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Copy editor

Editor who carries out the copy-editing, often a freelancer.

Copy editors are special people. Those who are brilliant at their job may be treasured by their press but not necessarily appreciated by every author. As noted in my post on different editorial staff, many authors think their copy editors are anal-retentive types, nit-pickers able to spot an error or inconsistency at 50 paces but incapable of appreciating what they are reading, right under their nose.

There may be a grain of truth in this assessment; certainly, it takes a special type of person to filter a screed of text written over many months (if not years) and bring to it a uniformity and correctness as if it had been written with the wave of a magic wand. This is a superhuman role that, not surprisingly, few copy editors are able to live up to.

On the other hand, many authors have a warm relationship with their copy editor, singling her out for especial praise in the book’s acknowledgements. Perhaps this is because the author realizes that the only person actually to have closely read his text is the lowly copy editor. A key factor, too, is just how this copy-editing is carried out (hands-off or interactively).

This definition is extracted (and expanded on) from the book Getting Published: A Companion for the Humanities and Social Sciences by Gerald Jackson and Marie Lenstrup. It was first referred to in the blog Getting Published in a post on different editorial staff.

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