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Thursday, April 4, 2013


As an author have you ever thought about taking a copy editing course? As authors we tend to rely on our editors to take the words we write, and to prepare them into a readable script. We rely on them to get the job done, but even editors are human and can and do make mistakes. How can we help the flow of our own writing and catching the overused “was” and “I” or the misuse of commas? By educating ourselves. We, as authors must take it upon ourselves to fully educate ourselves on editing. Either we need to buy access to all the manuals of writing or we need to get into a class teaching copy editing.

It does not matter what education level you are at. You could have your PhD and still make erroneous mistakes when writing a book. Do not think you don’t need it, you do! There are many classes offered online or you can take certified courses through the local University in Copy Editing, some of these are online.
As new authors trying to write books monies have not yet been made to help them gain access to the editors they need. Not everyone had someone they know as a Copy Editor. When I began writing, I chose a friend of mine who works in business to edit my manuscripts and then had a few other people read and edit. What I learned is that they are not Copy Editors and haven’t been trained to look for certain things.

There is more to editing than you think. We as authors have difficulties editing because it is our work and we will read over areas that need help without even realizing it. I hop in and out of chat forums and listen to people complain about today’s self-published writers and how books are printed without any editing.
Is it because of the money involved? It can be very expensive to hire an editor and then to find one that follows the policies an editor should follow. For instance, how many of you have reached out to an editor who wants to change how you have written your work? They want to put their spin on it.  A true copy editor will never do this they are responsible for preparing your text for the typesetter or the person next in line to look at the manuscript. They will advise you on flow and what might sound better but they will never try to rewrite it the way they like it.

The single most important thing that an editor will do is always remember that the works belongs to the author and so they must avoid trying to have the manuscript written in their own tone but to just do the job as a Copy Editor.

Did you know there are many different types of editors? Most authors will deal with a Copy Editor. However, for anyone dealing with publishing companies they have a staff of different types of editors available to look over your manuscript. Do you know what an Acquisitions Editor is? A very important person if you are wanting your agent to get your works published with a publishing company. They are like “scouts” taking an author and hooking them up with the right publisher for their work. Your agent works closely with them and the Acquisitions Editor works closely with the team at the publishing company. There are more editors than mentioned but this is one that I felt needed to be shared.

For those of you that have worked with an editor have you thought of why we are making so many rounds? There are three types of copy editing to be done to a manuscript. As you can imagine it is heavy, medium, and light copy editing. The first round a copy editor is now doing a “heavy copy edit.” The editor is looking for

·         Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
·         Capitalization
·         Numbers
·         Hyphen use
·         List of items
·         Table of Contents
·         Table and figure numbers
·         Gender neutrality
·         Format
·         Content and Style
·         Audience
·         Logic and clarity
·         Word usage
·         Redundancies
·         Wordiness, tightness
·         Vague generalizations
·         Weak sentence style
·         Lack of focus

Did you know that editing is considered to be subjective? What?? What about all the rules one must follow as an editor? Don’t worry this just means that the English language is constantly changing and evolving.

A rule you may have become to know may no longer exist with a new rule taking precedence over the old one. For example, the rule that you should end a sentence with two spaces no longer is the status quo. Now you are to look for just the one space. 

As an editor you must always look to the manual of style as your reference guide. You should also reference dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases, and the manual of choice. There are several of these and you choose the one to use by what your client needs. So for instance most fiction writers should follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

Many authors use different techniques for remembering important aspects of the story they write. Ever wrote a 300 page novel only to discover during the second reading that you changed names of some of your characters? Have you ever noticed how you spelled the same words differently within your manuscript? How do you take care of these types of issues?

An editor uses what is called, “A Style Sheet.” This is a great tool for authors to use as well. It will come in handy when you are writing your novel. What is “A Style Sheet?” It is a tool to ensure consistency throughout your writing.

Here is an example of how one may look


Mickey Mouse
Oceanside, ca
rruff-rruff for dog sound





General Styles/Punctuation

Italicize magazine, TV, Movie titles

Enclose song titles in quotation marks


Spell out numbers less than 10

Really, it is a cheat sheet that you may pull out and use as you go through your novel or whatever you are writing. You won’t have to keep flipping back and forth searching for how you spelt someone’s name earlier in the manuscript. You will have it on here.

These are the kinds of things that you might record on one of these. Names of characters, odd spellings, words that might have variation, place names, abbreviations, numbers, and dates, trademark names like Coke Cola, and any other specific instructions. It will help you remember if you are spelling out numbers under ten or over 10. 

All you will need to do is reference the “Style Sheet,” and you are good to go.
Every wondered what the dashes were that you have seen in text. You look at them and know they are not a hyphen but have no clue what they are or how to make one yourself?

These are called, “En dashes,” or “Em dashes.” Let’s take a few minutes to talk about these and then I will tell you how to make them yourself with word.

En Dashes are the size of an “n” across. They are used to indicate a range, such as in page numbers, dates, and references.

Example 162­–175, 1986–1995

Em dashes are the size across of a capital M and have many uses.
1.       They can be used to set off a series of items within a sentence that already contain commas
Ex. My three cats—John, Cuddles, and Paws— have played with the ball of yarn.
2.       They are used to indicate a break in thought.]
a.       I can—I must—finish knitting this blanket.
3.       They are used to introduce a summarizing thought
a.       To bake the perfect cake—that was my goal
4.       They are used to give emphasis to elements within a sentence.
a.       Some of the workers—including painters, welders, and electricians—were on strike.

Now how do you make them? Well luckily they are a symbol. 

You just need to pull down the insert menu and go to symbol and get your m or n dash.

Well that is today’s lesson in editing. Hope you enjoyed it and got something out of this post.