A copy editor is only as good as her bookshelf, or bookmarks. Here are some basic books that every copy editor should have.
Who are copy editors and what do they do anyway? The short answer is that they are the secret heroes of publishing. They use a keen eye to spot grammatical errors and typos. In addition, a copy editor knows how to find and fix factual errors. The best copy editors also call attention to faulty logic, or holes in an article, or paragraphs in the wrong place. And the very best are sentence magicians, turning clunky collections of words into musical phrases.
Recently, one of my young cousins emailed me to ask about copy-editing resources. As the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, she had decided to institute a new step in the paper’s editing process. My many emails exchanges with her made me realize that while I’ve blogged about literary style and good editing in the past, this little-understood and vastly under-appreciated part of the publishing process deserves some attention.
English grammar evolves with majestic disregard for the susceptibilities of classical scholars,” Philip Howard wrote in his 1978 book Weasel Words. So, apparently, do the rules for pluralizing words that have come to us from Latin and Greek.
For many writers and editors, knowing these rules is a point of pride. But nowadays the rules that exist threaten to disregard, or at least confound, everyone’s “susceptibilities.”