Divas on Editing

Divas on Editing: Copy Editing

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Divas on Editing | 3 comments

Divas on Editing: Copy Editing

It’s probably crazy that I’m excited to write about copy editing, but there you have it. I am a total editing geek, and I will mentally edit Facebook posts—my own as well as others’—tweets, blogs articles, books I’m reading… you get the point. I take my editing very personally, and I put everything I have into each manuscript I work on. I have been known to call fellow editors in horror after finding  a typo in a book I’ve edited—yes, there’s not an editor out there who’s perfect. And my fellow Divas have had to remind me to not mentally edit a book that we’d bid to edit but didn’t get, even though I really, really wanted to work on it. So, yeah. I love editing, and today’s discussion is my favorite type of edit: copy editing. What can a copy editor do for you? What can a copy editor do for your manuscript? This is by no means all inclusive; there are plenty of other things involved in copy editing. It is also not the exact list that another copy editor will give you because if I’ve learned one thing as a professional editor, it’s that the lines between different types of edits are wavy and move all the time. And editors working for a publishing house edit differently than independent editors who work directly for the author. But first, let’s talk about the basics of copy editing. Copy editing is primarily the mechanical or technical side of editing—the wrong versus right, rule-oriented, less subjective editing that involves grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage to an extent, consistency, clarity, and readability. Proper grammar revolves around constructing clear, readable sentences using words, phrases, and clauses. The rules of grammar include using all classes of words correctly, and there really are too many to list. However, some of the commonly found copy editing mistakes have to do with noun/verb agreement, using the right tense, pronoun agreement, adjectival phrases, and participial phrases. Copy editing for grammar also means knowing there’s a difference between narrative and dialogue. While proper grammar in narrative is almost always the best choice, being proper in dialogue may not be. If you think about it, people don’t always speak in grammatically correct sentences, so to write dialogue that way can be tedious to read and sounds stuffy and pretentious to listen to. Punctuation is what I spend most of my copy editing time on. Just as grammar has defined rules, so does punctuation. However, the rules of punctuation sometimes seem more like guidelines; some of the rules are adhered to strictly, such as punctuation around dialogue. Very rarely does any group come along and announce they are changing the way this is done. But guidelines regarding other forms of punctuation have become almost fluid to some, which frustrates the rule-followers among us.  Banishing the serial comma? The horror! Not separating an opening clause? Gasp! I’m looking at you, comma minimalists! Correct punctuation means knowing when to use an em dash or when to use a comma, how to punctuate dialogue properly, and how to nestle a quote inside a quote inside a quote. Correct punctuation can also help when the family turns into cannibals. But editing is also about readability, so even I have been known to cut a ‘necessary’ comma or two from a sentence to make it less choppy and easier to read. But I tend to make that the exception, not the rule. Spelling /word usage is one of my favorite parts of copy editing because that’s where we have the most fun—at least that’s where I have the most fun… with homophones. Homophone confusion is the cause of most spelling/word usage errors in any manuscripts. Whether it’s something simple, like a their/they’re/there issue, or something a little more tricky—like free rein. Based on the amount of times I’ve seen rein misspelled, it may not be common knowledge that to allow someone free rein is derived from a rider loosening the reins, thereby giving his horse free rein to move about how and where it chooses. ...

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What to Expect When Editing: Before the Edit

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Divas on Editing, Special Features | 1 comment

What to Expect When Editing: Before the Edit

So you want to have your book edited. Sounds simple, right? You just find someone and they edit it. Well, it actually involves a bit more than this. Regardless of whether you go with an editing service or a freelance editor, there are certain steps that are common. The Divas decided that we wanted to write a series of articles that would give some guidelines for what is involved in specific types of editing and reveal the common steps involved in hiring an editor. So begins our series on What to Expect When Editing. There are a number of ways to get in contact with an editor or an editing service. Generally, such contact is made through e-mail or a form on a website. For instance, to contact Write Divas for editing services, you would e-mail us through our editing bid request form. Most editors will want to see a sample of the project before they give you a bid. The reason for this is to protect both you and the editor. The editor will read over the sample and discuss with you your editing options if the requested editing service is not appropriate.  It is common for authors to underestimate the amount of editing that a story needs, so don’t be surprised if the editor tells you they think you should buy a different service. At this time, the editor may also turn down the project. This can happen if the manuscript is not ready for editing, the content or genre of the manuscript is unacceptable to the editor, or the editor feels that he or she cannot do a good job of editing the project (e.g. the project involves development of a manuscript that is outside the editor’s area of expertise). When you request an editing bid, you should receive a polite and timely response. Depending on the policy of the editing company, a sample edit may be included with your bid. The bid you are sent should include the price, terms of payment, terms of service, a detailed rundown of what the chosen editing service includes and doesn’t include, the tools the editor will use to edit (style guides, dictionaries, word processing program, etc.), and the proposed editing timeline of the project. You may be asked to sign and return the bid if you wish to purchase the service. When you hire an editor, you generally enter into a contractual agreement. This protects both you and the editor and outlines your rights if you are dissatisfied with the service. It is at this point you pay for the service. The terms of payment vary from editor to editor and company to company. If you are working with an editing company, an editor will be assigned to your project after payment is received. She will contact with you and will discuss the finer points of the edit. If you have specific formatting, spellings, or grammatical “errors” you would like preserved, this is the point at which you discuss those with your editor. Your editor should also discuss such things as controversial spellings, the Oxford comma, comma minimalism, and American English versus World English with you, if appropriate. She may also request a character list from you. The reason for this is so the editor has the correct spelling of each character’s name. This list may also include physical characteristics of each character. Authors tend to be shocked when they see how often physical traits (such as eye color) and the spelling of names change throughout the course of a story. These are common consistency errors. Do not be surprised if your editor contacts you with questions during the edit, especially if she is working substantively on the story. Some editors will give you updates as they edit so you are kept in the loop.  A reputable editor will always make time to answer any questions you may have, to discuss the story with you, and to go over the edits she has made. An editor is much more than the lady who makes your book error free. She...

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