Details of Jobs I've Done in 2002


Business and Finance

Changing the Rules: Adventures of a Wall Street Maverick by Muriel Siebert with Aimee Lee Ball, Free Press (proofread) (307 book pages).

This is the memoir of the first female member of the New York Stock Exchange and New York State's first female superintendent of banking.

This was a pretty straightforward proofreading job. The only problem was that the book was typeset in the Philippines (as are all Simon & Schuster books now) and apparently the keyboardist's English wasn't too good. The copy editor made his a's like print a's rather than handwritten ones, and when he didn't close them the keyboardist interpreted them as z's or 2s, resulting in such words as "Albzny" for "Albany" and "2nd" for "and."

The one thing I had to do that was a little unusual was to check the positions of the "pull quotes." These were short sentences from the text that were set in larger type with lines above and below, as is soometimes done in magazine articles. I had to make sure that they were exactly the same as in the text itself and that they were positioned close to, but not exactly above or below, the sentences in the text that were being repeated.


The Motley Fool Personal Finance Workbook: Your Foolproof Guide to Organizing Cash and Building Wealth by David and Tom Gardner, with Robert Brokamp and Dayana Yochim, Simon & Schuster (copyedited) (about 550 manscript pages).

This book did not require much research, apart from the verification of company names, Web site URLs, and the like. However, it had a lot of design elements, many nested within one another--for example, numbered lists within boxes, as well as tables and worksheets--and for each element I had to devise a unique code and then indicate it in the manuscript. In this case, the coding system used was Simon & Schuster's EMM, for which every element of more than one paragraph requires three codes, for beginning, middle, and end. For example, a numbered list within a box required codes BXNLB ("beginning" or first paragraph), BXNLM ("middle" or second paragraph), and BXNLE ("end" or last paragraph). The coding task was not helped by the fact that the typist had typed identical elements in different chapters in different font sizes! Also, all headings were typed initial cap only, rather than cap and lowercase, and in most chapters the A and B heads were typed in identical font and size, so I had to figure out what the hierarchy of heads really was. (To see a copy of the final design memo, click here.).


Health, Beauty, and Exercise

Wear and Tear: Stop the Pain and Put the Spring Back in Your Body by Dr. Bob Arnot, Simon & Schuster (copyedited) (399 manuscript pages).

This is actually a very interesting book, with solid research behind it. Unfortunately, it seemed to me as though it had been dictated to a computer transcription program and then the author had never read the manuscript through to correct it, as there were a number of awkwardly written sentences, including many that simply didn't "track," as well as a number of homonym spelling errors (see below). Also, in the back of the book, the "Biographies" section (of doctors and researchers who were mentioned in the book) and the bibliography were not in alphabetical order, meaning that I had to request the electronic files from the publishing company and alphabetize them myself. Obviously, this is something that should have been done by the author, and I'm surprised that the acquisitions editor let the manuscript go through that way.

Headings of the same level were typed very inconsistently: sometimes capital and lowercase, sometimes all capitals; sometimes on a separate line, sometimes run in; usually aligned left, occasionally centered. Then, in one chapter--but one chapter only--the author numbered the A (first-level) heads (though, to add to the confusion, there were some A heads that were not numbered). And finally, in yet another chapter--but only in that chapter--all the A level heads were run into the text with colons after them!

This caused the in-house production editor--who was going through the book rather quickly to make up the design memo, as it had arrived on her desk late from the in-house acquisitions editor and she needed to get it out to me and the designer so we could start working--to assume that all these A heads were different elements and to give them different names. In the case of the chapter in which all the A heads were numbered, for instance, she assumed that the chapter was all one long numbered list and assigned codes to other elements (e.g., bulleted and numbered lists and paragraphs) as though they were subsets of the overall numbered list. Once I actually started reading the manuscript, I realized that this the way the author had typed the heads was all out of joint. Then of course I had to revise the design memo considerably and send an e-mail off to the production editor and the designer, who was probably already working on the book design based on the production editor's original design memo, to explain what changes I had made and why. What a headache; what a waste of time!

There were many misspelled words (e.g., "accupunture") and missing and extraneous words: "That may also [be] true of the knee joint"; "A fierce battle [is] raging of every front"; "Tramadol probably works a better then acetaminophen"; "She grabbed them, through them in the trash shoot, . . ."; "four courses of chocolate desert"; "it's not going to burn a whole through your stomach" (obviously a word processor's spell check function doesn't help in cases like these, where the words are words, just the wrong ones!).

Also, the author talked repeatedly about how to "loose" weight, fat, and the like. And there were a number of dangling modifiers, such as when he was describing going to a hospital to consult a doctor about his knee, which was giving him trouble: "After reporting to the hospital and stripping down to my shorts, he examined my knee."

In a section on recommendations on running shoes and the like by various experts, some had "Picks" and others had "Favorite Picks." Obviously these should be called the same thing. (Unless, of course, there is a third type, "Unfavorite Picks"!) Like typing same-level heads differently or different-level heads the same way, this type of thing makes it much more difficult to figure out what heads are on which level--especially when some of them on the same level are numbered while others are not, as in this manuscript!

