Guest blog by Karyn L Stecyk, Language and Copy Editor.
My partners in crime
Modern technology has connected the world in ways unimaginable even fifty years ago. With English being the predominant common denominator for international communication, the need for language and copy editors transcends borders.
I work exclusively with authors who are not native English speakers or who have grown up with a regional English other than UK/American English. Some of them are essentially fluent, with errors only surfacing in the details of their writing and specific turns of phrase. Others enlist more thorough aid of translators and editors.
But both cases require an eagle eye for detail and a brain trained to catch English phrasing that would be jarring to UK or American English speakers. This is even more crucial when talking about manuscripts of book length, as consistency in terms and voice becomes necessary to retain reader attention and avoid confusion.
What goes into book editing?
You’ve written a book. You’ve put in the early hours and late nights. It’s not the editor’s job to rewrite it. Instead, it’s the editor’s job to help bring out the best in your writing.
When I tackle a book project, I ensure the book reads smoothly from cover to cover. It’s not just about grammar and typos. It’s about cutting redundant sentences, rewording for clarity and conciseness, and recognizing trends in the author’s original text to identify and maintain their voice throughout.
When I encounter something that got lost in translation, I always leave a query for the author. The service I offer is oriented around a collaboration between myself and the author. I flag all problem areas for revision, and work with my clients to find the correct English wording to ensure their intended meaning is left intact. As a team, we shuffle the pieces of the puzzle until they all fit together.
Moving from a journal article to a book is like swapping out a 1000-piece puzzle for a 30000-piece one. By the time the manuscript hits my desk, the author has put in a ton of work and is ready to rely on another to help polish it for publication. It’s a daunting task, and one I take seriously. The author’s career or funding could be on the line. Or, like in the case I’ll describe below, the author may be a pretty big name in their field and this next book needs to meet certain expectations for excellence.
Copy editing — sometimes it feels like rocket science
The manuscript for the book Fundamentals of Quantum Entanglement by F J Duarte was not only over 350 pages long, but written by one of the most prolific modern-day physicists with numerous publications under his belt. It was a tall order, the pressure to impress was on, and there was no room to skimp on quality.
But at the end of the day, this is what copy editing is all about: making sure the author shines.
My editing focused on polishing for natural language, and ensuring that logical flow was intact, concepts explained clearly, and typos put in their place — i.e., in the trash. I also ensured that acronyms defined in early chapters were used consistently throughout the entire book. Equations were followed by the correct punctuation, and variables were rightly set italic. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I was hyperaware of maintaining the author’s distinct voice and authority throughout the editing process. This was his work, afterall.
This is where my experience living in over five countries and dabbling in multiple languages helps. I can not only catch those snippets of text that seem a touch off, but often have a good idea of where it’s coming from and why the author chose to say it. If I have a sneaking suspicion that the text can be revised in some way but am not 100% certain that the connotation shift would be acceptable, I make a suggestion but ask the author to confirm the edit or provide an alternative.
While I know I delivered high-quality work, I was pleasantly surprised to receive praise from not just the publisher but also from the author: “Great job in transcribing the original to the proofs. I am particularly pleased with the equations.”
This is what I strive for. For my clients to sit back and read the latest version of their work, make a couple final tweaks, and be proud to send it off to the publisher.
Interested in collaborating with me?
Request my editing services here: https://peerwith.expert/karynlstecyk Curious about Peerwith’s book publishing services? Send your service request to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond within 24 hours.