More than Dotting i’s and Crossing t’s

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:00:18 +0000

Fall term has arrived and has brought with it students new to Ooligan Press, students new to the book publishing program, and students new to The Ocean in My Ears team. Joining our team this term we have the talented Brianne Robinson, who is not new to Ooligan but is new to our team, along with future publishing rockstars Terence Brierly, TJ Carter, Ava Dean, Taylor Farris, and Laura Nutter. Returning members include the canny Joanna Szabo and the punctilious Pam Wells.

While the new members are busy reading the manuscript, which went through developmental editing over the summer, the rest of the team has just begun work on the copyedit. The team is working under the expertise of the brilliant Whitney Edmunds, cohead of Ooligan’s editorial department. The copyediting team consists of not only Pam Wells and Joanna Szabo but also the careful copyediting eyes of Alison Cantrell, Jessica Clark, Ruth Kaplan, and Gloria Mulvihill.

So what, exactly, happens during a copyedit? Dictionary.com defines copyediting as “editing (a manuscript, document, text, etc.) for publication, especially for punctuation, spelling, grammatical structure, style, etc.” And while this description is accurate, it is also ambiguous, so allow me to demystify the process. Copyeditors correct errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but also style and usage issues such as the overuse of bold or italic or inconsistent use of numbering styles, for example. Copyeditors also look for changes to a character’s appearance or speech pattern, abrupt jumps in the timeline, potential legal issues such as libel or breach of copyright, and potential factual errors.

Ultimately the job of the copy editor is to make sure that “Wedensday” ends up “Wednesday” and that the Oxford comma is either used consistently or omitted entirely. But it is more than that—it is, as The New Yorker’s Mary Norris points out, a job that “draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, Midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey.” Or, in the case of The Ocean in My Ears, “teenagers, the 1990s, Dairy Queen, small towns, hairspray, standardized testing, dating, VW Bugs, and Alaska.”

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