- Heather Mistretta
###: Writing Caboose
Copyediting is more than just making sure your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. It’s more than just syntax, grammar…and punctuation too. It’s about substance. It’s about ensuring clarity, being genuine and getting it straight! Sounds easy, right? Not quite.
The marketer or idea person got a turn. The storyteller got a turn. Now it’s your turn to button it up, ensuring that the content achieves what its original mission was in an articulate and effective way. You’re the last stop. You’re the caboose that makes sure the message is delivered safely and on time. And I’m pretty sure the caboose is a pretty important part of every train, right?
From understanding an authentic message to evaluating copy for voice, accessibility and inclusion, there's a ton of other things a copyeditor manages, many of which vary depending on the client or subject matter.
How to Recognize a Good Copyeditor:
· A good copyeditor needs grit and grace. A good copyeditor needs to be a persnickety stickler. Yes, this is pretty much the only time I will put those two words together for emphasis because any good copyeditor embraces the importance of simplicity and plain language, not redundancy or superfluous language. Just ask Mark Twain; he would have said the same thing. But a good copyeditor also needs a good dose of grace to follow that grit. If you’re not able to communicate your changes and what motivated you to arrive there with respect, then all is lost. The balance is crucial to the success of any project.
· Knows the audience inside and out. Without having a clear idea as to who you are messaging, it’s almost impossible to get it right. Each reader needs to feel as if he or she (or they) is the only person to whom you are projecting. Trust me, it carries a lot more impact and ensures that the messaging is genuine.
· Flow matters. Once you have become BFFs with the audience, knowing the message’s voice is vital to the effective flow of any content. With the genuine voice in hand, you can generate edits that support those elements.
· Know the formatting and style requirements of the company you are representing. The storytelling part is of course important, but the technical aspect that adheres to the specific branding is also crucial. A good copyeditor knows the colors, images, fonts, language, etc.
· Not afraid to seek the help from others, aka the internet or an expert in the field. Let’s face it; you’re not a know-it-all about everything nor should you act like you are. Einstein once said, "I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it, when I need it.” So, admitting that you may need to lean on a lifeline once in a while is a good thing. You might be surprised how much better your end result is.
· They listen. This one should probably have been at the top, but many people take this one for granted. Of course, an interviewer is going to listen. Not so much. Listening needs to be both active and passive. Often that doesn’t happen. Some interviewers are already thinking of what they are going to say while they are listening. A good editor listens first. Validates. Then asks.
I like to think that being a good editor is analogous to being a good parent or being a good boss. Listen first. Validate. Then listen a lot more.