#Editor: Copy Editing Sample

Picture of daisy flower close-upIt pleases me to announce the release of Susan P. Cooper’s collection of childhood stories Lessons from an Ordinary Life. I met Susan over a year and a half ago via the LinkedIn group Bloggers Helping Bloggers. Her support of fellow bloggers coupled with her efforts over at Finding Our Way Now have inspired me in numerous ways. For the past ten months, I have been copy editing material originally posted on her blog as Susan prepares to publish books based on her life stories, recipes, and wine reviews.

Cover of Lessons from an Ordinary LifeSusan also approached me to write the blurb for Lessons from an Ordinary Life:

Finding our way through life involves an equal share of joy and woe. The stories we often tell each other throughout the journey help us make sense of it all. The childhood memories collected here act as self-discovery guideposts for author and reader alike. The deceptively simple lessons shed light on the power stories have to shape and connect us. This collection and the accompanying artwork are a must for those who seek comfort in wondering about life’s seemingly random treasure box of experiences.

Photo of Susan P. Cooper

Susan’s first book contains ten stories from her childhood. More volumes of stories are currently underway. Just recently, I started editing batches of food and wine posts for her. It’s a true testament to Susan’s fun and approachable cooking guidance that even a notorious non-cooking foodie such as myself is now beginning to try her recipes.

The stories Susan writes are a joy to edit because they speak volumes for her natural storytelling capabilities. However, all editing tasks come with unique challenges, and the author’s dyslexia means I am extra-diligent in catching misused and misspelled words, especially transposed letters. While I strive to follow the guidelines set forth by The Chicago Manual of Style, it’s even more important to make sure my changes stay true to the author’s voice.

The following editing sample shows screenshots from the story “Sticky Bun and the Bear.” I request all Word documents be submitted to me in 12 point Times New Roman Font, double-spaced with indented paragraph and one-inch margins. Before turning on Word’s tracking feature, I search for all instances of two spaces after punctuation marks and replace those with just one space. I will also remove the extra spacing Word likes to leave between paragraphs. Then the real editing fun begins. When working with short pieces, I start by skimming through without making any changes, but mentally taking note of issues I’ll fix on my first round of mark-ups.

Susan P. Cooper Sample Copy Edit Before

I mentally note how many times certain words like “she” are used repeatedly, as well as how so many of the sentences follow the SVO (subject-verb-0bject) sentence pattern. Over-reliance on SVO can make for stilted sentences. In the second paragraph, the misuse of of ALL CAPS for emphasis also stands out as well as the occurrence of placing punctuation after the quote marks (which is actually standard in English use, but not in American use).

Files are always saved in two versions, one as a copy edit with all changes visible for acceptance or rejection on behalf of the author, and the other as a CLEAN file with all changes accepted. In order to best gauge the changes I’ve made, I always advise the author to toggle back and forth between full markup and simple markup mode in the file that contains tracked changes.

Picture of Sample Copy Edit

This represents a heavy copy edit. Over the course of two reads where I made corrections, I started by adding needed transitions to the start of the paragraph to help situation the reader to the change of scene. In retrospect, I should have gone with “meanwhile” rather than “in the meanwhile.” Many of the changes focus on using active verbs in place of weak verbs while also seeking to vary the sentence patterns beyond that of SVO.

Sample Copy Edit

I hope you will agree my CLEAN version demonstrates a smoother read that still retains the charm of Susan’s masterfully told stories. I do not typically make comment in the margins when copy editing. When certain mistakes become prevalent I will let the author know. I would be happy to provide a free editing sample based on your current project.

What types of mistakes often jump out at you while reading other people’s writing? How do you go about catching your own mistakes?

Don’t forget to enter my drawing for FREE HOLIDAY MOVIE TICKETS. The winner will be announced Thur. 12/19.

