Insights on working with editors: An interview with Elsa Peterson

Copyright and PermissionsElsa Peterson has more than 20 years of experience in textbook and academic publishing as a freelance permissions editor, picture researcher, and developmental editor. Her most recent in-house position was as a senior developmental editor for psychology with McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Peterson recently authored a brief and accessible guide to copyright in the context of publishing titled Copyright and Permissions: What Every Writer and Editor Should Know (New York: Editorial Freelancers Association, 2012). She has also authored numerous articles about the business and craft of editing, and has presented TAA audio conferences on editing and copyright.

Completing a major textbook revision: The after-the-fact outline

The after-the-fact outline provides a valuable strategy to help complete a major book or article revision. Sometimes referred to as a reverse outline, I learned of this strategy from Tara Gray, author of the book Publish and Flourish. I have tried most of the advice in her book, and now that I have tried this piece of advice, I had to ask myself: “Why did I wait so long?”

The first thing to point out is that this strategy is not a writing strategy, but a revising strategy. This strategy works best when you have a draft of your article (or a portion of your article) and are ready to rewrite it. It is best if your draft is rough, as you need to feel comfortable with the idea of deleting and/or rearranging large portions of it.

10 Steps to revising your academic article or book chapter

Many novice writers imagine clean, clear prose springing off of the fingertips of accomplished writers. Most writers will assure you that it does not work this way. We first write, and then, revise, revise, and revise some more.

Trying to write perfectly the first time around has three central problems. 1) It takes a long time; 2) It can be a waste of time, as you often can only see at the end of a paper what needs to be cut; and 3) Your writing will not be as good in the end because the best writing comes out of revising.

Turn bad editing into good writing

Whether soliciting advice from friends, family, or colleagues, on the receiving end of letters and track changes from journal editors, all authors have received bad editing. Bad editing is part of the writing game. Not everyone who is an editor is an excellent writer, in fact many are not. Although we’d like to think that our manuscripts are read by people with an interest or specialization in the material our articles or books cover, that’s not always the case. Readers can have bad days. Professors can be bogged down by exams; student editors may be more concerned with tests.

Top 10 grammar errors

Becky Burckmyer, author of Awesome Grammar (Career Press, 2008, shares the “top 10” grammar errors she has seen in her 20-year career as a copywriter, writing coach and seminar leader:

1. Incorrect placement of quotation marks. Note that quotation marks go OUTside periods and commas, whether the little marks are part of the quoted material or not:

Archie has written a song, “Green Christmas,” which I think you should hear.