Editing Course: Perfect Punctuation I

As today’s topic was extremely short, I decided to work through an extra topic. This topic covers the very basics of punctuation, however it has thrown my writing world upside down. I’ll write a separate post telling you why later.

7: Perfect Punctuation I

Important note: The notes below are to Australian standards and may not be considered correct elsewhere in the world.

The world is changing rapidly due to technology. Written letters was replaced with typed letters and now email has replaced typed letters to a large extent. However, email has also made us lazy. Many of us don’t check for errors and we rely heavily on spell checkers when writing email. Whilst this may be somewhat acceptable on the internet, it is not acceptable in printed material.

Punctuation – The Basics

The use of “&” and “and” – never use an ampersand (&) in place of the word “and”. No professional would ever do this. Only use an ampersand in business names and when referring to joint authors. Example: Mills & Boon, Baxter & Wood.

The apostrophe in “it’s” – only ever use “it’s” when it is the shortened (informal) form of “it is”. If you cannot replace “it’s” with “it is” do not include the apostrophe. Example: It’s a beautiful day.

Spaces between sentences – the standard is to use one space between sentences. The change from two spaces to one space took affect around the same time open punctuation (see below) was adopted.

Open Punctuation

The word “punctuation” comes from the Latin word punctus, meaning “point”, and until about the sixteenth century the English word for punctuation was “pointing”. The punctus (.) is the ancestor for our modern “period” or full stop.

Ancient Roman text used no punctuation, ie no full stops or spaces between words or sentences. It must have been very difficult to read. Eventually punctus and spaces were introduced to make reading easier.

Ancient Greek manuscripts separated blocks of text with a horizontal line called a “paragrahos” and that’s where the term paragraph originates from.

Around the eleventh century the hyphen (-) was introduced to show a word was continued on the next line. They used the hyphen anywhere in the word.

“Layout”, separating blocks of text and using indentation etc, was introduced in the Middle Ages (around the fourteenth century).

Up until the 1980 and 90s it was standard practice to use full punctuation in everything. This was referred to as “closed punctuation” and it meant documents were heavily punctuated.

By about the year 2000 “closed punctuation” had become old fashioned and was replaced by a new standard, “open punctuation”.


Closed Punctuation Open Punctuation
Mr. John R. Citizen,
Great Publishing Pty. Ltd.,
Suite 101,
23 Crest Street,
Sydney, N.S.W. 2000.
Mr John R Citizen
Great Publishing Pty Ltd
Suite 101
23 Crest Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Keep in mind though that if a business name is registered with full stops then that is how it should be typeset on letterheads etc and that’s how it should be typed, especially for legal documents. This is also true for “Pty Ltd”. If the registered business name is Great Publishing Pty. Limited then that is how it should be typed. These are things an editor needs to check.

Open punctuation is also the standard use in body text. Only use commas where needed for correct use or clarification.

Editing Course: Editor & Proofreader’s Tools

Becoming an editor and/or proofreader means you must have an excellent understanding of grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, formatting and layout.

Obviously, no one can remember everything connected with these things so it is important to have a good set of tools.

Tools required are:

1. A good localised dictionary (ie it’s no use owning a lovely thick American dictionary if you reside in the UK or Australia).
2. A marking pen (ie standards change from company to company, so be sure you know what colour is used for each position, such as editor, copyeditor, proofreading or publisher).
3. A localised style manual.

The above are the absolute minimum you must have.

Australians might considered subscribing to the Macquarie Dictionery Online. However, there is an annual fee to access the information.

Editing Course: Inside Publishing

When we talk about publishing, most people think of printed books. However, that is only one sector of the publishing world. There is also newspapers, magazines, the education sector and business.

Publishing is not limited to printed material either. E-commerce is also part of publishing. This includes ebooks (a fast growing sector), web pages, e-newsletters, ezines and e-journals.

The Birth of the Manuscript

Long before typesetters came into existence a manuscript was a handwritten work by an author. Manuscript is a Latin term: “manu” means “hand” and script comes from “scibere” meaning “to write”.

The printed version of the manuscript is never referred to as a manuscript. It is the completed work, the book. Only the author’s work is given the term manuscript.

The first “books” to be published date back to the seventh century when religious manuscripts first came into creation. However, it wasn’t until the thirteenth century that book production spread to manuscripts that were not religious in nature.

The Crusaders, returning from their fighting, brought with them books that told about worldly and historical matters. Some of the early writings came from the Greeks, especially the two Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, who wrote in-depth accounts of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars.

