It is always good practice to revise and if necessary completely rewrite text in documents to ensure that they are accurate, concise, and the best they can be. Straightforward you might think and Aleksandr Orlov, TV superstar meerkat might say “What could possibles go wrong?” Quite a lot actually. But in the process of review there are some hidden traps an author can fall into.
If you change a proper noun such as a person’s name of place name this can be done using Word’s Find and Replace tool, but with care as there could be untold consequences, as a previous blog of mine illustrated. The same tool can be used when change variant spellings to one consistent spelling, such as focused / focussed.
Deleting or inserting text or illustrations
This can be quite tricky – the larger the insert or deletion the trickier it can be. Suppose you wish to insert a new paragraph of text, say some four or five lines. These are some of the consequences:
- Unless the insertion is on the short last page of the chapter it will create extra lines on the page on which it is inserted, and these will have to be taken over to the next page. This page in turn will be too long and text will have to taken over the page following that one, and so on until the end of the chapter. This is referred to as the effect on text flow or pagination.
- Inserted text may impact end-of-line word divisions on following pages, especially awkward to correct if the text has been set in narrower, two-column format, for instance in journals or reports.
- The reflow of text may create a widow (short last line of a paragraph falling at the top of a new page) or orphan (first line of a new paragraph at the bottom of a page) in subsequent pages when text is taken over.
- The knock-on effect to pagination will mean that the table of contents at the beginning of the book or the document may be incorrect regarding page numbers listed, especially where side headings are used in the text. If the inserted text contains a main heading, then that too may need to be added to the contents.
- Similarly, if the insertion of text requires figures, tables, or other illustrations to be taken over to a following page the list of figures and list of tables following the table of contents will need to be amended as regards the page numbers listed.
- Inserting a new illustration within existing text will also have the same above effects.
- The index (if applicable), which may be in the process of being compiled by someone else at the same time may be incorrect in the page numbers noted for certain entries, but not all.
- Page number cross-references in other parts of the book may now be incorrect and need amending.
- The inserted text should be in the same style as that already used, for instance for spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and capitalization. Ensure also that the existing voice is maintained, that is active or passive voice.
- The above consequences are in reverse for text or illustrations that are being deleted at review.
When replacing text in a document try to ensure that the new text is of the same length as that being deleted. When inserting additional text or illustrations check for the above after-effects until a short page occurs within the same section or chapter, or even a subsequent one.
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.