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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How long before all editing will be done on screen?

Jane Buekett gives us her expert view.

"When I started work in publishing, desktop computers did not exist. We had an office secretary who typed letters and purchase orders. Everything else was done by hand. I worked on science journals, marking up the copy in meticulous detail — deletion and insertion, bold and italic, subscripts and Greek symbols.

"It wasn't until the mid-90s that I started editing on screen. Some of my colleagues resisted the change — felt that they did a less thorough job without red pen in hand. But you can't reverse progress and the advantages were huge. You were no longer at the mercy of your typesetter, keying in the text by hand and introducing new errors. ,And heavy editing was easier when you could get hold of the copy and move it around, find and replace, then read through your clean edited text to check it made sense.

"I would argue that today pretty much all copy-editing is on screen. Even in fiction editing, where the author gets to see the changes, track changes is a better way of working. The compatibility of formatting in Word with typesetting software reduces error and cost massively. And a great deal of published material is itself electronic — eBooks, websites, PowerPoints, online journals, downloadable PDFs. Much of it never exists as linear text.

"At my company we still proofread hard-copy print outs of books — marking up of pdfs on screen is cumbersome. But this too is likely to change as technology progresses. There is little evidence of the death of printed books, but the process of producing them is thoroughly electronic, and will only become more so. We are as unlikely to go back to editing hard copy as we are to revert to typesetting in hot metal."

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