Editorial Services Guide
By The Bay Area Editors' Forum

Changes in Traditional Publishing Operations
The Role of Editorial Expertise

Editors and Publishing Today: Changes in Traditional Publishing Operations

At the copyediting and proofreading levels, digital publishing technology both increases and decreases accuracy. On one hand, it makes possible accuracy- and consistency-assuring devices such as spell checking and search-and-replace operations. Because most manuscripts are now submitted on disk and are not re-keyed by a typesetter, fewer errors are introduced in the first stage of proof. On the other hand, the polished look of a computer-generated manuscript can fool anyone into thinking that the material itself is polished. Since editors and proofreaders working online may need time to get used to reading text on screen, they may at first miss more errors than they would on paper.

Overall, digital publishing technology has telescoped the publishing process. In CD-ROM and Web publishing, markets, funding constraints, and the nature of the media usually dictate that development and production take place almost simultaneously; but even in print publishing, processes that traditionally took several stages to complete—for instance, going from manuscript to page proof—can now be collapsed into one stage.

That collapse speeds the publishing process and helps make more information available to readers more quickly. However, another significant result is that many of the errors and inconsistencies that would have been corrected in a draft, in manuscript, or in galley proofs by traditional methods don't surface until much closer to the publication date, which diminishes the chances that they all will be caught and corrected before publication. Certain trends, such as leaving developmental editing tasks to copyeditors, compound the problem. And producers of Web sites may use the possibility of continual updates and revisions as an escape valve, simply leaving quality control until after the launch date, even though each revision reintroduces potential for editorial error.



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