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Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Exactly Does a Copy Editor Do?

It's easier to show than to tell what I do as a copy editor. [Note: "copy editor" used here is the two-word open noun version.] See how many errors you find in this one sentence:

He saide 'the quick brow fox jumped over moon and the grey goose was lose in the back yard, he said.

I'll show you two correct versions at the end of this post. For now, here are the errors and quick explanations where needed:

1. He saide should be He said.

2. As a dialogue tag (the He said at the beginning of a line of dialogue), it should be followed by a comma.

3. The opening quote should be a double-quote mark, not a single-quote mark, for those authors residing in and/or publishing in the United States.

4. The first word within the quoted dialogue should be initial capped, so the quick should be The quick . . .

5. Brow should be brown.

6. Jumped over moon is missing a word. Should be jumped over the moon.

7. A comma should precede and in our example above, pursuant to 16CMS 6.28, separating the two complete sentences (each having its own subject and verb).

8. Grey should be gray per US standards as the preferred spelling found in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Web11). Our other US guideline is The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition (16CMS).

9. Lose should be loose. The first means to misplace, to not be able to find something, to have lost it. The second means running about, moving freely.

10. Back yard should be one compound word, a noun, backyard, per Web11.

11. There needs to be a closing quote mark, a double-quote mark for US purposes, after the terminal punctuation following backyard.

12. The second he said at the end of the sentence is a repeat of the dialogue tag at the beginning of the same sentence. So one needs to be deleted. First, because it is a repetitive phrase. Second, because you only need one tag per line of dialogue (and not for every line of dialogue).

13. After deleting the second dialogue tag as repetitious, then you must change the comma at the end of the line of dialogue to a period.

So here is the corrected sentence:

He said, "The quick brown fox jumped over the moon, and the gray goose was loose in the backyard."

If you prefer to have the tag line at the end (but mix these up in your scenes), here is an alternate corrected version:

"The quick brown fox jumped over the moon, and the gray goose was loose in the backyard," he said.

Hope you have enjoyed this little peek into my world as to how I copyedit a sample line of text. [Note: "copyedit" used here is the transitive verb format, or t.v., which requires a direct object, as in "a sample line of text."]

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

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