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OBC Review Editing

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OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#1 by amybo82
» 23 Jun 2015, 13:19

So, I've noticed lately that even though I think the quality of my reviews has been getting better with practice, some editors disagree. I've also recently become an editor, so I've been able to see the process from both sides. One of my biggest problems is that there doesn't seem to be a particular style guide that we are supposed to follow, but some of the editors are sticking strictly to certain style guides. For example, I recently wrote a review in which I used the Oxford comma. The reviewer counted this against me, saying it was not needed. This is a hotly debated topic in the world of grammar, and I'm a fan of it, so I always use it. I don't think that should be held against me.

Another example is that in a different recent review, I cited a particular number under 100. For the example, let's say I used 75. According to the AP style guide, number under 10 should be spelled out (one, two, three, etc.), and any number greater than (and including) 10 should be written as a numeral (11, 12, 75, etc.). According to the Chicago Manual of Style, you should spell out any number under 101. I have been using the AP manual for many years, so I typically stick with that style. However, the editor of this particular review counted this against me.

Is anyone else having problems like this? I know it's supposed to all even out in the end, score-wise, but right now, the differences in points can really make or break your level and reviewer score.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#2 by bluemel4
» 24 Jun 2015, 12:49

@amybo82 This is an excellent point. I think you should post this in the "Support, Feedback and Forum Announcements" section of the site. @Scott tends to look at those posts more frequently and we may get an answer. A style guide would make writing the reviews and editing them a lot easier.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#3 by amybo82
» 24 Jun 2015, 13:05

Thanks, @bluemel4. I emailed Scott about this issue previously, and he suggested I start a discussion in the writing forum about the issue. I originally put this discussion there, and when I went back to look for it this morning, it had been moved to community and off-topic. I'm not sure why. My intention for starting the topic was to get a discussion going among the editors about what we look for in reviews because it seems to be different from editor to editor. I've heard from some other members who have had similar issues.

One thing I think is important to mention is that I've had the opportunity to edit some reviews, and I know that one of the guidelines is to give one positive thing and one negative thing about the review to help the reviewer write a stronger review next time. This is helpful in understanding why editors mention things that might seem petty sometimes. However, I am interested to know how other editors determine their ratings. Since it's so subjective, I know there's lots of room for interpretation!
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#4 by bluemel4
» 24 Jun 2015, 13:09

Maybe what we need is a review editor private page. Then editors could talk freely and exchange ideas. I know it doesn't seem to be public information who is an editor on the site.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#5 by PashaRu
» 24 Jun 2015, 13:34

Interesting topic. I think the editors need to be flexible and reasonable when editing reviews. It doesn't seem necessary to adopt a certain style guide and require that all reviews adhere strictly to those specific rules/requirements. As mentioned, there is some debate - and with that, inherent flexibility - as to using the Oxford comma, which numbers should be written as numerals, etc. I've seen comments on the forums about hyphenating compound nouns and compound adjectives. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Opinions and preferences vary among both amateur and professional writers.

It must be remembered that the reviewers on this site are, for the most part, not professionals. They are simply amateurs who have a love of reading, writing, and discussing books. Editors need to take this into consideration. To demand perfection or strict adherence to a certain style guide is unreasonable and misses the point of the site. Even the best reviewers on the site make the occasional mistake.

Editors should not excuse poor grammar, misspelled words, or reviews that do not adhere to the basic requirements as outlined on the site. There must be some standards. But care must be taken so as not to impose one's personal opinion or preferences (or a certain set of rules as outlined by a style guide, when there are many) on others when flexibility can be allowed.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#6 by amybo82
» 24 Jun 2015, 13:53

I think bluemel has a great idea--a forum for editors to discuss editing. However, I think an open discussion with reviewers who are not editors is also important. Before I was an editor, I had questions about how reviews were edited and rated. Now that I'm an editor, I feel that I'm in a better position to answer some of those questions. However, I also find that I still have questions that might be able to be answered by either editors or reviewers.

PashaRu-I agree with you about flexibility! Adhering to a particular style guide might be stifling for some reviewers because they might be used to a different set of rules. I think it's important for editors to remember this when looking at a review. While I've heard the saying, "There's always room for improvement," I think that there's also a limit to that. I certainly know that I make mistakes, and when I read editor comments that point these out, I always kick myself knowing that I should've caught it! At the same time, something like receiving a reduced score for using the Oxford comma is frustrating because, technically, that's not a mistake.