In addition, there were a number of illustrations of the yoga postures described in the book, and part of my job was to check that they were all there and that the text described the photo correctly.


General Nonfiction

Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne (Knopf) (proofread) (445 book pages).

This book was set from the electronic files of the English edition. The punctuation was "Americanized," meaning that (1) all single quotation marks were changed to double quotation marks and vice versa (but one has to watch out that apostrophes are not changed to double quotes!); (2) periods and commas were moved inside quotation marks but semicolons and colons remained outside; (3) abbreviated titles ("Mr.," "Mrs.," "Dr.," and the like) were followed by periods; unfortunately, "Mme." and "Mlle." had not been specified in the publisher's instructions to the compositor, and therefore all those periods were missing; (4) English-style em dashes--that is, en dashes with a space on either side--were converted to American-style em dashes, with no spaces between them and the words preceding and following; and so on.

However, the English spelling ("labour" rather than "labor," "centre" rather than "center," much more liberal use of hyphens than is usual in American English, and so on) was maintained. One small problem was that possessives of French names ending in "s" (for example, "Louis") had been made using only an apostrophe. While we can do this in English--for example, we can write either "Lewis's book" or "Lewis' book"--in French the fact that the terminal "s" in any word is silent means that the terminal "s" is required. There were also some residual typographical errors in the English edition that had carried through to the American edition. In addition to that, I had to rekey the notes section at the end of the book, that is, indicate the new page number in the American edition. Unfortunately, after a certain point the numbers in the English edition were off by first two, then up to five pages, which made the job a bit more difficult!

In addition, I had to copyedit the photo captions. Oddly enough, the photo researcher hadn't consulted the text, so some names were spelled differently in the captions than in the text (i.e., wrong)!


Charlotte and Lionel: A Rothschild Love Story by Stanley Weintraub (Free Press) (proofread) (313 book pages).

This was a fairly straightforward proofreading job, well written, lightly copyedited, and with few typographical errors. I did catch an erroneous reference to the Wilkie Collins novel No Name, in which the author stated that the protagonist, who was about to be married, had discovered that she was illegitimate. Though I'm not a huge fan of Wilkie Collins. I happen to be rather fond of this novel, which is full of interesting characters, and had just reread it. In fact, the protagonist, Magdalen, found out that just after her father died that she was illegitimate and then schemed to marry the man who had inherited the money she felt should have gone to her and her sister. Obviously a knowledge of Victorian novels is useful in this profession! (See also By the Sword, below.)


The Get with the Program! Guide to Good Eating: Great Food for Good Health by Bob Greene (Simon & Schuster) (copyedited) (209 manuscript pages).

This is a companion to the book Get with the Program! by Bob Greene, the health and fitness expert for Oprah Winfrey's Lifestyle Makeover team. Like the book by Bob Arnot described below, it was a design-intensive manuscript. It also included many recipes, which fortunately had been completely rewritten by the in-house acquisitions editor, who is a specialist in producing recipes, so all went rather smoothly.


Con Men: Classic Forgers, Scammers, Liars, and Scoundrels from the Archives of 60 Minutes by 60 Minutes (Simon & Schuster) (copyedited) (151 manuscript pages).

This was a fairly straightforward coding and copyediting job. Unfortunately, the manuscript was badly written and contained a large number of typographical errors and grammatical bloopers, such as the following: "A total of fourteen local officials were charged with accepting bribes, including four aldermen"; "The White-Out was scratched out to reveal the number and called it" (apart from the silliness of the sentence, here is an example of the kind of fact checking that needs to be done: the trademark is actually Wite-Out); "the FBI got convictions against ... state legislatures in California and South Carolina" (how do you convict a legislature? or did the author mean legislators?). In addition, there were a number of factual errors; for example, the author stated that a certain person had declared only $600 of income on her "1099" (i.e., Form 1099) for 1998. For one thing, Form 1099 is not something that a taxpayer declares income on, it's the form an employer sends to an independent contractor (such as mysellf) and the Internal Revenue Service to show how much it has paid that contractor. The author meant Form 1040 or, more likely, Schedule C.


The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq by Kenneth M. Pollack, Random House (copyedited) (576 manuscript pages).

This was a fairly straightforward copyediting job. The main problem was making sure the Arabic names were transliterated consistently, meaning that I needed to make up a comprehensive list of all Arabic personal and place names in the book. (To see a copy of the final name list that I compiled, please click here.)


Heart of a Soldier: A Story of Love, Heroism, and September 11th by James B. Stewart, Simon & Schuster (proofread) (307 book pages).

This is a book about a man from Cornwall, Rick Rescorla, who fought as a mercenary soldier in Rhodesia and then, after emigrating to the United States, as a marine in Vietnam (his photo is on the cover of the book We Were Soldiers . . . and Young. He then went to fight with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, after which he returned to the United States and became security director for the financial services firm Dean Witter, which had offices in the World Trade Center in Manhattan. In 1990 he called his friend Dan Hill, with whom he had been off fighting in various remote parts of the world, and together they sketched out a scenario of how the WTC could bombed--by a truck carrying explosives in the underground parking garage--which is exactly what happened in 1993. Then, after the terror attack on September 11, 2001, he helped evacuate workers from the building--and died when he went back in to try to save more people and the building collapsed.

