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AWEsome Editing

We live in an era of artificial intelligence (AI). Even those who don’t own self-driving cars or operate drones from their phones use AI every day in some form or another. Social media algorithms, smart home assistants, virtual banking, streaming services, predictive text messaging—there seems to be no field that AI has not entered and completely changed. And that’s not a bad thing; AI makes our lives easier. As Sabine Hauert, cofounder of Robohub.org, says, the ultimate goal of AI should be to take on the “difficult, demanding, dangerous, [and] dull” jobs, allowing humans to focus on what’s left.

However, AI’s reach into jobs that have previously been done only by humans is worrisome to some. In the past decades, several automated writing evaluation (AWE) software programs have been created to help writers proofread, spellcheck, and improve their writing. With the success of other AI technology and AWE’s ease of use and access, some worry that traditional human editors will fade into obsolescence.

Fortunately, such a future is unlikely. AWE does provide helpful tools, but it cannot replace a human editor. While it can supplement and complement the work of an editor, it shouldn’t be used exclusively. Editors provide nuanced feedback, are overall more accurate than AWE, and help writers learn from mistakes. However, editors in the digital age could use AWE to increase productivity and overall efficiency.

One writer at Grammarist says that she uses several AWEs in her editing, running her manuscripts first through the built-in spellcheckers in Microsoft Word, then Google Docs, and finally through Grammarly—a practice that would prompt gratitude from any editor. It should be noted, however, that before and after using any AWE, she proofreads her writing to catch mistakes an AWE may not.

Editors could also opt to use AWEs only for specific aspects of editing. For example, reference sections are crucial in academic writing. However, formatting reference sections is incredibly nuanced and changes depending on which style is used. Researcher Yeonwook Kim suggests that AWEs such as Edifix, an AWE specifically for proofing references, and PerfectIt could be used to find and correct most of the errors in a reference section, leaving the human editor more time to address other, more refined issues (Kim 2020).

Another option for editors is the lesser known FRedit, a macros-aided editing technique conceived by Paul Beverley in his online book Macros for Editors. FRedit allows editors to use the macros option in Microsoft Word to automatically find, delete, or replace common and repeated global errors. Learning how to set up macros is simple and requires only a short video tutorial and some practice, after which editors can program their own macros into their FRedit document.

A FRedit macros might change all double hyphens to an em dash, convert straight quotes to smart quotes, correctly format ellipses according to the Chicago Manual of Style, delete extra spaces between words, and highlight any instances of open-ended quotes—all at once and with just a few clicks. This function is especially helpful for editors working on long manuscripts, when edits such as those listed above might number in the hundreds or even thousands. On his website, Beverley has a long list of sample edits that can be done by FRedit and how to code them in macros, but they all focus on correcting mechanical errors such as punctuation or formatting, leaving the more individualized, subjective editing to an actual editor.

Whatever combination of AWEs editors choose, they should remember that AWE programs are never a replacement for human eyes on a page. Even assisted by AI technology, editing is a meticulous, time-consuming job. Cutting corners by trusting too completely in an AWE will result in less correct, less personalized, and overall less helpful editing.

AWEs such as FRedit and Grammarly can’t replace human editors, but they can be used in conjunction with traditional editing to increase productivity and allow the human editor to focus on more individualized feedback. Editors provide something that AI has yet to achieve: empathy and connection, two skills that are absolutely vital for effective editing.

Specialist Versus Generalist: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Narrowing your Editorial Focus

If you’re like me, certain editorial projects peak your interest more than others. For me it’s horror, but others may favor historical fiction, memoirs, or short story collections. While focusing on these types of projects may speak to your individual passion and expertise as an editor, is pursuing a specialized career path an option in a world filled with such broad topics?

The quandary of specialist versus generalist is not unique to the world of publishing, with leaders across many industries advocating for one over the other. Bill Gates has come to the defence of generalists, crediting Microsoft’s success to generalists that have broad experiences. Others, however, warn against the old adage about the jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. They argue that specialists have deeper knowledge of subjects and are more aware of emerging opportunities and patterns within those subjects.

The benefits of specialization really comes down to what subject matters you wish to pursue. Editing literary fiction requires less specialization than something more technical, which may demand an editor be familiar with narrow topics and industry terms not well known to the general public. On the other hand, literary fiction still requires editors who know how to work with fiction writing. For instance, an editor who works mostly with memoir or nonfiction would probably not be a good fit for to edit a piece of pure fiction. Because of this, the line between specialization and generalist becomes blurred due to different levels of specialization.

