book designCopyediting

PSA: From the Copy Editor’s Desk

Apparently, this is some
kind of Wiki copy editor’s
symbol. I kind of like it.

I would like to offer this public service announcement on behalf of all copy editors.

Writers: please heed the style guide given to you by the publisher.

Please, for the love of God, listen when they tell you how to format a document.

Here is what happens when your fancy manuscript comes through the door.
Step 1: The copy editor receives your electronic files.
Step 2: The copy editor opens the file.
Step 3: The copy editor begins systematically stripping out every single solitary item of fancy formatting that you put into the text: fonts, font sizes, lists, pictures, charts, graphs, extra spaces, weird indents, swirly section breaks, etc. etc.
Step 4: The copy editor gets a cup of coffee and wonders why the writer bothered to add all those fancy fonts and pre-designed lists and pictures when the directions clearly said not to do so.
Step 5: The copy editor continues formatting the text. Hours pass. Seasons change. Gray hairs appear.
Step 6: After all that time getting the text into the format it should have been in to begin with, the copy editor can now begin editing.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you how much time this takes, and it is especially sad when you take into account the hours the writer spent adding all those fancy items into the text in the first place. I understand why it happens. Really, I do. The writer is imagining their book in its final format, but they need to understand that publishers have a process, which begins with a bare-bones text and ends with a nicely designed book.

So please, think of the copy editors who are paid very little for their labors and follow the directions given to you by the publisher. Do not get fancy! We copy editors are just going to take it all out.


Aspiring Writers: This also explains the importance of formatting your manuscript submission according to the style requirements of your prospective publisher or agent. Publishers and agents are looking for good writing, but they are also trying to make a profit. The less work involved in preparing your manuscript for press, the more money they make. So a simply, correctly formatted document stands a much better chance of becoming the fancy book of your dreams

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