Copyediting

This week in Greyrock, we learned about copyediting, which is editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage, etc., but not for content. I’m quite familiar with copyediting for AP Style, but in literary magazines, we use the Chicago Manual of Style, which is virtually foreign to me. Thankfully, we have access to the online Chicago Manual through the CSU library, so our task this week is to learn about the intricacies of the manual/style and try out copyediting.

Copyediting is not only checking the grammar in a piece of writing, but it’s also about fact-checking. When we copyedit one of our submissions, we will need to check that the author’s claims about proper noun spellings, movie names, historical dates, the names of certain actors, and more. We’re not looking to change anything and we will only make changes when they are absolutely necessary for accuracy and proper usage. Our graduate adviser, Kristin, told us that “we’re not on our high horse” and we need to respect the creative decisions of authors as often as we can (poets have a little more leeway with their creative language because their rhetorical rules are not quite as rigid as in prose).

We received a pamphlet today (pictured above) with all of the potential mistakes that we might come across and the proper way to mark them on the physical manuscripts. Our graduate adviser mentioned that the mark-ups will be tedious and sometimes annoying to do, but it’s the system that’s been used forever and we need to keep our system uniform.

Here are the things I’ll need for my copyediting exercise this week:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style (online)
  • A dictionary for spelling
  • An erasable colored pencil
  • My mark-up sheet
  • Sticky notes for author queries

Although in the past few weeks, I have been noticing the impetus for change, new technologies, new methods, and fresh ideas at the Greyrock Review internship, this week I observed resistance to all these things, especially from my graduate adviser. This week, during our team meeting, I asked if there was any way we could switch to a digital method of keeping track of copyediting changes, errors, mistakes, and queries. I thought that this would be better for our environmental impact, would make the sharing process more efficient, and would save tons of time (because we wouldn’t have to transfer our markups from paper to the proof — we could just copy and paste). And I’ve noticed many new technologies for digital copyediting in the world of my own freelance editing business, such as the “Track Changes” feature on Microsoft Word.

However, when I asked if we could use a more modern technique like Track Changes during our meeting, I was told by Kristin that we cannot. She said that it has to be on physical paper (a “hard copy”) because “that’s the way it is in the copyediting world.” She mentioned that Track Changes hasn’t really made an appearance in the publishing industry and that we will be using the methods of most copyeditors in this business.

I understand that this is an important skill if we want to make it in the publishing industry someday, but this was a surprising revelation for me because of the air of change and fresh eyes that I’ve observed at Greyrock recently.

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