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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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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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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Proofreading pitfalls: nine tips to improve your proofreading strategy

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

A green chair and several white chairs in an office

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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Using combo boxes in editorial style sheets

Combo Boxes

I am a huge advocate of comprehensive and well-organised editorial style sheets. When copy-editing and proofreading, they help me to clearly summarise the style decisions I’ve made and communicate them to my client. And, in my project management work, they are indispensable tools for corralling copy-editors on multi-editor projects and for keeping styles consistent throughout copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, collating and indexing.…

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