The value of intangible copyediting and proofreading skills

A bunch of dark and light pink sweet peas in a vase on a desk with a laptop, monitor and other office bits and pieces.

The more you work as a copyeditor or proofreader, the more you come to understand that the job is about far more than spotting errors in spelling and grammar. For me as an editorial project manager, there are certain copyediting and proofreading skills that I’ve come to value in the freelancers I work with but that are hard to pin down.…

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How to absorb any editorial style guide

A ladybird clings upside down to a stalk of grass

One page, ten pages, fifty pages or a whole published book – an editorial style guide can initially seem like an overwhelming onslaught of information that you won’t ever fully grasp. Never mind herding cats, you might feel like you have a veritable zoo of style points all clamouring for attention – and a client, author or manager poised to pounce if you neglect even one of them.…

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Why editors should know about PRINCE2

White jigsaw puzzle pieces on a grey background

It’s rare to hear clients or editorial project managers explicitly talk about using PRINCE2 (or indeed any specific project management methodology). So why should editors should know about PRINCE2?

Well chances are, you’re probably already using PRINCE2’s ideas in much of your editorial work – even if you’ve never heard of it.

PRINC2 Practitioner badge

I know this because, having spent the past couple of years getting myself qualified as a PRINCE2 Practitioner, I’ve had plenty of time to see how it works.…

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Making trouble: using expert editorial judgement to hunt down issues

A tangle of string symbolising the idea of making trouble for a client

‘Don’t make trouble’ is an edict that we often hear as children. Making trouble means being difficult. It raises unnecessary issues. It causes aggravation. It wastes time and thereby costs money.

The idea of making trouble also goes against a core principle that proofreaders and copyeditors learn early on: if something’s good enough, don’t change it (sometimes phrased as ‘leave well enough alone’).…

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Here be monsters: what I’ve learned from editing 20 million words of reference works

On the rim of the editorial world, out beyond the well-travelled shipping lanes of non-fiction, the jostling flotillas of novels and the bustling reefs of academia, is a fabled area of publishing rarely glimpsed by the everyday reader or writer. Here dwell academic encyclopedias, catalogues and other major reference works (often called MRWs) – leviathans that dwarf much of the rest of the publishing world in their scope, cost, timescale, demandingness and sheer ambition.…

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Working in an editorial team Part II: copyeditor, typesetter or designer, proofreader and indexer

For an editorial project to meet its goals, multiple people (sometimes many) need to work together, but potentially without ever actually communicating with each other. This requires each person to have a clear understanding of their role in the process and the ripples (good or bad) they can create for others in the editorial team.

Part I of this article gave some suggestions on how the author, developmental editor and project manager can contribute to each other’s work and the work of people later on in the process.…

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Editorial midwifery: why a love of language is not enough

It’s not uncommon to hear editors alluding to what they do as a kind of midwifery. Editors (for which read ‘copyeditors’ and ‘proofreaders’ throughout) help clients to ‘birth’ books – to bring them into the world in the healthiest and best-prepared state they can, with the minimum possible fuss, mess and pain. They support clients (parents), listening carefully to their desires for their book (birth plan) and doing their utmost to make those desires a reality.…

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Disengage, re-engage: 13 tips for proofreading text you’ve already copy-edited

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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Plagiarism: how to spot it and what to do about it

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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How to help (and hinder) your typesetter

Typesetting
Typesetting

Copy-editors and proofreaders rarely get any direct contact with or feedback from typesetters. As such, we can never quite be sure whether our markup and working practices are helpful and sufficient or whether we’re causing confusion and wasted time. Developments in technology – for example, the use of styles in Word and the use of Acrobat’s built-in markup tools – have led to further options and possibilities, with the result that there is no single ‘right’ way of marking up text.…

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