Posts tagged ‘copy editing’

August 17, 2011

Edit the world …

… let them know what grammar is. (With apologies to Bob Geldof/Midge Ure.)

So, in my quest to eradicate incomprehensible writing everywhere, I’ve signed up as a volunteer editor on Kibin. People submit all manner of files that need a quick read and using a somewhat coarse interface, editors mark up the text and submit it back with some comments to the author. It’s not a money maker … though I suppose there is some potential to eventually underwrite a grande latte at Starbucks, but that’s certainly not why I do it.

I’ve edited what was probably a 12-year-old’s project on the events leading up to Bastille day, a cover letter to a prospective employer, and a marketing pitch for a videographer … all horrendously written (well, the cover letter wasn’t too bad) and I gotta say, it’s a great feeling to absolutely know without a shred of doubt that someone somewhere will encounter a written document that isn’t a complete assault on their sensibilities. Because an editor stepped in and wrestled that hot mess into coherency. And that editor was me. And it could be you. Give it a try if you’re so inclined. It’s a spare time, just for fun kind of thing to do while you help make the written world a better place! : )

August 16, 2011

Proofreading Checklist

This is totally how I work … reading in levels, paging through again and again, back and forth. Happy to see I ain’t the only one!  I suggest making a laminated printout of this to present to your boss/client the next time they expect instant turnaround. (And don’t they always!)

Never proofread by reading a manuscript through only once looking for errors. The mind is not able to process all of the information in a document in one pass. Instead, read every normal, uncomplicated manuscript three times:

1. Read for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
2. Read again for content errors.
3. Read a final time for consistency in format, list items, and choice of words.
4. If the manuscript contains any of the following, read through it once for each characteristic after you have finished the three readings above:

  • Statistics, numbers, or dollar amounts. Do a separate statistics proofread.
  • Dates, telephone numbers, addresses. Do a separate numbers check. For important dates, telephone numbers, and addresses, look up the original information and compare the records. For advertising copy or direct mail, dial the phone numbers to be sure they are accurate.
  • Special formatting. Do a separate check of special formatting to be sure it complies with requirements.
  • Headings, numbered lists, sections with titles. Do a separate check of the headings, sequences of numbers, and titles on sections. Check to see whether the stated number of points is present. Check consistency in formatting.
  • Tables, charts, graphs. Do a separate accuracy check to be sure the visuals match the originals.
  • Cross references. If the manuscript refers to other pages, do a final proofread for cross-references after the manuscript has been printed for the last time.
Check these areas where errors are most likely to occur or be missed:
    1. Captions and titles in tables, graphs, and illustrations
    2. The first words or paragraph of the document
    3. The last words or paragraph of the document
    4. The text break at page breaks
    5. Titles and running heads
    6. Titles or other words in all caps
    7. Words in large type
    8. Headings
    9. Table of contents
    10. Page numbers

Much thanks to :

August 2, 2011

House Style

John McIntyre, over at The Baltimore Sun, writes:

House style is often an arbitrary choice between two equally acceptable ways of writing something. Therefore—deep breath, fellow copy editors—it doesn’t matter except for maintaining internally consistent practice at a publication.

You Don’t Say

And this is why I love him. Any self-respecting editor knows that many of the decisions we make are arbitrary; we simply prefer one (correct) treatment over another and that’s it, a purely subjective choice.

Clear communication is what’s paramount, of course, so honestly, who cares about arcane rules of grammar if an analyst is successfully presenting a well-paced argument? But to appease the sticklers, sure, we will admit that as it turns out, to convey a convincing thesis, you just kinda naturally gotta use good grammar anyhoo!

Consistency is almost as important as clarity. It’s one of those invisible aspects of editing we wrote about earlier … you don’t notice when it works, but it can be jarring, even if subconsciously, when it doesn’t.

YES! Every research department should develop and use its own style guide! I don’t care if the acronym for barrels of oil equivalent is written in upper or lower case — it doesn’t matter — but make a choice and stick with it!

July 30, 2011

The Subversive Copy Editor

I found this blog through a link from CMOS and now follow it on FaceBook. If, like me, you read books on grammar for fun (what? I do!), then you’ll enjoy this blog as well, promise.

July 28, 2011

They’ll Never Know

As editors of written copy and report presentation, our job is to be invisible and help the author shine. Sure, we could let a badly capitalized headline go out and 99% of the readership probably wouldn’t consciously notice. But we notice, and we know the report has more authority when small details like have been corrected.

And therein lies some of the frustration of having a career in financial services in such a role. This business, like any other business, is results oriented. Quantified. But for the multitude of us who work on the support side, making direct sales or getting a client to pay for our efforts isn’t an option. Yet we make a solid contribution to the final product and sometimes, I think, our role is wildly misunderstood, if not outright overlooked.

By ensuring that proper disclosures are in place every single time, we might have saved the company a headache with the regulators and possibly a steep fine. But that’s what they pay us to do, right? We know that.

Or we might have caught a valuation metric that was an anomaly in the comp table, questioned the analyst, and requested some clarification in the text. Or simply done the math and discovered the target wasn’t matching up. This kind of observation and intervention can help the analyst side-step the awkwardness of having the sales desk or a client scratching their heads asking, what the heck? But what’s it worth?

And sure, we might have helped the company avoid a million-dollar lawsuit by rephrasing an analyst’s pro-oil diatribe against an aboriginal leader who was backtracking on development plans … but by the time the report hits the wires, nobody knows we did that. Or really cares.

Or we tweaked a graphic just a few points higher to better position it in the story, maybe cropped out some extraneous noise, changed a font style/size, searched a source on the web. All important details, all contributing to the polished look of the finished project, perhaps even helping build an analyst’s ranking, yet all necessarily covert.

These little details matter A LOT to us, even if we know that few end-users consciously notice or even realize at all that deliberate thought has been put into every.single.thing. And sure, stuff can slip past our notice as well … but the dread upon realizing that has happened is — whew — at least somewhat mitigated in this day and age by the ease of making a correction and reposting the file. Nobody dies, right? so try to keep some perspective will ya?! : )

I guess this ramble is all by way of saying, keep the faith fellow editors. What we do matters, even if it’s invisible!

July 26, 2011

A favourite website.

The Slot - Copy Editing Curmudgeon

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