Copy Editing Session One

The first copy editing session this week taught me the slightly nebulous nature of this aspect of publishing, namely copy editing. Having gone into the session expecting little more than a spelling and grammar lesson it was a pleasant surprise to learn that there is a good deal more to it than that. Considerations such as the spelling of proper names, whether or not ‘ise’ should replace ‘ize’, and when, these were things I ought to have known would be coming in the session in retrospect, however it had never occurred to me that a copy editor might be concerned with narrative. For example, if a story has a three hour conversation taking place on a train but the train only moves two stops then that is something that would be flagged up by a copy editor. Or, if certain facts require checking then a copy editor can contribute to that, for example, is the setting of a story in a capital city the actual capital city of a country?

I discovered here that there is a large amount of general knowledge (often to the ‘uber-geek’ level) required to be a successful copy editor and that the scope of required learning and knowledge is huge. Obvious qualities such as patience, attention to detail and suchlike are also required, often to a seemingly absurd degree. It is a very diverse position in terms of networking and communication since one will end up dealing with all sorts of people with a variety of different jobs and concerns, and additionally it seems to me to be a job that is done well by a few and would favour a person who wishes to be self-employed. It reminded me of an author I once saw on Twitter who sent a twice-proofread manuscript to a copy editor which came back with over 1400 errors. This shows how vital this job is, and also why I am unlikely to be cut out for it! I can do it for a short amount of time, however to go through a manuscript like that with a fine tooth comb is bewildering to me right now. That may change of course.


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