It wasn’t until the fifteen century that the first actual printed books came into being. That’s when the printing press and the development of mass-market technologies were introduced and used. Yet the term “mass-market” is a bit misleading. Many average people could not read and the books produced were very expensive. Only the wealthy could afford to buy them. Also, the church frowned upon non-religious books so it took a few more hundred years for the present-day book publishing industry to evolve.

Modern-Day Editors and Proofreaders

Editors and proofreaders play an important role in preparing a manuscript to become a book. However, the chain starts with the author and ends with the publisher. And it must be remembered that the author wrote the words to be read and the publisher printed the words to make money. The author and the publisher want the book to sell. If it doesn’t then months and even years of work can be lost and neither the author or the publisher will benefit financially. The editor’s and proofreaders’ roles will help make for a better investment.

Literals in Published Documents

The word “literal” means typo. These can be made simply because the typesetter is typing too fast or because their fingers are hovering over the wrong keys. Typos are also due to transposing characters (such as “hte” for “the”).

Often literals can be indirectly caused by the use of spell checkers too. Some writers rely heavily on spell checkers to do their proofreading for them but this is a practice they should not get in to as they are not reliable. Authors should always print out the manuscript and proofread it themselves.

Publishing Stages

Preliminary Assessment is when the publisher assesses submitted manuscripts for possible publication.

Editing the Manuscript is done once an accepted manuscript has been contracted and signed by both parties (author and publisher). A structural edit is performed. The editor and author should work closely together to ensure the story is the best it can be.

Copyediting the manuscript is done once the changes are made after the structural edit. The copyeditor will check for literals, consistency and correctness.

Proofreading may be done now, or at any stage during the publishing process as long as it’s done prior to the final print run. The proofreader may do a standard proofread or a comparative proofread to check the newly typeset copy.

Designing and Typesetting is when the copy is typeset for publication. This will include illustrations, photos, table of contents, front matter, etc.

Page Proofs used to be called galley proofs but this term is beginning to fade now. Laser printed on plain paper, the editor, proofreader, author and publisher will generally all check the pages for errors.

Artwork Proofs are run off and checked by the editor, the designer and the author.

Final Proofs are checked for errors by the editor and designer one final time before going to print.

Advanced Book Copies are not always printed, but if they are they will be used to be distributed and checked. If a major error is found, the error can be fixed prior to the full print run being done.

Marketing is undertaken to varying degrees by the publisher depending on the size of the company and the budget available. The author will also be expected to market their own books.

Distribution is important as it is essential to make the book available to the public otherwise sales will be low to non-existent. Bookshops and distributors will not sell your book for free and their margins must be factored into the price of the book. Bookshops generally ask for 40% of the recommended retail price (before GST). Distributors can vary between about 15% and 25%.

Editing Course: Getting Started in Proofreading

Today’s topic was long! This topic is where the learning really begins. It took a lot longer than usual, but it was more exciting as there were a lot of practical exercises included. I am not going to share the practical exercises. I am only sharing a summary of the theory notes. Some of the notes below are reiterating things already discussed in previous topics, which is good because I don’t take everything in the first time it’s said.

4: Getting Started in Proofreading

“Proofreading” means undertaking the checking and correcting of proofs.

The proofreader reads the original manuscript (written and submitted by the author) and compares it to the proof (typeset by the publisher) to ensure they are exactly the same and contain no errors.

A novel, short story or other printed document riddled with mistakes affects the credibility of the author and the publisher and will result in loss of future sales.

It is critical for a proofreader to have patience and tolerance. However, it is not uncommon to find errors in printed copy. Unfortunately, when a person works on their own manuscripts/documents they can become too close to them. They will see words they expect to see instead of the words that are actually there.

Editors and copyeditors usually mark up with a blue pen. Proofreaders usually use a red pen.

In publishing, a copyeditor marks up text directly on the copy, in between the lines, unless the copy is provided single spaced. In this case, they would place their marks in the margin. A proofreader will always mark up copy by placing corrections in the margin, no matter what line spacing is used.

Remember, a proofreader only checks for errors between the original manuscript and proof copy or the edited copy and proof copy. They never make changes. If two documents are being compared and the proofreader notices inconsistencies in the copy, such as missing punctuation in both the manuscript and the proof, it should NOT be corrected but should be brought to the attention of the editor or author.

