We all know we need to be as consistent as possible in voice; if you’re using a teenage narrator for example don’t suddenly start using words in her thoughts and dialogue she’d never use, make sure you are consistent for character. But that’s not what I mean here and I include it as its own set of Copy Editing points as consistency in formatting and more commonly how we use words and phrases is one of the most common things I see when I copy edit.
The rule is: BE CONSISTENT. Be pedantic as you proof something for submission.
When words or combinations of words have different spellings, hyphenation or indeed capitalisation then you need to be aware of the form you use and use it throughout.
OK and okay are the correct forms, not ok, and do not use them interchangeably.
Ice cream or ice-cream: either is fine but again be consistent.
Recognise or recognize. The use of the z is more American English, but since how we use words is not defined by specific unbreakable rules but by common usage, it is now acceptable to use either form, but be consistent and don’t switch between the two. If you’re going to use recognize then you need to use realize, actualize etc. so the consistency will need to be throughout the piece.
Capitals: my mum is correct. My Mum is not: use a capital when used in place of a name.
Proper Names and Proper Nouns: it’s the teacher (small letter — common noun) but the teacher’s name clearly uses a capital (proper noun) Mrs Jones but you might use names like Teacher Jones and assign it a proper name status and therefore use capitals.
Job titles, types of animals, compass directions strictly speaking do not need capitals:
He was a vicar (small letter) but his name as above, Reverend Peters would need capitals for his title.
He photographed the lion (small letter in lion) but sometimes people opt for a capital as a stylistic choice but if you do, then ALL animals need to be afforded the same status.
We headed south. He lived to the west. He loved north Wales.
This is a more tricky one because you can say we headed to the West and use it as a proper name, but again be consistent. And I always think if the place name includes its direction like North Korea then use capitals for the complete place name (proper name). I like North Wales although my publisher said it should be north Wales in my bio!
Also think about how you use capitals in places: Paddington Station: proper name uses capitals, not Paddington station.
Names of bands, places etc. need capital letters, and brand names: He worked for Microsoft. He played guitar for Bon Jovi.
Also with brands you have to make sure you check how they spell it and stick to that so: iPhone not IPhone or Iphone.
Also when you use film, TV, book titles, album titles, newspapers etc use italics and make sure you not only spell but use capitals as they are used on the correct title: the Sunday Times, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, EastEnders.
Some phrases are often hyphenated: for example she was a fifteen-year-old girl is correct. But she was only fifteen years old does not need hyphens.
Numbers tend to use hyphens, I prefer that form: twenty-one, thirty-three etc. Again it’s more about consistency but compound numbers generally ought to have hyphens! Look at your chapter headings and in your text: which form do you use? BE CONSISTENT!
When I used to copy edit for a publisher on paper I had to identify as I read any word or phrase I thought might have an alternative usage so when I came across it again I could check consistency. Same with colour of character’s eyes etc: it was time consuming as you would be amazed how often we get these things wrong. We all do! I am pedantic about it now but they still creep in!
Now that publisher tends to send everything electronically it’s a lot easier, Find and Replace is a valuable tool. I tend to be quite good at noticing but I highlight words to check as a final read and I either leave that for the writer to adjust or change them all to the most commonly used form — so long as they are all the same form!
Be aware as you edit!
Find and Replace!
That’s all for today! Have a great one! Feel the buzz!