Copyediting is often a thankless job. Writers complain about your changes. Clients want to know why you “scribble” all over their documents. Sometimes you feel like no one takes you seriously.
The truth is, a copyeditor can be a writer’s best friend. Good copyeditors produce work that is almost invisible. Their editing polishes the writer’s work, making it shine. Most writers who work with good copyeditors say that their copyeditor makes them look good in print.
So make an effort to make friends with your copyeditor by learning to speak their language—-the language of copyeditor marks. If you don’t know what copyeditor marks look like or if it’s been a while and you’d like to refresh your memory, check out the New York Book Editors Copyediting Marks.
It’s such a relief to copyeditors, line editors, and proofreaders when the writers they work with understand the meaning behind those strange “scribbles” we make on their documents. It makes our lives so much easier because we don’t have explain every change we’ve made or why we made it. In fact, if we’ve done our job well, most of the writers we work with will thank us for helping them look like writing rock stars.
Although more writers and editors exchange documents online and use Track Changes to edit documents, a lot of documents are still edited in hard copy. If you know how to speak the language of your editors, in the form of copyeditor marks, you will quickly become a favorite of the editors you work with.
What do you think about copyediting marks? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. (If you’re reading this post on the Writers Inkwell home page, please click on the headline to leave a comment, then scroll to the bottom of the post.)
A style guide can be the salvation or bane of any writing project. When I first entered the publishing industry, I thought style guides had been designed to constrain my creativity. After writing my first couple of articles, I realized that style guides were designed to make my life easier.
The first style guide I used was The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s weight alone intimidated me, but I soon embraced it enthusiastically when it helped me with some thorny issues in a client’s computer user manual, which had been written mostly by engineers. The 17th Edition is now available.
Years later, when I was writing a weekly column for a local, daily newspaper, I used the Associated Press Stylebook. In between, I used several corporate style guides and even wrote a few for myself and for clients. The 2019 edition is now available.
Although style guides offer much helpful guidance for both writers and editors, if I were to list the most important guidance a style guide can provide, it would be how to implement these five things in each document you write:
3. User friendliness
Why these five things and not the dozens of other great gems that most style guides also deliver? When your writing provides consistency in its look and delivery, contains easy-to-read punctuation, is user friendly (especially for technical documents), guides the writer in creating a cohesive story for readers, and brands the service or product about which you are writing, most of the other style elements easily fall into place.
When you provide consistency for things like, headlines, use of numbers, and lists with each list item presented in the same manner as, for example, a complete sentence, a phrase that begins with a verb, or using initial caps for the first word in each list item, your readers will feel more comfortable because they know what to expect.
Punctuation is another area that not only requires consistency, such as whether you use a serial (or Oxford) comma, or the AP (Associated Press) comma. It also requires the use of punctuation that will not distract readers from the message you are trying to convey.
3. User friendliness
The term ‘user friendly’ may be used most often in reference to technical documentation, however, whether you write technical user guides, fiction, feature or news articles, the best writing is user friendly. That is, it is easy to read and easy for readers to comprehend the message you are trying to convey.
Disjointed writing is not only distracting, it’s confusing and many readers abandon what they’re reading when they can’t follow the writer’s meaning. Good writing flows from topic to each subtopic and then comes full circle to provide a recap that lets the reader finish reading, comfortable in knowing that what they’ve read makes sense and answers their questions.
Branding isn’t just about marketing. It’s about providing an overall, consistent presentation and cohesive definition of any products mentioned and of the writer’s overall message, whether it be a call to action, confirmation that all is well, or guidance on how to do something.
A writer is the champion of the reader. A good style guide is the champion of the writer, making him or her look good—that is, if they use it.
I invite you to share your favorite style guide with us in the comments section below. Which style guides do you use? Which are your favorite and why?
“There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald nailed it when he wrote this line in The Great Gatsby. Although he wasn’t talking about writing, it seems to apply because writers often write because they love to write and not just to earn an income. Each book, each poem, each article, each short story is a bit of a love affair.
One of the things that stands out for me when I write is that I am deeply focused on each thing I am writing almost to the point of fascination. It’s nearly constantly in my thoughts, much like the object of a first love.
I find myself jotting notes for it. Asking myself how I can make it look and sound better. What I can do to clearly convey my message to readers.
So on this lovely Valentine’s Day, I wish you a beautiful day filled with love, joy, and laughter! May your love affair with writing continue and take you to ever greater heights.
Happy Valentine’s Day to my fellow writers and our readers!
I invite you to share your love affair with writing with us in the comments section below.