In the editorial world, it’s generally thought that the person who copy-edited a text shouldn’t also be the person to proofread it.

This is a sound rule to follow wherever possible: a proofreader is often referred to as a ‘fresh pair of eyes’, and this freshness can be invaluable. In the same way that an author can become blind to the errors in their own work through overfamiliarity, a copy-editor tends to lose that ‘edge’ that comes with seeing a text anew.…

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At some point (hopefully very rarely), every proofreader and copy-editor will find themselves working on a project where it seems that somebody, somewhere, at some point, dropped the ball in a big way.

As a copy-editor, you might discover that the developmental editor seems to have let through major inconsistencies and that swathes of detail are missing.

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The basics of proofreading are easy, right? You read through the text and mark errors to be corrected. Simple. But of course, as any competent proofreader at any level of experience knows, that’s not the whole story. A proofreader has to carry out numerous tasks to do with technical aspects, style and sense – not just spot where a crucial name is misspelled.…

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Hazel Bird, Wordstitch Editorial, copy-editor and project manager

Whether it’s done accidentally, unthinkingly or with malice aforethought, plagiarism is a perennial problem in publishing. Sometimes it might result from an author’s genuine ignorance of the rules and conventions surrounding the reproduction of others’ work; sometimes it might be a shortcut (for example, if an author is commissioned to write in a language other than their own and struggles to formulate their own words); and sometimes it is simply the deliberate theft of another author’s words.…

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I recently edited an academic book on Nazi Germany and, as is standard copy-editing practice, checked the spelling and diacritics of all proper nouns and non-English words: the Polish ‘L’ character with a stroke; the triple-consonant ‘sch’ in Mischlinge; the umlaut in Röhm. I’ve found that, with experience, copy-editing functions like this have become almost automatic.…

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Authorial voice - the bogeyman?

‘Don’t intrude on the author’s voice’ is one of the first things every new proofreader or copy-editor is told. This is both a very helpful and an utterly useless piece of advice. It is helpful because it is absolutely true, but it is useless because it rarely seems to be defined just what on earth authorial voice is.…

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