Blog Archives

Editorial Etiquette by JB: Track Changes Etiquette

We are here to help, but editors are also on a deadline to get a manuscript as yummy as possible in the time allotted. The Microsoft Word program known as Track Changes is a dream come true for getting the work done in a timely manner on both sides of the writer/editor coin. Your publisher has probably helped introduce you to this built-in program and your editor should be helping you learn the ins and outs of using this feature to keep the progress of editing (by the editor) and revising (by the writer) running smoothly. It really is an ingenious tool for this business and using it is the best way to learn it. Here are a couple of tips for working with someone else on the same document which is all Track Changes amounts to. You may want to check with your publisher and ask if they have any particular guidelines you should follow when working with your editor and the Track Changes feature.


Begin with your own personal Track Changes playground. Create a new file in Word and type a paragraph into it. This is your testing area for learning the many advantages of the program. This shouldn’t be anything you intend to send to someone, it’s just the place you play around with settings, making changes, and generally trying out all the features of the program. Knowing what’s going on with Track Changes makes the work of revisions make more sense. Playing around with Track Changes in your manuscript is not advised. Things get lost forever that way.


1. Settings: The first basic step is to click on the Review tab at the top of the screen. About the center of the new tool bar at the top will be boxes Track Changes and Balloons with arrows pointing down that indicate drop-down menus available. Clicking Track Changes will bring up a drop-down menu of Track Changes, Change Tracking Options, and Change User Name. Play around with these options on your document. You may want to leave the default (automatic settings) or you may need to discuss option choices between you. Note, if you use a pen name for your fiction, you may want to address this and change the user name to your pen name instead of your real name which the program automatically sets.


2. Balloons: It’s clever that Microsoft called this option a balloon. It is where a new comment is created and stored so the other user can see what you thought. They start out small and skinny like a balloon without air in it and grow as words are added to the comment. There are three options in the Balloons drop-down menu and the default setting is usually “Show only comments and formatting in balloons”. Click on an option to activate it and then work in your test document to see what the balloons look like. To get a balloon, you have to first click New Comment and one will appear on the right hand side of the screen. Start typing your comments and they will appear in the balloon. Change your mind? Leave the cursor in the balloon and click Delete in the tool bar.


3. Brevity: This post is not specifically about the particulars of using Track Changes, but it had to start out that way to get us to the talking point about what should and should not go into a balloon. Both editor and author have the ability to click New Comment and write a new balloon. This is a fine place to leave small notes, ask brief questions, make a reminder, or give brief explanations. Balloons are not the place for lengthy dissertations on the difference between the use of commas in lists in MLA and Chicago style guides. Keep comments in balloons brief.


Play around with the feature, agree to settings with your document partner, and be brief when it comes to filling comment balloons. Long discussions can and should take place in the email that accompanies the document or in another style guide document.


Do you have any personal experiences you can share about comment balloons that would help us make better and better use of them?



JB George



Compromise When It Comes to Criticism

    AUTHOR: Edit. Revise. Edit. Revise. Edit. Revise. When is this person going to leave my book alone?

EDITOR: When it sings. When it literally sounds like a free flowing melody in my head.

After all the toil and trouble you’ve gone through to get the manuscript completed and accepted, there are some days the editing process is a downer. On the list of “things I like to do to myself”, receiving criticism is rarely in the top ten. We remember school days and big red letter grades at the top of papers flying from the teacher’s hands. A wrong answer is a wrong answer on a math test or a multiple choice exam. It’s in the classroom where I believe we learn to receive constructive criticism the wrong way. We take it personally, and we shouldn’t.

Overloaded classrooms, overworked teachers, and over bearing administrations do not make for a successful working atmosphere. Teachers are busy, busy, busy, but this isn’t about school. ( I love teachers, by the way.) It’s about editors who are busy, busy, busy and writers who sometimes need to relearn accepting comments on their manuscripts. Editors are always teachers. They have to be. Writing is a perpetual learning process. Editors and writers are always learning. But teachers are not always editors. It isn’t right to assume that your editor’s comments are the same as what you received in school. The whole process is totally about getting better by learning something new and learning requires CHANGE. Some writers and editors find it harder to change than to take the criticism.

