Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Line Editing vs. Copy Editing

If you go to enough editing websites, you’ll notice that there are multiple names for different types of edits. What one person calls a developmental edit, somebody else might call a content edit. And the description of copy editing can get confusing because I've seen it defined different ways. Some people will define a copy edit how I do below. And others will define it as what I call a line edit.

And that’s also why you need to make sure you know what type of editing you are getting and not just go by the name.

At Cookie Lynn, we cover three types of edits. A developmental edit, which Kelley does, then a line edit, and finally a copy edit--the last two I do. 

When I do a line edit, I’m looking at many stylistic things.

-Overused words. Sometimes we writers overuse a certain word or phrase. JUST and THAT have been ones I've had problems with. They’re not bad words, but we don’t want to use them all the time.

-Redundancy. This is where we will repeat a word/phrase/sentence, but write it in a different way. That’s okay to do sometimes, but you don’t want to be doing it a lot.

-Awkward sentences. Sometimes when I’m reading, I’ll stumble over a sentence and have to go back and read it again. It could be for a variety of reasons, but something is affecting the flow of that line.

-Clarity. This is similar to the awkward lines. If I have to go back and re-read a line several times to figure out what the writer means, there’s a good chance other readers will have the same problem.

-Passive sentences. They’re okay every once in a while, even necessary sometimes, but we don’t want to overuse them, especially if you can write a better line that is more active.

-Consistency in character attributes. I want to make sure a character doesn’t change from blonde to brunette throughout the story.

-Echoes. Using a word multiple times within a short space (paragraph/page).

-Grammar/punctuation. I’ll do a check of these things, but I don’t mark every mistake. I’m more likely to note if you are repeating a mistake throughout.

-With a line edit I do an editorial letter that explains all these things I’m seeing and why I think you should change them.

A copy edit is more basic—essentially a polish.

-Grammar and Punctuation. All those pesky rules, which surprisingly are not always black and white.

-Spelling. In addition to checking spelling, I’ll watch for misused words like EFFECT vs. AFFECT.

-Typos. From my experience, most writers who are at the stage of writing novels know the difference between YOUR and YOU’RE, but sometimes our fingers type it out incorrectly.

-Echoes. Using a word multiple times within a short space (paragraph/page).

-I don’t necessarily do an editorial letter, but sometimes if there’s a grammar/punctuation error that repeats, I’ll explain why I keep correcting it.

So those are the differences between our line editing and copy editing. If you’re not sure which one you want, we can help you figure it out. And we’re always willing to do a sample edit to show you what we can do.

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