Monday, February 5, 2007

Team Editing

Does a copyeditor ever work with a partner or partners on a manuscript?

I once did a "team translation" (English to Japanese), where each team member was responsible for translating a certain portion of a lengthy manuscript. The difficulty was that the final translation had to read like a work of a single person, and my teammates and I had to make sure that we used the same translations for certain terminologies.

Is there such a thing as a "team copyediting"? If there is, what precautions would the involved copyeditors have to take?


Pat said...

I'm sure there is for large projects. In fact, you might correspond with Megan, who is auditing our class; I believe she does something like this.

I haven't done team copyediting, but I have worked with the head of MANOA, Frank Stewart, on copyediting pieces. What has happened with some of our translations is that he's turned rough work into readable, publishable work, and I've then fine-tuned things by doing the line editing. He has performed miracles of the sort that make a publisher legendary. One of them was for the Tibetan story I mentioned in response to another post.

The skills that this kind of editor has are different from those of the copyeditor. Frank is able to read a piece and see its essential structure, its latent meanings, and its potential. These are sometimes missed by the translators in their efforts to transport a piece from another part of the world to the U.S. They disassemble something in a foreign language, then reassemble it in English; what Frank does is to reassemble it again, following an architectural plan of his making. Then I take my jeweler's equipment, magnify the small errors, smooth edges, and polish.

Pat said...

I realized this morning that there are a few instances in which we do the sort of team copyediting you're talking about: when we work on the contributor notes, which may come from dozens of sources; and when we have many foreign words and terms in an issue.

As you've pointed out, consistency is the chief issue when editing work from many sources. One tool that copyeditors use to achieve consistency is the stylesheet: a sheet on which are written words, terms, etc., that should appear the same way throughout a work.

In the case of foreign words and terms, we want our literary work to also meet the scholarly standard of correct form, so we take care to compile lists of words and terms and to vet them.