It is important that the proofreader reads slowly, looking at each letter of every word along with checking all punctuation.

Proofreader’s Checklist:

  • spelling and punctuation errors, typos and literal errors
  • grammar
  • word breaks and hyphenation
  • orphans and widows
  • paragraph indentation
  • spacing between lines and words
  • preliminary pages
  • page numbering, headers and footers
  • numbering lists
  • heading: chapter headings and sub-headings
  • table of contents and list of illustrations
  • tables, diagrams and figures, and their captions
  • footnotes and references, cross references
  • contacts, addresses and phone numbers
  • endmatter: appendices, bibliography, index, etc.

Editing Course: Intro to Copyediting

Today, I had to go out and didn’t think I would be able to study at all. We arrived home earlier than expected, so I decided to grab the opportunity to go over the next topic as I really don’t want to fall behind this early in the course.

Luckily for me, the topic was short and I was familiar with the content, but as I’m a firm believer that we can’t go wrong in having a refresher course, that’s how I looked at the study period.

3: Introduction to Copyediting

Because there is so much to do in copyediting, it’s best to work in an organised, methodical manner. If the work to be edited is fiction, it will be approached in a different way to a commercial document.

Business documents are categorised into professional and non-professional work. By doing this, the editor can judge the formality of language used.

Novel and short story manuscripts are a different matter. The editor must determine the tone of the novel first and then start editing once they know the author’s approach.

The language/reading level for children’s books will need to be considered separately.

Once the above is determined (ie type of document and target audience) then the work is done in stages, depending on length and complexity. An editor should never try to tackle punctuation, grammar, formatting, inconsistency, etc all in one reading. It is too much. Instead, it is better to break the editing into stages. Start with grammar, punctuation and spelling then move on to consistency and formatting issues.

It’s important when copyediting not be become involved in the story when working on a novel/short story manuscript. A copyeditor must concentrate on the words presented on the page otherwise the brain will see what it expects to see and obvious errors will be overlooked.

Concentrate on all punctuation marks. Are they in the right place? Are the right marks used?

Look at each word individually and how it’s used in a sentence. Is it the correct word? Is it the best word? Are too many words used? Are words use repetitively? If unsure about spelling, always refer to a dictionary.

Check the grammar. Is the author using active or passive sentences? Are there too many fragment sentences? Are there a variety of varying lengths in sentences? Is the sentence structure correct? When unsure about grammar useage, always refer to a grammar tool. Never guess!

An editor looks for consistency too. A story set in the Australian 1920s will not have a driver fastening his seat belt as they didn’t exist then. They will watch for other consistency issues too, such as was the pregnant woman at the beginning of the story, still pregnant two years later when the story finishes? Did the blue-eyed blond at the beginning of the chapter suddenly end up with raven coloured hair by the end of the chapter? Was it sunrise when the hero started talking and midnight when he finished?

A good editor will pick up on all these things. They will also find the following errors:

1. Word consistencies, such as “e-mail” in the first half of the manuscript and “email” in the second half.
2. “Chapter 1: The Beginning” but later in the manuscript “Chapter Ten – Escape”.
3. A character talks formally all the way through the story, except for one scene.

A copyeditor looks for errors and inconsistencies, they should never change the meaning of a sentence. However, they should suggest a better way of phrasing a sentence if one exists.

Editing Course: Editing & Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

The second day of my course was all theory. In an effort to retain the maximum amount of information, I intend to write about the theory topics here. However, I probably won’t write posts for the practical topics, which I notice will start from topic 4 onwards. We’ll see what happens when the time comes.

2: Editing & Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

There are two types of editing:

1. *Substantive Editing for structure and substance.
2. *Copyediting for improvement of grammar, punctuation, factualness and formatting.

There are two types of proofreading:

1. *Proofreading to correct mistakes in text.
2. Comparative Proofreading to compare live copy (corrected text) against dead copy (original text that was marked up).

* The division between these can be quite grey though.


Substantive (or structural) Editing

  • Substantive editing is where there are changes presented to the author by the editor, in the form of suggestions or guidelines. The changes may be to do with character, situation or plot in order to improve or maintain the internal coherence in the story. Substantive editing is different to copyediting in that it is based on the editor’s creative input.
  • A structural editor only works with the author’s draft, and makes suggestions between the double-spaced text or in the margin.
  • The author should do their own substantive editing prior to submitting the manuscript to the editor.
  • There are no defined rules with substantive editing as there are for the copyediting and proofreading aspects. Therefore, to be a substantive editor is to be more highly skilled.
  • A good editor needs to be meticulous, apply commonsense, have determination, be patient and sensitive to the author’s intentions.


