Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why is it when you look online you can find many different ways to do Harvard style citations?

So, one employer asked me to take a test to show I have editing skills. This is not the first time I have employers require tests (even though I have already taken tests through Guru and they are displayed on my profile). However, as all of you should know, editing is not cut and dried: This is right; this is wrong. Yes, certain things are right and certain things are wrong, but there are some things that change depending on the style manual you are using. The last time I did an editing test for an employer, I was told I failed because I did not know which style manual they were following (after the fact, I determined it was probably Chicago style, which is my least favorite).

Before taking this test, I asked which style it would cover. I was told APA and Harvard. The first part of the test was simple, but then the second got tricky. When I came to the first Harvard style question: "Which is the correct way to cite this reference in Harvard style?" Neither of the two answers was correct: (Wayne, Smith, Johnson, & McClennen, 2014) OR (Wayne, Smith, Johnson and McClennen, 2014). The correct in-text, parenthetical, Harvard style citation would be (Wayne, Smith, Johnson & McClennen 2014). This happened for three questions- I only guessed correctly one of the three times.

Needless to say, I went online to find out why this test was messed up- after all they had to use some resource that obviously wasn't the original (which is the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, 6th Ed. 2002). What I discovered was that people are confusing Harvard style (which is a complete style guide) with the Harvard system of referencing. I also think I know why Harvard style is called Harvard style even though it is from Australia.

It all started when a Harvard professor decided to use the in-text citation at the turn of the 20th century. The other methods of citation use footnotes and endnotes (Vancouver- IEEE uses this). Technically, any parenthetical citation in-text is the "Harvard" system and that is probably why the AGPS became known as Harvard style. However, some people use "Harvard" to refer to the name-date parenthetical style. This is where it gets confusing. If, as some people on the Internet claim, Harvard style refers simply to a citation system where you use the name and date in parenthesis- it has nothing to distinguish it from, say, APA which is also a name-date citation style. In general, if professors and journals want any name-date style, they will simply say use a "name-date citation style." (Or that is what they should say rather.)

Internationally, commas are frowned upon as a general rule (sad, but true). So the AGPS, which is the official style manual of Australia, is an international standard when house style manuals are not used. Keep in mind that Harvard style is a full style guide. If you are writing a thesis in Austrailia, you will be required to follow it. Harvard referencing or the Harvard system of referencing only means you should not be using foot- or endnotes. Keep in mind, though, that many of the websites talking about Harvard referencing (1) Are university websites compiled by librarians and seem to be based on what the librarians themselves prefer, and (2) have no clue what they are talking about: One stated that MLA was a footnote/ endnote referencing style. MLA is actually a parenthetical style (like Harvard) that uses the author and page number (instead of author-date).

So, that is why there is the confusion about style online. Some people (and universities) have created their own style guides using Harvard referencing as their citation method. This is very wrong of them to do. If they want to use Harvard referencing, they should call it the name-date system to help avoid confusion. Especially since they use "Harvard referencing" to specifically mean name-date as opposed to parenthetical referencing. In general, I think it is due to a lack of knowledge- kind of like when I bought the Harvard Blue Book, which is not a style manual but a legal citation guide. To further reduce confusion, Harvard style should go back to being AGPS style, but that will probably not happen.

So, your professor told you to write a paper and you don't know if you should follow the style manual or just cite works using an author-date system- what do you do? First, if you follow the Harvard style manual, you won't get marked down- or if you do you have a case you can present and you should win. (You did know you can appeal university grades, right?) Second, if you don't want to purchase the Harvard manual, you could just use its method of citation (follow the link above under "Harvard style"). Third, you could ask your professor what exactly is meant and impress (or irritate) him or her with your knowledge of citation and referencing systems. Or, fourth, you could hope your professor meant Harvard referencing, find a citation method that is name-date that you like, and be consistent throughout.

Consistency is the key with anything. That is the whole reason style manuals were developed- so you didn't use serial commas in the first paragraph and drop them elsewhere (for example). In fact, that is the whole reason Webster wrote the dictionary- so there would be more consistency in spelling. As an editor, consistency is the number one thing I have to fix.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What is an ISBN number?

Someone sent me a comment on another one of my posts, but I am not going to publish it there because it was slightly incoherent and one of the things the person was griping about was a typo that I have since fixed. However, I would like to clear up one argument the anonymous person raised about the ISBN.

An ISBN is a number specific to each book. It has nothing to do with whether or not you own the rights to your book, it has more to do with the way a book is cataloged. It is primarily for distribution purposes.