Specialization not only comes down to genre, but also the levels and types of editing you are preforming. For instance, it may be more beneficial to be a specialist in historical fiction when doing a developmental edit, but not necessarily needed when copyediting the same piece of writing. This offers an opportunity to further refine your specialization within specific genres and subjects, but be wary of narrowing your field too far to be effective. Focusing in a popular genre could make you an in-demand editor, while working exclusively within a less utilized topic could eliminate other opportunities outside of your specialization.

So what does this all mean for entering a career in editing? Is it still possible to specialize in a genre you love? Yes! Being passionate about a particular genre or subject matter will mean that your editing will benefit the writer and help them refine their work. That being said, more doors will be open to you if you embrace broadening the types of projects you take on. This leaves room to pursue your unique passions and interests while also being a strong editor in other areas.

Editing pieces that speak to you or at least peak your interest certainly makes working as an editor more interesting, but I think there is a fine line between being a versatile editor and a specialist with too narrow of an expertise. There is certainly a balance to be struck between these two ranges of editing, and finding a good balance for yourself could result in being successful in the industry while still being able to work with the type of writing you are interested in. While some may warn about being a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, remember it can be better than being a master of one.

Pens surrounding text stating "Chicago Manual of Style" once in italics, once in quotes, and once in normal type

Quick Guide to Formatting In-Text Titles in Chicago Style

As Copy Chief at Ooligan Press, I am often faced with titles in the documents I edit. This can include book titles for blurbs, comp titles in marketing plans, media outlets in tipsheets, and a variety of references in blog posts like this one. Some of these are easy to remember. For example, book titles are set in italics according to The Chicago Manual of Style; however, if we are posting to social media, the book title should be entirely capitalized as italics is more difficult in a caption on those platforms. In addition, if I am editing something like a press kit, I need to make sure that the book titles are formatted according to the AP Stylebook and are in double quotes instead. Balancing these style guides and mediums can make it difficult to remember how titles are formatted. In addition, we read content all the time that doesn’t align to any style guide at all and title formatting is based on what the author may vaguely remember from high school. This guide will help clear up some of that confusion and create a document that you can refer back to whenever you come across this problem in your own writing or editing.

As a general rule, Chicago suggests “italics to set off the titles of major or freestanding works such as books, journals, movies, and paintings. . . . the names of ships and other craft, species names, and legal cases.” In addition, they recommend “Quotation marks are usually reserved for the titles of subsections of larger works—including chapter titles and article titles and the titles of poems in a collection.” Further, some titles do not need to be formatted in italics or quotation marks at all, such as “a book series or a website, under which any number of works or documents may be collected.” Chapter 8.2 of The Chicago Manual of Style establishes this general rule and presents us with a backdrop against which we can make future editorial decisions.


  • Names of single volume books: “I enjoyed reading The Book Thief.”
  • Names of multivolume work and individual volumes within a multivolume work
  • Names of the titles of the works in the collection, in a collection of works that features works that were published as separate books: “The introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason in Kant’s Collected Works . . .”
  • Names of pamphlets, reports, and similar freestanding publications
  • Names of periodicals such as newspapers
  • Names of magazines, journals, reviews (unless the words “magazine,” “journal,” or “review” are in the name of the publication these words are not italicized; for example, Time magazine)
  • Names of a very long poetic work, especially one constituting a book: Dante’s Inferno
  • Names of plays
  • Names of blogs and video blogs
  • Names of books that have online or website equivalent: The Chicago Manual of Style Online; the online edition of The Chicago Manual of Style
  • Names of video games
  • Names of operas, oratorios, tone poems, and other long musical compositions
  • Names of movies (or films) and movie series and of television, radio, and podcast programs and series

Quotation Marks

  • Names of articles and features in periodicals and newspapers, chapter and part titles, titles of short stories or essays, and individual selections in books
  • Names of (most) poems: Robert Frost’s poem “The Housekeeper” in his collection North of Boston.
  • Names of individual blog posts
  • Names of folktales, fables, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes
  • Names of songs and other shorter musical compositions
  • Names of a single episode in a television, radio, or podcast series
  • Names of titled sections, pages, or special features on a website

