Writing Career – Digging In:
You have some experience editing and a decent understanding of the basic rules of grammar, but you need to go deeper in order to do a thorough job, to become a professional at your trade. Whether your experience comes in the form of a job or WDU’s Introduction to Copyediting course, you realize that there is a lot more to copyediting than meets the eye. You know what a copy editor does, how she does it, and several important grammar skills, but you have questions concerning mechanics, punctuation, word usage, quotations, common mistakes, and other such things.
In other words, you’ve gotten your feet wet but you want to go deeper. You’ve decided that copyediting is something you have an interest in and now you desire to practice your skills, learn more about the work, and build your self-confidence.
That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Essentials of Copyediting
Some aspects of editing are learned only through experience, and others are so basic that no one will take the time to explain them to you. Formatting a manuscript, navigating gray areas, and word treatment fall into this category. Such fundamentals may seem so basic as to be inconsequential, but I assure they are not. In order to do a job well, you must devote some time and effort to these areas.
Formatting the Manuscript. If you are working on hard copy, then you have little say in how the manuscript is formatted when you receive it. It will arrive as running text (lines of text-filled pages) or in layout form, which means the photos or photo dummies have been inserted and the copy flowed around them. This copy most likely will be single-spaced in a font and size not of your choosing.
I sometimes work with type so small that I need a pair of readers—i.e., glasses that magnify—to do my job well. I like to see very clearly what I’m dealing with, and I find that my readers help me pick out otherwise difficult-to-detect typos. Another challenge you’ll face is keeping your edits legible and neat. If you find much to correct and/or change, you’ll have to squeeze in the corrected copy or draw lines that branch out from problem areas and lead to open spaces in which you can pencil in your notes. Know your proofreader’s marks well so that confusion is minimal.
If you will be copyediting digitally, you can space and magnify the file to suit you. I recommend double-spacing and a classic font such as Times New Roman, 12 point. Professional writers know that editors prefer double-spaced manuscripts. I usually use 150 percent magnification because that’s what works for me. Experiment with what feels comfortable for you. Whether you are editing a manuscript of three pages or three hundred, it will make a difference, I assure you.