  • It is used to improve grammar and punctuation, correct factual errors, and ensure consistency of formatting (including headers, footers, margins, paragraph layouts and table of contents).
  • A copyeditor works with the edited draft of the manuscript (after the structural editor has finished with it).
  • A copyeditor does not usually write in the margins unless there’s no room between the lines of text.
  • In a distinct copyediting role, no substantive editing will be undertaken.
  • A copyeditor will likely correct and improve work based on established rules and guidelines.



  • Proofreading is the reading and correction of mistakes in a proof document (usually after it has been edited and copyedited).
  • Often clients confuse “proofreading” with an edit and proofread, so it is essential for the proofreader to know exactly what the client wants.
  • A “standard proofread” means checking for errors only, there is no copyediting improvements required and no structural information given.
  • The rate for a standard proofread is lower than that for copyediting and substantive work.

Comparative Proofreading

Once the editor or copyeditor has looked over the manuscript, the typesetter or author sets the work, making the suggested corrections.

The comparative proofreader then takes the corrected copy and the original copy and compares the two, checking that all corrections made by the copyeditor have been included.

This comparison between two texts is called comparative proofreading. It is a word-by-word, line-by-line check and is done with a ruler.

The job requires patience, concentration, a methodical approach and an eye for detail.

In Conclusion

Many publishers and corporate enterprises will outsource their editing jobs. A “complete job” often means “copyediting” and “proofreading” with a dash of “substantive editing” thrown in. For this reason, a professional editor should be able to do all the skills required for all of the above.

Editing Course: The World of Publishing

I’m officially a student. Instantly, images of a young girl pop into my mind, carrying an armful of books as she heads off to her next class. She’s smiling and laughing and surrounded by equally young, active people. That’s definitely not me in the crowd! The ageometre stopped pointing to “young” a couple of decades ago, so I’m trying to adjust that persistent image to something a little closer to the truth — a middle-aged, no that will never do — a mature woman carrying her stack of books to the kitchen table to study. Yes, that will do just fine.

Yesterday I read through all the course material I received — I’m doing distance learning — and discovered that there are 14 units of approximately 10 topics each. The entire course is expected to take about 600 hours to complete.

Today was my first day. This morning I put in almost three hours and completed the first topic of the first unit. There were a few practical exercises to do, but this topic was mainly theory. This is what I learned:

1: The World of Publishing, The Big Picture

75% of books are sold through bookshops (online and brick and mortar shops). The other 25% are sold through department stores, newsagents and supermarkets.

Following is a list of “positions” in the publishing industry. Some of the information given is common sense, but I’ll include it anyway, so that the big picture is clearer.

Author: the person who writes the manuscript.

Publisher: the person responsible for publishing the manuscript in print and/or digital formats.


  • Managing Editor: the person responsible and accountable for the entire publication process. This includes but is not limited to budgeting, acquiring new titles, managing projects, preparing and negotiating contracts and distribution.
  • Structural Editor: the person responsible for reviewing the manuscript and making substantive changes or suggestions. This includes the plot, changes to characters, the chapters and the overall structure of the story, including tone, pace and all other elements of a well-written book.
  • Copyeditor: this is really a sub-role of editing or a super-role of proofreading.
  • Proofreader: the person responsible for picking up errors and typos in the typeset pages. These can be spelling, grammatical, punctuation and/or layout errors.

Graphic Designer/Illustrator: the person responsible for jacket design, layout illustrations, photos, charts or tables. This person is also responsible for designing promotional material such as posters, bookmarks, etc, to be distributed to bookshops.

Desktop Publisher/Typesetter: the person responsible for typesetting the manuscript and making corrections to the typeset copy marked up by the editor, copyeditor and/or proofreader. It is their responsibility to ensure the printed product is pleasing to the eye.

Book Publicist: the person responsible for the promotion of the book and inevitably the level of sales. They liaise with the author, arrange book signings and readings, communicate with the media, write press releases, organise book tours and photo shoots and arrange any other publicity function.

What do I want from this course?

First and foremost, I want to be a successful author. I plan to couple the editing and proofreading skills I learn from the course with my writing so that my finished manuscripts will be of a higher quality. By doing this, I believe my goal will be easier to achieve (and I realise there will be nothing easy about the journey).