by Madelle Morgan
Which is correct? Answers will differ, depending on the editing style guide used.
Copy editors go though manuscripts word by word, and their job is not simply to correct spelling and grammar.
After the developmental edit (See Part 1) and the polish (see Part 2), I contract out copy editing to a professional. The first question to ask when requesting a quote is which style guide she or he prefers.
Choose the Style Guide for Your Book
Editors may select from several editing style guides for the English language. The goal of a style guide is to ensure consistency within a manuscript, or across all books published by a particular publisher. A style guide addresses: spelling; grammar; dates; times; italics; capitalization; titles; punctuation including hyphens (three types); formatting (such as this list); numbers (spell it out or use numerals); and much more.
In the United States (abbreviated U.S. or US depending on the style guide), The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most widely used. Some publishers may adapt a style guide to use for in-house editing of their publications.
The British have several style guide choices. Canadians tend to choose between The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, or an American style guide, depending on the nationality of the majority of the readership. One important consideration for Canadian authors is that American readers are accustomed to American spelling. Canadian/British spelling may appear to be typos. Examples of Canadian spelling include modelling, honour, and centre instead of the American modeling, honor, and center.
Then there are the dozens of words with multiple spellings; e.g., fore, for, and four, or your, you're and yore. Spell check software doesn't know which you intended to use. Copy editors are trained to watch for these spelling variations.
To illustrate how complex and seemingly arbitrary these arcane rules can be, a style guide dictated how to address the song and film titles in Caught on Camera's playlist. Here's how the first track was edited:
"Train on a Track," performed by Kelly Rowland, from the film Maid in Manhattan.
The rationale, to paraphrase my copy editor who used The Chicago Manual of Style, is that shorter works, such as song titles, are set in quotation marks. Longer works, such as an album name or book title, are set in italics. Who knew there was a difference? Not me, before the copy edit.
Style guides don't cover everything. A copy editor will present the author with a manuscript marked up with an overwhelming number of proposed changes/edits, including his or her own preferences. It's up to the author to accept or reject each change.
I overroad style rules for some compound words that, to my eye, are more readable when hyphenated; e.g., I retained post-traumatic rather than change to posttraumatic, but agreed with the change to makeup rather than make-up.
Sentence Structure & Errors
Copy editors will normally identify and suggest changes for problematic sentences and dialogue, lack of clarity, paragraph breaks, inconsistencies (e.g., the hero's eye color changes), and structural weaknesses that were not caught in your revisions or by beta readers. Be sure to ask a prospective copy editor what s/he includes in the price quoted.
Do You Need a Copy Editor?
You may believe that your grammar and punctuation is excellent—oops, that should be are excellent—did you catch that? You may figure your readers care about the story, and will not notice the trivial errors a copy editor painstakingly corrects. However, the bottom line is this:
Do you want the quality of your published work—your legacy—to be comparable to that of traditionally-published books?
Professional editing raises the apparent quality of the career-focused indie author's work, as does a professionally-designed cover. Caught on Camera is my September release. As I promote it on various websites, I've been asked by a couple of site owners if the novel was professionally-edited. When I entered it in the Romance Writers of America RITA contest, short contemporary romance category, I was required to supply the editor's name. I'm careful to include my editors' names in my books' acknowledgements.
It appears that professional editing is becoming a quality benchmark for indie-published books, as in:
Good cover? Check.
Four and five star reviews? Check.
High sales rank in an Amazon category? Check.
Professional editing? Check.
Finally, copy editing won't transform a poorly-written story into a great one. However, a copy edit guarantees that oh-so-important reviews will be focused on the story, not jarring typos and grammar mistakes which take a reader out of the story.
Caught on Camera Blog Tour November 21-December 2
On this two-week blog tour there'll be interviews, reviews, guest posts with the inside scoop on the book, playlist and the rest of the series, and Rafflecopter ebook giveaways at each stop. US, Canada and UK residents may enter for a chance to win the grand prize—a Muskoka T-shirt, a movie clapboard, and a print copy of Caught on Camera.
Subscribe to MadelleMorgan.com or like my Facebook author page where you can join the event to be reminded of each stop on the tour and the daily giveaways.
Caught on Camera is 99 cents / 99P for the promo period!
Madelle Morgan is the author of Caught on Camera, a New Adult romantic comedy, and Diamond Hunter, a romantic suspense about diamond smuggling inspired by her years as a young engineer in Canada's far north. Retired from a career in the public service, she lives with her husband in Ottawa, Canada's capital, visits beautiful Muskoka every summer, and watches too much TV.
Madelle tweets and posts about Hollywood, filmmaking, the settings for her stories, and of course, writing.
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