Photo Credit: Yellow Daisy from Microsoft Images. The other images featured here (including the sample edits) appear by permission of Susan P. Cooper.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

Share This Post On

47 Comments

  1. Very nicely done Jeri. When I read copy I notice spelling and wrong word mistakes mainly. You have truly been a blessing to us bloggers who have had the privilege of getting to know you. 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Cheryl, when it comes to unraveling sentences and making them reader, it’s just always been something I have a knack for. It helps that I’ve participated in so many workshops and taught so many writing classes too. As you might be able to imagine, it can make it difficult for me to read books without feeling the urge to re-write sentences in my head. When it comes to my own writing one reason I write so slowly is because of my drive to constantly self-edit. I’m working on that though…

      Post a Reply
  2. This is a great sample Jeri! It clearly shows your ability to create clean copy without disturbing the point of view. Well done! I could well be contacting you privately very soon. I’m in final draft mode of my current ms and will be seeking a copy edit very soon

    Post a Reply
    • Glynis, hopefully you’ll keep me in the back of your mind for when you do have a project that could use a little editing TLC 😉

      Post a Reply
  3. Cool to read about how you and Susan worked together. What a wonderful relationship.

    I have had clients send me text that still looks like your copy edit version. This tends to make me go grr, as I have to go through and get the text to look right before posting on the web. Even if they pay me by the hour to do so, I would so prefer your clean version! I admire your editing skills.

    Post a Reply
    • Leora, even though you say you would prefer clean copy for the websites you design, I would be willing to be you do a great job making the web copy presentable to the public. It really appeals to me how you know all the techie stuff about web design and still cultivate your love of art and literature.

      Post a Reply
  4. This is inspiring Jeri. To be first, reading about how your and Susan’s relationship has developed and then, to be able to SEE how your editing skills add value. Wow!

    And again Susan, congratulations on the book!

    Post a Reply
    • Patricia, getting to know Susan has been just one of the many pluses I’ve encountered since starting a blog. One thing is sure though, we’ve all got each other’s backs.

      Post a Reply
  5. For me it was fun to watching you work. How you were able to find and correct my “unseen” mistakes was like magic to me. The fact is I couldn’t/wouldn’t have gotten this far without your skill and your help. I so look forward to our future projects. 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Susan, working on editing your blog posts to turn them into books have been a great experience for me in many ways. Someday we’ll look back on these first few years of finding our way and only be able to smile at all the struggle and the equally satisfying triumphs.

      Post a Reply
  6. Love learning of Susan and anxious to check her out! Congrats on her book! And kudos to your superb editing. 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Beth, it’s safe to say Susan’s life stories relate to a wide audience because we all have many things in common from our childhood experiences. I do hope you’ll check out her stories as well as her recipes when they will be available in the future.

      Post a Reply
  7. Brilliant post, Jeri–shows your skill and empathy for writers. Well done.

    Post a Reply
    • Jagoda, I’ve found that good copy editing requires a certain amount of fearlessness when it comes to tinkering with the text just enough to improve on it while still being able to maintain the writer’s voice. I know I’ve done my job when I can look at a piece and say it does indeed sound like the writer, only better…

      Post a Reply
    • Laura, thanks so much. Susan really has put in so much hard work in getting this first volume into print. Incorporating images presented a huge learning curve, but she was patient and the results are truly professional. She’s the package deal 😉

      Post a Reply
  8. Very interesting view into the process of editing! Too many people confuse it with simple proofing for typos. Editing is so much more.

    Post a Reply
    • Candy, as I’ve researched editors I might use for my novel I’ve become very aware of the wide array of quality that can be found in what an editor would deem a copy edit. It’s probably safe to say I’ll be quite the picky customer since when it comes to deciding which copy editor I will trust with my own work.

      Post a Reply
  9. It is really cool reading all of Susan’s posts over the past year plus and seeing how those posts, when compiled have evolved into a book. Not only is she a very talented story teller, but you have definitely enlightened others on how to make their stories more readable. Eventually, I would love to take writing to the next level, but for now, I am enjoying learning from experts and seeing their successes!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Post a Reply
    • Mark, I’m glad you’re learning by watching our successes and mishaps. That just means you’ll be that much more ready when the time comes to delve into the writing world.

      Post a Reply
  10. The LinkedIn bloggers group is a real community. I feel that many of the members have become friends, even if I haven’t met them. It’s wonderful to see these kinds of collaborations. That’s what LinkedIn is all about. Pat Weber and I exchanged posts and turned them into a mini ebook that’s on Amazon. I know there have been other collaborations, too, besides yours and Susan’s. Congratulations on your collaboration with Susan to make her book as good as it can be.

    Post a Reply
    • Jeannette, LinkedIn has been the most amazing place. It took some getting used to when I first started as a member, but once I learned how to fully utilize it, I’ve been amazed by the connections I’ve been able to make.

