These reminder strategies will help you keep track of what work there is still to do in your live manuscripts. This includes work that you need to go back and check later, as well as the usual list of copyediting tasks.
Strategies for Routine Tasks
Checklists can save your bacon; we already know that. You can start building your checklist by using one of the standards from Editors Canada—such as this one for copyediting, or one of the others listed at the end. Add items specific to the work in hand. In the old days of hard copy editing, I used to clip printed checklist to the front of every manuscript. Items were checked off as they were completed, including a routine tasks such as replacing a double spaces after a period.
Today my checklists are largely in my mind; they have become habit after 18 years of practice. But at the beginning of a file, I do still note unusual checks that need to be done. I write them right in the file (since all of my work is done on-screen now) and highlight the note in teal—my color of choice. That note is also set between square brackets to alert the compositor that it should not end up in the printed document—my failsafe strategy.
The advantage of putting a checklist right at the top of the file (or clipping it to the front of the hardcopy) is that you see it the moment to open the file. I always open a file to preview it one last time before attaching it to email, so this method has saved me more than once.
Strategies for Outstanding Items
Unless you work strictly linearly, stopping to check every fact and style as you go, there will be work left to do when you reach the end of a file. As you do that first read-through, you may mark items to check later so that you can keep in the zone. For example: facts and names or the formatting of catch lines. I highlight items like these using words highlighter tool.
My publishers use this tool to indicate different types of notes. Note to production are highlighted in yellow. When we need an author to enter content we highlight the instructions in green. For notes to myself, then, I use teal.
The Final Check
When you think you are done with a file, do one last search for all remaining highlights and “to come” markers such as TK and xx. Word will also search the comment bubbles along with the main text of the document. This critical pre-transmittal step ensures quality and consistency in your work.
To search for highlighting in MS Word, use the Advanced Find and Replace feature. Leave the find field blank and select highlighting from the formatting list in the expanded options. See the screenshot here from Word 365 for Mac; the dialog box on your system may look somewhat different but it has not changed much over many years.
Related to in this piece:
- Checklist for editing visual components
- Checklist for editing captions
- Checklist for citations and references
- Checklist for editing via The Canadian Style
- Verification checklist from Craig Silverman at the Poynter Institute (bit small, really)
- The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, and his related piece in The New Yorker
- An argument in favor of using checklists—a short form of the manifesto
- General praise and use of checklists