My personal aim as a line and copy editor
To be a kind and respectful editor who offers help without condescension. It is my goal to encourage as well as make suggestions. When I laugh out loud, or read a beautiful line of writing, or feel a surge of emotion, I always make sure to leave that in my comments too. Also, I’m a huge believer in using plain English. I avoid grammar jargon wherever possible and do my best to offer workable solutions. I wish to develop a warm and friendly relationship with my authors and to hopefully work consistently with them. (Find out about the services you receive with a Three Little Words line and copy edit.)
Practically, I’m all about being hands-off voice and hands-on clarity. So, this means if you have sentences that technically aren’t “grammatically correct” because of a style choice or it’s part of your voice, I leave well enough alone. My main objective is to simply ensure your manuscript is easily comprehensible from scene to scene, paragraph to paragraph, and sentence to sentence. Not only do I want to help you sound like the best you possible, but I want to help you keep your readers’ disbelief firmly suspended.
How do you know whether you need a line and copy edit?
Well, basically, everyone needs editing. Even the most experienced and professional authors make mistakes—from having a third pair of hands in a love-making scene to missing commas that are critical, like “Let’s eat Grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
What exactly is a line and copy edit?
A combination line and copy edit is market meeting demand, to be honest. Independent authors funding their own editing need a financial break which means many freelance editors offer two edits for the price of one. If you’d like more details on editing in general, check out my editing levels defined resource.
So how does a line and copy edit two-for-one work?
All editors have their own approach, so I can only offer my own definition. I view a line and copy edit as having three editorial levels.
Level one is clarity, logic, and the time line.
Clarity: making sure that the beginning of each scene is set up with the time, the place, and the characters present, and also establishing time within a paragraph with the use of transitional sentences and phrases.
Logic: ensuring things make sense. For example, characters don’t rush off to breakfast after they’ve just finished lunch or wear shorts and flip flops on a November evening in Chicago.
Time line: confirm that time progresses within the manuscript normally. Each month has the required number of weeks and/or days, each week contains seven days, and each day twenty-four hours.
Level two deals with continuity, dialogue, and conceptual repetition.
Continuity: ensuring that details don’t suddenly alter. Cars stay the same make and model, the hero and heroine’s key features remain the same, minor characters don’t suddenly vanish.
Dialogue: making suggestions to help speech sound natural (like using contractions) and avoiding monologues, especially during the makeup fight, and breakup scenes.
Conceptual repetition: assuring that character descriptions and internal conflict aren’t being repeated in the same terms from one scene to another.
Level three is all about the sentences: elegance, consistency, grammar, and punctuation.
Elegance: covers both clarity (ensuring that the sentence makes sense) and beauty—avoiding things like repetitive words and bland language. Also, it can be about the pacing, where I make recommendations about improving the flow of the sentence.
Consistency: ensures that the tone remains the same; for example, the first-person narrator, who is a nineteen-year-old high school dropout doesn’t start sounding like a well-educated thirty-something professional. Also, consistency is about assuring that grammatical style choices remain the same throughout the manuscript—i.e., whiskey or whisky.
Grammar: is about issues like subject–verb agreement, correct tense choice, numbers (spelled vs. numerals).
Punctuation: ellipses, dashes, hyphens, commas, commas, commas.
(There’s actually even more to line and copy editing, but as you can see, these examples are long enough and I meant to be brief.)