Monday, August 15, 2011

Do Editors Use Red Pencils?

Someone recently commented that the red pencil on this blog doesn't have a red point. That's because when I created the blog, I used the same type of pencil I use as an editor, and the kind many, if not most, old editors use - one with a regular graphite point. A black pencil. Why? For the simple reason that it erases better than a red colored pencil. We do go back and change our minds and comments, you know! I have never seen an ARC from any editor that used a red lead. We are not school teachers grading papers when we edit a manuscript. There is no need for a red pencil. Besides, red won't hold a sharp point.

In today's world, pencils (red, black, or otherwise) are falling by the wayside anyway. The shift to digital editing in the last few years has been dramatic, and most of the major publishers now insist their authors send manuscripts attached to emails, they review and edit using Track Changes and Comments, and then return the digital manuscript to the author for another round of revision. Back-and-forth it goes. It's much faster, many say more accurate, and certainly a more environmentally-sound practice.

So what about it, authors and editors? When was the last time you used a red-lead pencil? Leave us a message!
Dani Greer started this blog and is grateful to all the many writers and editors who have contributed to it, and who have helped make it a success. She is a writer, editor, and special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press and also teaches authors how to arrange their own blog book tours. She has one free class this year starting on September 5th and you can sign up by clicking here. Please read the directions when you get there to make sure you qualify.

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  1. Good point, Dani (pun intended)! I do all my editing on-screen and online, using Microsoft Word Track Changes, and sending and receiving the docs as attachments.

    I don't print anything up, either, so it saves on ink and, most important for the environment, doesn't use up any paper or trees. I also don't have to trudge off to the post office and pay for postage, and the clients get the sections back within minutes of when I finish editing them! And with all kinds of comments in the margins that wouldn't fit on the printed page.
    In fact, often a section that I've edited (usually 2-5 chapters)will go back and forth several times in one day, as I check over the author's subsequent revisions and make further suggestions.

    When I was an English teacher, I used the old red marking pen or pencil, but never again!

  2. I'm with you about the digital editing and the environmental savings, Jodie! But I still get printed ARCs from authors with publishers, many of whom still use ARCs for their final round of proofreading. All done in lead pencil. Good, hard, black lead. You have to sharpen a red pencil way too much to make it useful. Great for colored drawings though. ;)

  3. More and more publishers are going digital the whole way, and of course it's so much more cost-effective for freelancers like me, with not having to pay for paper, ink cartridges and postage - or having to pass the cost on to the clients!

    Another advantage to the client of using Track Changes is that I sent them the marked-up copy with my comments in the margin, but also a clean, black copy with all my changes accepted, so they can read it through and see how it flows better. And the clean copy still has the comments in the margin, which they can delete after they've read them.

  4. I don't even have a red-leaded pencil. As you said, today it's all done on the computer. Thank goodness - that's easier for the editor and for the author.

  5. Haha--I like that Jodie, the idea of accepting your own changes. Talk about your subtle persuasion.

    I use black pencil for the reasons Dani suggests, and also because I don't want any of this to smack of the author being "corrected." The notion makes me cringe.

  6. I never did use a pencil with red lead for editing, even before computers when I edited for a magazine. As Dani pointed out, black erases better, can be seen on the ms better in most cases, and the lead stays sharp longer. And for a final proofing, going through a printed ms or an ARC does work best for me. I lose too many commas when reading on my computer, which is why I am better at content editing than final proofing. LOL

  7. I do own an erasable red pen that I think is cool, but I haven't really thought of a good use for it.

  8. I don't think I own a red pencil, but when I do on-line critiques I use a red computer font. It stands out so my comments aren't missed. I really have no negative impressions of red markups--probably because I always got good comments on my schoolwork.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  9. I use comment bubbles on Word. I never do line edits on paper anymore!

  10. Kathryn, if I forget to also send a clean copy with my changes accepted, my clients ask for it. Many of them feel overwhelmed by looking at all the red deletions and additions first. They like to read the clean copy, and look at the markups later. And many of them opt to make further revisions on my final, clean copy, rather than the redlined one. If they don't agree with something I've changed, they can always change it back, but at least all the grammar and punctuation and typos are corrected, so they don't have to think about that. And once I check their subseqent (indicated) revisions and accept them, and delete any leftover comments, we have a clean, final copy - no need to copy and paste.

  11. When I first started doing critiques I used Track Changes in green rather than red, so that clients didn't feel I was correcting them, merely offering suggestions. It looked more friendly too.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  12. I haven't used a red pencil since high-school (it was one of those super-cool pencils with a red point on one end and a blue point on the other!). But at my last office job, when we still did a lot of editing on paper, my department used red pens until the VP of Marketing said it made his staff feel like they were being scolded! So we switched to purple. :)

  13. Nope! I use a regular ol' black lead pencil :) I like a pencil because it is easier to erase, like you say. And red can be a bit intimidating to your client. I do use red on my TrackChanges program though.

  14. As a writer, I print a hard copy of my 1st draft and let it sit for a few weeks. When the time come. I dust if off, read over it, and use a red pen for my edits. I prefer the contrast of the red ink on the page. It immediately draws my attention when I'm skimming through a manuscript.

    When I'm polishing off a 2nd draft, I tend to pass it between a few friends who are educated and avid readers. I hand them a red pen along with the manuscript and ask them to circle typos and write comments in the margin. I do this to help cath the hiccups in contect that spellcheck or I may have missed. When they return the manuscript, I can quickly thumb through it and find the trouble spots.

    By the time I forward my work to an editor, we usually just have to hash out a few minor details.


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