Sunday, March 20, 2005

Copy editing

I suppose I should explain about my copy editing remarks.

Once upon a time, over 20 years ago, I worked as a copy editor for my college's weekly newspaper -- The Carletonian. Great fun it was too, but I did learn a lot about what a copy editor does and so I wasnt too concerned about the easily fixable mistakes my mss might have. After all, a copy editor will get most of them. Right? WRONG!!

When I received the proofs of TLS, and actually went over them with a ruler, I was horrifed to see the mistakes I (and here I say I because I was the person who printed the mss out and sent it off to Hale) had allowed to slip through -- missing words, transposition of names and even sentences which did not make sense.
Unfortunately, some of it was not caught by the copy editor, and Hale had to re-copy edit the whole thing.

Ultimately it was not the fault of the copy editor but my own blind arrogance that caused the difficulties. So I have changed my methods of working. Hopefully it will make the copy editor's job easier, the next time around.

My final read through before posting anything off includes a paper read through with a ruler -- forcing me to concentrate on each line. With my recent queries, I have found numerous small errors and have been able to correct them this way.

Hints for a more professional mss:
1. Make sure you format correctly -- Word has a paragraphing function. Don't guess by indenting several spaces.
2. Keep a check list of names and places so that you can check they are consistently spelt the same way through out the mss. (D Company for example not Company D -- one the TLS mistakes)
3. Use a ruler to focus on each line.
4. Be consistent in your spelling, particularly with words such as realise (realize).
5. If writing a historical, have a dictionary that lists date of first usage to hand. Websters Collegiate Electronic is brilliant for such things. Be prepared to go to the local library and use the OED if you are really not sure. (ie ridicule is not listed in Websters as slang for a net bag, but it is listed in the OED as an alternative with the earliest usage date being 1809. Dickens also used it)
6. Have a final hard copy read through. Words look different in hard copy as opposed to reading on the screen. It is here you might pick up frequent use of a particular word, phrase or body language.


Sela Carsen said...

I must be slower than I thought -- I didn't realize you had a blog! Great tips on the copy editing and your garden sounds lovely.

Cearha said...

Welcome to the blogging world, Michelle. I really liked the editing tips and plan to use them on the next ms.

Anna Louise Lucia said...

Hey you! You were supposed to tell me when you got your blog up and running!

Love it, learning loads already.