Editing In-Text Citations

Have you ever found yourself faced with a book-length manuscript filled with in-text citations? Checking to ascertain that each in-text citation matches its corresponding reference list entry is a time-consuming and tedious task under the best of circumstances.

Over the course of more than fifteen years as an editor, I’ve tried a number of different workflows to make this task more manageable.

There are several tips that will make the process much easier. First, if the manuscript is combined into one file, copy and paste the bibliography into another file. This will provide you the opportunity to more easily scroll and/or search for the particular reference list entry.Puller by Editorium screenshot 1

Second—and this makes all the difference in the world—try Puller from Editorium, maker of many great pieces of software for copy editors. Puller does something that I find amazing: it “pulls” all of the in-text citations into another document, where they can be alphabetized. Once I have a separate list created by Puller, I go through the list and manually separate those citations with multiple entries, moving each to a separate line and adding initial parentheses so that they will alphabetize properly. After doing this, I alphabetize the list (using Word’s Sort function), then remove all parenthetical items that are not citations (as Puller will grab everything in parentheses—or other characters, such as square brackets, depending on the options you select—not only in-text citations).

Now you’ll have a list of alphabetized in-text citations that you can much more quickly compare to the reference list. If you find a missing or problematic entry, you can go back to the main manuscript and search, then change the entry or add a query there, as needed.

Once you’ve done all this, you’ll only need to watch for in-text citations that are date or date and page only. Puller will grab these, but you won’t be able to tell what they refer to when you are reviewing the list of parenthetical items. Nevertheless, this has saved me so many hours I can’t count and has also reduced the number of errors I miss.

One thing to note: Puller only works with certain versions of Word. In particular, there are a number of newer Mac versions with which it does not work. While I use a Macbook for the bulk of my editing, I have Word installed on an old Thinkpad specifically to take advantage of Puller and PerfectIt!, another great piece of editing software that I’ll discuss in a future post.

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