The Dark Ages: Before Google

What did writers (and editors) do before Google? I am constantly looking up information on Google as I edit academic books, verifying the spelling of names, dates, events, and any number of items which I, as editor, must ascertain are correct.

And I can do so by simply typing in the Google search box. Question on the Kosovo conflict? Thousands of hits at my fingertips. Uncertain about how Kafka viewed the unconscious, more hits. Need the names of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations? Voilá. And what is the difference between a barque and a junk? No problem, and here are photos to clarify further.

How did editors do this before now? Did they spend all of their time in academic libraries, scanning volumes and journals? I simply don’t know. Perhaps there were fact verifiers in addition to copyeditors, whose job it was to check this sort of information. I’ll have to ask someone who’s been in this business longer than I have. Meanwhile, it falls to me to check, and so I do. With gusto, and with the sense that I learn something with every mini-hunt I pursue. With each search, I push my own personal Dark Ages a bit further behind me, opening the doors to Enlightenment.

I feel my knowledge increasing on a daily basis, as I learn multitudes of new facts while scanning the Internet. As a friend said, I’m pursuing a PhD in Everythingology in my current career. And it’s all free (barring the Internet fee I pay to my provider). May it ever remain so!

It’s Called a Style Sheet

Yesterday I learned something new. When you copyedit for a publisher, they want you to create something called a Style Sheet as you read. I’ve never done that in the past, not with all the books I’ve edited. At least not officially.

A style sheet is a guide for the proofreader and the editor, listing all of the punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, and miscellaneous stylistic elements of the book. It also contains a long list of words used in the book, especially foreign words and names, for consistency of spelling.

I’ve kept lists like this when I edit, for my own sanity and edification (especially when I edited the book on Greek history), but never realized that such a thing would be useful to others along the publishing cycle. So, it’s an easy element for me to incorporate into my routine…but why had I never heard of it before?

I sit with the Chicago Manual of Style by my side as I edit because, though my brain is a treasury of grammar and punctuation rules, I sometimes double-think myself and have to verify what I already know.

It’s amazing how organized I feel now that I know about style sheets. I’ll use them for all of my clients now, for their own use and for them to pass along to their publishers.

Learn something new every day.