When you are reading an article, do typos jump off the page at you? Have you ever contacted (or wanted to contact) a newspaper or magazine to report an error? Do typos somehow sneak into your own writing, even when you use spell check? Do you want to improve your own writing and maybe fix those errors you spot in other people’s work? If so, these copy editing tips are for you.
MAKE YOUR MARK
Will someone else understand the corrections you made to their piece? If you both are using MS Word, you can edit using the Track Changes Tool.
(This procedure can vary slightly in different versions of Word)
From the menu bar select Tools<Track Changes<Highlight Changes<Track Changes While Editing, then click OK. Just type, delete, and make all the changes you want. Notes on the changes you made, automatically show up in the margin.
To view a clean version of the piece you edited, go to the menu bar and click View<Mark Up. It will now look nice and tidy. To once again see your editorial marks and notes, repeat the process (View<Mark Up).
Or maybe you prefer to work with paper and a pen. Then you’ll want to use standard proofreader’s markings.
As you edit an article, it is helpful to consult a checklist to make sure you have covered the Five Cs.
• Concise Writing
• Clear Copy
• Correct (in terms of facts, numbers, math, locations, geography, names, titles, attributions, dates and times references, spelling and grammar)
• Comprehensible language
• Consistency in flow throughout the piece
STYLE GUIDE ATTITUDE
In addition to reviewing your style guide, it is a good idea to review your attitude.
Are you feeling arrogant? Impatient? Tired? Lazy? If so, take a deep breath and focus your mind on the task at hand. Typos and grammatical errors aren’t the only things you could miss. Your inattentiveness could land the author and publisher into a morass of legal problems.
AVOID LEGAL PROBLEMS
Are there facts cited to back up a (possibly libelous) statement? Or is it just one person’s opinion?
How can you be sure the author did not just copy and paste paragraphs from someone else’s article on the web? To check for this kind of plagiarism, you can use copyscape.
After all that, read your copy one more time out loud. Make sure the changes you made are the changes you want.
Then celebrate! You have made your mark and helped other people.