No Italics Or Quotation Marks

  • Names of book series
  • Names of regular columns or departments in periodicals
  • Names of websites: Wikipedia; Wikipedia’s “Let It Be” entry; Wikipedia’s entry on the Beatles’ album Let It Be
  • Names of networks, channels, and streaming services

In general, longer form content or content that has other works within it should be set in italics, while the short form content or works within works should be set in Roman type with quotation marks. When in doubt, check The Chicago Manual of Style. Happy writing and editing!

black and white photo of a desk with laptop, pens, comic images on paper, books about comics editing

What Have I Done: Acquiring Ooligan’s First Comic Book

I was asked recently how I felt having acquired Ooligan Press’ first comic book. I meant to say excited or hopeful, or perhaps confident. What came out of my mouth surprised me and elicited laughter from the roomful of editors I was addressing. “I’m terrified,” I answered. And it was the honest to goodness truth.

In theory, bringing Ooligan into the world of comics makes perfect sense. Portland has a thriving comics community with several well-known, successful publishers based here. Many of our alums have gone on to work for these houses. Portland State University has a Comics Studies program. And above all, we are a learning press. Producing a comic presents tremendous learning opportunities to supplement the skills we’ve gained producing books for trade publication, particularly in the editing, digital, and design departments. So then why am I terrified? I’m glad you asked.

When people learn about what we’re doing, entering the world of comics with no experience, with only logical reasoning and a sincere desire to learn spurring us on, I generally get two reactions: enthusiastic delight or doubtful dissuasion. Either way, you’re facing something unsettling. Those who love comics and think it’s great for us to infiltrate this industry could wind up disappointed. And those who think we should stick to what we know because we’re going to fall flat on our faces going down this hostile road could wind up being right! For transparency’s sake, and to reassure our supporters and, maybe not silence, but soften our critics, let me share with you how seriously we are taking this.

Before the pitch, I consulted with our publisher and the director of the publishing program, and together, we consulted with the director of the Comics Studies program, Dr. Susan Kirtley. She provided guidance and resources and agreed that this project would be a great educational opportunity for our departments to work collaboratively. I also consulted with an editor at Dark Horse, who graduated from the publishing program a few years ago, for my first lesson on comics editing. It became apparent after speaking with them and a few other experts that I was in over my head! All of these experts, while incredibly supportive, warned of the dire consequences of not doing this right. Comics makers and readers are passionate about the craft and will take you to task when you get it wrong. But that simply meant I had a lot to learn and little time to learn it, so I got right to work despite the fear creeping in.

During and after acquisition, we have been working with the author, Henry L. Miller, to raise funds to pay for the intensive illustration work (it costs a lot of money). Artist Jeff Parker will be illustrating this project, and he is an incredibly skilled, experienced professional, who is lovely to work with. He didn’t shame me or make me feel bad for being new to comics, or not knowing the difference between a word balloon (it’s balloon, not bubble) and a caption box. His willingness and ability to work with a first time author and an amateur comics editor is the only reason we were able to take on this new medium as a press.

Aside from reading a bunch of comics and books about comics, I’m also taking the Comics Editing course at PSU, taught this term by comics editor extraordinaire, Shelly Bond, who literally wrote the book on the subject. Not only have I learned about the rules, about word balloons and caption boxes, panels, tiers, and gutters, shots and angles, roughs, pencillers, letterers, inkers, and all the rest; I’ve also learned about creating harmony, among your creative team as well as on the page.

What does this all mean for Ooligan’s first foray into comics? Well, I’ll be passing along what I’ve learned to the person taking over the editorial role after I graduate in June. And continued collaboration with the Comics Studies program, particularly the editing course, will be highly encouraged if the press doesn’t want this first comic to be our last. After all, there’s a changing of the guard every year. Thankfully many students are participating in both programs just to be part of this project, which is a promising sign!

So what have I done acquiring Ooligan’s first comic? I can honestly say I have done my best.

A stack of books titled What Editors Do, The Subversive Copy Editor, and Chicago Manual of Style

Book Recs for Eager Editors

The last time I went into a large, unnamed, corporate bookstore in search of a book about editing, I found a half-shelf in the reference section dedicated to some things publishing. Out of the whole bookstore, that was the only place I found books about books. While some independent bookstores may be more helpful in providing resources to dive into editing, here’s a list of books all about editing that will make the journey of exploring editorial experience a little easier.

