WHAT DOES A COPYEDITOR DO?
A copyeditor does an extremely close reading of any written material. She reads the text with an eye for grammar or punctuation errors, inconsistencies, or anything else that might cause a reader to pause or become confused.
The truth? We don’t! I keep a slew of dictionaries, reference texts, styles guides, and grammar and usage books by my side when I work. A rule that copyeditors often cite is: “Even when you are sure — LOOK IT UP!” A copyeditor is a person who loves dictionaries and details. One of my Greek professors often said, “Being a scholar isn’t knowing, it is knowing where to look.” The same idea applies to copyeditors. I know where and how to research anything that I am not sure of. And, if I am truly stumped, I can always pose a question to one of the many editing groups I belong to (I even started one of them). Editors are always willing to help one another find the answers. It’s what we do!
Whether you have written a company blog post, an academic article, or a novel, your writing is a reflection of you. For many reasons, it is nearly impossible to edit one’s own work. Often, one has read the document so many times that the words have become a blur. Plus, you know what you want to say. An editor is your first reader and can tell you whether or not your message is coming across. If I am confused, you can be sure your reader will be, too. Most importantly, you want your writing to be the very best that it can be. Editing is like adding an extra coat of polish. It will make your work shine.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIVE NEAR YOU?
Almost all editing is done electronically these days; proximity is not necessary. If person-to-person communication is important to you, I am available both by phone and through visual media (e.g., FaceTime).
First, DO run spell-check. It won’t catch everything, but it can rid your work of some basic errors. I also recommend reading your work aloud to yourself. Your ear will naturally catch errors that your eyes might not see on the page. And, if time allows, put your work away for a short time. Rereading it with fresh eyes will help you notice things you did not see right after completing the work.