We freelance editors like to think we can avoid many issues that staff editors must deal with. But two issues we can’t sidestep are the need to document our actions on each project and the need to manage the discussion when we are mistakenly blamed for project problems. Yes, sometimes we are at fault, but that’s a topic for another column.
Every profession has its hazards, some more serious than others. Professional drivers know that if they drive too long, they risk falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident.
Last week, a few examples of the hazards of being a professional copyeditor were on display. I don’t mean there were copyeditors charged with vandalizing public signs. Instead, there were cases of editors missing the forest for the trees and of editors judging harshly without thinking or researching.
Is that a dash or a minus sign? (– or −) A superscript o or a true degree symbol? (o or °) Can you tell? Sometimes the font is revealing because the characters can look drastically different; usually they do not. (You may see a clear difference here, depending on your browser's font settings.) Sometimes, it matters which character is being used.
They’re one of those weak links in the quality control chain; up there with the spine copy and author’s name. Everyone skips over these elements; so systematically checking captions along with those others is an excellent way to earn your keep as the copy editor or proofreader.
The caption for the photo above says they are mackerel, but are they?