What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing by Peter Ginna

A collection of essays from professionals across the industry, this book is a great way to get an insight into multiple perspectives and how editing can be viewed as a craft and as a career. Founder of Bloomsbury Press, an imprint of Bloomsbury USA, Peter Ginna has the background and experience to understand the facets of publishing and create an informed list of essays to cover the full experience of book editing.

The Subversive Copyeditor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller

This book is a great resource for copyeditors when you are building and maintaining relationships with authors, other people in publishing, and yourself. A guide to keeping the peace when it comes to author–editor relationships, this book makes for a great pairing with What Editors Do with a little more practical advice for being on the job. The author is also a former senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press, former chief copyeditor of the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, so you know this book was created by someone who really knows her stuff.

17th edition Chicago Manual of Style (or your preferred style guide)

Having a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, or whatever style guide I am working with, open and available to reference while I am working is an invaluable resource. Whether it’s online or in physical form, being able to look up questions about commas or numbers with ease makes a huge difference when you’re sitting down for a long day of editing. I love being able to flip to the index or search bar of the Chicago Manual of Style online without having to wade through Google results written by unknown authors with varying levels of expertise. Personally, I love my paper copy, but the online Q&A can help answer hyper-specific questions that you may not be able to find elsewhere.

There are so many books on editing out there for editing at every stage of the book process. Hopefully this list can kickstart your journey and guide you to more resources as you read. Happy editing!

photo of full bookshelf. White arched text reads "Inside Ooligan Press:" White box with Ooligan fishhook logo. Straight white bar at bottom of image with text "Editing"

Inside Ooligan Press: What Does an Editor Do?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press,” about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

There are many levels of editing that help shape a manuscript into what readers ultimately pull off the shelves of their favorite bookstore or library, but how does each level of editing work to transform a manuscript from the first draft to the final, polished result?

As editors, we create and manage all editorial timelines and guide an author through the publishing process as their manuscript undergoes multiple levels of editing. In addition, an editor’s goal is to help an author strengthen their writing while also maintaining their voice and overall tone of their story. To do this, editors follow guidelines set by the client they are working with, the publishing house they work within, and style guides used across particular industries. Here at Ooligan Press, we utilize our house-made style guide and a style guide created specifically for each manuscript we publish, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) that is broadly used across the publishing industry. These guides encompass standard rules for the treatment of numbers, the use of commas, and the use of other punctuation, as well as citations and endnotes when applicable.

CMOS is the standard style guide used in trade book publishing, but each publishing house may also utilize an internal style guide for specific editorial decisions. For example, at Ooligan, our style guide has a specific section for inclusivity that we reference to ensure our publications are accessible to readers and use inclusive language. We also create style guides for each manuscript to address book-specific editing choices such as the spelling of unique names and phrases, often seen in fantasy or non-fiction books.

These style guides are utilized throughout the four main editing stages: developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. The first round of editing that a manuscript goes through is developmental editing, also called a DE. This round is undertaken by our Acquisitions Department, who work with authors to complete big picture editing. Rather than correcting spelling errors or comma splices at this stage, a DE looks at the manuscript from the top down, addressing plot holes, character development, and plot points that move the story forward.

After Acquisitions receives these big picture edits back from the author, the manuscript is handed off to our Managing Editor to guide the manuscript through more specific edits. Manuscripts we acquire generally go through two rounds of copyediting, one heavy copyedit and one light-to-medium copyedit, depending on what each manuscript needs. These rounds of edits look for spelling mistakes, errors in punctuation, and smaller, more specific story edits as needed. Story edits are marked in comments as queries to the author to point them in the right direction if there is any confusion within the manuscript. For these types of queries, our editors explain why they are bringing something to the author’s attention and provide at least two suggestions that would provide more clarity. Like during a DE, these suggestions are up to the discretion of the author and aim to maintain their voice. Alongside these suggestions and correcting punctuation and spelling, we also strive to correct grammatical errors and sentence structure, a process called line editing. Here we look at each sentence and its role within the manuscript. Awkward wording is flagged and suggestions are provided to help the author rework unclear sentences.