Notice I’m not saying, “Take criticism of their writing.” I’m intentionally avoiding the possessive pronouns (our writing, your writing, my writing, their writing, her writing, etc.) because in order to learn, grow, and change as a better and better writer, we all have to learn to write it, get out of it, then let it go. Only then will the editing process be less personal and less stressful. Constructive criticism is for the good of everyone: author, editor, publisher, sellers, readers, relatives. Editing is the only way a book can be the best it can be because a group of grey matters has contributed to the final product. Several brains have come together and created a group project that started with the seed of your novel’s manuscript. That’s a wonderful thing to behold. But we know from experience it isn’t easy.

But how do we get comfortable with being told to change our baby (manuscript) when we don’t think it stinks? We are the proud parents of a perfect child. How could anything be wrong with something we’ve put our hearts, souls, and DNA into? That’s the point. Super-imposing a writer’s own persona into a novel will cause everybody problems. What’s the answer? Compromise.

The word compromise is descended from the glorious language of antiquity Latin. Compromise is derived from the Latin comprimittere which means “to bring together”. A compromise means pressing together for a mutual goal. The end result is not always completely fifty-fifty. A compromise is the result of whatever it takes from all parties involved to get the job done. And therein is the rub. If the job of editing and revising is a constant struggle, the job is never done and fewer books are written because some aspect of the editorial process is resistant to change.

It’s also interesting to note that one of the many other definitions of the Latin word comprimittere is “to embrace”. Barrel hugging the idea of criticism might be one way for editors and writers to arrive at the compromises needed to complete the project with as little stress, wine, and bandages as possible. The option is to struggle and stagnate or let go and write the next book! Of course, you can always visualize the royalty check and be done with resisting.

Do you have any constructive examples of compromise where writing is concerned? Any good advice on how to avoid the struggle and embrace the process?

Keep in mind that nobody is perfect.


JB George


Holiday Gifts for the Editor/Writer in Your Life

Thank you is a two-way street. Perhaps you feel in the mood to thank your editor this holiday season for the effort and time devoted to your novel. Here are some ways and links that might work. These gifts go both ways and work for editors as well as writers. You don’t have to spend large amounts of money. The special note of thanks you write on the card goes a long way. Whatever your budget, your editor will appreciate being remembered.


1. The post office is in dire straits. Mail a paper card with your signature and a stamp and help save an American institution.



2. Your editor does not automatically receive a copy (print or digital) of your completed book. Send her an autographed copy.



3. Gift cards to buy books or office supplies are a great gift for the editor who never has time to run out to the store for paper and ink.



4. Electronic greeting cards are ok. Search for a special one.



5. Editors read a lot. Anything book related such as mini book lights and book marks are welcome gifts. How about a journal or a planner?



6. A gift certificate to your mutual publishing house would be welcome.



7. Magazine subscriptions cost a lot of money these days. Perhaps you can afford a year of a writing magazine for your editor.


8. Editors are normally overwhelmed by the amount of filing required to keep track of just one book. USB flash drives come in a variety of prices and storage amounts.



9. Starbucks rules the world. A coffee gift card will be sucked up in a month by your editor.


10. With food intolerances and allergies on the rise, send gift cards for large chain restaurants if you want to send a food care package. You might be surprised by the number of people who can NOT eat chocolate, peanuts, dairy, wheat, or corn.

If you have any good ideas for editor/writer gifts, chime in!


