by Jennie Ruby
Editing continues to be one of the last processes in writing and publishing to be done on a computer. I still meet editors who have never tracked a change or typed a comment in Word. They are writing their corrections on a printout and later making the corrections to their document. Perhaps for the same reason that eBooks may never obliterate print publishing, there is just something easier about the pencil-paper interface than the keyboard-touchpad/mouse method. But the gap is closing.
For one thing, editors feel that seeing printed sheets of paper gives a more direct feel for the length and organization of a piece of writing. But today's computer monitors are generally large enough to display a full page at readable size. I recently taught a group of accountants who each had two wide-screen monitors set up in portrait orientation so that they could view two legal-size documents side by side.
A second problem is the clarity of the marking. When I started developing procedures for electronic editing in the 1980s, no word processor had a method for showing the changes to be made to a document. We used a little program called Red Pencil, which accepted only ASCII files and used graphical marks mimicking handwritten editing marks to indicate changes to text. When WordPerfect came out with their "redlining" feature, I jumped on it, but stick-in-the-mud reviewers and authors balked, claiming the marked up text was hard to read. I still hear this complaint now about Word's tracked changes, but when the alternative is some people's handwriting, the underlines, strikethroughs and balloons suddenly look a little better.
For those who still like to see the insert carat and strikethrough deletions, Adobe Acrobat's Text Edits tool does the trick, mimicking, like the old Red Pencil program, the hand-written carat symbol with inserted text in a separate pop-up note.
One of the last problems to be solved in tracked changes was how to mark text that was moved. Up through Word 2003, moved text appeared as deleted in one place and inserted in another. Word 2007 and 2010 solve that with an elegant green double-strikethrough and double-underline format with links between the moved from and moved to locations.
With the variety of on-screen editing tools now available, with the ease of emailing rather than faxing or mailing documents, and with the time savings that electronic editing and review provide, surely every office can find a way to move its reviewing and editing processes to the screen. Only the final proofreading stage for a print document need be done on paper.
I would love to hear your experiences with paper-and-pencil versus on-screen editing. Are you using Word's track changes? Acrobat's text edits? Acrobat's graphical mark-up tools? Are you using a mixture of electronic tools and paper printouts? Do you fax or email or walk your documents around for review? Do you use a shared network drive, or Sharepoint, or cloud computing to complete your reviews?
We have upcoming classes on all of these methods, and more. Here's to hoping our chewed on, eraserless, hand-sharpened editorial pencil nubs can start gathering dust--at least some of the time.
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? If so, consider attending my Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts class. I also teach the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts class.