Automatic Copy Editor

The Automatic Copy Editor (ACE) is an interactive application that we developed to correct punctuation and related style errors. ACE uses a database with search patterns that we compiled based on flaws that we came across in submitted manuscripts during the past years. New patterns are frequently submitted to the database. By using these patterns, ACE automatically finds all possible deviations from the desired stylistic standard. Since the program sorts the hits alphabetically, it only takes a blink of an eye to see which hits have to be modified.

Advantages

1. ACE is far more accurate than manual editing.
2. ACE enables the editor to fully concentrate on the content.
3. ACE results in more consistent stylistic choices.
4. ACE reduces the number of corrections in proofs.

Procedure

In the conversion phase, we strip the submitted files of any irrelevant information, like the layout of headings, indentation, variation in size, and fonts. This results in a plain text file containing relevant information only, like italics and tables. Next, through means of ACE, we modify the text according to your preferences (see below). Within a few days we send you a fresh Word file.

Small caps

Sequences of regular capitals in running text seem optically too large. We prefer to replace roman numbers and capitalized abbreviations with small capitals (i.e. capitals with the x-height of the font used). With our ACE system we can easily find and replace these (sequences of) regular capitals with small caps.

Ellipses

There are many ways to use the ellipses. In Europe, it is common to use a ligature of three united dots, while in the United States the usual way of writing the ellipses is three dots separated by spaces. Some people put square brackets or parentheses around the ellipses. The spacing around the ellipses is also subject to personal preferences; some people separate the ellipses from the preceding word by a space, while others connect the word with the dots. True purists also insert a dot before typing the ellipses to indicate that a new sentence is starting with the ellipsis. In most cases, however, authors use a various number of dots, both written with and without spaces. We can standardize this inconsistent use of the ellipsis in any desired way.

Quotemarks

Applying quotes in a consistent manner must not be underestimated. Not just because the quotes must be adjusted to the conventions of the langauge used, like the «…» in French, the “…” in English and the „…“ in German, but also because authors often make mistakes in placing quotation marks. We frequently receive copies with non-matching quotes and/or without smart quotes. ACE enables us to find these flaws and correct them according to your guidelines.

Apostrophe

Another complicating issue regarding the adjustment of quotes is the apostrophe, since the exact same character is used as a closing quote mark. ACE automatically takes this into account when balancing the quote marks. Single opening and closing quote marks are also used to indicate an ayn or hamza in transliterations, for example in transliterations of Arabic. ACE enables us to find each instance of an incorrect closing quote mark and is able to replace it with the correct character.

Combinations of punctuationmarks

In general, duplication of punctuation is not desirable, although there are exceptions of course. For example, according to some people, a sentence that ends with the period of an abbreviation still needs to be ended with a second period (‘He was against the use of a period, comma’s etc..’). ACE helps us to determine in which case the repetition is needed and in which case it is not. Furthermore, we can control the order of the punctuation, to prevent the occurrence of a comma, colon or any other punctuation mark after a period. Again, we keep in mind that in some cases odd-looking combinations are meant to be, for example a period at the end of an abbreviation (being) followed by a comma.

Italics

On screen it is hard to see whether italics stop at the right point of the sentence, especially if the last character is a punctuation mark, e.g., a comma. It is also hard to see on the screen where italics begin. With ACE we can adjust undesirable half italicized words. Aside from these problems, there is the disputed point of the parentheses: should the parentheses around an italic passage be in (italics) or (roman)? We prefer the last option, but if you prefer it the other way round, ACE does the job for you.

Spaces

Double spacing is a very common error, but we encounter redundant spaces in many different places, for example preceding periods or commas or following opening parentheses or quote marks. Other places frequently lack spaces, e.g. after a comma or period. Ace helps us to trace these errors, and to correct them while taking into account the specific conventions of the different languages. For example, in French an extra space is required preceding several punctuation marks; in English such a space is preferred to be left out.

Non-breaking spaces

Between some letter or word combinations hyphenation is undesirable, e.g. in Richard III, Chapter 1, or Th. Roosevelt. ACE allows us to add a non-breaking space in such cases which helps to prevent corrections in the line breaking in the proofs.

Hairspaces

In some cases, a normal space is optically too large, e.g., between the paragraph sign and a number. We consider such combinations as a conceptual unit. By using a hair space, we emphasize this unity visually. With ACE we automatically replace the space between † and 1878, between 30 and %, between § and 3 and between 1 and Samuel with a hair space.

Dashes

There are three types of dashes used in typography, namely the hyphen (-), the en dash (–) and the em dash (—). En dashes are used to indicate a range between numbers, for example in 20–31. In Dutch, the en dash is also used in running text, while in most other languages the em dash is used. With ACE we can replace a hyphen with an en or em dash, depending on the language.

Completion of pagenumbers and years

Authors frequently use different ways of writing reference numbers. Sometimes they use the full reference, whereas other times they abbreviate the reference. With ACE we can apply the following standards to all the references: ‘1915–1918’, ‘1915–18’, ‘1915–8’. Naturally, we prevent adjustments to references that include BC.

Super- and subscript

Some authors put certain abbreviations in superscript, as in the 2nd book. Others disregard the use of superscript. With ACE, we can easily remove or add superscript in ordinal numbers. We fine-tuned this technique so it is also suitable for foliation of manuscripts.

Miscellanea

Many authors encounter problems finding the right character. A lot of people use a greek beta instead of a ringel-S, a + instead of a dagger (†) or even the letter ‘l’ in stead of a ‘1’. With ACE we are prepared to trace such errors and correct them.

Extra

Apart from the issues mentioned above, ACE has proved its use in many other areas, for example in applying uniformity to the order of bibliographical references. If you have to perform a global change in your text, ACE can carry out these adjustments automatically provided that there is a repeated pattern in the requested change. We are happy to help you find the most efficient solution for any change you wish to make to your text.