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Monday, April 21, 2014

Why You and Me (Make That "I") Need a Copy Editor

As my bio indicates, I am an English teacher in my day job. I also advise our school newspaper, which requires me to read thousands of words of copy each week. Essentially, I edit for a living, which gives me a strong command of grammar and usage, as well as a sharp eye for the typo. But guess what? I still need a copy editor for my own work. The examples below from my original MS of Murder and Marinara should give you some idea why:

Reason One-"An" sounds a lot like "in."

You have exactly five days before Nina LaGuardia pounces for in interview.

Oops.

Reason Two-Some common words are actually proper names:

He led me to the dumpster Dumpster at the corner of the lot.

Who knew?

Reason Three-What makes sense in your head won't always do so on the page:

I stopped at the laundry to pick up all the linens Tim and I had dirtied in the pantry, hoping to drop them off before my grandmother noticed. 


The wise copy editor suggested "return them to the restaurant" for better clarity. Good call.

Reason Four-Continuity. In a scene between Victoria and her sister-in-law Sofia, the women are surfing the internet for information about the case they are working on. However, in the margin was this comment from the copy editor:

They are at Vic’s cottage. She told Josh earlier that she has no Internet there. 

Ah, so she did. (Get the cable guy here, stat!)

Reason Five-Every publisher has its own house style:

We have to find out how he spent his day up to the minute he walked into the restaurant at three thirty.

My original had "3:30" which is the way I normally indicate the time in anything I write. I also don't use a capital letter after a colon (NAL does). I hyphenate two-word modifiers, such as the one in this sentence (NAL does not). Happily, however, we both use Oxford commas.

Copy editors are the usually young, often anonymous, and always unsung heroes of the production process. They exist to make your work shine. So don't dismiss them--embrace them! (After they put down their red pens, of course.)


A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey, with her husband and two of her three sons.

4 comments:

Cassandra Marshall said...

Basic copyediting is important, but I'd go one step further and say that someone that is trained in certain genres is even more of a plus to capture the right tone-especially when you're dealing with younger voices.

If you're looking for a freelancer, I specialize in YA and NA editing. I'm tough, but nice too :)

Karyne said...

These are great examples! Do you have any recommendations on where to look for a copy editor? There are so many options out there and it’s hard to know where to invest your hard-earned money, especially on your first manuscript!

Rosie said...

Good to know, Cassandra! (Will keep you in mind.)

Karyne, Sorry to say I don't have any suggestions for you, but I agree you need to vet editors carefully. A recommendation from another writer is often the way to go.

Serena Thomson said...

The copy editor will also need to ensure that all artwork is suitable for printing or (if appropriate) for reproduction on the web.


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