All posts by Carol Saller


Too Late to Learn? Helping the Reluctant With Technology

Creative Daydreaming, from

Creative Daydreaming, from

Everyone has at least one friend, relative, or colleague who is not yet competent in even the most basic computer tasks: creating a document, e-mailing, browsing online.

It’s hard to imagine an academic with poor computer skills. And yet, they aren’t that rare. I know, because I work with them. One correspondent doesn’t know how to open an attachment to an e-mail. Another asks me to convert the edited chapters of his book to an old version of Microso…


Help Me Understand My Copy Editor: a Lingua Franca Dialogue, Part II

Today Lucy Ferriss and I continue a  conversation we started on Wednesday about why copy editors do the things they do.

Lucy: What is with the love of italics? Again, this peeve applies mostly to the personal essay or fiction. If the internal monologue or remembered bit of conversation is clearly designated as such, I prefer to keep it in roman. All that italic makes me feel as though people are either whispering or shouting. I see increasing amounts of italic for imagined conversations, what a …


The Top 10 Edits to Academic Book Manuscripts

Photo: Martin Thomas

Even after a well-written and well-prepared book has made it past an acquiring editor and through peer review, there is plenty for a manuscript editor to do.

I’ve written perhaps too much already about the trials of editing footnotes and bibliographies, so this time I’ll set those parts of the manuscript aside. Here are the issues my colleagues and I spend the most time on in the main text, in reverse order of how much labor they require.

10. Spacing. Although unwanted space…


A Would-Be Anthropologist Looks at Trucker Lingo

Recently my brother let me ride with him for a week of long-haul trucking in his 18-wheeler. Who hasn’t ever wanted to do that? It’s been a dream of mine from the time I was little and was thrilled by The Big Red Pajama Wagon, by Mary Elting, in which pretty much nothing happens but which thrilled me anyway.

A week in which nothing happens is the trucker’s goal, it turns out. And Tom is a relative novice, having taken up trucking a few months ago after 20 years of teaching high-school math. He…


Can You Read This? (or, Is Cursive Dead Yet?)

As far back as the early 1990s, I thought that any school curriculum lacking instruction in typing was shortsighted. Had I been asked to jettison cursive writing to make room for keyboarding, however, I would have been surprised and doubtful. But today that is exactly what has happened in many elementary-school classrooms. Already, we hear, there are high-school and college students who when asked to read memos in longhand might as well be asked to read Linear B.

In future, I imagine families sc…


Typographic Book Covers

Roberto Bolano, "The Savage Detectives," cover by Rodrigo Corral

In a recent post about the timing of cover design in the publication process, I mentioned a colleague’s comment that typographic covers have the potential to wow just as much as those that feature a photograph or other illustrative art. To learn more, I put some questions to some design and marketing professionals.

When is a book cover given the typographic treatment? Is it a second-class choice?

“Definitely not, from a marketing…


Will Your Citations Pass or Fail?

Photo by Manuel Bahamondez H

When an academic book manuscript is under contract and comes to my department for copy-editing, it undergoes an initial review by the assistant managing editor (yours truly) before assignment. If I find any major problems, I send the manuscript back to the acquiring editor, who returns it to the author for what is probably not the first round of revision but is hopefully* the last.

Things have to be pretty awful for that to happen. After all, copy editors expect to d…


When Can I See My Book Cover?

My walk to work takes me down a charming 1890s street that is under constant renewal, and over the years I’ve enjoyed watching the restoration of several frame cottages and a couple of large Victorian beauties. Yesterday I stopped to watch some workers tear off a roof, and I wondered why it was being done several months into the rehab instead of at the beginning. Does that mean water was leaking all this time into the new interior? Maybe someone can enlighten me.

In any case, it reminded me of …


Book Indexing, Part 3: Tips for Do-It-Yourselfers

Photo by Hans Gerhard Meier

If after reading Parts 1 and 2 of this series you’ve decided that a computer isn’t competent to index your book and that hiring a professional isn’t an option, and if you’ve never written an index before, you might appreciate some advice. Here are some answers to questions I frequently hear from writers contemplating the DIY solution.

Q. How elaborate an index should I make?

A. Browse through the book and put yourself in the place of a reader or teacher or student and…


Book Indexing, Part 2: Infinite Loops and Easter Eggs

Photo by Philip Dean

Last week when I listed various reasons why you should not allow a computer to write the index for your monograph, I failed to mention one: That is, you might want to do it yourself because it’s potentially a lot of fun.

I say “potentially” because it is also potentially infuriating, but never mind that for now. Today we’re all about fun.

Many readers are unaware of the mischief book indexers get up to, because few of us read through indexes from beginning to end. Rather, we…