If you’re a writer or an English major who aced every spelling and grammar quiz in school, you might think to yourself, “Hey, I’m pretty good with words. I understand punctuation, possessives, and present participles. I would make a fantastic copyeditor!” And you could very well be right. But before you dive headfirst into this profession, it’s important to know that for a good copyeditor, grammatical know-how is just the tip of the iceberg; successful copyediting requires a number of additional skills that have nothing to do with whipping out that red pen to correct a dangling modifier. This post outlines some essential copyediting skills that are completely unrelated to grammar and spelling.
A line edit typically occurs between developmental editing and copyediting, and it’s a sort of transition between making large structural changes and perfecting the mechanics of the language. Not every manuscript needs a line edit, but a line edit would likely enhance most manuscripts because its primary focus is not on perfecting the language but on elevating it.
Though style sheets can seem confusing at first, they are among the most important tools at a copyeditor’s disposal. As long as you keep your style sheet organized and record all of your decisions related to mechanics and style, you should be all right. (Or is it “alright”? Better check the style sheet.)
Finding an editor can prove difficult and expensive, but if you go about it with tact and strategy, editing your short story yourself might yield good results. Though editing can be exhausting, there are a few strategies I find helpful when I write creatively.
English is hard. According to the Oxford Royale Academy, it’s one of the top five most difficult languages in the world today. So why do we, as writers and especially as editors, accept making our jobs that much more difficult by using so many different style guides?
Maintaining the attitude of a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist when editing, particularly for fiction and memoir, is crucial to preserving an author’s voice.