Following these copyedits, the manuscript is sent to the Design Department to transform the Word Document into a designed PDF that will ultimately turn into the final published book. But before this designed interior can be sent to the printers, it must undergo one last round of editing to ensure all errors are corrected. We call this round a print proofread, in which editors compare the designed interior to the most recently edited Word Document. Here we make sure that there are no missing paragraphs or sections, all punctuation and italics are correct, and no stray code made its way into the manuscript during the design process. Once the proofread is complete, the book is sent to the printers and the final book is produced. In a similar fashion to print proofreads, we also perform ebook proofreads to ensure a digital copy of the manuscript is formatted correctly and no errors were introduced during coding.

While these are the editorial steps we undertake at Ooligan, each publishing house may differ from these steps depending on their department structure. No editing schedule is the end-all be-all for editing, but a good editor will work directly with an author to maintain their vision for their manuscript. The most important job an editor undertakes is helping an author create the best version of their manuscript and strengthen their writing while maintaining their unique voice.

photo of full bookshelf with Ooligan fishhook logo centered. Arched white text box reads "Inside Ooligan Press" and straight white text box reads "Contracts and More"

Inside Ooligan Press: Your Manuscript is Accepted! Now What?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press”, about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

So, you wrote a killer query letter and submitted a proper proposal. You won over Acquisitions and we pitched your project to the press successfully, then we offered to publish your book: now what? For the sake of transparency and in an effort to demystify this crazy little thing called publishing, I humbly offer you an inside look at what you can expect when working with Ooligan Press.

Once you get notified that our pitch was successful, we enter into the contract negotiation phase of the process. We are a small, not-for-profit press that generally cannot offer author advances. However, authors are compensated for their work, receiving industry standard royalty rates for trade paperbacks based on cover price and units sold, paid out biannually after publication. The Publisher and author negotiate terms of the contract including dates and deadlines for revisions, the final manuscript and any additional materials, and publication, among other things. This process generally takes about two weeks, give or take, during which time it is encouraged that the author has a trustworthy individual review the contract with them.

Once the contract is signed, we will typically go straight to work with a light or heavy developmental edit, determined by the Acquisitions Editors when we evaluate your manuscript. As a teaching press, we accept manuscripts that are strong and show immense promise, but that offer learning opportunities for the members of the press. This includes the need for editorial work. Expect to do revisions! The Acquisitions Editors lead a team of editors in reading and analyzing your manuscript to determine what is working and what needs work based on our knowledge and experience. We craft an editorial letter full of our critiques, compliments, and suggestions for revision and deliver it to the author for review. We follow up with a phone call or video chat to discuss the letter if the author feels it would be beneficial to do so. The DE process takes about a month, sometimes more. Then the author gets to work on revisions, for which they also get about a month to complete, though timelines may vary based on the project.

During development, your title may change. Sometimes it is necessary to tweak the title, or change it altogether, but not always. Acquisitions Editors must consider best practices for title generation and consider whether yours is appropriate for the genre and market, the literal and connotative meaning of the words or phrases used, and whether it encapsulates or represents the content found within the book. If we feel a change is necessary, we provide the author some alternative titles to consider and deliver them with the editorial letter. While the author’s input is taken into account, the final title is decided upon by the editors.

While we are hard at work developmentally editing your manuscript, you will be completing Ooligan’s Author Questionnaire: a document that will be used by all departments to produce and promote your book. While this questionnaire is lengthy and can feel slightly invasive, the author can of course choose which questions they will and will not answer depending on their comfort level.

Upon delivery of the revised manuscript and questionnaire, the author is then introduced to their Project Manager: the person who will see the project through the rest of the way. They are responsible for keeping the production of your book on track and are your primary point of contact for questions and concerns after acquisition and development.

Your manuscript will undergo copyediting by a team of editors, led by Ooligan’s Managing Editor. Depending on the needs of your manuscript, this may be a light, medium, or heavy copyedit. We use The Chicago Manual of Style as our primary style guide. This process may take one to two months depending on the time of year and the current stages our other titles are in. The author then receives the edited manuscript and reviews and implements the editorial suggestions, for which they typically get a month to complete.

While these editorial processes take place, your book’s dedicated project team, led by your Project Manager, has already begun their work crafting the sales hook, back cover copy, and so much more. They work with the managers of each department, Acquisitions, Editing, DEI, Digital, Design, Marketing, Publicity, and Social Media, to create a master plan to produce a quality book and launch it into the world. But wait, there’s more.

