Copyediting, proofreading, and writing
Catherine M. Albano
Copyeditors concern themselves with spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word usage while preserving the author's voice. They are frequently asked to also impose a consistent style and format depending on the type of publication; some documents require adherence to particular styles, such as Associated Press (AP) style, Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), or American Psychological Associate (APA) style.
For most documents, the copyeditor reads such documents as a representative of the author's intended audience. If something is unclear, the copyeditor queries the author. The intent of copyediting is simply to make the document as good as it can be. Occasionally the copyeditor may be asked to edit a document for which she does not have technical expertise. Even if it could be understood completely by readers, she should query the author about passages that appear unclear, but frame the query in terms of expert knowledge in comparison to her own. Ultimately, what's most important is whether the audience understands the author's words.
Fundamental tasks that are frequently required of a copyeditor, in addition to what's mentioned above, include (1) preparation of a style sheet that will travel with the copyedited document through the rest of its journey to publication and (2) cross-checking of references, art, figures, tables, and other features for consistency in each mention within the text. A style sheet summarizes certain decisions, such as capitalization or number treatment, made during the edit that might divert from the standard style prescribed.
Proofreaders typically compare the current version of text with the preceding version, marking discrepancies in text, and checking for problems in page makeup, layout, color separation, or type. Proofreading can also include checking proof against typesetting specifications, querying or correcting errors or inconsistencies, and reading for typographical errors or for sense without reading against copy.
Proofreading follows copyediting, sometimes immediately, and sometimes later in the publishing process.
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