Electronic Editing

Electronic editing means editing on screen with a software program that can track the editing changes and provide an edit trail for review. The editor usually has an option of printing a copy of the manuscript showing every alteration, only substantive changes, or only the revised version. Decisions regarding this "paper trail" are generally made between the author and editor: some authors want to see every change; others prefer clean, flowing copy.

Selecting projects for on-screen editing
The best candidates for electronic editing are:

  • Manuscript with no room for editing (single-spaced or with minimal margins);
  • Manuscript riddled with handwritten inserts;
  • Scannable manuscript without corresponding disks;
  • Manuscript needing restructure or heavy editing.

The straightforward manuscript that you expect will be lightly edited presents few problems—whether edited conventionally or on screen. Electronic editing offers limited additional benefit.
     Poor candidates for on-screen editing are manuscripts in disciplines requiring frequent use of interlinear symbols unavailable in standard word processing programs (e.g., chemistry, linguistics, logic), or ones with elements that cannot be directly translated into typesetting programs (e.g., projects with built-up equations or those having lots of tables).

Benefits of electronic editing
A major advantage to editing on screen is that alterations can be seen, approved, and put into the electronic file before any typesetting costs are incurred.

  • Early use of all the files ensures that the disk is usable and complete.
  • Authors will not have to learn the shorthand of editing marks.
  • Early review of the file by editors and author reduces the need for subsequent proofreading and correcting by proofreaders, author, and editors.
  • Confirming the input at an early stage can be especially valuable if the author will be unavailable later in the production process.
  • Editors do their best work when not hampered by a physically disastrous manuscript.
  • Electronic manipulation is a major improvement over cutting and pasting on projects that require heavy editing or significant rewriting.

The bottom line
When editors edit electronically, they usually complete their task by reviewing the work approved by the author, removing queries and unapproved alterations, and reviewing the coded disk for composition.
     Part of the advantage of having editors edit on screen is the added value they provide by bringing their trained eyes and ears, as well as their familiarity with the project, to the electronic file.
Because of the editor's skills, compositors do not need to make alterations and can bypass the input department. Pages flow quickly and there is no need to proofread. Weeks can thus be saved in page makeup and generation.
     Cost is another major benefit when using a corrected electronic file. Although people who edit on disk generally charge more than their paper-and-pencil colleagues, compositors may charge less when they can run pages from clean disks—reducing the cost of composition by 10 percent on a book with light corrections to as much as 35 percent on one with heavy alterations.
     In an attempt to reduce the cost of correcting the file, a publisher may turn to a service bureau instead of the compositor or the editor. This masks accountability for the changes being made. The publisher cannot guarantee the work of this third party and therefore cannot ask for the best "clean file" discount from the compositor.
     Occasionally a publisher may turn to the author to input the editing as the manuscript is being reviewed. This is an especially dangerous path because it diverts the author's attention from manuscript approval, it allows the author to insert unedited changes, it destroys the paper trail, and it forces the publisher to carefully review the work again to confirm that all changes are consistent and appropriate—an additional step easily avoided by better alternatives available. The publisher cannot guarantee the work of the author and therefore cannot ask for the best discount from the compositor.
     The major benefit of editing online is that the editor can input changes with minimal cost and delay. If the editor is not able to input approved alterations, the compositor can still provide this task with skill, experience, speed, and accountability.  

At Generic, we are happy to advise on the suitability of a particular project for electronic editing and to translate disks for editing on screen into whatever software is most convenient for the editor.
     If the manuscript does not have an electronic file, we can scan a clean manuscript or keyboard a messy one. Traditionally this is the first stage of the composition process, but it can also be the first stage in getting a manuscript ready for editing on screen and a good way to control the schedule and costs of your books.

For further information, please email us, including your name, affiliation, and areas of interest, and we will get back to you quickly.

Generic Compositors
152 Starheim Road
Stamford, NY 12167
607 652-BOOK (2665)
815 346-5272 (fax)
email us

Copyright © 2001 Generic Compositors, a Division of Stonecrest Industries, Inc. 1/27/12 12:27 PM


Generic's Home Page
The Folks Behind Generic
Introducing Generic
Typesetting Costs
Typesetting Quality
Typesetting Schedules


Editing on Galleys
Editing and Copyediting
Editing on Screen (Electronic Editing)


Generic House Styles
Using Author Disks
Never a Charge for Author Alterations
Evaluating Composition
PDF vs. Page Layout Files

Full Service

Full Service
Author Relations


Archiving Projects
Generic's FTP site
Electronic Publishing
Finding a Publisher