While I have always had an affinity towards language, grammar, and punctuation; I understand how the majority may think them to be irritating and unnecessary. I understand that the importance of grammatical correctness may completely elude a person, and that person may live to prosper, regardless. I understand there is no real negative consequence of writing ‘ok’ instead of ‘okay’. The fact that misused punctuations irk me has nothing to do with the importance of a well-constructed sentence. As a Copy Editor, I’m not here to tell writers that they’re wrong. I’m not here to tell them that their work is subpar. I am not here to point out flaws or nit-pick at someone’s hard work.
I am here to make the writer look good.
A Copy Editor is an invisible entity. We’re like fairy-god mothers, except no one really thinks of us that way. We work to turn mice to horses and pumpkins to carriages. We work at the level of the sentence. We honor every detail. We may change the sentence structure and selection of words, we may turn a paragraph into a sentence or a sentence into a paragraph—not to alter the writing, but to make it more compelling. Writers have the most amazing ideas, and we’re here to help effectively translate those ideas onto the page. All this may seem a bit excessive; a missing comma or a mildly fragmented sentence may not seem like a big deal. Trust me; it can be. A well-structured, well-formatted and thoroughly proofed piece of content looks like it has been given time and thought. It looks reliable. Not only does it speak well of the writer but the publishing organization as well.
Contrary to popular belief, Copy Editors do more than just fixing the grammatical structure of any given content. We look for readability—in context to the target audience, and make sure the tone of the content is in line with the voice and tone of the organisation. Making sure the content appeals to the target audience is imperative. Without this, the content completely defeats its purpose. If any given material doesn’t flow well, is difficult to grasp or is too abrupt and rough; it most likely will not be given the credibility it requires.
With all this said and done, I think the key to being a good Copy-Editor is communication. There’s a fine line between constructive feedback and offensive feedback. Creating a functional rapport with the writer is so essential to effective improvement. As much as I know the vitality of offering feedback, the fear of hurting or offending the writer has often made it difficult for me to communicate my concerns efficiently. I think I finally mastered the balance between feedback and friendliness when I became a part of SyncWorks. The friendly atmosphere and accepting nature of the people made my job a lot easier. I think I managed to relay the distinction between work and play well enough to build strong and complementary relationships with my colleagues.
Sometimes the title of a Copy-Editor pins me down as a nit-picky Grammar Nazi. I assure you; this isn’t true! Being a Copy Editor has given the OCD grammarian in me not only my dream job, but also an outlet for my craziness!