photo of full bookshelf. White arched text reads "Inside Ooligan Press:" White box with Ooligan fishhook logo. Straight white bar at bottom of image with text "Editing"

Inside Ooligan Press: What Does an Editor Do?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press,” about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

There are many levels of editing that help shape a manuscript into what readers ultimately pull off the shelves of their favorite bookstore or library, but how does each level of editing work to transform a manuscript from the first draft to the final, polished result?

As editors, we create and manage all editorial timelines and guide an author through the publishing process as their manuscript undergoes multiple levels of editing. In addition, an editor’s goal is to help an author strengthen their writing while also maintaining their voice and overall tone of their story. To do this, editors follow guidelines set by the client they are working with, the publishing house they work within, and style guides used across particular industries. Here at Ooligan Press, we utilize our house-made style guide and a style guide created specifically for each manuscript we publish, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) that is broadly used across the publishing industry. These guides encompass standard rules for the treatment of numbers, the use of commas, and the use of other punctuation, as well as citations and endnotes when applicable.

CMOS is the standard style guide used in trade book publishing, but each publishing house may also utilize an internal style guide for specific editorial decisions. For example, at Ooligan, our style guide has a specific section for inclusivity that we reference to ensure our publications are accessible to readers and use inclusive language. We also create style guides for each manuscript to address book-specific editing choices such as the spelling of unique names and phrases, often seen in fantasy or non-fiction books.

These style guides are utilized throughout the four main editing stages: developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. The first round of editing that a manuscript goes through is developmental editing, also called a DE. This round is undertaken by our Acquisitions Department, who work with authors to complete big picture editing. Rather than correcting spelling errors or comma splices at this stage, a DE looks at the manuscript from the top down, addressing plot holes, character development, and plot points that move the story forward.

After Acquisitions receives these big picture edits back from the author, the manuscript is handed off to our Managing Editor to guide the manuscript through more specific edits. Manuscripts we acquire generally go through two rounds of copyediting, one heavy copyedit and one light-to-medium copyedit, depending on what each manuscript needs. These rounds of edits look for spelling mistakes, errors in punctuation, and smaller, more specific story edits as needed. Story edits are marked in comments as queries to the author to point them in the right direction if there is any confusion within the manuscript. For these types of queries, our editors explain why they are bringing something to the author’s attention and provide at least two suggestions that would provide more clarity. Like during a DE, these suggestions are up to the discretion of the author and aim to maintain their voice. Alongside these suggestions and correcting punctuation and spelling, we also strive to correct grammatical errors and sentence structure, a process called line editing. Here we look at each sentence and its role within the manuscript. Awkward wording is flagged and suggestions are provided to help the author rework unclear sentences.

Following these copyedits, the manuscript is sent to the Design Department to transform the Word Document into a designed PDF that will ultimately turn into the final published book. But before this designed interior can be sent to the printers, it must undergo one last round of editing to ensure all errors are corrected. We call this round a print proofread, in which editors compare the designed interior to the most recently edited Word Document. Here we make sure that there are no missing paragraphs or sections, all punctuation and italics are correct, and no stray code made its way into the manuscript during the design process. Once the proofread is complete, the book is sent to the printers and the final book is produced. In a similar fashion to print proofreads, we also perform ebook proofreads to ensure a digital copy of the manuscript is formatted correctly and no errors were introduced during coding.

While these are the editorial steps we undertake at Ooligan, each publishing house may differ from these steps depending on their department structure. No editing schedule is the end-all be-all for editing, but a good editor will work directly with an author to maintain their vision for their manuscript. The most important job an editor undertakes is helping an author create the best version of their manuscript and strengthen their writing while maintaining their unique voice.

the word "proofread" followed check boxes that say "grammar," "formatting," and "spelling"

The Dos and Don’ts of Proofreading

The topic of copyediting is talked about at length within the publishing industry, but there is little discussion about another aspect of the editorial process that is equally as important: proofreading. Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know about proofreading your next project.

Proofreading is one of the last steps in the editorial process. The manuscript has completed all rounds of copyediting, has been XML typecoded, and has been sent to the designer to complete the interior. The book is nearly complete and just needs a final check to ensure that errors weren’t introduced during the design process and that there are no lingering grammatical errors. Proofreading is the final step before the book is sent to the printer, but there is much confusion about what is and is not covered during this stage of editing.

Here are some things to look for as you complete your next proofread:

Weird Spacing:

Be on the lookout for missing spaces between words or punctuation and places where there are additional spaces where there shouldn’t be.

Leftover XML Coding:

At Ooligan, our books are XML typecoded so that the designer knows what special treatment different words and sections should have. Sometimes parts of this code accidentally make its way into the final manuscript, so be on the lookout for erroneous code.


Double-check that everything from the final version of the manuscript has been included in the designed version. Check for missing paragraphs or words, missing images or graphics, or missing punctuation marks.


