One way of looking at a copyeditor’s job is that we find errors in text and correct them. But we can become so focused on finding what’s wrong that we don’t always notice the things that are right, the resources we have that make our jobs easier, and the people who help make copyediting a viable and enjoyable career.
So here, in the spirit of tomorrow’s holiday, are seven things for both in-house and freelancer copyeditors to be thankful for.
The Big Style Guides
Whatever your go-to source — The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, the APA Publication Manual, or some other book — these style guides help us remain consistent from one project to the next. Following one of these style guides means that we don’t have to start from scratch which each new project, and that our house style guides can be merely supplements, not records of every aspect of grammar, usage, and formatting. The big style guides are invaluable tools for copyeditors, yet they wouldn’t exist without the passion and efforts of the editors and researchers who put them together. For their hard work, we should be grateful.
Laptop Computers and the Internet
Digital technology has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to take it for granted. But the next time you’re editing a 250-page document from a coffee shop without lugging around half a ream of paper and a fistful of pens, or the next time you’re getting paid to work from your dining room table, couch, or bed, maybe with a fuzzy friend curled up beside you, take a moment acknowledge how technology has simplified our jobs and made our lives easier. Thirty years ago, that wasn’t even possible.
Find and Replace
This particular bit of technology has removed some of the tedium from copyediting work. With it, double-spaces after punctuation, words that are spelled inconsistently throughout a text, and many other problems that can run through an entire manuscript can be corrected in a matter of minutes rather than in the costly hours it would take to hunt them down by hand.
Clients Who Pay Quickly
Most freelance copyeditors have a horror story or four about clients who are quick with the contracts but slow on the remuneration — or who simply never pay at all. But most clients understand that there’s nothing controversial about saying that you should get paid for your work. The best ones recognize your value and get the checks out on time, or even early. When that happens, it is definitely something to be thankful for, so make sure you thank them.
Writers Who Create Their Own Convention Sheets
In my experience, writers who meticulously record their choices are rare, but when you do find them, think about what it means that they’re taking the extra step of creating a convention sheet. It means they value accuracy and consistency in their work, the very thing you are hired to protect. And it means they have made an effort to make your job easier.
For your work, it means you can hit the ground running from word one, severely shortening the time it might otherwise take to familiarize yourself with the text. And it means spending less time making small decisions so you can concentrate and the larger issues of the text.
Copyediting can be a solitary and sometimes lonely pursuit. But social media (especially, I think, Twitter) has made it easier for us wordmongers and logophiles to find one another and be part of a larger copyediting community. Through that online community, we not only find the shared joy and commiseration of others who understand our daily struggles, but we improve ourselves professionally through Twitter chats (like #ACESchat and #EFAchat), meetups, and the opportunity to ask any editorial question at any time and nearly always get multiple viewpoints from people who care about the answer.
It’s easy to make fun of social media as a distracting outlet for frivolity and rage in equal measure. But, at least for me, social media is where I find the copyediting community that reminds me why I do what I do, and helps me get through the day. Which leads me to the thing I am most grateful for:
I don’t know if it’s the same for bakers, baristas, or bureaucrats, but the copyeditors I know — whom I mostly know through social media — are Good People. They’re friendly, helpful, and supportive, and they help me keep my perspective. What’s more, they remind me every day that I’m in the right place.
And that “they” probably includes you. So thank you for being there, and thank you for reading.
What else are you thankful for in your career?