Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Copy Editing the 4RV Way

by Vivian Zabel  

Dilly by Rena Jones, created by Ginger Nielson
         Once an author finishes his manuscript, which has been accepted by a publisher, has been edited, and is ready to layout, to be designed, the designer provides a layout, then a proof. 

   The designer does not edit, just formats/layouts the text after importing the manuscript from a Word document. Therefore, the way the document is written at that point, any leftover warts and all, is what appears in the InDesign (idd) file. The designer attempts to tweak paragraphs to rid the design of orphans and widows and hyphenated proper nouns, but sometimes tweaking doesn’t work. At that point, copy editing begins.

            Let’s look at the duties of the designer first. After the material is imported into an InDesign file, the designer places the text on the pages with the correct margins, headers and page numbers, chapter and section headers, indentions, and other formatting issues, a process which takes hours and sometimes days. After everything is “placed,” he/she tries to tweak paragraphs that have orphans or hyphenated proper nouns, to eliminate the problems. If any pages have widows at the top, the designer again tries to tweak the paragraphs with widows so that the widows are gone

            The designer does not edit. If something does catch her eye, she may fix the problem if something simple like a misspelled word, incorrect punctuation or grammar, or such. However, her job is not to edit, and she is not expected to do any editing.

            If she sees widows, orphans, or hyphenated proper names that she can’t tweak away, she often will highlight them in a different color for the author and editors to see. That doesn't mean she will find all of them.

            After finishing all layout problems to the best of her ability, she creates the idd file into a PDF proof to send to the author and editors. 

            Authors are to list problems and solutions in a Word document to send as an email attachment to the designer as follows:  the PDF page number of problems/errors as found in the proof;  indication where the problem is found; and the corrected material. For example, if I find a missing word on the first page of the proof, I would list, in a Word doc, the following:
PDF 1     fifth complete paragraph which begins Mary ran toward …  Problem is  
              the word “doesn’t”  is left out of  Jack sees her. Should be
              Jack doesn’t see her.

            Also, any orphans, widows, or hyphenated proper nouns will require the author re-write a sentence or even a paragraph or part of a paragraph to solve the problem. 

            At this point, a vocabulary lesson is needed.                         widow: a group of one or two words (may be three very short
                             words) left at the top of  a page as the end of a paragraph
                             from the previous page. 
                        orphan: a word that ends a paragraph but is on a line by itself.
                        hyphenated proper noun: spacing causes a proper noun to
                              be hyphenated with one part of the  noun on one line and
                              the remainder on the next line.

            The author (or editor, if helping) needs to find any and all remaining errors or problems, including spelling, grammar, missing words, words in wrong order, punctuation, or confusion as well as those listed above.

            The designer and author may have to go through several proofs before one is approved by the author as being as close to being perfect as possible.



  1. There is so much work involved in the creation of a book. Even after I've looked at something over and over, and feel I've gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, I can still miss things.

    LOVE seeing ol' Dilly up here, by the way! :)

  2. Dilly does a good job of overseeing edits.

  3. I found working with 4RV staff on edits to be a wonderful process. I truly felt they had my best interests at heart as feedback was provided, and then the final galley proof came in to be checked over for issues. It's this type of attention to detail that make me proud to be part of the 4RV family.

  4. Thanks, Cheryl, we have been called obsessive, but we really want what is best for the author's "baby."

  5. And I and so proud of Vivian. :D Her own design skills are growing a lot, of late. :D

  6. Great information, Vivian. I've learned (and am still learning) working with the 4RV team. As far as copy editing, I think the old saying comes in handy, 'two heads are better than one.' :)

  7. Excellent information, Vivian. I learned so much during the initial editing process with Carla through her feedback. It was all this attention to detail (and patience with the newbie, me)throughout the entire process that made my first experience in the novel publishing world not so scary. Thrilled to be a member of the 4RV family.

  8. Editing with a professional editor who knows what is required for publication and copy editing are experiences required for a finished product that is the best possible. Of course we still miss something, never fails, but I've discovered all books have at least one error. Hopefully, we will keep them to only one.

  9. Dear Vivian,
    Thanks for explaining the job of the designer and copy editor. It helps clarify it in my mind.
    Celebrate you and your writing skills.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  10. I'll forward this to my writing friends who want to take their writing from hobby to published. Great to have the next steps explained so well.

    I'm confident that my little dragon, Willard, will be in very good hands with 4RV!

  11. Many people really don't know what all is needed to take a manuscript and polish and fine-tune it until it shines.