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Guest Post: On Working with Copy Editors

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By Barbara Gastel | July 5, 2011  | None

[This week’s blog post is from AuthorAID community member Richard de Grijs, of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, China. Thank you, Richard, for contributing this second post! —Barbara]

Over the years, I’ve dealt with copy editors in different settings. In fact, I freelance as a scientific copy editor myself, if time permits.

These experiences have taught me some lessons about the final stages of manuscript publication. As a junior scientist, I assumed that "they" would know best how to write in the relevant journal's style. Nevertheless, it's still your name in the table of contents. Therefore, you'd better make sure that you’re happy with the edited text!

I recently finished writing a high-level textbook. To my disappointment, the copy editors introduced errors into my text that altered my intended meaning.... I believe that this problem was caused by the manuscript's specialized nature. Fortunately, my publisher has promised to make any corrections I find necessary.

Ideally, a publisher employs copy editors with some expertise in the field of the manuscript. However, even such copy editors may not be fully aware of certain technical terms you use routinely in your research. And there is also scope for misinterpretation.

In its simplest form, copy editing ensures that the journal's style is followed and that grammar,  spelling, and punctuation are correct. Even if you didn't write your manuscript in your native language, you should always check that this editorial polishing has not changed what you wanted to say. This is a major reason why journals send you pre-publication proofs, and I recommend that you take the time to carefully check them.

Keep in mind the specific roles that you and your copy editor play. You will reach the most satisfactory result, which may be a great source of pride, by treating each other professionally and respectfully, even if mistakes were made.


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