Smooches (and sweet holidays,)

JB George


Editorial Etiquette by JB


Smooth Sailing With Ground Rules

Editorial Etiquette by JB


“Getting on the same page with your editor”


Just like the characters in a romance novel, the way a relationship begins will often determine how it ends. If the couple starts off on the wrong foot, chances are they will end up teetering on the edge of making it work for the long term. The same is true of the editor/writer relationship. It’s important to find out as much as possible in the beginning about the new “significant other” in your writing life, because the path to a fond and lasting relationship can easily go sour fast when one partner or other discovers some distasteful habits that threaten the enduring nature of the agreement. And it is an agreement. The editor/writer relationship is based not only on the official written contract involved in most published writing, but it depends a great deal on the expectations of each party. And not having a clear understanding of the expectations at the get-go can sometimes mean rocky times down the road.


One of the best ways to understand something or someone better is to ask questions. Granted, not all editors want to be barraged with a slew questions from a new writer they’ve been assigned to and here’s the reason. Nothing in the writing business is absolute. The letters may be black and white, but that’s the only guarantee any of us get for something to meet our expectations. The copy will turn out in black and white. Beyond that, circumstances may color everything else involved. That’s why an editor can’t actually pin themselves down on everything. Things change for editors, writers, and publishers and a certain amount of flexibility has to be part of the relationship. But there are some ground rules that most editors and writers will agree are part of the deal. But try to ask questions at the beginning of an editorial relationship to help matters go smoothly.


1.Regardless of how many editors a writer has worked with in the past, a new editor is a new beginning. Regardless of how many writers an editor has worked with, there is always something new to learn from a first-time assignment.

2.Editors do not have to work seven days a week. Editors may work seven days a week if they wish but they are not required to do so. Writers are free to work seven days a week but don’t expect an editor to answer emails or calls on Saturdays and Sundays.

3.Editing is more than “Comma clean-up in line 47.” Just like the writing, editing is time consuming because it takes thought. Give an editor sufficient time to think before chewing on their email accounts every couple of hours day after day. Let writers have enough time to make revisions.

4.Editors have more than a single manuscript in play. Yes, they are seeing someone on the side besides you, but it comes with the territory. Give an editor the freedom to “work around.” Writers are therefore free to “write around” too.

5.Writers are tender souls who need TLC at certain times. This applies to editors as well.



JB George





Email Etiquette and Editors

The Internet is both a blessing and curse. If you’ve spent any amount of time “surfing the net,” you understand the inherent complications when it comes to looking for something (there’s so much to choose from it is overwhelming,) and the rules of communication we’re accustomed to are slightly skewed. Email, blogs, and websites have given writers the opportunity to connect with other writers and readers worldwide. But having a conversation online isn’t the same as having a face-to-face dialogue.


What are the accepted terms of Internet discussions, and what is the best advice for staying in touch when the Internet confines and defines a relationship? Some people think “www” stands for “wild, wild, west” and anything goes. However, when it comes to dealing with your editor at a publishing institution, there are some particular guidelines that will help everyone involved stay engaged, in the know, and stressed less. Of course, every online relationship eventually creates its own particular set of acceptable terms for behavior, but these ideas are a safe place to begin. The key word is RESPECT.


REVIEW-before you hit submit, read over what you’ve written and be sure it’s as correct as you want it to be.


EDIT-to edit is to improve. As you review your email, blog, or web content, make sure you don’t sound like a pirate the morning after pillage.


SORRY- when someone writes, “I’m sorry this email is so long,” I think, “Why didn’t you read over what you wrote and delete what made it so long?” Don’t be sorry, be sure what you’ve written is meaningful.


PROFESSIONAL-this is also known as being “politically correct.” Professionals don’t use many adverbs or adjectives in correspondence. Stick to the facts necessary to the correspondence. Avoid words like “really”, “terribly”, and “awfully” because they indicate emotions. This is a business relationship. Keep communications professionally correct by keeping the emotions to yourself.


EXPECTATIONS-anticipation was a great idea for the song by Carly Simon, but it is always a breeding ground for stress.


COURTEOUS-it’s a welcome and advisable habit to be considerate and courteous of whomever the email or blog is directed. Standard salutations such as “Hi” and “Greetings” are a friendly way to begin an email and tell the receiver what kind of mood the email contains. In general, be kind. Always include a greeting and a closing no matter how brief or simple.


