Everyone needs a copy editor, even copy editors! It is extremely difficult to see mistakes in your own writing because your eye will usually see what your mind expects it to see. In other words, because you composed something a certain way in your head, you will see it that way with your eyes, even if that’s not what ended up on paper or screen.
Even a skilled copy editor can sometimes miss common errors, such as words repeated twice in a row, or missing prepositions or articles, like the, for example. For this reason, most copy editors will employ certain tricks to force themselves to see what’s actually in print and not what their mind expects to find there. One way to double cross the brain is to turn text upside down to read it. That isn’t exactly possible with text on a computer screen, so another trick is to read one sentence at a time from the bottom, up.
Regardless how it’s done, the copy editor is there to ensure the writer’s intent is what is presented to the reader, and that all the facts line up. The copy editor’s job is to allow the brilliance of the writer’s thoughts to be all the reader sees, and not have them tripped up by spelling, grammar, syntax, word choice, clarity, or factual errors that take them out of the article or story.
The relationship between the copy editor and the writer is symbiotic. While the copy editor is responsible for ensuring the final copy is error-free, the writer has the responsibility to follow a set of guidelines, usually established by their publisher or editor. The purpose of these guidelines is to create a common and consistent tone throughout the publication. Writers who make the effort to abide by these guidelines will sometimes find their contributions featured more prominently or promoted more heavily by the publication they are writing for.
Generally speaking, there are two primary Style Guides most news publications in the U.S. will elect to adhere to: the “Associated Press Stylebook” or “The Chicago Manual of Style.” While they are more similar than not, there are some marked distinctions that will be a “give-away” to anyone familiar with both texts. For instance, “AP Stylebook” places spaces on either side of an em dash, whereas “The Chicago Manual of Style” does not.
- AP: HUGE Plunge In Bitcoin — Virtual Currency Tanks 10% In A Matter Of Minutes
- CMS: HUGE Plunge In Bitcoin—Virtual Currency Tanks 10% In A Matter Of Minutes
In the course of my work as a copy editor, I have found that my clients more frequently use the “AP Stylebook,” and I have therefore adopted it as my preferred style guide, as well. The “Stylebook” is voluminous, and no one will ever need to remember every convention. However, there are quite a few frequently used guidelines that writers should be intimately familiar with. I have included some of them in the Style and Grammar Guide on this site, along with definitions, tips, and tricks based on what I have found to be extremely common errors among even the best writers.
Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments (or work!) at jillwklausen at gmail dot com.