So, for MidSouthCon, I proposed a workshop entitled "Learn Copyeditting four Fun and Proft" (typos intentional), with the following description:
You've just received the marked-up galleys of your novel from the publisher. You have less than a week to review these pages and provide feedback. There's so much red ink on the galleys that it looks like the copyeditor was hideously attacked during the editing process! Just what do all those red lines and characters mean?
When I first began editing, and consequently copyediting, I used two reference texts, both published by EEI Press (Editorial Experts, Inc.) in Alexandria, Virginia: Mark My Words by Peggy Smith, 1987, and Substance & Style by Mary Stoughton, 1996; of the two, Substance & Style is the preferred text. EEI has since published The Copyeditors Guide to Substance & Style by the Editors of EEI Press, 2005. Though I've not seen this latter title, I would assume it to be more contemporary in both its presentation and examples. Unfortunately, all three books are out of print, but easily obtainable through the used book market.
When I begin a copyediting project, there are a number of points that I always consider, included among these are:
- Author’s style
- American English or British English
If I am working with an author's raw manuscript, I prefer to read it through once to gain a sense of the author's style and rhythm, use of neologisms, the narrative structure versus dialogue, etc. before I begin editing/copyediting. Also, is the book written in British English or American English, and who is the intended audience? Typically, an American publisher will require that a British author's manuscript be copyedited for American English, and vice versa -- and there are significant punctuation and word use differences between the two forms of English (e.g. British English uses a plural verb with a collective noun: "the government are"). And lastly, I can't emphasize enough how critical consistency is throughout a manuscript. I've copyedited a manuscript in which the words "machinegun," "machine-gun," and "machine gun" were used. Personally, I don't care which form is used -- compound, hyphenated, or open -- but I have a need for consistency throughout. So I typically count the number of instances of each form and go with the majority; it saves a lot of wear and tear on ye olde brain. If a word is spelled in equal numbers for each form, I will either copyedit to the correct form per the dictionaries that I use, or else I will query the author as to his or her preference.
But back to American vs. British English. When I was working with British author Charles Stross on his novel The Jennifer Morgue (Golden Gryphon Press, 2006), he had some unique requirements for his manuscript: Since the protagonist, Bob Howard, was a Brit, his dialogue, writing, and narration were to remain in British English (i.e. colloquialisms, word use, etc.), but with American English spelling and punctuation, since the book had been acquired for an American audience; however, Bob's "co-conspirator," Agent Ramona Random, was an American femme fatale (sort of, you'll have to read the book), so her dialogue, writing, and narration were to be strictly American English. This made for an interesting copyediting project!
Another distinction between American and British English is the serial comma. Typically, British authors do not use serial commas whereas American authors do. I prefer the use of serial commas regardless. Gardner Dozois, editor of the annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series (this year marks volume twenty-six!), has a wonderful example that showcases the serial comma -- or, should I say, the lack there of. Here is Gardner's book dedication example:
I would like to thank my parents,