      Post a Reply
  11. To be honest I never really knew what an editor does Jeri and now I have a little insight. Love your collaboration with Susan and it will help her book be even more successful.

    Post a Reply
    • Susan, I’m glad my sample has given you a better idea of what the copy editing process entails. I also love to do critiques which frees me from worrying about grammar and just focus on what is and isn’t working regarding the plot, characters, and setting. What’s most exciting is when I get to go a critique for a writer and then follow that up with a copy edit.

      Post a Reply
  12. Thanks Jeri, editing is so interesting how we differ from English and American grammatical correctness. Most of my family is dyslexic, father, sister, son even the ex. They say dyslexics are extremely intelligent and I believe it’s true as the thought process strays from being boxed in.

    Post a Reply
    • Claire, in my experience as a teacher I would vouch that most students with learning disabilities (not just dyslexics) are some of the best and most exciting thinkers precisely for the reason you pointed out. I’ll take a creative thinker over a “safe” thinker any day.

      Post a Reply
  13. I can see maintaining author voice being one of the hardest parts of editing for a professional editor. When you factor in the different ways we have grown up based on region and sometimes even nationality, it can be a minefield of phrases and such.

    I know for myself, coming from Michigan, there are things we say around here that baffle people from other states.

    Post a Reply
  14. I really enjoyed this post Jeri. It’s easy to appreciate the transformation that happens to work when it’s well edited. I’m a terrible self-editor. When I look at my work, no matter how often I’ve reviewed it, I always find errors. What’s scarier is when I’m in a rush, then things just get silly. 🙂

    Post a Reply
  15. Am delighted that you two worked together and about the great job you seem to have done, Jeri. More to come, I hope:-)

    Post a Reply
    • Catarina, more editing projects are definitely in the works. I’ve been laying lots of groundwork this past year and keeping a lot of it in the background while I fully learn the ropes.

      Post a Reply
  16. Jeri: Everyone one of us writers appreciates the value of a good editor like you. It can make all the difference in a book. Well done!

    Post a Reply
  17. Wow, my mind definitely doesn’t work like yours… I know where to come when I need help writing 🙂

    Post a Reply
  18. I’ve been out of pocket (again) the last couple of weeks so i have missed Susan’s book release – heading over there now to check what I’ve missed and catch up 😀

    As to your editing sample, Jeri – great job! I admire you for being the “right type of editor” – not everyone takes into account author’s voice but still call themselves editors. lol Lved what you’ve done – i can see Susan’s writing but your copy reads easier indeed.

    I think the very first blog post i saw on your blog so many months ago was about editing – and your passion for it won me over. Maybe because English is my second language but… I would love to see more details (and lessons) from your daily editor’s work and tasks 😀

    Post a Reply
    • Diana, now that I’m ready to hit the ground running as a freelance editor I am planning more posts in the future that will include tips for writing and blogging.

      Post a Reply
    • Krystle, editing my own writing or the work of others is my favorite part. A lot of people seem to like the magic of getting words down on the page, but for me the real magic has always happened during writing and revision.

      Post a Reply
  19. Nice job Jeri. Although I’m not a professional editor, looking at this piece, I would have used “Meanwhile” too. Also I would have deleted “Then” at the beginning of the very last sentence. There are a few other changes I would have made but I think the point is we all see things from slightly different angles and it’s imperative to have that second set of eyes check our work.

    I hope you have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Post a Reply
    • Grace, it’s so true that copy editing leaves a lot of leeway for how to style sentences. I agree about deleting “then” at the beginning of the last sentence as well. Editing is never really finished. Text can be tinkered with repeatedly.

      Post a Reply
  20. I have to agree with and echo almost every other commenter here, Jeri. The way that you have shown how you work is great for business and clearly shows your compassionate side, too! Well done!

    And again, Susan, congratulations on your achievement!

    Post a Reply
    • Lorraine, I’m truly thankful that Susan agreed to let me display a marked-up portion of “Stick Bun and the Bear.” It gives me a great sample of my copy editing that I can now refer potential clients to.

      Post a Reply
  21. It is fantastic the way you guys all collaborated together. I didn’t realise there was so much involved in editing, it is a bigger task than I had thought. Great job!

    Post a Reply
    • Becc, good copy editing really is an art form much more than proofreading. I think this sample shows why I’ve decided to call myself the Sentence Ninja!

      Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *