Copy editing is essential – Part I

red pencil

The Infamous “Red Pencil”

Oh, you are so proud of your completed manuscript!

You can’t help but sit back and admire all your hard work. Good for you. You deserve it. Enjoy the moment but, and you already know this, you are far from being done. You are somewhere in the middle of the process of becoming an author.

You haven’t lost interest in your project have you? I hope not because the next step is editing and it gets yawn-boring. This also means you must send out your baby to have it carved up by a total stranger.

Here is a brief summary of what I have gleaned about editing from numerous websites:

There are basically three steps to this process. The first is substantive editing which can include expanding the scope of your work, altering the placement of whole sections, and eliminating content for the purpose of increasing the readability. It is the most expensive of the three steps and can run to several thousand dollars.

The second step is called copyediting and is, in my view, the most important. Copyeditors correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. They correct awkward sentence structure, and check for consistency in content and style. My editor picked up on some omissions in my consistency, and actually offered some ideas all her own. More on that later.

The copy editor will return your manuscript to you with suggested changes. They usually use the MS Word track change function which will show corrections within the text as well as comments about the text off to the right side of the page.

Once you receive your manuscript you proceed with the third step which is proofreading. You can hire the same person to serve as both copy editor and proofreader or you can hire a new set of eyes. This is the cheapest of the three services and usually costs in the vicinity of a couple of hundred dollars or so.

I finished my novel with an intact, coherent story line, so substantive editing was unnecessary. A thorough copy editing would probably suffice but did I even need that?

I am, after all, the product of Irish Christian Brother schooling. This was back in the days when bouncing your head off the blackboard when you got an answer wrong was expected punishment, when “Brother Ball and Chain Eddie” would fire glass ink-wells at us if we dared to doze off, and when you didn’t complain to your parents either because they’d bounce your head off the dining room table. There was even a time when crazy Billy…but that’s a whole other story.

I was taught Latin and English in sync. It was a rewarding experience. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being taught to love language. Consequently, I consider myself something of a scholar when it comes to the English language, and this includes punctuation.

So did I really need a copy editor? Won’t a real careful reading with a red pencil in hand do? Yeah, I don’t need no stinkin’ copy editor. 

Or so I thought. 

Stay tuned.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill 

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