Be sure to check out future installments of this blog for a look at more stages of the production and promotion process at Ooligan Press!

a bookshelf full of closely spaced books, with text reading "Inside Ooligan Press", the Ooligan Press fishhook logo, and text "Proposals"

What’s in a Proper (Book) Proposal?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press”, about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

So, you wrote a killer query letter and we requested a proposal package, but what does that mean? Before you go and resubmit the same query letter and call it your proposal (as MANY have done) think again!

The proposal package consists of two crucial items, submitted together on our Submittable page. They are your cover letter and your full manuscript, but let’s break it down even further. If you followed our directions with your query, you only sent us the first ten pages of your manuscript. When we request a proposal package, this is your invitation to submit the full manuscript—you got a full read request. Go you! Submit the most up-to-date, most polished version of your manuscript, preferably in a Word document.

The how and why of the cover letter are a little more complex. With your query, you provided just enough to get us interested in reading your full manuscript. With your cover letter, you are trying to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for our press, for our mission, and for our reach. You’ll want to help us envision the future for your book and provide pertinent details about how to best present it to the world—and how you plan to participate in that presentation if we publish it.

Your proposal cover letter can be a beautifully designed document organized into sections and contain striking headings, images, and mock-ups of the cover, or it can be a bunch of words on a page. While a stylized document certainly helps us envision your book and its potential future more readily, it is not required, and words alone will suffice. Just be sure to include the words we’re looking for.

First up is the content warning. This means letting us know if there is anything in your manuscript that may be triggering to a reader. Triggers vary, but the most common ones include self-harm, suicide, sexual assault, graphic violence, substance abuse, and disordered eating. If you are unsure whether something you’ve written may be a trigger, err on the side of caution and warn us. Do note that this warning will not prevent your manuscript from being read and considered: it simply ensures that the right person will be reading and evaluating it (the right person being an editor to whom the content will not cause mental or emotional harm).

The rest of your letter should include a synopsis of your book, the projected page count, a table of contents if appropriate, the genre and intended audience, comp titles, marketing ideas, and any connections or platforms you have that may be utilized for marketing and promotion purposes. If your query letter did not contain an author bio written in the third-person detailing your pertinent background information, include that here as well. Yes, this requires a little effort, but there is a reason for it, I promise.

Once the Managing Acquisitions Editors decide yours is The One, we still have to pitch your manuscript to the entire press before voting to accept or reject the project. We must convince them to see what we see, that there is potential for a successful collaboration with you and your book. We do this with a pitch presentation, which contains the information from your cover letter, along with our own in-depth market research guided by our expertise in the publishing industry. We set it to music and a little light choreography. That last bit is not true. But we do have to make a strong case for why we should publish this book and be convincing in its presentation: a solid informational foundation and an author who understands their book, has realistic expectations, and is willing to work alongside us to get the job done can make or break our case—and it is your cover letter that reveals all of this to us.

Every manuscript for which we request a proposal package gets thorough, careful consideration. But even with an excellent manuscript, the author’s work is not done. You’ve got to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for us, that you are willing to do what is asked of you and more—and that begins with creating a proper proposal.

Scrabble blocks arranged to read "Choose your words."

Keeping it in Style: Considering Cultural Style Guides

What do you think of when you hear the words “style guide”? Perhaps APA for the social sciences, AP for journalists, and Chicago for historians. For communications-based jobs, in-house style guides might come to mind—amalgamations of an established style and corporate requirements in order to appeal to a certain audience. It seems obvious that style guides are meant to establish how a corporation presents itself to the world—so how do we address the rapidly changing ways that marginalized people talk about themselves and the world around them in order to present content that audiences find sensitive, accurate, and accessible? The answer is cultural style guides.

Elements of Indigenous Style was written by Gregory Younging of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (Manitoba, Canada) after he saw concerning portrayals of Indigeneity in the books he edited at an Indigenous publishing house. The resulting book was revolutionary and is lauded as the first published guide to editing and curating work by Indigenous folks. With a title similar to the familiar cornerstone of modern editing, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Younging’s comprehensive guide addresses ways that publishing can elevate Indigenous voices. Key to publishing’s failure to do this sooner, in Younging’s own words, “comes from a colonial practice of transmitting ‘information’ about Indigenous Peoples rather than transmitting Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives about themselves.” This style guide fills a void—a way to dictate how Indigenous people refer to themselves rather than defaulting to the paternalistic ways that they have often been referred to.

