Monday, May 1, 2017

Good Copy Editing –and Editing in General

Before the Internet and social media took the world by storm, proofreaders, copy editors, and editors were three distinct positions. Nowadays, it’s a blurred line. Some of you may even use them interchangeably –when in reality they’re not.

To better explain what copy editors do, let’s look at the late Bill Walsh’s definition, “Copy editors check written material, usually as the final step before it is set into type, to correct errors in grammar, spelling, usage and style (in this case, style refers to a given publication's guidelines for consistency in how words, phrases, typographical elements, etc., are to be used -- or not used).” Walsh, a copy editor for the Washington Post, was passionate about his craft. His three books are witty, humorous, yet filled with great advice on how to apply the basic rules to unique, modern grammar issues.

When I took an editing class at Concordia University in Montreal, we read the book, “Creative Editing” (I still use this book as a reference), which I consider the bible for copy editors. On page four, the following sentence validates my love for editing: “Copy editors are the very heart of the media organization, supplying the lifeblood for healthy existence and serving as gatekeepers of the news for the public.” This concept refers to both newspaper and magazine copy editing.
No matter what you write or for whom you write, if your text is not edited, you run the risk of confusing your readers.
You may even say that “the editing process begins before a story is ever written” as it’s cleverly put in “Creative Editing”. Unless you’ve been in this business for some time, you won’t appreciate the beauty and intricacies of the craft. In essence, if you write, you edit; if you edit, your write. And you want to produce the cleanest, most concise copy that will keep your audience reading!


  1. Thank you for another tight, erudite and informative posting. 'Creative editing' will be a book I'll be looking up online. Thank you :)

  2. Awwww! Thank you, Mark (my loyal reader) :-)
    If you need other titles of helpful books, send me an email. I have at least 3 more. :)