9 Things I Learned From My Copy-Edit

I finished going over my copy-edit this evening. All the changes are made, the manuscript has been sent back to iUniverse so they can do God knows what with it (hopefully publish it, lol), and I officially have nothing more to do with the book until they send me cover proofs and final print proofs. Woo! Talk about a weight off your chest. Now I can focus on other things, like my job, and not living in a forest of cardboard boxes.

But you don’t care about that. You came here for the list!

9 Things I Learned From My Copy-Edit

1. The first paragraph at the start of a chapter is not indented. The same goes for the first paragraph after a scene break.

2. According to American publishing standard, when indicating possession, this — Chris’ — is not correct. This — Chris’s — is correct.

3. A list of adjectives do not require as many commas as you might think. This — fluffy, white hair — is not correct. This — fluffy white hair — is correct.

4. Once you’ve defined a foreign word in italics, you don’t have to italicize it any more. I’m given to understand that you can still italicize it if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

5. Instead of using italics to put emphasis on a certain word, try to let the sentence structure emphasize for you.

6. Ship names are italicized, but a class/type of ship is not italicized. E.g. The Enterprise v.s. Boeing 747.

7. The following dialogue tags — “she panicked”, “she laughed”, “she sighed”, “she smiled” — are not actually dialogue tags. They are verbs that should not be applied to dialogue.

8. Percentage should be written as XX percent — e.g., 97 percent.

9. The correct phrasing is “Far be it from me to say”, not “Far be it for me to say”.

Also, having finished reviewing the copy-edit, I can now officially pass judgement on my copy-editor. Ready?

Was the copy-edit worth $1900?

No. I definitely did not get $1900 worth of editing done to that manuscript. Not by a long shot. On the plus side, I did learn several things (see the above list), so it certainly wasn’t a complete waste of money.

How was the quality of the copy-editor?

He seemed fairly competent. I caught five mistakes overall — four typos, and one word that was randomly bolded. He had a weird obsession with semicolons that I didn’t agree with, and he also seemed to have a vendetta against commas, so I had to add a handful back in. He also failed to notice that some of the chapter titles were misaligned. To be fair, I didn’t notice that either, but still!

Overall judgement?

Not worth the money, but I did learn many new things, so we’ll call it a draw and move on.

 

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68 thoughts on “9 Things I Learned From My Copy-Edit

  1. I learned things from your list of nine things you learned. My editor admits to being a comma Nazi. So am I, and that’s why I’m afraid to use them. She isn’t! But she doesn’t like semi-colons and does like ellipses and dashes. All in all, she and I are on the same page and I love it. We click. So important, too. I’m so happy that you’ve passed another milestone with your book.

    • It’s so great that you and your editor are on the same page. My editor and I clearly weren’t, so I’ll have to shop around in the future and find someone less … inclined towards semi-colons, lol.

      • There are specific rules for commas, semicolons, ellipses, and em-dashes, and you can find the industry-standard rules in the Chicago Manual of Style. If you’d like a great source that’s free (CMS isn’t), check out Purdue Owl–here’s the link to the comma page: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/.

        Instead of chastising you for using verbs as dialogue tags, I would have suggested you merely change your punctuation, like this:

        “I’d love to,” she smiled
        would become
        “I’d love to.” She smiled.

        Easy fix and your words are intact.

        You often get what you pay for with editing, and some self-publishers use editing as a profit generator–they pay their editors much less than they charge you. Always ask for a sample of an editor’s work before you plunk down any money. Editing is as much of an art as it is a science, and an editor should always honor the writer’s vision.

        Thanks for the follow, too! I’m looking forward to reading yours too.

        • Now, see, if I read that second option in a book–that little sentence that seemed applicable to the dialog, but was cruelly separated by a period–my brain would explode in a grammurysm. LOL

          You know, the more I read, the more I realize how much of grammar is really subjective.

  2. Yikes. I didn’t know editors charged that much. Is it a sequel to War and Peace?

    I should start freelancing. Again.

    • Do it! And I’m pretty sure you can find editors much cheaper than that. I certainly will be finding a cheaper editor next time ’round. (I say that now, but I bet you a year from now I’ll be complaining about how expensive my editor is, lol).

      • I can look over my shoulder and find a cheap editor. I work in the editorial department at my office and know how much they pay us.

