Last week, our Canadian, Eh blogger, Adrienne Montgomerie, posted on the Copy Editing community on Google+ about how editor job titles often don’t match the editor’s duties. Contributing editors don’t edit. Managing editors and executive editors often don’t edit, either.
I’ve written elsewhere about the misalignment of titles and duties, but in this series, I’ll focus on those duties a copyeditor might be asked to do.
As professional copyeditors, we should already have a good handle on what our duties are, even if we have to educate supervisors or clients. We’ll correct grammar, usage, diction, and style errors. We’ll identify inconsistencies and logic problems. We may check facts, seek permissions, or prepare the manuscript for print (e.g., typecoding) or electronic (e.g., HTML-coding) publishing.
Copyeditors are not required to be able to do other types of editing, such as developmental or line editing. But it’s good idea to be familiar with other types of editing so that you can:
- Identify what’s not your responsibility
- Advise your supervisor on what you can and can’t do
- Identify these errors in the manuscript for the author
In this two-part series, we’ll climb down the editing ladder, from the job that takes a bird’s-eye view to the one that concerns itself with individual letters on a page (or screen).
Developmental editing comes at the beginning of the process, either before the writing begins or immediately upon completion. The developmental editor works with an acquisitions editor or an author to develop a text or evaluate a manuscript for content and accuracy. This editor is also frequently called a content editor or a substantive editor.
The developmental editor will ask questions like:
- Structure: Does overall organization of the manuscript fit the topic?
- Voice: Is the author’s tone appropriate?
- Content: Is everything that’s included in the manuscript relevant? Is there anything missing?
- Clarity: Is the writing clear? Are the arguments sound?
These problems will likely require major rewrites. If, as a copyeditor, you identify one or more of these problems, you should certainly query them. But unless you’ve been specifically assigned to correct them, you should stay your red pen.
Line editing is correcting copy for:
- Writing style
I’ve often heard line editing referred to as substantive editing (though, as noted already, developmental editing is also sometimes referred to as substantive editing).
There can be some overlap between developmental and line editing, as well as with line editing and copyediting. My experience has been that copyeditors are increasingly taking over line editing duties, as our industry continues to change.
For example, I’ll incorporate line editing tasks into a copyedit for some of my clients, labeling it a heavy copyedit. With the Copyediting newsletter, I perform a first-pass edit on all the articles that is a hybrid developmental-line edit. I edit for the items on both of the earlier lists.
Though line editing may be fading as a distinct step in the publishing process, it’s still an important part of ensuring the overall quality of a manuscript.
Next week, we’ll continue our journey down the editing ladder to duties that cover the finer details of a manuscript.
For tips on trimming the fat in manuscripts, join Constance Hale on Thursday, August 8, for Prose Pilates. Hale will teach you how to banish wimpy verbs and build dynamism into sentences, jettison prepositional phrases that weigh a sentence down, and much more. Sign up today!