This book was well written and well edited and was a straightforward proofreading job.


The Gate by François Bizot, Knopf (copyedited) (287 manuscript pages).

This memoir by a French ethnographer who was captured and imprisoned in Cambodia in 1971 and then was present in the French Embassy in Phnom Penh when all foreigners were evicted from the country in 1975, under the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge regime, was a translation from the French (Le Portail). Apart from doing the normal copy editing, I read the translation against the original French book, which I was provided by the production editor, to make sure that the French and English versions corresponded (apart from a number of small errors, I caught one entire paragraph that had been omitted).


By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions by Richard Cohen, Random House (copyedited) (about 600 manuscript pages).

This book, a history of swordfighting from its earliest written history to today, included a number of technical terms in French, Italian, Latin, and classical Greek, in addition to personal names in those languages as well as Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, German, Spanish, and Russian and of course English. There was not an accent mark in the entire book! Typical of the errors I caught were "the actor Anthony Banderas" and "Lawrence Olivier," not to mention a Hungarian man whose last name was spelled variously Gerencser, Gerenser, Gerentser, Gerentcser, and Gerencher. I incline toward the first spelling, but as I don't speak Hungarian I had to refer the question back to the author. I also verified a considerable number of book and movie titles. In addition, one of the footnotes described a scene that had supposedly taken place in one of Anthony Trollope's novels. Being very familiar with the book and having, in fact, just reread it, I was able to catch the error. The endnotes were also in very bad shape and lacking a lot of information, and I had to query the author extensively about the missing information and establish a consistent style for the notes. This book also had a fair number of design elements, although in this case the design code had already been established by the in-house production editor. Also, the author, who is English, used English punctuation style, meaning that I had to change single quotation marks to double ones throughout the book., and the author quoted extensively. To see a copy of the final name list that I compiled, please click here.


Flowers, White House Style: More Than 125 Arrangements by the Former White House Chief Floral Decorator by Dottie Temple and Stan Finegold, Fireside (copyedited) (172 manuscript pages and more than 100 photos).

This was the manuscript of a heavily illustrated (with photos) coffee-table book by the former White House chief floral designer, who served, rising through the ranks, under presidents Eisenhower through Ford. My job was to copyedit both the text and the captions and to make sure that the captions described the photos accurately. In fact, one caption identified Tricia Nixon as Lynda Johnson! On the whole, this book was very badly prepared, and similar elements were typed differently from one chapter to the next. I later learned that this was because the manuscript had come into Simon & Schuster as electronic files on discs from three different authors and the acquisition editor's assistant had had to cobble all the material together into a single manuscript! In other words, none of the authors had ever seen the entire manuscript as a whole!


The Parker Wine Buyer's Guide by Robert Parker, Simon & Schuster (copyedited and fact checked Italian wine sections only; proofread several of the French and other wine sections) (about 250 book pages).

This was supposedly a copyediting job, but in fact my main function was to check the spellings of the wine producers and wines listed. Much of the research I did was via the Internet, either on the sites of the producers themselves or on the sites of consortia, Italian associations that rate wines, and the like. Some of the producers' sites even showed photos of the wine labels, which was very useful. The author was in fact very appreciative of my work, and it turned out that many of the mistakes had arisen because he often tastes from unlabeled vats rather than from bottles and then has to rely on his own notes and the lists made up by American wine importers rather than copying directly from the wine labels. To see the list of the spelling corrections I made, please click here.


Lifemaps: A Step-by-Step Method for Simplifying 101 of Life's Most Overwhelming Projects by Michael Antoniak, Fireside (copyedited) (540 manuscript pages; 104 chapters with 21 codes each).

Each chapter had a list of "resources," generally including a list of three or four Web site URLs, all of which I checked (I did find a few dead sites and changed page addresses).

Each chapter had a "Lifemap," a description of how to do anything from buy a house to get one's budget in order, and each Lifemap required a large number of design codes.



Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler, St. Martin's Press (fact checked) (354 book pages).

This was a "cold read" (i.e., without reference to the original manuscript) of the proof pages; in fact, my main job on this book, a romance novel set mostly in Italy, was to check the Italian, which the author had insisted was correct but which turned out to contain a number of egregious errors. For instance, "allora" was consistently misspelled "alorra," and the main character, a woman doctor, was consistently addressed by the Italians in the town where she was (which was called Bella Piacere but should have been called Bel Piacere as "piacere" is a masculine noun, not a feminine one) as "Dottore" instead of "Dottoressa," which is the feminine form. There were also problems in the short conversations the author constructed. A typical exchange between two characters, asking each other their ages, was "Quanti anni?" "Sono sedici." In fact, this should have been "Quanti anni hai?" "Ho sedici anni," as in Italian one does not ask how many years old you are but how many years you have. There were also a number of personal and place names misspelled. I had a lot of help on this from a friend of mine in Italy.

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