This subject can get touchy, and I'm not trying to step on any toes, but I think an open dialogue will help clear up confusion and make our reviews even stronger!
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#7 by bluemel4
» 24 Jun 2015, 16:10

I think that there are certain standards that could be agreed upon. Using amybo82's example of when to spell out numbers or use actual numbers. I was always taught, and research has yielded, that numbers under 100 are spelled out. I can see situations where the number would be beneficial. For example, page numbers.

Also, the basic requirements PashaRu mentioned are often not followed in my experience. Star rating are not justified, no recommendation for who would enjoy the book is given, too much summary and not enough analysis, and grammar and spelling mistakes. They are all taken into account when I edit a review. I also find myself going line by line editing and correcting mistakes. I offer as much grammar advice I can while I correct.

I know people are not professionals, but there is a certain expectation that the review will be done well and follow the basic rules. Maybe we need to pick some examples out of already published reviews that show what we are looking for?

I also noticed some people use British English or U.S. English. Do we have a preference? Things like this can be unilaterally decided on.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#8 by Scott
» 24 Jun 2015, 16:37

When I suggested making a topic in the writing forum about the issue, I meant just the issue of whether the comma usage in dispute was correct or not. The other issue of the review team editing process should be kept out of the main forum.

The editor ratings are subjective, especially with different styles and the fact that this is an international website. However, that is why I have more than 1 editor check each review. The biggest guide that should be followed is not a particular grammar style guide but the review team guidelines. Significant points should be taken off for items that go against the guidelines. Significant points should be taken off for a clear lack of proofreading or basic spelling mistakes or severe grammar mistakes. However, the editors also adjust their rating a little bit based on how well-written they think the review is which is subjective, goes beyond just grammar and will involve less severe or more arguable alleged grammar mistakes including grammar mistakes that are only mistakes according to that editor's preferred style guide or school.

For those who are already editors, it is great to look at the scores and provide feedback to improve the system, but you would not have made it to be an editor if you did not already have top scores yourself. If you try to have better than top, you will be inherently frustrated because that is impossible. ;) The focus instead for editors is on editing reviews of others rather than on improving the scores of their own reviews. In that way, your job is to help other reviewers write reviews that get scored as highly as yours.

Over the next few days, I will update the way editor ratings are calculated to make them average out better.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#9 by amybo82
» 24 Jun 2015, 16:44

I don't think we should be super strict with sticking to one particular style, but I think we should agree on understanding that there are many styles of writing and many guides. I think there are some basic resources that we should all be able to refer to. (Grammar Girl is one of my favorites.) I also think there are reviewers from all parts of the world, and that should be taken into account. I don't think it's fair to make a person in the UK use US English just because I'm in the US, and vice versa.

When editing, I do take off significant points when the basic requirements are not followed. For example, if someone doesn't format correctly or doesn't provide a star rating, I think that's grounds for a review rejection. The basics are clearly stated in the Review Team Guidelines, and I expect everyone to follow them. I like to try to keep in mind the purpose of a review when I'm editing. I think about, as someone who has never read the book, does this review tell me what the book is about and give me some things I might or might not like about it? Does the review do these things with spelling and grammar that is easy to follow?

I agree that we're not all professionals, and that we're all prone to mistakes. I think there are certain standards that have to be followed (such as those set forth in the Review Team Guidelines), but I think everyone needs to understand that there are many accepted ways of writing!
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#10 by bluemel4
» 24 Jun 2015, 16:47

Thank you @Scott for answering our questions and constantly improving the site. :D As always, you are the best.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#11 by amybo82
» 24 Jun 2015, 16:48

Ah, Scott, as always, you've got the answers! I went back and read the message about the commas, and I'm sorry for my misunderstanding! I may have mentioned before, but I tend to be obsessive about getting things right. It doesn't mean I have to be right all the time, but I do want to be sure I understand and follow the rules! Maybe I just need to ease up a little bit? :lol: Again, thanks to everyone for their feedback, and I think we've started a pretty good discussion about differences in writing preferences!
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#12 by PashaRu
» 24 Jun 2015, 17:23

I appreciate the reasonable approach of @Scott. I don't think any particular style guide should be chosen as the standard, because it's impossible to say that one is better than all the rest. Whether the Oxford comma is used, or numbers are written out or not, or what kind of hyphenation is employed, or italics are used instead of quotation marks (or vice-versa), etc. is not very important, IMO. Editors could get so bogged down in such minutiae that they would simply come off as a bunch of snobs, going through every review with a fine-toothed comb salivating for minor infractions so they can deduct points. As Scott said, if the grammar is clearly incorrect, or there are spelling mistakes, or if any of the basic guidelines are not followed, then points should be deducted. But allowance should be made for 1) difference in writing style and 2) the fact that the reviewers here are fans and enthusiasts, not professional writers. Give 'em some slack. Let's not hold their feet over the fire for trifles.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#13 by bookowlie
» 24 Jun 2015, 17:53