        😉

        (winky brought to you by the semi-colon, America’s most beloved punctuation mark)

  3. I sometimes use things like: “I know,” Kalyn sighed. There is certainly a point when it becomes overused, but I don’t think it’s invalid. People can sigh, laugh, etc. while speaking.

    I had to look up #9, because I thought your editor was on crack. But Google confirms that seemingly grammatically-incorrect phrase.

    • I like using the “sighed” verb in dialogue tags. I myself can say things while sighing, so why can’t my characters?

      And when I read the #9 edit in the manuscript, I was like, “No. Way.” But it’s true! Who knew, right?

      • I believe it is because laugh or sigh are describing how they said something. They still said it or asked it. If you put only laugh, it’s like having a fragment sentence. You have an a word describing the character at that point. You could put… he said with a sigh. Or she smiled as she asked. I think that would be the proper way to tag it though not sure that is even allowed by some editors.

        • also.. duh me… don’t worry I have really stupid moments like this one… you used it as a verb… so sigh is saying she sighed and the ” is stating she is saying something. I have no real idea why you can’t use the sigh… you can delete my reply if you like. Wow.. maybe I need a nap.
          I mean ” can be used without a tag so why can’t you use sigh as a verb after the ” without the tag. Grammar still confusing me.

      • I think you’ll find that ‘I myself’ is a tautology.
        Just saying…:D

  4. I agree with you Matthew. You don’t want to lose the style of a character by making the dialogue all proper.

  5. I totally agree with poor grammar in dialogue thing. Outside of dialogue, though, it’s got to be fairly accurate. Otherwise you read the book and every minute or two you stop, re-read a sentence, shake your head, and sigh.

    • They weren’t really mistakes. I mean, not most of them. A lot of it was him de-italicizing things, or changing out ellipses for dashes, or removing commas, or adding *shudder* semicolons. So really, stylistic things. But that was the price to get in the iUniverse Editor’s Choice program. Will I pay that price next book? Perhaps not. We shall see.

    • I’m still unconvinced by ‘sighed’ not being a dialogue tag. Smiled? Yeah, ok. You can smile as you talk…but that one’s fair enough.
      But surely;
      “I’ve had to re-read Chris’s sentence three times now,” Michelle sighed.
      Andrew smiled. “Far be it from me to say – 97 percent of it actually made sense.”

      • I know! I sigh-talk all the time. It’s my primary method of expressing disinterest/exhaustion/annoyance. That, and rolling my eyes. Oh man, I should totally use that as a dialogue tag — “You’re so stupid,” Michelle eye-rolled.

        Doesn’t work, does it?

        • In this day of Twitter and email? Why not? It’s very now…especially if it’s a First-Person Teenager narrating the story. I read a tale once where they kept saying ‘Re;’ as in ‘Re; the conversation from Weds, man. You were bang out of order.’

          Innit. 😉

  6. I would watch the Chris’s VS Chris’ due to anyone into grammar will nail you for it. Standard or not, Chris’ is the one most people were taught and brought up with. Second checked out several books around the house and half had the indent at the start of chapters and half didn’t. I doubt going with either will get much notice from readers. Keep us posted on how things are going with your novel! 🙂

    • Editing really seems to come down to personal taste, doesn’t it? I think it’s so funny that we authors pay so much (or traditional publishers pay so much) for editing, when the set rules really aren’t that set, and half the books out there don’t seem to follow the rules anyway.

      • OH, I know. I got GRAMMAR GIRL, the book and half of it is like refer to your teacher or it’s not set in stone. Well, if it’s not set in stone why are people freaking out over the grammar? I mean some people get really nuts over grammar mistakes which is why we as authors care so much. I know commas got delete compared to what I was taught because sentences started to have 4-8 commas in them. It’s hard to read a sentence with that many commas.

        • What, are you talking, about? Commas are, completely, necessary to have, in a sentence.

          • yes but I was taught to put in much more than what is taught today. I was taught to put in commas for which or since but today it seems up the writer. Also I was taught to do the fluffy, white cat but as your editor pointed out it should be fluffy white cat. I didn’t say there shouldn’t be commas but was just saying how they are less of them.

            • Hahaha no, I totally get that. I was shocked by the fluffy, white cat thing. I was convinced that you’re supposed to separate out an adjective list with commas. Apparently not. Sigh. How the times change.

