The Australian Editing Handbook - Book Review

Lu Sexton finds a lot to like in the newly published third edition of The Australian Editing Handbook.

I probably don't need to introduce The Australian Editing Handbook to readers of this newsletter. By all accounts Elizabeth Flann and Beryl Hill's excellent handbook has become an industry standard, and deservedly so.

First published in 1994, with a second edition in 2009, it gives a comprehensive overview of the publishing process and delves into every nook of editing practice, complete with checklists, examples and tips. For this edition Lan Wang has joined the writing team, bringing her extensive knowledge to the mix.

A significant addition to Part B, 'The basics of editing', is a comprehensive section on onscreen editing techniques, including:

  • instructions for working with track changes
  • using MS Word short cuts
  • working with electronic styles
  • getting the most out of the find-and-replace function by creating and using macros.

Part C, 'The production process', has a new section on ebooks that includes explanations of ebook formats, how to work with EPUB files and the basics of HTML coding. It also has a new section on indexing that touches on indexing programs such as CINDEX, and the proofreading section includes instructions for marking up PDF proofs.

As well as including this new technical information, the authors have taken the opportunity to restructure and rename some sections. For example, a sub-section in the second edition called 'Questions of style' now has a dedicated chapter, 'Structural and copy-editing principles'. Similarly, there is a chapter called 'Parts of a book', which in edition two was covered in a less clearly named chapter: 'Other elements'. Now that working digitally is standard practice, the authors have been able to incorporate technical information into each section, rather than having it in a separate section as they did in edition two ('The editor in the electronic age'). These changes will make the book easier to navigate as the chapters now follow the workflow of the publishing process.

Whether you're new to editing or have a well-thumbed copy of The Australian Editing Handbook on your shelves, I think this new edition will be a valuable addition to your professional library.

Lu Sexton

Elizabeth Flann, Beryl Hill and Lan Wang, The Australian Editing Handbook, Third edition, 2014, Wiley.