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.