IDAHO Word Man

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Book Editor

What Is a Copy Editor?

When I tell people that Idaho Word Man provides copy editing services, I often get blank stares. What does a copy editor do? If I’m feeling like a jerk, I am often tempted to say, “I edit copy.” Knowing that would just tick people off, I have resisted that temptation -- so far.

As a copy editor, my job at Idaho Word Man is to ensure that the manuscript you send to your publisher (or self-publish) contains no unintentional errors or inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, punctuation, or word choice. I used the word unintentional on purpose, because authors often choose to write in sentence fragments or have their characters say things like “I seen it.” If you have done something like that on purpose, I’m not going to get on a moral high horse and tell you that you shouldn’t do it. Your book is yours -- not mine. I want it to sound like your book when I’m done with it.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, copy editing “requires attention to every word and mark of punctuation in a manuscript, a thorough knowledge of the style to be followed, and the ability to make quick, logical, and defensible decisions.” Chicago uses the word style to refer to “rules related to capitalization, spelling, hyphenation, and abbreviations; punctuation, including ellipsis points, parentheses, and quotation marks; and the way numbers are treated. Mechanical editing also includes attention to grammar, syntax, and usage.”

As part of my editing, I will also format your manuscript for you. By format, I mean that I will consistently apply paragraph styles, font size, margins, indents, line spacing, etc. I usually follow The Smashwords Style Guide for formatting e-books, unless you tell me otherwise. If your publisher asks for a particular method of formatting your manuscript, I will apply their formatting guidelines.

When formatting your manuscript, I will apply paragraph styles in a way that can be easily modified. I can easily change the margins, font size, line spacing, paragraph indentations, etc., in a matter of minutes. If I have edited your manuscript to one formatting standard, and the next publisher wants it formatted differently, send it back to me. I will gladly change the formatting at no additional charge.

I will also do some minor fact checking. For example, I recently edited a novel that was set in the 1930s. The author had his characters using words that were not coined and inventions that were not created until the 1950s or later. I brought those anachronisms to his attention. In most cases I will simply point out any facts that look wrong so that you can check them and correct them if you wish.

After Idaho Word Man has finished the initial editing of your manuscript, I will return it to you with any questions or comments. After you’ve reviewed what I’ve done, I usually make one last pass through it to clean up any additional items you want fixed.

That’s what I do at Idaho Word Man.

What don’t I do at Idaho Word Man?

I don't usually provide detailed “content editing” services. That means that I don’t often tell you what your book ought to contain. I don’t normally rearrange chapters, delete large passages, add new material, or restructure your novel. I can do some of that kind of work if you want me to, but that’s not my field of expertise.

I do, however, tell you if I think your manuscript needs such work. I’ll point out areas that I think need attention, but I will do that before I start copy editing. There’s no sense wasting my time or your money editing a manuscript that needs substantial revision.

If you have a manuscript that needs to be cleaned up before you send it to a publisher, or before you self-publish it, send it to me. Idaho Word Man will edit and format your manuscript to professional standards.