, for these comments. Authors, editors, and fellow indexers, take note:

If I recall your earlier indexes correctly, the wording of entries and esp. subentries was very thorough, sometimes more so than was needed. The index just needs to guide the reader to relevant pages; it doesn't need to tell him exactly what he will find there. So, more economy in wording would help. Also, although you followed such a consistent pattern that I found it difficult to condense or eliminate subentries, there were times when you provided subentries when the number of page citations did not warrant them. In some cases, the subdivisions were repeated throughout, and so it was useful to keep the pattern of subentries, even though there may have been only one or two citations in each one. Perhaps [this book] will not lend itself to that kind of repeated pattern and you will be able to condense or skip more subentries. Sometimes a little wandering around in the book has benefit for the reader.

I’d love some feedback from the readership. I know you’re out there.


UPDATE: I sent the note above to one of my other managing editors, who responded,

Hmm.  To tell you the truth, I think your indexes generally include just the right amount of detail—but then, I come from an academic text background. We’ve had more problems in the past with indexers who include entries with 20 page refs, which indicates to me that it should be broken down further. We always review the indexes, and the editors invariably cut out a handful of the single-page-ref entries, but on the whole, I have absolutely no complaints about, or even suggestions for your indexes. The new indexer you recommended could definitely use these guidelines—good indexer, but MUCH too much detail. But not you.

However, in the interests of making your life easier, let’s call a 1000-line, 8-10-page index, with the amount of detail described below, the “standard.”  I don’t even think much of recommendations that the editors make on the Production Memo. I’m far more comfortable with you deciding whether a more, or less, detailed index is required.

I make MY life easier by surrounding myself with people who know what they are doing, and then NOT micro-managing. My job is half over when I FIND the right people. And people enjoy their work more when it’s THEIR work.

The only thing that would really help me is if I were able to tell you how many text pages I need for the index, but that’s a tough call, does not always jive with the kind of index the content demands, and my typesetters can generally play around and get it to fit anyway.  For example, I’m hoping for a 16-page index for [the current project] simply because that’s about how many pages I need to fill.  I could do a half signature and use an 8-page index, but then I worry that such a short one isn’t adequate for that book.

Man, I bet you’re sorry you brought this up.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More on Weather

Or moron weather, take your pick.

The forecast for the overnight is a low of 11. It's midnight . . . and 6 degrees. Doesn't feel like it's warming up out there either. I walked the dog around the block around noon when the temps finally pushed into the positive numbers today, and by the time I got home, I felt like I couldn't walk down the hallway in my house without banging into a wall.


I read a lot, obviously. And I'll read longer into a lot of useless news articles because, well, it's yet another way to avoid work.

Also, the interesting stuff is often at the bottom of the article. Sure, pouring beet juice and mozzarella brine on the roads sounds nifty to help rock salt do its business during serious cold snaps, but read the last paragraph.

And then Google "Halliburton loophole."

Sure . . . wastewater from fracking is exactly what we want to spread all over the roads in this country. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weather Report: Local Conditions

It's 9am, and it's warmed up to minus 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Yippee.

I do not like this at all.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Up and Running

I've made some oblique references to it over the months, but I'm now at the point where I'm considering it a live deal -- a going concern, as the business textbooks I used to write and edit would say.


Tell your friends.

And the blog there has somewhat of a different czarist voice than any regular readers here may have come to expect. Let's just say that I'm hoping to attract by imitating folks I've not yet met.

Wish me luck. If you have any questions or know anyone you want to send my way, email me or direct them to the site.

I'm trying not to be too concerned about the 5,700 years of ancestors spinning in their graves -- a few in particular. They'll get over it. I hope.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Today's Gripe

Well, I had an idea for a new year's post. It can wait.

Note to scholarly/academic and most other authors: Unless your book identifies itself as a work of fiction, you don't need to start paragraphs with "It is a fact that." Unless you've already given readers reason to feel that you are not quite grasping your own reality or your subject matter, we'll take for granted that you are, indeed, presenting facts.