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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Have You Ever Wondered ...

How Materials Are Proofread for ADB, Inc.?

Jean Sexton writes:

With the Steves in Amarillo and me in North Carolina, proofreading materials can be quite a challenge. We've finally found a good way for this to happen.

The person who does the layout of material makes the first pass with the material. Outside writers may use British English, slang, jargon, or have typos. All of those issues get smoothed over ... except when they don't.

Next, both of the Steves check the material in Amarillo. Every mistake they catch is a bonus. Then they have a draft that they convert to a PDF and email off to me and to people on the "Game Team" (which varies by the game or type of material the future book covers). The "Game Team" emails in written comments which are usually technical issues. The game designer enters into a dialogue with them. If enough issues are found, a second copy is created with the corrections made.

What I do is very different from the "Game Team." They are looking for serious game issues -- does the ship have the right number of phasers, are all the pieces and parts there, is the history reasonable. They may spot a word that isn't right or something else that needs fixing. However, I am the one who is supposed to catch the misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, and incorrect capitalization. For Federation ship cards, I have a checklist of items to verify, many based on preventing mistakes I noticed in the past.

We started out with me emailing my list of fixes, but my list was quite long and I was spending a lot of time counting out which paragraph and which line was an issue. If one of the others had found something and a Steve had changed the text, then my correction might not even be where I spotted it. It just didn't work.

Then we tried my scanning in the proofread pages and emailing them. The problem there was that my purple marks turned black when the Steves printed them on the non-color printers. Too many marks got missed. In addition, at that point I had dial-up access for my computer (I live in the wilderness) and it took long times to email pages of correction -- usually an hour per page.

We then hit upon our current system. I let the appropriate Steve know that I have reports ready and set up a time for me to call. I deliver my reports by phone. This way we can get instant feedback such as a line got added and now we need to find a way to pull the line back up so we don't have a final page with one line on it!. Sometimes I don't understand the intent of a sentence and the designer can explain what he means. If it isn't clear to me, then maybe we need to work to make it clearer for all.

As for how I proofread, I pretty much have to do it from a paper copy. Somehow the mistakes on the screen don't jump out the same way. If I have lots of time, I copy the PDF into a word-processing program so it can help me catch some typos. I'm a firm believer in letting machines do what they can. Still I know full well that it won't catch the wrong word ("tolled" instead of "told" or "fro" replacing "for") so I must read through the pages. If I can read it aloud, then more mistakes get caught.

Sometimes I have suggestions for clarity. Nearly everyone writes a sentence related to "I found a tribble beaming down food supplies." Probably the tribble wasn't really doing the beaming down and the sentence needs tweaking. I also try to catch "widows" which are just a few words from a paragraph carried over to the following page.

All of these errors are marked with in purple ink (Steve Cole uses blue ink, Steven Petrick uses green, and Leanna Cole uses red). This color coding helps the person entering the corrections know whom to contact regarding any clarifications.  That's why you may notice references to "Jean's Purple Pen of Perdition" since when I started proofreading for ADB, the pages were filled with marks. (It's much better now since our writers have been reading the "Input Guides" found in our Captain's Logs and also found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/input-guide/index.shtml.)

The final parts of the proofreading mix are my copy of the Capitalization Guide (which we hope to update in the near future) and my unabridged dictionary. Sometimes I may have to refer to one of our books to "see how we did it last time" so we don't keep reinventing the wheel.

If I am actually in Amarillo as I was over Christmas holidays in 2012-13, then I get back the corrected pages along with my marked pages. I check them to see if the changes were made and to make sure no new error crept in. It doesn't improve things if I mark that "nad" should be "and" and it gets changed to "snd."

The hope is that we create a product that is relatively error-free. The theory is that if people see typos and mistakes, they may assume that the entire product is shoddy. If they don't, then they subconsciously connect the product with excellence. If I do my work well, the reader never notices.

And now you know more about proofreading at ADB!