Maintaining consistency throughout a text is a basic editing skill. The list of items to keep consistent is long and varied:
- capitalized words (Moon or moon, for example)
- numbers (when to use figures, when to use words, how to treat dates, times, etc.)
- abbreviations (when to use them, how to punctuate them, what articles to use with them)
- distinctive type (italics, roman, quotation marks, etc.)
- format (headings, lists, captions, tables, bibliographies, etc.)
- punctuation (open or closed style, use of serial comma)
- spelling (British vs. American vs. Canadian)
- hyphen use for compound nouns (policy making or policy-making)
- internal facts (what’s written on page 202 shouldn’t contradict what’s written on page 2)
Many writers don’t know how to treat different elements of content — or they’re too busy creating great content to care. The copy editor polishes text so that it’s ready for its close-up (i.e., publication!). The result can be transformative. It’s like the difference between you at home in your jammies and you ready for a hot date.
Hair, makeup, nails, and wardrobe for text: it’s what copy editors do.