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What does a copyeditor do?

25 May

I’ve noticed that people have been finding this website and blog by searching for “what does an editor do”?  So I thought a quick example or two might be in order!

What a copyeditor actually does is make sure the text the author has written doesn’t have spelling, grammar, punctuation and factual errors.  When I’m copyediting a piece, I work in several different ways (according to how my client wants me to work with them):

- a Word document and “track changes” – I turn Track Changes on in Word and it shows up exactly what I do, whether it’s deleting something, moving it, or adding a word here and there.  I also use the “comments” facility to highlight a word or phrase and then ask a question or offer some alternatives.   When the client receives the document from me, they choose “show final markup” in Track Changes (or similar, depending on what word processor they’re using) and then go through accepting or rejecting my changes with the click of a button.  I always work like this with students, so they have to decide whether to accept each change, retaining ownership and authorship over the piece of work.  But some other clients like me to do this too.

- a Word document with the changes already made. This is sometimes called a “clean copy”.  I make the changes I think are needed, and the client trusts that I’m right and doesn’t need me to tell them what I’ve done.  I work like this with some clients from the start; some move over to this format after we’ve worked together for a while.  If a client isn’t a student, I offer them one of each of these two, then they can see what I’ve done but don’t have to go through accepting each change.

- an annotated PDF.  I work this way with clients whose work is already in PDF format, or when I’m copyediting web pages.  I print a copy of each web page to PDF or open the PDF document, and use a dedicated application that allows me to highlight parts of the text and add call-out boxes with comments in.  Clients who use this method include anyone who has a set of web pages, and, for example, magazine publishers, who send me the pages as they will look in the final magazine (check back soon for information on when this constitutes “proofreading”).

So, for an example, I’ve made up a piece of text that’s riddled with errors, and then I present my corrected copy underneath.  So I don’t inadvertently plagiarise someone, I’ve used my own text from another blog post.

———

From the author:

Now I’ve got more flexibility in my time-table, I suggested to my friend Laura who also works from home (and cafes, and her office…that we add in some “co-working” time to our regular lunches. The definition of coworking has extended from its original ‘working with colleauges’ idea to include working in paralell with other people, who are probably not your direct colleagues, in a space which is probably not both of your offices. That sounds a bit muddled – it’s basicly those set of people with laptop’s sitting around a big tables in your local cafe.

So, we decided to try doing this ata local cafe, and now we decided to start writing a irregular series of reviews of local venues with free wifi in which it’s possible (or possible) to work. We’re going to work our way around Queens Heath and then possibly venture farther a field.

My corrected version:

Now I’ve got more flexibility in my timetable, I suggested to my friend Laura, who also works from home (and cafes, and her office … ) that we add in some “co-working” time to our regular lunches. The definition of co-working has extended from its original “working with colleagues” idea to include working in parallel with other people, who are probably not your direct colleagues, in a space which is probably not either of your offices. That sounds a bit muddled – it’s basically those sets of people with laptops sitting around a big table in your local cafe.

So, we decided to try doing this at a local cafe, and then we decided to start writing an irregular series of reviews of local venues with free wifi in which it’s possible (or impossible) to work. We’re going to work our way around Kings Heath and then possibly venture further afield.

———-

There are some variants: a substantive copyedit, for example, will include all of the above work, plus I’ll be looking for inconsistencies in the text as a whole: for example, a character in a biography’s name changing, or the layout of a house being inconsistent in a novel – a bit like being a continuity person for a film.

In the next few weeks, I’ll talk about what a proofreader, copy writer and transcriber does (maybe even a copy typist, too!)

 

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23 responses to “What does a copyeditor do?

  1. Colleen

    May 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I’m intrigued about the mention of checking for factual errors… Will you write more about that one day?

     
  2. libroediting

    May 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for your comment, Colleen. There is debate about how much fact-checking a copy-editor should do. Really, the jobs of fact-checker and copy-editor should be distinct. But I, probably like most copy-editors, will highlight or check something that stands out as being wrong (a US President’s name or something like that) and may query something that looks odd.
    Hope that helps!

     
  3. dfsut

    May 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Enjoyable read. I work in education and do a lot of marking so I am interested in your thoughts. Cheers Dave

     
    • libroediting

      May 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! I’ll be doing a series of posts on what I do, and you might be interested in my other series on troublesome pairs of words!

       

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