For most writers, the first draft is never really the best draft. Whether they are writing an article, a blog post, a story, a book, or simply their own memoir – the piece just has to be revised, amended, reworked and corrected, at each and every step. This is because unless and until a written copy is repeatedly checked for factual, grammatical, linguistic or technical errors, it would neither be able to meet its stated objectives, nor would it become equipped to create the right impact. It is precisely for this reason that writers across the world have now begun to rely on the diligent, rigorous, and time-tested practice of professional copy editing.
What is Copy Editing?
Copy editing, in simple words, is the process of reshaping written material in such a way that its readability is enhanced without compromising its basic essence. The primary job of a copy editor is to identify subject gaps, simplify writing structures, overhaul rough drafts, and streamline creative communications. Throughout the entire publishing cycle, copy editing provides writers with the exclusive opportunity to improve their final product, so that they can turn it into a more dynamic, engaging, competitive, and reader-friendly piece of work.
While copy editing, as a discipline, is highly personal and subjective in nature, there are a few standard tools and techniques which are followed by experienced copy editors, universally.
Listed here are the 10 best practices which most copy editors employ in order to refine, filter and fine-tune the textual composition before them.
1. Cutting Long Sentences Short
The first rule of good copy editing is to cut long sentences short. Sentences that are both lengthy and extensive, generally develop the propensity of losing reader interest. They often contain several conflicting ideas, none of which are able to reach the target audience because the reader sheds focus midway. Short sentences, on the other hand, are crisp, to-the-point, and highly engaging.
2. Removing Needless Punctuation
A simple comma is considered to be quite self-sufficient in punctuating an entire written text. This is because a comma can easily convey adequate information in an incredibly straightforward way. Littering a written piece with other forms of punctuation like colons, semi-colons, and parentheses tends to take away the content’s flow and eloquence.
3. Replacing Complicated Words
All articles, blogs, and stories which are written in a simple and understandable language, largely do well with the audience. The readers tend to identify with the writer’s intent and associate with it on an emotional and cognitive level. By using complicated words instead, some writers isolate their audience. It is thus, the job of a copy editor to replace jargon with common, more familiar words.
4. Eliminating Redundancies
Redundancies, in professional copy editing, are identified as specific phrases, words, and expressions that lead to needless verbal repetitions. While not noticeable in the first go, these redundancies can prove to be extremely tiresome from a grammatical and linguistic perspective. Some usual redundancies used across the spectrum are ‘advance planning,’ ‘free gifts,’ ‘foreign imports,’ etc.
5. Using Active Instead of Passive Voice
In English grammar, both active and passive voices are considered to be an immensely gratifying form of expression. However, while building a narrative, copy editors generally prefer active voice over passive voice. It is so because using the active voice makes the writing very concise, succinct, and efficient. It also cleans up a sentence of unnecessary words and insignificant terms.
6. Reducing Prepositions
Prepositions, by definition, are words that express a relation between nouns/pronouns and other elements in a sentence. These words, while helpful on some occasions, can get in the way of good writing. They don’t just prolong sentences by elongating their meaning, but when cut, they also shorten the sentence size by almost half! This is why copy editors, as a standard practice, ceaselessly replace prepositions with more direct words.
7. Paying Attention to Details
A written piece of work does not just have to be checked for its spelling, punctuation, and grammar. It also has to be edited for its narrative, flow, and consistency. Bearing this in mind, copy editors ensure that they scrutinize the whole text before them, in a minute and comprehensive manner. They pay attention to every little detail and make conscious efforts to rectify mistakes.
8. Cutting Out Repetition
Quite like redundancies, repetitions too are a major roadblock in the success of most writing ventures. While editing and proofreading their work themselves, writers do not realize the number of words, sentences, or ideas that they have repeated. But copy editors are well-trained to look for these kinds of errors. They aim to filter the text and lend it a crisp and refreshing aura.
9. Amplifying the Writer’s Voice
The basic purpose of a decent write-up is to deliver in words, whatever the writer wishes to communicate through thoughts. This is why most copy editors make it a habit to amplify the writer’s voice and cut down on their own. They limit their interjections to mere comments, suggestions, queries, and explanations so that their own perceptions, prejudices, and biases are not reflected in the write-up.
10. Serving the Reader
Last but not the least, copy editors around the globe make it a practice to serve the reader by delivering clear, concise, and error-free content. While professional copy-editing calls for them to serve the needs of both writers and publishing houses, they make sure that their ultimate objective remains to satisfy the audience’s need to read informative, powerful and delightful content.
The Way Forward
According to recent research conducted by Copywriter Today, almost 56% of marketers agree that well-edited and compelling copies tend to drive approximately 7-8 times the usual traffic. This means that the power of the written word to hold attention, trigger imagination, and generate action is truly immense!
It is primarily due to this reason that the roles and responsibilities assigned to credible copy editors are likely to enter a new phase in the future. Professional copy editing will slowly turn into a lucrative business where maintaining quality, assuring accuracy, eliminating bias, and rationalizing verbosity will begin to gain prime importance. Under such circumstances, deploying the best copy-editing practices to bring out the latent beauty of a written piece of art will surely serve as a good way to offer verbal clarity, textual transparency, and expressive ideation.
As a writer or copy editor, if you want to know more about professional copy editing and everything else that it entails – Get in Touch