Copy editing – getting the bugs out

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Proofreading 4-Pack, Part II – Copy Editing

(Continued from Proofreading, an inch at a time, Part I of the Proofreading 4-Pack)

“Copy editing” can range from consistency, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, and word choice or denotation; more in-depth editing might include substantive paragraph and chapter re-writes through developmental rewriting (overhaul).

Consistency throughout a manuscript can be a bit of a problem for some writers. It’s not the story’s structure – it’s keeping it all cohesive with consistent language, proper names, and characters’ personalities.

Consistency – Check for inconsistencies in where your characters live, where they work, their likes and dislikes, their phobias (don’t say your character is afraid of snakes and then have her holding a python in Chapter 10), favorite foods/allergies (someone is allergic to shellfish and later eats a lobster), and so on.

Names, Proper Nouns – Did you call your main character’s boyfriend Allan in the first chapter and Alan in all the other chapters?

Electronic Age – The jury seems to be in a dead-lock over new language and emerging language terms that describe the electronic age and new gadgets. Whether you agree with the AP Stylebook or not, if you are going to use words like e-mail or email, web-site or website, on-line or online – each of these words needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript.

Who’s talking? – If your English Teacher character is talking prim and proper English in Chapter 3, make sure she’s talking the same way in Chapter 49.

Know your props – If you have your police officer with a Glock in Chapter 4, he should still have a Glock in the final chapter.

Where are you? – I have often drawn my own maps on a large sheet of paper to maintain perspective. Or use Google maps. If you write Route 83 and Burdick Expressway intersect in Minot, ND, they’d better intersect. If the Sandia Mountains are east of downtown Albuquerque in Chapter 4, don’t put them west in Chapter 18.

Excessive or Lack of Punctuation – If a sentence has more than a few commas, it’s difficult to read. Same goes for lack of punctuation. Review long sentences or sentences containing commas, colons, semi-colons, or dashes.

What’s your copy editing bug-a-boo? What consistency problems are your sticking points?

This blog was originally posted on Chris Eboch’s blog Write Like a Pro!

Photo by Gwen Dubeau

Check back for Proofreading and Copy Editing, Parts III and IV.



Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Words & Vocabulary

7 responses to “Copy editing – getting the bugs out

  1. Karen, I think these are wonderful tips you’ve been sharing with us and very valuable. I’m sharing a link to these posts on my FB wall.

  2. Thanks for the comments, and thanks for passing it along … need more minions, need more minions! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Hiring a proofreader – don’t get stung | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  4. Pingback: Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs! | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  5. Pingback: Scenic Elegance, Photography by Gwen Dubeau | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  6. Pingback: Hiring a proofreader – don’t get stung | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

  7. Pingback: Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs! | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

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