Copyediting, More Important Than Pants

November 17, 2012

Indie Pen Tribe

You are whizzing through your final draft for the 327th time. It looks great and it reads squeaky and smooth, like a greased pig, you’re ecstatic! But then, on page 221, you find yet another dreaded grammatical error. Even with all the spell-checking and automated grammar corrections that your Word Processor performs, there are errors. Yes, even on your 328th read through.

It’s difficult to see every period, quotation mark and dangling participle. We’re not programmed to do this, actually. Recently they’ve found that we humans don’t actually look at every letter as we read, we recognize the shape of words…most of the time. Of course, this may lead to thinking that spelling correctly really doesn’t matter, and that you can afford to get a little creative with positioning those adverbs.

Beware, Aunt Lucille is watching

But you would be wrong. Because some of the time, some people will look at every letter, every comma and tsk-tsk over your run-on sentences. It might even be your prunish Aunt Lucille, god forbid, who will take great pleasure in telling your mother all about it. You will never live it down, you will burn with embarrassment.

Unfortunately, rules are rules. Those age old methods of sentence structuring actually help us read faster and with less fuss, so that we enjoy the ideas and images which ride in on those carefully phrased words of yours even more.

So hire a good copy editor and pay them well. Search for the finest pencil-straightening, English teacher type that you can find. There are plenty on the internet, looking for work. Make sure you check their references before you begin and are very clear when discussing the extent of the edit. There are several levels.

Layers and Levels of Copyediting

· Light (baseline) copyediting. Light copyediting is very similar to editorial proofreading but does a more thorough check of grammar rules.

·  Medium (standard) copyediting. Medium copyediting also checks for style consistency and relationships between text and graphics. Table-of-contents entries and organizational problems are also corrected.

·  Heavy (substantive) copyediting. The main difference between medium and heavy copyediting is the level of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copy edit, editors try to improve the flow of text by rewriting portions to enforce a uniform level, tone, and focus. AVS Group.

So if you veer from past tense to present perfect tense with wild abandon and you’re just waking up to the fact that this might not go down well in Poughkeepsie, a good copyeditor might be just the thing for you.

For more information, try the Bay Area’s Editors’ Forum

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