PashaRu wrote:I appreciate the reasonable approach of @Scott. I don't think any particular style guide should be chosen as the standard, because it's impossible to say that one is better than all the rest. Whether the Oxford comma is used, or numbers are written out or not, or what kind of hyphenation is employed, or italics are used instead of quotation marks (or vice-versa), etc. is not very important, IMO. Editors could get so bogged down in such minutiae that they would simply come off as a bunch of snobs, going through every review with a fine-toothed comb salivating for minor infractions so they can deduct points. As Scott said, if the grammar is clearly incorrect, or there are spelling mistakes, or if any of the basic guidelines are not followed, then points should be deducted. But allowance should be made for 1) difference in writing style and 2) the fact that the reviewers here are fans and enthusiasts, not professional writers. Give 'em some slack. Let's not hold their feet over the fire for trifles.


Well said. I think the intention is not to turn the members into cookie cutter reviewers who are so worried about minutiae that they start churning out bland "white envelope"-style reviews. At some point, it's good to take everything in account, not just count every single minor error. I have to say the example Amybo gave about points being taken off for "75 vs. seventy-five" seemed a bit much.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#14 by gali
» 24 Jun 2015, 21:49

PashaRu wrote:I appreciate the reasonable approach of @Scott. I don't think any particular style guide should be chosen as the standard, because it's impossible to say that one is better than all the rest. Whether the Oxford comma is used, or numbers are written out or not, or what kind of hyphenation is employed, or italics are used instead of quotation marks (or vice-versa), etc. is not very important, IMO. Editors could get so bogged down in such minutiae that they would simply come off as a bunch of snobs, going through every review with a fine-toothed comb salivating for minor infractions so they can deduct points. As Scott said, if the grammar is clearly incorrect, or there are spelling mistakes, or if any of the basic guidelines are not followed, then points should be deducted. But allowance should be made for 1) difference in writing style and 2) the fact that the reviewers here are fans and enthusiasts, not professional writers. Give 'em some slack. Let's not hold their feet over the fire for trifles.


I agree. Like you I think that editors need to be flexible and reasonable when editing reviews. When editing I look at the overall picture, and take off significant points only for sever errors. I may remark on minor errors, but I won't take points off them. Deducting points for "75 vs. seventy-five" is too much indeed.
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Re: OBC Review Editing

Post Number:#15 by Scott
» 29 Jun 2015, 12:08

I have created a new forum on the site: International Grammar Forum.

This will be a place for members to ask what the consistent rules are for certain grammar questions and to identify mistakes that are 'severe mistakes' (in the sense of being mistakes according to all style guides and almost all readers) as opposed to style-guide-specific or region-specific mistakes which in international, non-style-guide-specific writing are at least arguably not mistakes at all.

This can help resolve these matters for the review team. I think it can also develop into a great new resource that is ahead of the curve.

The world is changing fast. It's hard to believe that just a few decades ago none of us had smartphones or internet access. Suddenly, it is becoming as common to speak and write with someone from another country as it is to speak or write to your neighbor. Actually, I write to many of you more than I speak with many of my neighbors. I also personally struggle with the fact that the spellchecking and grammar software pre-loaded into the software I use is often region-specific. My spellchecking software in some of my programs tells me I spell something wrong when I do not because it is using British English when I am using American English. It doesn't bother me except that it can become hard to tell when I am actually misspelling a word. The same thing happens not just with pre-loaded dictionaries and grammar rules in software, but with human editors and each of us even as we proofread are own work or try to research grammar rules. It is hard to distinguish that hard-and-fast-rules from region-specific or style-guide-specific rules. This is really a new, still-emerging problem. In the new forum, we can discuss these issues in detail, and hopefully have a great, searchable resource for those who want to follow basic, standard international English spelling and grammar rules without worrying as strictly about style-guide-specific rules and regional tendencies.

That is exactly what I want to see reviewers do. I am totally happy to have some reviewers that spell color as color or as colour. I am totally happy to have some reviewers use the oxford commas and others not. At the same time, other spelling and grammar mistakes make the reviews very unprofessional, hard to read and frankly not publishable.

Coincidentally, the same thing applies to how most of us read and review books. I don't read a book that was likely written by a non-American and say the book was poorly proofread because color was misspelled as colour. If I did, it would reflect ignorance on my part not a flaw with the book. :lol: So this resource may not just provide an especially useful service for the review team in writing their own reviews, but also an especially useful resource in actually reviewing books and thus an especially useful resource for writers, authors and publishers to navigate the new world.
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