As you are proofreading, check the punctuation surrounding words that are in bold or italics—do they follow the guidelines outlined in your style guide? Also be on the lookout for placement of punctuation within quotations—do they follow the guidelines outlined in your style guide?

Closed vs. Open Compounds:

Make sure that compounds are following the Hyphenation Guide for Chicago.

Consistent Spelling:

Be on the lookout for names, places, and other words that may be spelled inconsistently throughout the manuscript. We recommend keeping the style sheet for the book nearby as you proofread.


Double-check that all ellipses are formatted according to the style guide. For Chicago, it is three periods with spaces: . . .

Windows, Runts, and Orphans:

Be mindful of the way paragraphs start and end. Widows happen when the last line of a paragraph starts at the top of the next page. Runts occur when the last line of a paragraph ends with a single word. Orphans happen when the first line of a paragraph is on the bottom of a page.

Here are some things to keep in mind when completing a proofread. The time for any substantial editing is over. Now is the time to look for any glaring errors that are remaining after the copyedits are completed. We don’t want to be rewriting any of the text or posing queries to the author—there shouldn’t be any substantial changes to the manuscript at this stage.

I hope this guide helped shed some light on what is expected—and what to avoid—for your next proofread.

Happy proofreading!

cover of Chicago Manual of Style

Three CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE  Rules … and Their Exceptions

Anyone who has used Chicago Manual of Style, or any style guide for that matter, will know that sometimes the rules seem arbitrary or contradictory and full of exceptions. Here are three often confused rules and their many exceptions.

  1. Number rules: When to use numerals versus when to spell out a number.
  2. The Chicago Manual of Style has an entire section dedicated to the treatment of numbers! Twenty-eight pages of rules in the 17th edition hardcover. One of which I just used in the last sentence, CMOS 9.5: “When a number begins a sentence, it is always spelled out.”

    Chicago’s number rules follow a standard pattern for most usages. Numbers one through one hundred are always spelled out (unless used as part of a percentage, date, or time), and those higher than one hundred, and up through the hundred thousands, find whole numbers spelled out—forty-seven thousand or three hundred—with everything else up to one hundred in numeral form—423, 11,354, etc.

    But the ultimate exception to the rule comes in Chicago 9.7: Consistency and flexibility.

    Where many numbers occur within a paragraph or series of paragraphs, maintain consistency in the immediate context. If according to a given rule you must use numerals for one of the numbers in a given category, use them for all in that category.

    Chicago has very specific rules about when to use numerals and when to spell out numbers, here Chicago tells you to forget what you have been taught in the previous seven sections, but to default to the lowest common denominator, aka, if you must use numerals for one, use them for all. Consistency is key.

  3. Possessives: Plural possessives and names ending in s
  4. Possessives are a constant source of confusion for writers and editors alike. Take what is a common area for errors and add in the extra confusion of plural possessives as well as proper nouns ending in s, and you have a formula for exceptions and non-uniform treatment across style guides. The Chicago Manual of Style treats these s-fraught instances in a few different ways.

    First, your typical plural noun ending in s receives a solo apostrophe, sans the added s, while a singular noun ending in s—think bass—gets the apostrophe and added s, like any other noun would (CMOS 7.16).

    Next, solo proper nouns ending in s get the standard apostrophe + s, the Jones’s for example (CMOS 7.17), while plural proper nouns receive a singular apostrophe. Seems pretty simple right?

    BUT, when the singular and plural forms of the noun are the same—think species—both forms only receive a solo apostrophe to form the possessive. The Chicago Manual of Style also recommends recasting a sentence to avoid the possessive if confusion is likely. This rule also applies to singular entities that are plural, such as the United States (CMOS 7.20).

  5. Punctuation: In and around quotation marks.
  6. To round out our list we have some wonky rules around punctuation, specifically how punctuation functions in and adjacent to quotation marks and parenthesis. First, what you will find is that different punctuation marks have different rules. You would think that commas and semicolons would be treated in a similar fashion. Not so!

    Periods and commas are included inside of quotation marks, unless you are British or identifying a file name using quotation marks at the end of a sentence. For example:

    He described what he heard as a “short, sharp shock.” (CMOS 6.9)


    If your server uses “index.html” as its default file name, the name of your own default file cannot be “index.htm”. (CMOS 7.79)

    Semicolons, as promised, are treated differently than commas and periods and are placed outside of quotation marks, as are colons. And finally, question marks and exclamation points follow quotation marks, unless they are part of the quote itself (CMOS 6.10).

    Table showing rules for punctuation relative to quotation marks and parenthesis

    Indeed, these rules are so often confused that Chicago has a table devoted to explaining where punctuation lands with regard to quotation marks and parenthesis.

So next time you encounter one of these instances while writing or editing, don’t worry. The answers you seek exist complete with their many exceptions.