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H-ASIA December 31, 2009 Copy-editing of journal articles vs book manuscripts ************************************************************************ From: Peter Matanle <email@example.com> Thanks to Gerald Jackson for raising the issue of academic publishing. I speak here both as a researcher and as an editor of an open access online journal (www.japanesestudies.org.uk). In terms of publishing my own work in journals, although I am still rather a neophyte compared to most members of this list, my own experience has been that the journal doesn't do much in the way of editing beyond correcting for house style and suggesting possible changes to the text if there are problems with spelling, syntax, grammar etc. In my experience, however, journals are usually very cautious about changing text for fear of changing the intended meaning. Thus, when changes may be needed the editor will point these out and suggest that the author himself either accept the change, rewrite, or ignore the suggestion. I think this is a good way to go for journal articles as, in most cases, it will make sure that errors will be corrected but that author's intended meaning is still respected. In terms of book publishing, my own experience has been that publishers will pay more attention to editing the text than journals, but that their efforts in doing so may not always be that good, so it pays to go with a publisher that hass a good reputation in this area ... and ask around for the opinions of colleagues who have published with more than one press (that way they can give you a better idea of the pros and cons of each place). For example, I have had the experience where a publisher sent the text out to Malaysia for copy-editing and it came back as pdf with a large number of changes, some of which were corrections that made the English worse! Moreover, because the text was a pdf it was impossible to see where the changes had been made, so I had to read through the entire text with great care to make sure all was OK, and then go through the same process of sending out to Malaysia again! Actually, this was made acutely embarassing for me because the copy editors changed the title of one of the chapters (it was an edited collection), and noone noticed that this had happened until the book was already published. Said author was naturally extremely unhappy, as the meaning and sense of the chapter then became confused. Nevertheless, I think that editors of both journals and books, where they have the resources, should pay attention to trying to improve content above and beyond the contributions of manuscript reviewers/readers. In my experience as a journal editor it is often the case that suggestions as to style and content have been warmly received by authors (so long as the suggestions are made gently and respectfully!) and the result has often substantially improved the article's quality. My proviso would be that changes that go beyond simply correcting spelling and for house style should always be flagged up to the author so that he/she has the final say. It is rather easy to do, actually, as most copy editing is done electronically these days, and all the editor needs to do is to turn on the 'track changes' function in MSWord and let the author see what has been done to the text, and it is the author's responsibility to choose to accept or reject the change. Where more substantive suggestions are needed, such as in the ordering of sentences/paragraphs and changing from a passsive to active voice, etc., then these need to be communicated separately. Again, the editor needs to do this gently, but in my experience of being at both ends of the 'business' (writer and publisher), authors are normally very grateful to have someone assist in improving the text. It is often the case that a journal or book publisher will receive a text from a non-native English speaker and this may present some problems. Either the English will be poor or the flow will not conform to patterns normally expected by English language academic convention, and so on. On those occasions it is often necessary simply to politely suggest to the author that he/she get some help. However, this is in itself may not be so simple, as often the author may just grab the nearest English conversation teacher and ask for corrections to be made, which will not be sufficient for a journal due to the rewriter's own lack of experience in academic publishing and writing. So, I allways suggest that authors be very careful as to who they ask to rewrite and to choose someone who has substantial experience of academic publishing themselves. This may cost money, but it is worth it in the end because the quality of the article is likely to be better and the article is likely to proceed more rapidly through the review and publication process so that the author can then get on to the next piece of work. One more thing. It is often said that the better the press the longer it takes to publish. Personally, I don't think that it needs to be that way, and I know that one or two publishers are extremely rapid but also very professional in their attention to detail. Nevertheless, some commercial academic publishers in the UK are not that respectful of their authors, I believe. This is indicated in some subtle and not so subtle ways. For example, and this might be a personal gripe, but I think the cover is really important for a book yet some publishers do not pay sufficient attention to this aspect of book design, preferring simply to make it conform to a series or even publisher style. Often there is no information about the book anywhere on the front or back cover beyond printing the main title and author's name. Often there are no unique graphics on the cover and no endorsements or short summaries on the back cover to entice a reader in. This says to me that the publisher may be more interested in creating its own brand image than in taking care over the content of the volume, and that the publisher is actually not that interested in post publication marketing either ... and consequently that the author's work may not get to be read by many people. Personally, and now that I have a couple of books out, I will in future try to avoid these companies. Anyway, that's my little contribution .... Happy New Year! Peter --------------------- Dr Peter Matanle Lecturer in Japanese Studies, National Institute of Japanese Studies and School of East Asian Studies University of Sheffield, UK, Tel: +44 (0)114 222 8407 General Editor, electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies Website: www.japanesestudies.org.uk e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ****************************************************************** To post to H-ASIA simply send your message to: <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu> For holidays or short absences send post to: <email@example.com> with message: SET H-ASIA NOMAIL Upon return, send post with message SET H-ASIA MAIL H-ASIA WEB HOMEPAGE URL: http://h-net.msu.edu/~asia/