As a copy-editor I work with an author or publishing house on their raw text, making multiple passes to ensure accuracy. This includes correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes but goes beyond the proof-reader’s role. Considerations include the extent of the work and the structure of sentences and paragraphs – text can be cut or lengthened to fit a column, page or spread. Language is also checked to make sure it’s right for the intended readership, and word/sentence substitutes offered where necessary. Facts (historical, geographical, chronological, for example) are double-checked, as are the use of names (brands and people), place spellings (including the correct use of diacritics), conversions, translations and quotations. Issues such as copyright infringement and libel may also be addressed. Lastly, a good copy editor will be able to offer limited rewrites of sentences and paragraphs that sound odd, inconsistent or need to work a bit harder.
Line editing offers more flexibility than copy editing; the latter is often tied down by the rules of grammar and syntax whereas the former has an opportunity get creative in order to make language sing. For this reason a line editor (also known as a development, substantive or comprehensive editor) gets to work on text before the copy editor does the final polish. A line editor has more freedom to reshape a piece of writing, cutting unnecessary words, meaningless adverbs or abstractions – or maybe characters, locations or situations, if writing fiction. They often work closely with the author and look at the ‘bigger picture’ – use of tone, pace and characterisation (in fiction, as above), identifying and changing poor word choices or dodgy structuring (in both fiction and non-fiction).
How Do I Work?
Typically, clients send me Word documents and I make direct changes in these or use the ‘track changes’ options so that they can accept my suggestions if they choose to. Many people trust me to work directly on their spreads – I mainly use InDesign 5.0 or 5.5 to proof or copy-edit, but I can confidently work in Illustrator or Photoshop if that’s how a file has been put together; pages laid out in QuarkXpress are also an option. Alternatively some clients prefer me to work on PDFs of their work – in these cases I use Acrobat Pro to leave notes, comments and suggestions on pages, and my corrections are taken in by them. In some case it might be possible to work out a trial of my services, such as a chapter or spread edit, to see if we are right for each other. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think I can help you.
Examples of my copy-editing work…
⇑ Jacket shot of BIKE! (Quintessence)
⇑ Guinness World Records 2011 – writing, editorial, planning, adjudications (Jim Pattison Group)
⇑ The X Factor Magazine – interviews, photography, writing, editorial (Marshall Cavendish)
⇑ 1001 Whiskies (Quintessence)
⇑ Inside the Human Body – interviews, theatre photography, writing, editorial (Midsummer)
⇑ Chronicles of Rock (Quintessence)