Image Credit: Pexels
Image Credit: Pexels

I recently received an email inquiry from an EIC who was looking for examples of how law reviews electronically edit manuscripts:

We are in the process of updating several of our internal processes. One of these updates is making the switch from manually editing a paper manuscript to an all electronic, track-changes approach. As we outline this new procedure, I thought it might be helpful to see the step-by-step approach other law reviews take when editing electronically.

Since I didn’t have an answer for this EIC myself, I reached out to the editors in Scholastica’s law review network. Editors-in-Chief Christian Foster from University of La Verne Law Review and Ross Handler from Administrative Law Review offered to share how their teams edit manuscripts paperlessly. We hope that seeing each of their approaches is helpful if your team is looking to improve your own editing process!

Answers provided by Christian Foster, Editor-in-Chief, University of La Verne Law Review Vol. 38, and Ross Handler, Editor-in-Chief, the Administrative Law Review Vol. 68

1. Can you share a high-level overview of your electronic editing process: an author accepts your publication offer and your team starts editing and preparing the manuscript for publication — what does that step-by-step process look like for your team?

Christian Foster: After the author accepts our publication offer, we create a folder for the author on our OneDrive account. Inside the folder there are three sub-folders which contain the: (1) publication agreement and original article; (2) copy of the article for the editing process; and (3) electronic copies of each source cited in the article. Next, an e-mail is sent to the entire team with the deadlines for the article and a list of each editor’s assigned footnotes. Our editing process consists of three rounds.

In the first round, the staff editors are expected to check their assigned footnotes, pull the sources for each citation, and review the above the line text for grammatical errors. All of the edits are performed on the shared document located on OneDrive. Then a senior article editor reviews the citations and emails the staff editors with general feedback. After the staff editors make the necessary corrections, round two begins.

At this point, each staff editor receives a different set of citations to review and correct if necessary. Following submission, the editor-in-chief reviews the citations and emails the staff editors with any corrections that need to be made. Once all the round two edits are submitted, the entire team assembles for a final read through of the article on a projected screen. During this time, we go through the article line-by-line and correct any grammatical errors and/or citation mistakes. The article is then formatted for publication and emailed to the author for approval.

Ross Handler: Once an author accepts an offer for publication, we provide them with a production schedule, highlighting the three opportunities that they will have to interact with us in an editing manner. The manuscript is sent to our editing team to refine and make comments (electronically). The edited and comment-full version is sent to the author. The author has the ability to accept or reject the changes. The piece is then submitted back to the editorial team for a second edit. At this point, footnotes, parentheticals, and formatting matters are addressed. Again, however, there is an above and below the line edit of the text, keeping in mind however not to change the author’s “voice.” The piece is sent back to the author for the changes to be accepted or rejected, and the author has one final opportunity to edit and refine the piece before it is brought in for Exec Review (a review by the editorial and executive boards). All changes, edits, and versions are dealt with electronically.

2. What specific tools (software, apps, internal documents, agreements or expectations between editors) facilitate your electronic editing process?

CF: Our electronic editing process is facilitated through OneDrive. The communications between editors usually take place via Gmail or through the Slack app. We also use Google Calendar for all of our scheduling purposes.

RH: All edits are made using Microsoft Word and the track changes function. We follow editing protocol per our Administrative Law Review conventions, and a special binder governs how we manage and execute the Exec Read phase of the review before sending the Issue to print. Each time an Exec member reads the piece, they have full discretion to change and edit (without using track changes) so long as the author’s voice is not changed. As each Exec member finishes the edit, a clean, edited copy is provided to the next Exec member who will read it. By the time the article is ready for publication, there should be no errors.

CF: Our edits are performed on a single Word Document linked to OneDrive that tracks any changes made throughout the editing process. We also locate each source cited in the article and upload a PDF copy to the designated folder on OneDrive. If there are any problems during the editing process, the author is notified via email. Once the editing process is finished, a PDF copy of the updated article is emailed to the author for his/her final approval.

RH: When we are in the editing phase, there are not multiple versions of the manuscript, as only one Exec member has the file at one time. Each time the file is edited, it is passed on, with changes, to the next editor. Until Exec Read, all changes are made using track changes. This feature allows the author and the editing team to ensure that the edits being made are appropriate and do not diminish the author’s voice. We share manuscripts by keeping them in the office in the Exec Read binder and in a DropBox online. Each time the manuscript is edited, the changes are merged so that the newest version encompasses all edits. We use the Track Changes feature to communicate changes. The author can see these changes and choose whether or not to accept them. Using the Track Changes feature also permits dialogue to occur between the editing team and the author in the event that edits create doubt or uncertainties.

4. Do you think there is any benefit to editing manuscripts electronically, versus editing by hard copies? If so, can you explain what the benefit is?

CF: The efficiency of electronic editing is probably the most beneficial factor. We are able to instantly download the article from Scholastica, upload a copy to a shared folder that every editor can access anytime and from anywhere, see all of the changes made to the article in real time, and organize all of the documents associated with the article in one location.

RH: Personally, I enjoy editing the old-fashioned way, with a red pen and a hard copy of the manuscript. It provides me a closer read of the text and makes me engage with the manuscript as opposed to staring at it on a computer screen. However, editing the manuscripts electronically permits us to edit outside of the school setting and collaborate on a closer level with the author. If we were to send the author a copy of the manuscript after editing a hard copy, there would be no way for the author to know what had been changed and why such changes were made.

5. If you were to talk to a law review that wants to change their editing process to be all electronic, where would you suggest they start?

CF: Selecting a cloud operating system is probably the best place to start. As mentioned, one of the greatest benefits of electronic editing is its efficiency. By choosing a platform like OneDrive, Dropbox, etc., all of your documents are in one location and they are immediately available to every editor.

RH: I like to use Microsoft Word for editing. However, if there were a platform other than Google Docs that permitted multiple editors to view a document at the same time, that would be a more ideal option. I would ensure that editors know how to use the Merge Documents function and how to edit using Track Changes if editing in Word. I would also have the law review consider how extensive and intimate they desire the editing phase to be. If they want to be very hands on, I suggest a collaboration software that permits the author to interact with the students on the law review.

Are you a law review editor who has a question you’d like to have answered by other editors? Let us know by commenting below, and we’ll try to get some information for you!