Why are style guides like this so important to consider? While style guides can be considered living documents, edited over time to more accurately reflect the current zeitgeist, there is something relieving about having guidelines written by and specifically for one’s group of origin rather than originally for an exclusive audience. Cultural style guides, while not perfect, consider the culture first and foremost, eliminating the need to have to view one’s own culture (and subsequently, one’s own self) through the lens of neutrality, and emphasizing an Own Voices approach to publishing as a whole.

To see cultural style guides at work in the real world, I had the opportunity to talk to Elliot Bailey, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Publisher’s Assistant at Ooligan Press, about how Ooligan’s style guide considers cultural elements.

How does Ooligan Press’s style guide currently work with people from different backgrounds—are there any unique considerations taken when working with these books, especially with the press’s commitment to publishing BIPOC and marginalized authors?

E: The Ooligan Press style guide has a condensed version of the Conscious Style Guide to be used when needed. The inclusive style guide within the Ooligan style guide takes into account disabilities, BIPOC identities, queer identities, age, appearance, and illness. In addition to our use of the inclusive style guide, one of the resources DEI has is a collection of other style guides and resources that can be found online, such as the National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide and the Transgender Language Style Guide that can be used when needed.

Does the press ever use other style guides besides our house style guide and Chicago Style? Would they consider using styles in development (such as from Elements of Indigenous Style)?

E: Yes, we do! When working with a manuscript that has content that needs special consideration, we add that to the individual manuscript’s style sheet. In general, any of these additional style guides are available for use within Ooligan for anything they are needed for, and I add to the style guide resources whenever I find new ones that would be useful for the press.

Cultural style guides offer an interesting glance at a future where people of all backgrounds can take the lead in how they are written into history. This collaborative future is one where we will probably not get things right at first—but that’s okay. According to Younging, “. . . plan on not getting it right. Make your best effort to make informed, mindful decisions about terminology.”

a group of youths on a dock overlooking a body of water.

How We Can Edit Teen Characters

Ever read a YA novel and wondered how a teenage character was created? Developmental editors assist authors with developing characters with an empathetic approach. Peter Ginna, in What Editors Do, describes the role of the developmental editor by explaining how developmental editors look at big picture ideas such as pacing, plotting, structure, and believability of characters. Additionally, What Editors Do emphasizes how empathy is important when performing a developmental edit and when working with authors on their stories. When it comes to approaching authors on developing young characters that adolescent readers will look up to, it is incredibly important to approach the author with empathy and respect. Editors play a key role in how teenage characters are developed in the beginning stages of the process. Developmental editors can be a great resource when creating young adult fiction, and to ensure developmental edits are successful, editors must have a great working relationship with authors.

Ginna’s What Editors Do describes empathy as the most crucial part of the editing process. This means that editors must have empathy for characters in fictional stories as well as for the author. When it comes to developing teenage characters in young adult fiction, editors must have empathy for the reader and understand how readers will perceive the characters in the story. What Editors Do emphasizes how effective editors bring certain assets that are important when developing a story. These valuable assets are market knowledge and subject expertise. Editors with marketing knowledge see what is currently selling in the book market. They can suggest edits about young characters based on which young adult novels were successful and what character qualities pulled young readers into the story. Subject expertise is also important because it allows editors to see where the author is coming from. Why did the author write a young character a certain way? How can editors take what writers want to say to adolescents and develop it in a way that will not only sell but be an inspiration for young adults? Developing stories starts with good communication between the editor and author and seeing how both develop characters.

Scott Norton in Developmental Editing talks about the role developmental editors play in a story’s development and emphasizes how developmental editors sometimes coach the author on their stories as well as suggest edits to help authors form a vision for the book. When it comes to developing young characters, developmental editors should be prepared in their market research to assist authors with how the characters will be portrayed to youths. Editors can see what has been successful before and suggest edits that support the author’s vision. It is important for editors to point out how a young character may come across to a youth. Will the teenage character be a positive inspiration for youths? Will their actions teach them a lesson about life? Developmental editing can help authors develop young characters in a unique way that supports the author’s vision but also highlights how young readers will look at the story. It is important for authors to make a plan with the editor and work together on developing the book. Readers look up to characters, and editors play a significant role in assisting with characterization. Young adult fiction can be an inspiration for young audiences, and editing can assist authors with their vision while keeping empathy for young adolescent readers.