The Faustian Bargain

A blog about life outside the academy

Entries in copy-editing (3)


The ghost at your desk: the benefits of a light editorial touch

The late Stanley Sadie, the first editor I worked under, gave me, and everyone in his charge, the same fundamental image to hold in mind as we worked: imagine that the author is standing behind you, casting judgment on every change you make.

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Annoying your copy-editor: guest post at PhD2Published

I've written a guest post, 5 ways to avoid annoying your copy-editor (and why you should care), for the excellent PhD2Published. PhD2Published offers publishing advice for novice academics and is well worth checking out for anyone looking to convert their PhD into a lovely shiny book.

If you’ve not published before – or even if you have, but only in smaller magazines and journals – then you won’t have been copy-edited before. That will change when your first book is accepted for publication.

To the unsuspecting author, copy-editing can appear both frustratingly hands-off (so, there are no changes for pages – what are you doing after all?) and surprisingly invasive (you’ve re-written my entire bibliography – what’s up with that?). The truth is, copy-editing occupies a pretty undefined, liminal space between writing and mechanical proofreading. It’s less than one and more than the other, but beyond that there are no hard boundaries. Copy-editing is, however, an absolutely essential step between getting your book off your laptop and onto the shelves in Blackwell’s.

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Why copy-editing is like … test match cricket

Image by Greencolander on flickrBecause it’s a contest between your eyes and the text, a test of concentration and alertness. Sometimes you can go pages without much happening – routine corrections of split infinitives or that/which errors driven gently down the ground – but at any moment the text can throw you a doosra, a strange and unexpected ball that looks like its going to spin one way before jagging back the other. They can come at any time, and you’ve got to be on the look-out for them on every line.

Here’s an example: author writes

gallows’ humour

It looks strange at first. Should that apostrophe be there? I don’t recall seeing it written that way before.

But then it is humour of or from the gallows. Maybe it is the correct formulation, just one that is not often correctly used. The author has been pretty accurate on most other occasions. Best check all the same.

Sure enough, it should be <gallows humour>, no apostrophe. Correction made.

The ball swings in, then spins hard to the offside. But some quick footwork and a glancing blow sees it to the boundary.