|Posted by Alana Woods on March 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM|
I’ve been a professional copy editor for over 30 years. For most of that time I worked in various Australian public service departments, latterly as Director of Publishing at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
I’m no longer in full-time employment—haven’t been for about eight years. Most of my time now is taken up with my own writing but I keep my editing skills honed by doing some contract work and my clientele has expanded to authors wanting their manuscripts edited.
I imagine what copy editors—generally referred to as editors—actually do may be a bit of a mystery to some. People will be familiar with the concept, of ensuring that a document is readable, but what about the nitty gritty?
There are three levels of editing—substantive, copy and proofreading—and over the next weeks I’ll explain them.
Editing on screen has changed the process. Once upon a time it was done on hard copy. In some circumstances I will do both.
Do I go over a document just once? No.
With government and corporate work I scan the entire document to familiarise myself with it and then I will start at the beginning and work my way through.
Fiction I will go through two or three times. The first is a read through on screen to become familiar with the story and identify any potential problems. I don’t edit at this stage but I will fix typos as I see them and make notes of things that need to be looked at.
If I find no major flaws I will then go through it again on screen and make the changes, including any rewriting I feel is reasonable for me to make—and any rewriting is only a suggestion to the author.
I use tracked changes so the author can see what I’ve done and reject anything they don’t agree with.
If major flaws need to be addressed I’ll print out a paper copy and work through that.
The third edit is when I input those hard copy changes. I read it again in its entirety. This is when I insert comment boxes in which I explain my concerns in relation to things I believe the author should address.
Next week I'll explain the substantive edit.
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