This is about one of the projects I’ve been working on recently, researching the hidden histories of women in the City of London, from the Norman Conquest to the mid-twentieth century.
When an editor or proofreader works on someone’s text in Microsoft Word, it is usual for them to use ‘Track Changes’ (one of the options in the ‘Review’ tab). The great advantage of this is that the author of the text can see the corrections and/or amendments that have been made by the editor/proofreader, and decide whether to accept or reject them. This can either be done by going through the text and accepting or rejecting each change or, if the author feels sufficiently confident in the changes that the editor/proofreader has made, by ‘accepting all changes’ in one go.
For anyone working on a text – either an editor working on someone else’s text, or an author revising their own draft(s) – it can be useful to have Track Changes turned on, but not to have to see them all the time, as the mark-up can be distracting and actually lead to more errors being introduced (particularly errors of spacing, when you cannot always immediately see whether you have deleted or added a space). Fortunately, you can work with Track Changes on without having to see them, until you want to – by selecting/deselecting what you want to see in the ‘Show Markup’ dropdown menu.
So whenever I’m about to start work on a text, I go to the Review tab to switch on Track Changes, and then go to Show Markup, where I untick ‘Insertions and Deletions’ and ‘Formatting’. I also recommend that, if a client gets back a text back from me which is heavily marked up, they read it through with ‘Insertions and Deletions’ and ‘Formatting’ unticked, so that they can see the text clearly (and so they don’t despair at the amount of red markings).
There is one idiosyncrasy of Track Changes to be aware of, and that is that if you copy and paste a text with tracked changes into a new document while you have Track Changes turned on, Word will automatically assume that you have agreed all the changes and so they will not show up as tracked in the new document. If you want to keep the tracked changes showing, so that you can review them later, or so that someone else can see them, you need to do the following (which may seem counter-intuitive):
- Ensure Track Changes is turned OFF in the document you want to copy from
- Select the text you want to copy
- Ensure Track Changes is also turned OFF in the document you want to copy to
- Paste the text into the new document
- Then turn Track Changes ON in the new document, and the tracked changes will duly appear.
In the autumn of last year I was commissioned to write a research paper on women in the City, from the Norman Conquest to 1950, during the whole of which period City women were often unseen (because not looked for). It was a fascinating, though daunting, project, & of course all I could do was examine the tip of the iceberg. But it’s a start, and you can download the result here: Recognition of Women in the City of London Research Paper.
Very good advice on editing from “Mrs Hawkins” in Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington:
‘When you are editing copy, Mrs Hawkins, what sort of things do you look for?’ said Howard Send. ‘Exclamation marks and italics used for emphasis,’ I said. ‘And I take them out.’ It was as good an answer as any. ‘Suppose the author was Aldous Huxley or Somerset Maugham?’ he said. I told him that if these were his authors he didn’t need a copy-editor.
A blackbird alone in the dying sun’s footlights
sings to a backdrop of indigo blue;
for the sound of its voice, for the sake of the singing,
it plays out the longest day of the year.
Perched on the rooftop, stop-out blackbird,
late home, carousing, careless of time,
emptying its throat till its heart is empty,
scattering the tune like stars in the street;
unnoticed by drivers cocooned in their vehicles,
by comfortable viewers with volume turned up:
only the walkers of dark hear this singing –
the carolling bird in summer’s midnight.
©Virginia Rounding, 1993
First published in Poetry Nottingham International, Autumn 1995
From Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios:
Only a few men, painters, have been able to see the mind through the face. Other men in their judgements reach out for the evidence of word and deed that will explain the mask before their eyes. Yet, though they understand instinctively that the mask cannot be the man behind it; they are generally shocked by a demonstration of the fact. The duplicity of others must always be shocking when one is unconscious of one’s own.
A precise, and concise, description from Joseph Roth, in The Radetzky March, of how it feels to be drunk:
Lieutenant Trotta did not budge. He could remember that his father had recently arrived, and he understood that it wasn’t this father, but a whole bunch of fathers that were standing in front of him. But he was unable to recall either why his father had come today, or why he was multiplying so extremely, or yet why he, the Lieutenant, was unable to stand up.
I’ve never been a drug addict myself (I’m glad to say) but this description of addiction from Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios paints a very convincing picture of how addiction can take hold:
The process is always roughly the same. It begins as an experiment. Half a gramme, perhaps, is taken through the nostrils. It may make you feel sick the first time, but you will try again and the next time it will be as it should be. A delicious sensation, warm, brilliant. Time stands still, but the mind moves at a tremendous pace and, it seems to you, with incredible efficiency. You were stupid; you become highly intelligent. You were unhappy; you become carefree. What you do not like you forget; and what you do like you experience with an intensity of pleasure undreamed of. Three hours of paradise. And afterwards it is not too bad; not nearly as bad as it was when you had too much champagne. You want to be quiet; you feel a little ill at ease, that is all. Soon you are yourself again. Nothing has happened to you except that you have enjoyed yourself amazingly. If you do not wish to take the drug again, you tell yourself you need not do so. As an intelligent person you are superior to the stuff. Then, therefore, there is no logical reason why you should not enjoy yourself again, is there? Of course there isn’t! And so you do. But this time it is a little disappointing. Your half a gramme was not quite enough. Disappointment must be dealt with. You must wander in paradise just once more before you decide not to take the stuff again. A trifle more; nearly a gramme perhaps. Paradise again and still you don’t feel any the worse for it. And since you don’t feel any the worse for it, why not continue? Everybody knows that the stuff does ultimately have a bad effect on you, but the moment you detect any bad effects you will stop. Only fools become addicts. One and a half grammes. It really is something to look forward to in life. Only three months ago everything was so dreary, but now … Two grammes. Naturally, as you are taking a little more it is only reasonable to expect to feel a little ill and depressed afterwards. It’s four months now. You must stop soon. Two and a half grammes. Your nose and throat get so dry these days. Other people seem to get on your nerves, too. Perhaps it is because you are sleeping so badly. They make too much noise. They talk so loudly. And what are they saying? Yes, what? Things about you, vicious lies. You can see it in their faces. Three grammes. And there are other things to be considered, other dangers. You have to be careful. Food tastes horrible. You cannot remember things that you have to do; important things. Even if you should happen to remember them, there are so many other things to worry you apart from this beastliness of having to live. For instance, your nose keeps running: that is, it is not really running but you think it must be, so you have to keep touching it to make sure. Another thing: there is always a fly annoying you. This terrible fly will never leave you alone and in peace. It is on your face, on your hand, on your neck. You must pull yourself together. Three and a half grammes …
This definition of doublethink from George Orwell’s 1984 is horrifyingly resonant in 2020 UK:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.
I find this advice from John Kay’s Obliquity very useful:
When faced with a task that daunts you, a project that you find difficult, begin by doing something. Choose a small component that seems potentially relevant to the task. While it seems to make sense to plan everything before you start, mostly you can’t: objectives are not clearly enough defined, the nature of the problem keeps shifting, it is too complex, and you lack sufficient information. The direct approach is simply impossible.