TIMELY-Beth Walker, publisher for Secret Cravings Publishing has this to say about the timeliness of staying in touch with your editor:

“My thought on the matter is if you haven’t received a response from an email you’ve sent whether it be to the author, Ariana, me or another editor, in a couple of days, I’d say email again and tell them to please response with at least an ‘I got it.’ I try to respond to every email I receive with that.


If it gets to the point you’ve emailed a couple of times and received no response at all, then email Ariana or me. I know there have been a few authors that do not respond to the editors at all and will only respond to my emails. I also know there have been one or two that don’t respond at all, even to me and we’re dealing with them as best we can.


To me, it’s rude to not acknowledge the receipt of an email. Unfortunately, we can’t make them email you back. I’ve sent reminders and all I can ask of you all is to put a note in your email to please send you an email saying you got it. I know for our email being yahoo, they tend to lose emails and I say that in my email.”

Lastly, give the person on the receiving end of the missive a minimum of 24 hours to respond. If you don’t get at least a “got it” within that time period, send a quick and friendly check in to see if the message was actually received. And always make a correspondence plan in writing with your editor. Ask up front, “How long should I wait before I check with you about the status of the manuscript?” Most editors have a turnaround time in mind for projects and will give you an idea of what’s acceptable as far as contacting them. Remember they are almost always working on several manuscripts at a time.


Do you have any online correspondence advice to share?


JB George



Labor Day Greetings To Writers and Editors!

“Editorial Etiquette by JB”


Labor day was designated to recognize the efforts of working people who contribute to the economic and social progress of our great nation. It is not only for manual laborers as the term may imply. Everyone who works and supports the economy is due a day of rest. Even though many businesses and services remain open and continue to work through this long held holiday in the United States.

Writers and editors work hard, although my husband has had to learn to appreciate that I’m working when I’m looking out into space, journaling at a coffee shop, or sitting frozen at the computer with my eyes wrinkled shut (bad). I’m thinking and thinking is work. He has also learned to be very patient because I’m always working as I’m trying to fall asleep. He has grown used to my jumping out of bed and pedaling the hallway to the office to write something down that I thought of before blessed sleep took over.

Writers and editors work ALL THE TIME! Our work happens in our brains and it’s difficult to “leave work at the office” because our office goes everywhere with us. And which one of us doesn’t have an obsession with mini-notepads?  There simply must be one in every purse, pocket, and slot in the car ready for my quick notes. These notes get tacked up by my computer and many times they are comments or fixes I want to make to a writer’s manuscript.

This is where appreciation for editors comes into play. Editors never stop thinking and editing a manuscript until they see it in print (or digital release.) The comments, notations, changes, and ideas from your editor are the results of non-stop labor on the part of your manuscript and making it the best it can be. That’s what they do. Editors are chosen for their perspectives, experiences, and training. When an editor reads a manuscript it is with a minimum of three pairs of eyes. The eyes of the Reader, the eyes of the professional Editor, and the eyes of you, the Writer. That’s why the process is so laborious. It takes a lot of time to read, read, and reread a piece from all those angles. That’s also why there are so many marks and ideas and changes on your manuscript. Because your editor cared enough to do the real work necessary to make your book the best it can be.


Be glad when your manuscript comes back with evidence that your editor did her job. Her job is to look at your work from a multiple of perspectives and after writing it, your job is to see things through your editor’s eyes and keep an open mind that she’s doing the best she can with what she has. What does she have? More on that in future posts of “Editorial Etiquette By JB.”

What was your SECOND reaction to an editor’s work on your manuscript after you settled down? How did it turn out?


JB George




Remember to subscribe to this fabulous new blog by clicking the “subscribe” button above in the tool bar and leaving your email address. This way you will get the blog automatically dropped in your email, and you will never miss any great Words From The Editor!