              • I think that would fall under Grammar Girl’s optional commas. It’s like the word “too;” she said it could be offset with a comma or not, depending on whether you want people to take a pause when they read it or not.

                I think the commas in two-adjective lists are going to be the same. Both are correct, but it depends on whether you want someone to pause or not. You may want to just mention the fluffy white cat, but you may want to linger over the tall, dark stranger in your midst.

                I’m really big into having my sentence flow match the mood of my scene.

    • My name ends in an ‘s’ so this one irks the daylights out of me. I went round and round with a teacher my daughter had once, who insisted it was Jennings’s and I insisted that it most certainly was not. She informed me that some grammar convention in the UK in 2000 changed the rule – I told her that I didn’t get the memo. We agreed to disagree, except my daughter had to do it her way. haha! Mostly I try to keep my character’s names from ending in S to solve the problem. But I would do it my way.

      • Hahaha I like your solution. I think I first encountered the s’ vs s’s problem when I was writing Harry Potter fanfiction in high school. In the story, James Potter came back to life, so every time I wrote his name in the possessive, I was like “Oh God, what’s the right way? What do I dooooo?” I think I went with s’. It just looks a lot neater that way, y’know?

  7. Wow… I was put out by spending $90 on a copy edit. In regards to # 9, if everyone says the wrong thing, shouldn’t you write the wrong thing? Also, the state of punctuation has become dull. I like to pepper my writing with not only semicolons, but em dashes and plain old colons as well. A lot of times, reading older pieces, I feel inspired to mix things up. They had way more fun with punctuation back in the day.

  8. dianeloveswords

    I’m a professional editor, so I’m familiar with industry-standard pricing. The price you paid ($1,900) sounds like a lot, but it depends on the level and quality of editing and the page count. His hourly rate may actually be fair. Hard to say without knowing the details. You can always find someone cheaper, but it doesn’t mean they’re worth what you pay them. I’ve worked on staff with publishing houses, and I’ve seen freelancers who are at the top of their game as well as those at the other end of the spectrum. Keep in mind that professional editors should have formal training—just like doctors, for example; you’re not only paying for the editing they do but also their expertise. I once saw an ad for a freelance editor who had no training whatsoever: she was a librarian who started editing as part of a writing workshop and then went “pro.” If you’re an author who is considering hiring a copyeditor, you should find out what the editor’s experience is and maybe request a sample edit of a few pages. That way you know what you’ll be getting for the price. And regarding what’s correct or incorrect, that depends on the style. Most, but not all, American publishers of mass-market books are moving toward “The Chicago Manual of Style.” It’s a good idea to check with your publisher/agent what style they use before hiring an editor.

  9. dianeloveswords

    Reblogged this on Diane Loves Words and commented:
    This post was inspired by a fellow blogger who hired a copyeditor to edit her manuscript. In the world of freelance editing, let the author beware. Always do your homework before hiring someone. The best way to ensure you have a positive experience with an editor is to find out what to expect and to ask the right questions in advance. Here’s the advice I offered on her blog: “I’m a professional editor, so I’m familiar with industry-standard pricing. The price you paid ($1,900) sounds like a lot, but it depends on the level and quality of editing and the page count. His hourly rate may actually be fair. Hard to say without knowing the details. You can always find someone cheaper, but it doesn’t mean they’re worth what you pay them. I’ve worked on staff with publishing houses, and I’ve seen freelancers who are at the top of their game as well as those at the other end of the spectrum. Keep in mind that professional editors should have formal training—just like doctors, for example; you’re not only paying for the editing they do but also their expertise. I once saw an ad for a freelance editor who had no training whatsoever: she was a librarian who started editing as part of a writing workshop and then went “pro.” If you’re an author who is considering hiring a copyeditor, you should find out what the editor’s experience is and maybe request a sample edit of a few pages. That way you know what you’ll be getting for the price. And regarding what’s correct or incorrect, that depends on the style. Most, but not all, American publishers of mass-market books are moving toward “The Chicago Manual of Style.” It’s a good idea to check with your publisher/agent what style they use before hiring an editor.”

  10. I always learn something new, and then laugh at whatever video you’ve posted. xD But anyway. I HOPE that Chris’/Chris’s thing is subjective, because I’ve definitely always learned it the first way, and I’m going to be mad if someone changed it on me, because grammar was hard enough to learn the first time around. Also, I think the indenting is probably a publisher choice. Anyway, sorry it really wasn’t worth like 2k, but hey, like you said, learned something right? Can’t wait to see the cover when all THAT jazz is figured out! How’s the sequel coming along? 🙂

    • Yup, definitely learned a thing or two! The sequel is coming along pretty well, although I have to re-write the ending due to it not making any sense, lol.

