Theoretically, writers are responsible for writing complete, properly formatted citations. Editors should only have to do a light edit, querying any missing information. Among other items, your citation checklist should include:
- The desired citation style was used
- Citations in the text are listed in the references
- Names are correctly spelled
- Titles are correct
However, I’ve yet to hear that this happens anywhere. It’s more typical for copyeditors to have to do a lot of cleanup and a lot of research to find missing information. As a result, editing citations can take as long, if not longer, than editing the rest of the text.
There are a few ways to make the work easier.
CHOOSE A STYLE TO FOLLOW
Someone needs to choose a style so the citations will be consistent. This is especially important in multi-author works. If you can make the decision, do. Otherwise, make a recommendation to the decision maker. Lean toward what’s easiest to apply or most appropriate for the topic and readers.
For example, if there’s a trend among your authors, such as most of them using the American Psychological Association’s (APA) style, choosing APA would lessen your work. If you’re editing a medical journal, the American Medical Association’s style would be appropriate.
PUT YOUR SOFTWARE TO WORK
Citations are all about formatting precision, which software is very good at. Anything you can automate in the process will speed your editing pace.
If you’re able to coach your writers into using Word’s tools, you might have an easier time editing citations:
- Word’s Footnotes function will insert a footnote or endnote number at the cursor’s position and at the bottom of the page or end of the document. Note that it doesn’t always play nice with the Track Changes function, but once the changes are accepted or rejected, the problems generally fix themselves.
- Word’s Citations & Bibliography function will help you create a citation and then a bibliography.
Macros can help by fixing formatting on many citations at once, saving you a lot of time. The Editorium’s NoteStripper will strip out, change, or add formatting and can be purchased on its own or as part of a package of macros. Our tech guru, Adrienne Montgomerie, shares her passion for NoteStripper in this review.
HIRE SOMEONE TO HANDLE CITATIONS
Because editing citations can take longer than editing the main text and writers strongly resist creating them correctly the first time, hiring an editor to work on citations while you work on the main copy can make the difference in hitting deadlines. Students or new editors can be good choices: they’re recently trained in tools and styles, and working for you can give them some much-needed editing experience.
Members can read an in-depth review of citation software, “Online Citation and Bibliography Software” by Dawn McIlvain Stahl, in the October–November 2014 issue of Copyediting newsletter.
Image: Future Atlas CC BY-2