Monday, January 29, 2007

The Copyeditor's Goal

Chapter four discusses the editor's role in technical terms. However, what is the copyeditor's ultimate goal? Overall, what does the copyeditor strive to do through the first, second, and third edits? I was wondering if the copyeditor strives for perfection. Or if, perhaps, it's something more realistic or practical, such as clarity or readability. Maybe we hope to polish a rough stone. But do we hope to make it perfect?

4 comments:

Pat said...

What drives publishing, as I said in class, is the challenge to produce the perfect work. That is why we—and tens of thousands of other publishers around the world—keep publishing.

However, perfection is a construct of the mind; it does not exist in reality. Because we can imagine it, though, we pursue it. That is our curse and our blessing.

What the copyeditor should do is establish standards for herself that allow her to respect herself and gain the respect of others. If her standards are lower than those of the press that employs her, she should better herself; if they are higher, she will probably be unhappy and seek fulfillment elsewhere.

Here is a test: edit a piece of writing two or three pages long, then put it away. Look at it the next day and ask yourself, "Can I show this to someone whose opinion I respect?" If the answer is no, then keep working and learning.

Also, remember that it is the author's name that goes on the writing you are editing. Would you be proud to show the author your work? Could you explain whatever you've done? Could you find satisfaction—should your editing be rejected—in simply having done your job well?

Pat said...

I'm afraid my staying home with a fever and sore throat made me more philosophical than usual. Here is a practical answer:

1. Read the piece all the way through.

2. First pass at editing: correct mechanical errors, i.e., those of grammar, punctuation, and spelling; if there are gross formatting errors, correct those also.

3. Second pass at editing (after the first set of editing marks has been entered and you have been given a new printout): reread every word carefully and correct (a) errors in consistency, diction, and person (first, second, third), (b) whatever mechanical errors you missed the first time, and (c) wordiness and redundancy.

4. Add whatever queries/comments you have for the author, acquisitions editor, or typesetter.

5. When you read page proofs, you may want to make more editorial changes. In that case, clear your changes with the acquisitions editor so that he or she is aware of them. You may need to get the author's approval, depending on what the acquisitions editor says.

This list makes it look as if the editing process is neat and tidy, but keep in mind that this is an idealization.

jenny d said...

I like the philospophical answer!

Pat said...

Ah, a fellow philosopher-copyeditor!