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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.

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