      • Ha ha ha ha! Well you can’t have an ending that doesn’t make any sense, lolol. Endings are the worst anyway–not that I would know, never having gotten that far! Still, that’s good. 🙂

  11. I didn’t know about #1, and as a consumer, I don’t care. As a writer, I guess I should start doing that. 🙂 … You’re on your way! Good for you! And as always, thank you for the random video; I’m a Mario fan.

    • Honestly, I doubt readers care about any of those. The only time, when I’m reading a book, that I even notice grammar is if it’s totally wrong — e.g., it doesn’t make sense, missing a word, word misspelled, etc.

  12. That does seem a bit expensive, but take what you can from it. Those are some pretty good tips. I recall hearing about the unnecessary comma between adjectives from my English teacher in high school, but I’ve seen it a few times in print so I’m sure it’s not a big deal. Still, good to know. Nice share on the vid, I LOL’d at the: “We only accept real money.”

    • Hahaha I know, I love when they break the fourth wall and inject reality into a fictional world. And yes, I’m viewing the super expensive copy-edit as a learning experience 🙂

    • Interesting. Since I’ve already signed on with iUniverse and paid them, however, I’m going to have to hope that they live up to their end of our bargain, because I don’t have much choice otherwise. They’ve done very well so far, so hopefully they’ve turned over a new leaf. And if not, well … I’ll learn my lesson and add my story to the list of complaints against them

  13. I agree they were expensive for editing, but I looked at outside editors and the cost was about .025 – .035 per word. It came out to about the same cost. And the doctor in my book was Dr. Chris and i am certain we used Chris’ the entire time. I have never seen it another way, but I was told each editor has a different style, which brings me back to the point that writing is bound by guidelines not rules.

    Next, as for Iuniverse, I haven’t had any big problem with them yet. I believe my royalties are pretty well on the money. No, they aren’t great, but they are correct. I purchased the big package as an upgrade and got everything I paid for. Would I use them again? I think so, but only because I do not have the effort or drive to send my book to every online retailer as an ebook and then work on getting the print book onto the websites. I still have a full-time job and responsibilities, so I pay the middle man (Iuniverse) to do it for me. Of course they get a mark up for the work, but its a business and I have to understand that I am paying for something I do not want to do on my own. I want to write, not spend hours uploading and searching out places to do POD of the print version. I’m just happy to see my book on my shelf, and occasionally see my book laying around the hospital. Someday, they will give me a check to do all the work for me. Until then, I continue to write because that is where my heart is.

    • Oh, I definitely get it. I have no problem with iUniverse being the middle man. I’d rather be writing that doing all the formatting/distribution etc. etc. I only start to get worried when I hear horror stories of royalty checks getting misplaced or being inaccurate. But I know a lot of those stories are from a few years ago, and things seem to have changed since then – as you said, you’ve had no problems so far! So I’m hopeful 😀

      • I did look into other places, Xlibris, Lulu, etc…and they all have complaints against them. I figured if Iuniverse screwed me then I’d just move on and live and learn. So far, so good. The royalties aren’t great, but if I wanted better royalties i’d have to take time off work to do all the footwork myself, and that’d pay loss would be equal to the loss in my royalties from Iuniverse, so I call that one a flush. Like I said, someday they will pay me to sell my book.

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  15. Reblogged this on charleshenryeditingblog and commented:
    Reblog Week: A Great Post on Why To Get a Copy Edit Done!

  16. I reblogged your post. As an editor I found it insightful.

  17. Very interesting read, I hadn’t realised copy editing was so expensive. I will make sure I shop about before I pay that much.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    • No problem! Yeah, copy-edits definitely don’t have to be that much. I’m pretty sure you can find them for under $1000, and I believe you can still get pretty good quality at that price.

  18. Maybe it’s a Southern thing – I’ve never heard anyone say “Far be it for me” instead of “far be it from me”…

    • Could be. I think it’s “from” because the phrase “far be it from me to say” literally means, “I am so far away from this thing that I shouldn’t be saying it”. Still, I think pretty much everyone says “for”. Ah well.

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