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.
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?
In a traditional publishing situation, a manuscript can go through several stages of editing—which are performed by different people: developmental, line, and copy until it reaches proofreading. 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.
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.)