Quick Copy Editing Tip

Not done one of these for a while so thought I would post something short and simple.

One of the most common errors I see when copy editing is inconsistency and here I don’t mean in voice or plot or style, I simply mean spelling, hyphenation or use of capitals in words especially where alternative forms are acceptable.

I even see the same word spelled in a different way in the next line and I wonder why the writer doesn’t see it, but then again we all do it. We get caught up in the drama and the flow of our narrative we forget the nuts and bolts stuff. And to some extent assume an editor will take care of it. But if you’re trying to find a publisher, getting the nuts and bolts stuff right is a reflection of polish and professionalism, so get into good habits and it becomes second nature.

So for example OK and okay used interchangeably, ok is strictly speaking incorrect.

ice cream/ice-cream

to the east/to the East (actually here there is no need for the capital in east)

a ten-year-old/a ten year old — again here when used in this way it is more acceptable to use hyphens

twenty one/twenty-one (hyphens are most commonly used form)

realise/realize  (z is the more US form but more accepted now but if you use it, you have to be consistent, so look at things like, recognise, sterilise, actualise: use a z in one of these, use it in all! I prefer s which is more UK!

And many more… when either form is acceptable then choose one and stick to that. Use Find and Replace in Word as a double check when proofing your ms.

That is all!






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4 responses to “Quick Copy Editing Tip

  1. Hi Debz,
    Very useful tips as always, thank you. Although I realize I’m swimming against the tide, I remember watching an episode of Inspector Morse in which Lewis was revising for an exam and Morse was critiquing his notes. The conversation went something like “-ise, -ise, Lewis it’s –ize, you’ll never get anywhere if you can’t write in English.” I was surprised so I looked it up. If you look in the OED for realise, you will find realize, also realise, the same goes for Chambers. I had thought that –ize was American but I understand that the pilgrim fathers took –ize with them and –ise was a later French import.
    Best wishes

  2. Chris Parmenter

    Debz, I was always taught that you should never start a sentence with ‘And’. Now it is used all the time. Why will a comma not suffice instead of a full stop before the word and?

    • Ah I am guilty of that. What you have to remember about grammar is it is not governed by a precise set in stone, can not be broken rules or laws but actually by rules of common usage. And as such (see started it with and!) can be changed and broken and they are often in creative writing for effect.For me it’s more about how it forces the reader to read. These days the common usage moves away from too many commas, and shorter sentence structures. I like using And to start sentences, although I am careful not to have too many fragments of sentences and like the semicolon but fragments are also used a lot too!

      It’s all part of the fun!


  3. Thanks David. I had heard this myself before but then when I started editing for a publisher who has UK and US clients, they said the z was used more by the Americans and s by the English but actually now both are acceptable as long as they’re used consistently! I think you are right but I still think of it this way. I prefer s. But consistency is the rule!!! Thanks! Interesting!


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