Sunday, April 15, 2007

Proof positive

My page proofs came through for my collection of short stories, Balancing on the Edge of the World, and for the first time ever I didn't use the British Standards Institution proof correction marks.

It felt like a kind of loss. I'll never forget the first time I ever used them, on the proofs of an early short story, using the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook: that exciting sense of learning a new code attached to an extra expertise, that of the printer, and of communicating directly with him/her.

Not so long ago, though, a young relative of mine was asked to edit a journal, and I offered to buy him a book containing the BSI marks. He looked at me with pity. He said, 'Oh we don't use those. We mark everything up on Word.'

Well, of course, I knew that the BSI marks had been dropping out of use. When I edited the short-story magazine Metropolitan, by which time the job of typesetting had moved away from the printer to the desktop publisher, very few of the authors used the old marks on their proofs, they simply wrote in their corrections in whatever way they saw fit.

And when my proofs for Balancing came through I thought: well, why don't I use the software markup too? And I did, and was thus able to send them by email, as well. Jen at Salt is happy. It just remains to be seen whether the typesetter is too...


Anonymous said...

that's interesting - as far as I am aware British Standards proof marks were still very much in use -is this another case of 'dumbing down'? They published a new concise laminated desk reference last year which comes in very handy. BS 5261C:2005 on their website if you want to order it.

I would have thought any publishing professional would contunie to use these marks - then there's no room for error as they are universally understood shorthand. Isn't that the point?

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, it is the point of course. Though I have still found on occasion that confusions have occurred when I've used them - as if the typesetter didn't understand the BSI mark or didn't notice it. And I have seen copy marked up by editors without using the BSI marks.

The digital markup is pretty good but limited: I found I couldn't change one or two things like paragraph inserts.

Anonymous said...

That is the point indeed but oh one would wish they were universally understood! In the past year I have moved from copy-editing and proofreading directly for authors to doing the same for a publishing house. Apart from the fact they have their own symbols it seems, they also use the solidus before changes, not after! This has resulted in their mistakenly reading delsymbol|3 as delsymbol 13, amongst others. Since I aspire to greater things someday I have resisted acquiring this bad habit because it will kill any hopes of achieving my aspirations.

Proofing marks will stay as long as there are paper proofs to read. I can't see them disappearing until paper and postage becomes prohibitively expensive.

I would say digital markup with Word, including paragraph inserts, is pretty complete but track changes must be active and you have to select which and how changes are visible to you. Having siad that it will not show things such as changes in tables - which is a pain because they are often crucial.

Elizabeth Baines said...

I also found that when I tried to change en dashes to em dashes on Word markup there was no track for this change, and the typesetter simply didn't seem to realise that a chnage had been made.

You say that proofing marks will stay as long as there are paper proofs, but I never had any (paper proofs) for this present book until we got to the bound proof, and all all communication has been done done via email. (Indeed, when I suggested to the publisher that I send her a marked-up paper copy to clear up the misunderstandings, she reacted with horror at the thought of being swamped with any more paper!)