When an author approaches Emerging Ink Solutions and inquires after editing services, I usually walk them through the differences between copyediting, developmental editing, and substantive editing. More often than not, they require basic copyediting or developmental editing, depending on the state of their manuscript. Once we’ve agreed upon what needs to be done and a contract of services has been signed, the author submits their full manuscript.
When I get a raw manuscript from an author, the first thing I do is make a copy of it so I always have the original document for reference. Afterward, in the copy, I turn on the hidden characters feature to determine if I need to strip the document and place it in a fresh file to void any clumsy formatting the author has attempted. If the formatting isn’t too muddled, then I begin work by organizing the manuscript’s structure. I build the document from the ground-up by giving it an interior title page, a publication page, a dedication landing, and any other preliminaries, like an epigraph, quote, or a blank table of contents.
I then begin assigning styles to headings and dividing chapters so I can easily search the document later. I give the book acknowledgments and about the author sections. If the book is a non-fiction work with citations and resources, then my work is doubled.
For fiction books and books without citation work, I begin copyediting according to the author’s wishes. Sometimes I use Microsoft Word’s track changes, and sometimes I don’t. It’s completely dependent upon what the author is comfortable with.
Because copyediting has become so second-nature to me, I copyedit as I read, correcting on the fly. If I must reread a sentence, then something’s wrong with it. I insert commas and proper punctuation, replace overused verbs and adjectives with alternatives, and help the author vary sentence syntax and structure to avoid repetition. If I’m doing a developmental edit, then I really focus on items in the first few chapters that could later come into question or be used in a more significant way.
In all types of copyediting, I regularly utilize the comments function not only to make suggestions and ask questions of the author, but to teach if I see an author repeatedly making a mistake. I’m an editor now, but I was an ESL teacher for many years and feel compelled to help writers hone their writing and skills for possible future ventures.
opposite earlier in the book and drew that difference to the author’s attention. Being actively engaged in the content is vital to the efficacy of the editing process.
When working on non-fiction books that contain extensive citation work, I focus on the citations chapter-by-chapter. Humanities topics utilize Chicago Manual of Style while sciences like psychology, anthropology, and sociology call for APA. As I’m copyediting, I insert citations according to the required style and write out their corresponding bibliographic information. If It’s CMoS, I insert whole footnotes so we don’t have to produce a full-length bibliography at the end—unless the author expresses their desire for one. If I’m using APA, I create a separate document to write and organize the citations alphabetically. This makes it easier to search and reference should the author use the citation again in the future.
After the initial copyediting round is complete, I send the manuscript off to the author for review. During this time, they go through all my changes and determine if they would like to accept or veto them. If I’ve used Microsoft Word’s track changes, this process is made simple as I can see what they’ve done.
However, if an author has asked that I do raw editing, wherein I go in and touch their work without the use of track changes, then it’s more difficult for me to track what all they’ve completed during their review. Often, when I receive an author-reviewed manuscript, I must run a document comparison in MS word to figure out just how much they’ve touched. Some authors will simply accept all my edits, make minute adjustments, and then send it back for proofreading. Others will rewrite entire pages. Comparing documents helps me detect those new paragraphs so I can quickly copyedit them prior to moving on to proofreading.
Once all is in order, I begin proofreading, rereading the entire manuscript to ensure we’ve properly cleaned up track changes’ residuals. I check for typos, review questions I asked of the author during copyediting, and look for general grammar errors.
Before I begin the final round of proofreading, I use Grammarly to help catch any verb tense mistakes, inadvertent misspellings, or other items that might have made it past Microsoft’s automatic spell check. Grammarly cannot be used in place of an editor as it regularly offers incorrect suggestions for complex syntax. It offers inappropriate punctuation and has a hard time understanding turns of phrases. But the program effectively catches subject-verb disagreements and homophones.
After the final proofread, I finalize the formatting of the manuscript. By now, I’ve already worked with the author to select a stylized font and have talked to them about their interior title page and publication information. I send a finalized PDF of the manuscript to the author so they can see what the interior of the book will look like once in print.
It took me a long time to learn and grow comfortable with the process of copyediting a book. MS Word can be a tricky beast, but I’ve found that if I’m having issues with something, another editor somewhere else has been there before. Online communities for editors have been a lifesaver as I’ve asked them countless questions regarding indices, complex headers and footers, mysterious markings that have appeared in authors’ manuscripts, and advanced search and find methods.
Copyediting takes hours upon hours of patience, dedication, and resolve. It requires an inquisitive but humble personality as the job is ever-evolving. Editors are continuing education students, constantly grasping for new materials to help them expand their understanding and skills in a burgeoning world of writing.
Do you think you have what it takes to be an editor?
Owner/Editor of Emerging Ink Solutions, avid YA/NA author, adamant supporter of the Oxford Comma, anime and music enthusiast.