If you purchase an ISBN, you can distribute a book through CreateSpace or other distributors. Likewise, if you do not purchase an ISBN, one will probably be assigned by the distributor (like CreateSpace). An ISBN is unique to each book. That means that every time you change the book format- i.e. you have a print book with an ISBN and you want to now make an e-book- you will need to purchase a new ISBN. Every time you come out with a new edition (or update your book), you will need to buy a new ISBN.

This person seemed to believe that when you allow CreateSpace to assign an ISBN number to your book, you lose your rights in some way or another and this is not true. CreateSpace needs the number to distribute your book- without it, it cannot do this. If you purchase the number independently, CreateSpace will not distribute through all of its channels. Why? Because the ISBN is like a tracking number- if you purchased it, you should be responsible for tracking it. You should be responsible for distributing it (independently) to bookstores and libraries and anywhere else. It is a tracking number. Registering your book independently means you are going to take care of all those things. 

However, most independent publishers do not have time to do this or a need, really. Add to that the fact that if you are going to use the ISBN system, you need to purchase an ISBN for EVERY edition and every format. It adds up. Especially when all you are purchasing is a unique tracking number and chances are good you are not going to be using it for its intended purpose. Purchasing an ISBN is nothing more than false bragging rights.

So, what is the worst thing that could happen if you allow CreateSpace to assign an ISBN number for free? Well, let's say a big publishing company sees you have been selling millions of books and wants to pick your title up (the only way they will be able to do this is if they looked at your ISBN tracked sales). Well, then when they pick your book up, it will get a new ISBN number assigned to it. Guess what? If you purchased an ISBN number at your own cost and the same thing happened, they would still need to assign the book a new number because it is a new edition when printed by them.

So, although this person tried to make the argument that you could not put your own publishing company name down in CreateSpace/ Amazon records if you used their ISBN and that was important, I have to question the logic. You are not printing the book in your backyard or at your local print shop and offering it on Amazon- they are doing the printing for you. Why not let them put a free tracking number on it?

Now, before you start grumping in the comment section that you want your publishing company name there, consider this: with self-publishing so massive these days, I don't think looking at the publisher and seeing "CreateSpace" is going to have any more detriment than looking at the publisher and seeing Joe Smoe Inc. or Dreaming Reality Publications (my company) for that matter. I get more sales from Amazon.com than I do from my personal website and I don't think that has anything to do with the fact I didn't purchase my book's ISBN. The fact of the matter is, no one has heard of Dreaming Reality, just as no one has heard of your company and so if a reader is looking at publishers they are not going to turn your book down any more or less than if it says "CreateSpace."

However, without expanded distribution, you will lose some of the money and sales you could have gotten if CreateSpace were doing your distribution for you. As I said, I sell about $50 worth of books on CreateSpace each month and $0 worth of books in the lifetime of my website on it. I can still sell books on my website with a CreateSpace assigned ISBN, I can still say my publishing company is Dreaming Reality Publications. Until I am big enough to have retailers and libraries come to me for my books directly, I am perfectly happy letting CreateSpace take some credit for their printing of my work.

Perhaps it is because I see the benefit of extended distribution. Perhaps it is because I think it is silly to purchase something someone is giving you free with only a by-line as the string attached. Or perhaps it is my sense of justice and truth. Really, what it comes down to is that if CreateSpace is doing your printing, why do you want to pretend you are doing it yourself? If your book is good, no one is going to look at the publisher- except to praise it.

UPDATE: If I still haven't convinced you that purchasing an ISBN is a waste of money, please know that only one company per country has the ability to directly sell you ISBNs. In the United States, that is Bowker. As you could guess from my post above: I do not endorse this process. However, please do not purchase from someone else and think you are getting an ISBN for your book and your publishing company when they have sold you junk. Read: The number you have may not be internationally registered (or has already been registered to another book) and therefore it cannot even function as a tracking number! Or worse - you purchase a real, unused ISBN, but instead of being able to use YOUR publishing company, you now must list the company from which you purchased the ISBN as the publisher.

 If you live in a different country, you will need to find your copyright registry, although here are links to a few others that are the legitimate ones for their country: Canada (English), Canada (French), Russia, China, U.K. and Ireland, France, and Germany.

Also, DO NOT PURCHASE THE COPYRIGHT GARBAGE from Bowker. Go to the U.S. Copyright office directly- and I DO recommend copyrighting ALL your work.