Copy-editing involves checking a piece of writing for grammar, spelling, style and punctuation. It has this in common with proofreading, but copy-editing goes further. It is a more invasive review of a piece of writing than a proofread. The copy-editor may suggest revising certain passages to deal with ambiguity, overuse of jargon and other problems.Copy-editing can improve syntax, flow and tone of voice. It’s amazing how a few tweaks can totally change the character of a piece of writing – from cheeky to clever, from technical to something the lay person can understand, from distant to warm, from hostile to friendly.
Need a fresh pair of eyes? Talk to me about copy-editing your writing.
Style, in relation to proofreading and copy-editing, is the set of conventions that is being used by the writer or writers. Contrary to what you might think, much of what goes into making writing correct is governed by preference rather than hard-and-fast rules.
The Irish Times may favour -ize -ization and so on, while the Irish Independent may go with -ise, -isation. Both are correct.
Eir may use numerals for all numbers in prose, while Vodafone may write the full word. Both are valid choices.
And to give you an apt example, I notice that Benjamin Dreyer, esteemed Copy Chief at Random House styles the words that describe his profession without hyphens: copyeditor and copyediting. I have chosen to hyphenate them. Another person might style them as two separate words. We both have our styles. Both are correct. What would be unacceptable would be to mix them in the same piece of writing. The very thought!
That is why publishing houses and - these days - companies and brands produce house style guides - so that everyone in the organisation is on the same page about things like this. Where a company or oganisation’s house style guide is properly used, you won’t see a word like ‘organise’ spelled with an ‘s’ in the annual report, but with a ‘z’ in a tweet.
Need some consistency in your communications? Talk to me about developing a house style guide.