Who’d have thought that going through copy edits on your manuscript could be fun! But I really enjoy it. For the first time, you see your book through the eyes of a professional copy editor who gets down to the finest details: questioning, pointing out inconsistencies, recommending improvements. And most of the time they are spot on!
I’ve just finished going through the copy edits for my fourth novel, The Silk Weaver (due for publication January 2017) and these are some of the things I have learned:
- When a hat previously had a blue ribbon on it, you need to make sure that it’s still blue when she wears it next!
- A chaise is either a horse-drawn carriage or the US term for a chaise longue.
- Quotes from original English 18th century documents often had spelling now only used in the US eg traveling/travelling, toward/towards, judgment/judgement. Similarly, oatmeal was an 18th century term for what we now call porridge oats but it is still used in the States. It’s fascinating to trace the origins and mutations of language.
- Do you count the basement of a house as a ‘floor’, eg when describing a house as ‘four storey’?
- You can’t be too careful with historical detail: dame schools were only set up in Victorian times (not in the 18th century)
- A woman dressmaker would be called a ‘costumière’ not a costumier.
- In conversation, would my character say ‘Coz’ or ‘Cousin’?
- Don’t have your character sit down when she already sat down a paragraph earlier!
- Question: Should this not be ‘The Analysis of Beauty’, if it’s referring to the book title rather than the concept of the line of beauty? Er, yes, almost certainly, now that you mention it!
In general, what you learn through the process of copy editing is that, however carefully you have checked, you will have made silly mistakes such as repeated words and inconsistencies. So bless all those copy editors (Lorraine, are you listening?) who are there to make sure you get it right!