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.
Most of us understand that the rules in style books are guidelines. The publisher chooses whether to follow all the rules of, say, The Chicago Manual of Style or to pick and choose based on what works for the publication. The changes or exceptions are then listed in a house style guide or in a project style sheet.
Generally, copyeditors are told which rules to follow and which to ignore. We’re given a copy of the house style guide and asked to keep (or follow) a style sheet.
This semester I’ve been teaching Copyediting II in an online certificate program. The middle of three core courses, Copyediting II focuses on what Amy Einsohn calls language editing—grammar, usage, syntax, and diction. During the lesson on parallelism, one student asked about when copyeditors should edit for parallelism. “What criteria require restructuring the whole sentence?” she asked.
No matter how long you’ve been a freelance copyeditor, you always need to be looking for new clients. It’s the nature of the work that clients come and go. Some clients are with you for years, while others last only for one project.
I love the serendipity that can happen in a library. Passing by stacks a few weeks ago, I found Right, Wrong, and Risky by Mark Davidson displayed prominently on an endcap. Here was a usage book, that although not new, I hadn’t heard of. The cover looked smart, so I scooped it up, hoping what was inside was just as smart.
This week, we welcome Elizabeth Greyas a guest blogger. Grey is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys sudoku and art galleries when she’s not glued to her laptop. She tweets about freelancing, finance, and education @ej_grey.