…/My copy edit struck your copy edit right in the nose/What was the final word count?
Remember this skipping rhyme from childhood (with different words, of course)?
I’ve been amusing myself and learning at the same time by completing short copy edits and then comparing my work to that of another copy editor. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) provides some before and after examples of edited writing.
There’s no one correct way to perform an edit, but one edit can definitely be better than another. I joked above about final word count because the most significant difference between my edits and the ones posted on SfEP is length. My tendency is to cut the fat, and that’s easy to do when you’re editing for practice and don’t have access to the writer to make queries about, say, the readership.
For example, here’s a piece of unedited text:
Happy New Year, as another year starts myself and Crown Dairy are always looking at ways we can improve the service we provide you.Due to the area I serve, the amount of customers I have and the large congestion of traffic, parking and vehicle Restrictions I have been having difficulties in calling back on customers in order to collect payment, in the interest of personal safety (i.e. I am carrying less cash) and providing an efficient early delivery of your milk and goods to your doorstep, I would like to suggest our direct debit payment service, you just fill in the form provided, return it to me and I will bill you on the last week of every month with payment to follow. Switching to Direct debit is not compulsory however this would be greatly appreciated in allowing me to be safer at work and providing the efficient service of your doorstep deliveries and that of our new online service milk plus, if you are already a direct debit or milk plus customer please ignore this letter.
Happy New Year!
To better serve you this year, Crown Dairy suggests signing up for direct debit payment. Simply fill in the form provided, return it to me, and I will bill you on the last week of every month, with payment automatically debited from your account. Switching to direct debit provides you with more efficient doorstep delivery because I avoid the delays of traffic, parking, and payment.
For full online service, please visit our website and sign up for Milk Plus.
I look forward to serving you in the new year.
And here’s the edit from SfEP:
Happy New Year! The start of a new year is a good time to see how Crown Dairy and I can improve the service I provide you.
Because of the heavy traffic and parking restrictions in your area, it can be difficult for me to call back and collect payment for the goods I deliver. For my own safety, I carry little cash, so I can’t always provide you with the right change when you don’t have the exact money.
It would be a great help if you would be willing to use our direct debit payment service. Just fill in the form with this letter and return it to me. I will give you a monthly bill for your records, and payment will be taken automatically from your bank account.
Of course, you do not have to use this way to pay. However, it would allow me to work more safely and more efficiently in delivering goods to your door, including those ordered via our online “Milk plus” service.
If you already pay by direct debit, please ignore this letter.
My instinct was to cut the wordiness and make the point about automatic withdrawals. But I like the gentle and persuasive tone of the SfEP edit. This edit keeps the personal tone of the original intact and keeps the full explanations, too — explanations I deemed too detailed and unnecessarily focused on the milkman’s needs.
Of course, when I’m editing with a real live writer, I tend to take a more conservative approach, but it’s helpful to be aware of our natural inclinations. And for me, that means remembering that shorter isn’t always better.
It’s National Grammar Day (well, it is in the US, anyway), so amuse yourself with some fun blogs devoted to the subject. This post by Copyediting has several fun suggestions.
For insight into the work of a copy editor, check out this interview with copy editor Susan Bradanini Betz. The interviewer is writer Edan Lepucki, who has been copy edited by Betz.
I particularly appreciated what Betz had to say about being aware of a writer’s style and what the writer is trying to accomplish. I just finished reading Ali Smith’s There but for the, and I imagined Smith’s copy editor starting to edit this work, making a few changes, and then throwing in the towel, sitting back, and enjoying the ride. Did Smith mean to do that? What about this? (What about there, but, for, and especially the?)Yup, she meant it all, and I admire the copy editor who let it — the dialogue, the wordplay, the lack of punctuation — all stand.
I came across a post by Grammar Girl today, which discussed the use of two pairs of words:
preventive vs. preventative
orient vs. orientate
Grammar Girl says they’re both correct, but for Americans the shorter words preventive and orient are more common. I’d concur for Canadians — COD equates the words. CP style, however, stipulates that preventative not be used — probably a space-saving measure.
By the way, there’s still time — eight more days — to contribute to Grammar Girl’s Peeve Wars fundraiser. And a heads up: March 4 is Grammar Day. How do you plan to celebrate?
Do you want your thesis professionally edited but don’t know where to start? Both the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) and your university provide guidelines for the editing of theses.
In the publication “Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Theses/Dissertations,” EAC suggests that you obtain written permission from your thesis supervisor before hiring an editor, and a permission agreement form is provided at the end of the publication. The various types of editing are also described.
Be sure to check the guidelines provided by your university, too. For example, The University of Waterloo’s “Editing of Graduate Theses” page does a great job providing students with clear editing advice.
For many students, a copy edit will probably do the trick. As your copy editor, I will perform the following operations at your discretion:
- editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
- editing for consistency of style (establishing and maintaining consistency in things such as capitalization, abbreviations, and treatment of numbers)
- editing for internal consistency of facts
- editing for consistency of style of graphs, tables, and maps
- indicating hierarchy of headings and subheadings
I will provide you with a contract listing the above and any further operations you’d like performed. EAC’s “Guidelines” provide a sample checklist for this.
As stipulated by EAC and by universities, I won’t introduce new content or correct citations, but I will call your attention to any problems by querying you. I will provide you with a marked-up file of your thesis in case your supervisor requests to see it. You may also be required to submit the contract with the editing details.
If you want your thesis edited, rest assured that by hiring a professional editor all the details will be taken care of.
I’m currently reading Ali Smith’s There but for the, which is one of those books you can’t put down — mainly because Smith’s writing is such a pleasure. Her writing is creative without defaulting to affectation. For me, there’s nothing so tiresome as a relentless display of creativity with the written word — a creativity that serves no purpose for the reader. It’s the literary equivalent of Celine Dion slamming you against the back door with an impossible, forceful note because she can. What’s to enjoy?
Because I like Smith so much, I thought I’d go online to get comparable recommendations. For those of you who would like to branch out from Goodreads, you may want to try Bookish or Whichbook. More reading sites are described in this Digital Book World article.
So what did Bookish recommend for a Smith lover? Junot Diaz, among others. But the next book in my queue will probably be…another Ali Smith.
Who doesn’t love their tech? Editors and writers are no exception. Check out these cool toys:
- Square Reader – Need a convenient method of payment to hawk your published content at book readings and fairs? Look no further than this device that allows you to accept payments with your mobile phone or tablet.
- Usito – This handy online French dictionary helps translators get it right the first time.
- PerfectIt – Increase your hourly rate by working faster. PerfectIt from Intelligent Editing catches grammar and spelling mistakes that other spell-checkers miss. And the founder is an EAC member — what’s not to love?
- Information Mapping Canada – You supply the content, Information Mapping supplies the format — another great way to increase your hourly rate.
- EditTools – From the editor behind the blog An American Editor comes this editing macros tool.
- The Editorium – This company offers an array of programs to automate editing tasks in Word.
- Ginger – More editing software to make you faster and less furious.
- Inera eXtyles – Get your automated editing tools and XML document creator here. No XML knowledge required. (But just learn XML already, says the smarty-pants who’s writing code for her website.)
- ThirtySix Software – Easily and quickly manage and reuse your content for a variety of purposes.
- Evoluent – Now that you’re working faster with the above software, get ergonomically correct with a high tech mouse or armrest.
Okay, one last suggestion for you editors with the big bucks (you flip Vancouver real estate in your free time, don’t you): Adobe Technical Communications Suite 5. What does it do? Pretty much everything but land the job contract for you.