Even the best writers sometimes come up short in communicating their intended message clearly. Or they may have made assumptions which the reader might not know. Or used a wrong word at a wrong instance. Copyediting is an important step in the book production process; a valuable tool that ensures that the story will appeal to and understood by the readers. It includes assessing the language as well as its accuracy and consistency in terms of voice, word choice, and information presented.
The different arenas of writing from technical to fiction to poetry require different editorial approaches. Copyediting fiction requires certain flexibility than, say a technical or non-fiction copyediting. When you work on fiction you need to ensure that the story remains consistent in its own world, whether real or fictional. This includes checking both real-world facts and fictional ones to ensure that your readers aren’t bugged by the little errors and inconsistencies.
In fiction, grammar, syntax, style etc. are much more relaxed than a technical writing. Characters may or may not always speak grammatical English, in dialogue or in first-person narrative. However, copyeditors should make sure that the dialogue/narrative stays true to character/voice. Or that colloquialisms, made-up nicknames, or words with variant spellings remain consistent throughout. Obvious mistakes like wrong word choices, spellings or punctuation usage will have to be inspected carefully.
One of the important things copyeditors of fiction should keep in mind as they comb through the pages is that it is not their story to tell. It is not the place to apply their views, beliefs or moral code. The job is to copyedit the given narrative. They need to track the characters, their attributes, locations, timeline and make sure that they are consistent throughout the plot. For instance, sometimes the eye color might change midway through the story, or the type of tree in the garden in an earlier scene might be different. Is it snowing at a place when the timeline is still summer, or has the next birthday come too soon? Did the particular event in history happen on a Sunday as stated? These small claims made in the book will have to be checked for accuracy. Even the most minor disparities can create a hitch in the flow of the storytelling.
Copy editing ensures that every written word supports the story that the author is conveying. Copy editing can also entail benefits, like:
- Ensuring that basic mechanics of the language like spellings, grammar, punctuations etc. are correct
- Ensuring consistency of voice and style of characters and locations.
- Fact-checking of real-world scenarios.
- Ensures consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization
- Cross-referencing facts in the story for inaccuracies
- Making sure of consistency in the style of writing
- Ensure that your text is clear and understandable for your audience.
Copyediting can be considered quality control of sorts for the stories. It will ensure that readers are not bothered by the glitches that could have been avoidable and will help to hone an author’s writing skills. Ultimately, a skilled, professionally trained copyeditor will help authors and publishers create exciting books that are loved by the consumers and are competitive in the marketplace.