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Discover the Origin of Editorial Styles
chillibreeze writer — Lakshmi Ananth
I still remember the fate of my first writing assignment, a chapter of a User Manual. I could hardly recognize my work when it came back from the first editorial review, except that it still retained the ‘original idea’. The language, content, structure, almost every aspect was revamped. My editor had filled the margins with editorial comments, not sparing a single printed line!
Document editing is no easy deal. Infinite patience and an eye for detail is what it takes to make raw content ready for publishing, and that’s precisely what an editor does. All published content is the result of successful writer-editor collaboration.
A writer would probably concentrate more on the content, how it is structured, whether there is a logical flow in the message, and of course, if it’s worded right without any grammatical errors, etc. Once the basic content is ready, a writer would try to work on the layout, adding appropriate titles and subheads , tables, figures, captions, formatting, and references, if any.
The language, presentation style, and content are governed by the writer’s aesthetics. The work may be a masterpiece but if the content has to be published as part of a web page, manual or a journal, it needs to be adapted to that particular format.
Editors are not mere replacements for the ‘spellchecker utility’, as most of us may assume. An editor adds value to the draft document by working on the language, content and presentation, so that the final copy conveys the intended message, and conforms to the editorial style guidelines applicable to the subject matter.
So what are editorial styles and why do we need them?
Assume that you regularly refer to scientific publications for your study. You would be accustomed to the way in which the information is organized in these publications. If, for any reason, each scientific publication was to differ from others of its kind in the standard way of presenting information, you will have a tough time locating the required reference.
Hence it’s desirable that all publications in a specific field present information in a standard format (editorial style). Various custom styles are prevalent to suit the needs of different disciplines of writing (Table 1).
Table 1. Editorial Styles
Of these editorial styles, two are widely used, namely, The Chicago Manual Style (CMS) and The American Psychological Association Style (APA).
As the names indicate, both these styles were initially intended for limited use, but went on to become the global standard. The CMS was created at the University of Chicago Press for use in social sciences and literature related publications, whereas the APA originated from the American Psychological Association as a basic style for its publications in Psychology.
Both the CMS and APA styles govern the most basic aspects of a piece of writing:
Language rules concern general English, sentence structure, punctuation, hyphenation, abbreviation, capitalization, quotations, numbers, grammar, etc.
In addition to these basic rules, APA strictly forbids any use of discriminatory or dehumanizing language based on race, color, sex, and physical / mental disabilities. Writers are required to use adjectives that refer to the geographic region rather than ethnicity or color of individuals.
For example, you are encouraged to use:
Do refer to the APA style guide for more examples on this guideline.
Layout related guidelines indicate the standards for page size, margins, headers, footnotes, headings, font, and font size, paragraph indentations, text alignment, line spacing, and related aspects.
Layout guidelines in both these style guides seem somewhat similar except that in APA, footnotes occur as endnotes on a separate page. Also, APA differentiates between documents meant for publishing (journals) and those meant for submission (theses).
Documents meant for publishing are required to follow a double line spacing for the content and single line spacing for table / figure captions and titles. Also the tables and figures are to be located at the end of the content. In the case of theses and dissertations, the tables and figures could be placed immediately after the text that refers to them.
Accreditation guidelines ensure that you give due credit to any information referred from an original source. Whether the source exists in electronic or print media; elaborate guidelines are available to indicate such references (both format and content).
The citations could be in the form of plain text, reference lists, and footnotes or as part of the bibliography. Each form of usage conforms to a specific format. Sample text is provided herewith for the two formats. However, as specified earlier, the citation format could vary depending on the type of publication, number of authors, number of works by the same author, and the form of the citation.
Book - Single Author; Author-Date:
Bergmann, P. G. (1993). Relativity. In The new encyclopedia britannica (Vol. 26, pp. 501-508). Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.
Book – More than one author; Documentary-Note:
Craton, M. and G. Saunders. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Athens: University of Georgia Press , 1992.
APA citation format is predominantly Author-Date, with information being presented in the following order:
Author(s), Date, Title of Book or Article or Periodical, Volume or Chapter, Pages, Place of Publication, Publisher and other information
Citations could also refer to electronic content, in which case, the URL of the referred web site should be indicated with care, such that the user is able to traverse to the location without any problems.
Contrary to popular assumption, editing is no easy deal. It requires a lot of knowledge and multiple skills. Good luck to all the potential editors out there!
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