Editing Course: Perfect Punctuation II

When editing manuscripts for books, it’s important to understand the use of inverted commas for speech, quotes and apostrophes.

Speech Marks: Single or Double?

We use speech marks (ie “…” or ‘…’) in novels, magazines and newspapers to indicate when a person is talking.

Different countries have their own standards when displaying speech marks. In Australia and England the standard is to use single inverted commas for adult fiction and non-fiction.

When using single speech marks (ie ‘…’) and you need to quote a section of text within the speech, the quoted section would use double speech marks (ie “…”). Example: ‘Jim told me “it would be better for everyone”, but I don’t agree with him.’

In contrast, many children’s publishers in Australia and England use double speech marks for dialogue in picture books and early readers.

Magazines and newspapers also have adopted the double speech marks, and use single speech marks for quoted sections with text. However, they use double speech marks for stand alone quotations.

It is recommended to authors to use double speech marks as it is easier to do a find and replace to change double to single than the other way round because of apostrophes.

Conventional Usage for Punctuation with Speech

Should the comma/full stop/question mark/exclamation mark be inside or outside the quotation marks? It’s not an easy question to answer as there is no definitive answer.

In America these marks always go inside the speech marks. In Australia and England it changes depending on the situation.

This is quoted from the Australian Style manual:

In North America it is conventional for closing quotation marks to follow commas, but to precede semi-colons and colons. In Britain the situation is not quite as simple, although it is more logical. If the quoted material would have contained the punctuation mark in the absence of any interruption, the punctuation mark stays inside the closing quotation marks. On the other hand, if the punctuation is part of the carrier sentence it follows the closing quotation mark.

For example, when the punctuation closes the entire carrier sentence, not just the dialogue:

Josie faced her husband and said, “James, I’m leaving you”.


“James, I’m leaving you,” said Josie, facing her husband.

Alternatively, when the punctuation is part of the dialogue:

Josie faced her husband. “James, I’m leaving you.”

Other Things to Remember

Thoughts: Never use inverted commas for speech as it will confuse the reader. They will be unable to determine if the characters are speaking or thinking. The standard convention is to use italics for thought.

Dialogue Breaks: This is not a universal rule, but generally a new paragraph should start whenever the dialogue changes to a different character. This is a clear indication that someone else is speaking. Some authors prefer to run the dialogue on in certain cases such as writing style, to show several people are talking at once or to speed the pace up.

Quote Marks: As with speech marks, the use of quote marks can vary from country to country. They can be single or double inverted commas, but they must be the opposite of speech marks when used to together. Style is an in-house preference and should be consistent.


Apostrophes are used in a range of text, such as when contracting two words into one (“it’s” for “it is”), for showing singular possession (Tim’s pen) and plural possession (Jones’s car).

There is a rule for when using apostrophes with names ending in “s”. If the word has one syllable (eg James) then you would add the extra “s” (eg James’s book). If the word has two or more syllables (eg Collins), you would not add the extra “s” (eg Collins’ house).

Many people ignore this rule and use only one “s” all the time as they prefer this method.

Knowing when to use an apostrophe when it comes to time can be tricky. The rule, however, is quite simple. For day, month and year the apostrophe is only used when referring to one of them, but is not used when referring to more than one. Examples are:

One day’s salary
Five days experience
One month’s anniversary
Ten months old
One year’s weather pattern
Twenty years weather pattern

Other Things to Remember

Ellipsis Points: When text is omitted from the start three full stops (ellipsis points) followed by a space are used before the rest of the text.

Example: … as can be seen here.

When omitting text from the end of a sentence you insert a space followed by the ellipsis points.

Example: “Did you mean …?” Pat gasped.

When used in the middle of a sentence the use of ellipsis points can indicate one of two things, words have been omitted or hesitancy. The ellipsis points would have a space before and after them.

Example: “Oh … I … didn’t mean that.”

In some countries the ellipsis may be spaced out (. . .) with or without a space before and after the points.

Salutations: The standard is not to use punctuation after salutations.

Example: Mr Smith rather than Mr. Smith

Greetings: The standard is the same as for salutations, not to use punctuation.

Example: Dear John rather than Dear John,


Yours sincerely rather than Yours sincerely,

Working on Punctuation

Copyeditors and proofreaders need to be focused when working on documents with lots of dialogue as the mind picks up what it should see, not always what is there.

To develop loyal clients, it is important to slow down and put extra effort into punctuation. It is important to hand back a thorough job instead of a job that still has lots of uncorrected mistakes. If you do this, the client will not come back to you again and they certainly won’t recommend you to others.

Important Note: No matter what the standard, it is all about consistency. If punctuation is used throughout the entire document in a certain way then check with the client prior to marking it up as it might be an in-house preference and not considered an error at all.

Editing Course: Formatting Style

Today’s topic was huge! However, there were pages and pages of practical exercises as I learn to mark-up page formatting. None of the mark-up material will be covered here, you’ll have to do the course if you want to learn that, so although the unit took forever for me to get through, this post is actually going to be very short. 😀

Unit 3, Topic 3: Formatting Style

Editors, copyeditors and proofreaders use a number of formatting marks when looking at the layout of a document.

Formatting styles include:

  • paragraph layout – whether they are indented or not
  • text alignment – left, right, centred or justified
  • headings – main headings as well as subheading
  • page margins – left, right, top and bottom
  • layout of images, illustrations and tables

More on Paragraph Layout

Indent Style: Newspapers, magazines and books commonly use indent style, which means the first line of a new chapter or section is always set full out to the left (not indented). Subsequent paragraphs are then indented three or four points in from the left margin.

Non-Ident Style: Non-ident style means that all lines of the text are full out to the left (otherwise known as left justified). When using this method it is usual to allow extra space between paragraphs for readability reasons. Without the extra space the paragraphs are not always clearly defined.

Editing Course: Typography

Typography refers to the type (font) used to produce a document.

Many years ago typesetting was a huge job and took hours to do. The craftsman would need a good sense of style and lots of patience as he would draw an entire typeface design and then cut out metal dies that would be used to create each letter, and in turn, each word.

These days, word processors have made the job a lot easier.

Type Style

An editor must have an understanding of the terminology, basic concepts and conventions of type.

Font describes three elements; typeface (ie Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman), type style (ie regular, italic, bold) and type size (ie point size such as 10 or 12 point).

Typefaces are designed to include space above and below so that the descenders of one line do not touch the ascenders of the next line.

There are two main kinds of type face: serif typeface and sans serif typeface. Serif fonts have the little bits on the ends of the characters, whereas sans serif (non-serif) do not.

It has been demonstrated that serif fonts are much clearer and easier to read in large blocks. Most newspapers and books use serif typeface for this reason.

Of the serif typefaces some are more legible than others. For instance, Georgia is easier to read than Garamond or Times New Roman.

Sans serif typefaces are harder to read in large blocks and can cause eye strain. However, for headings and headlines, sans serif typefaces carry more impact. For this reason it is not uncommon for sans serif typefaces to be used for headings and serif typefaces to be used in the body text.

Many businesses use Arial, a sans serif typeface, for reports and proposals. However, if the document requires extensive reading, it would be better to use a serif typeface as the reader will be more comfortable and the words will be better absorbed by the reader.

Some terminology and their meanings:

Kearning refers to the spacing between the characters, however the letters themselves are unchanged.

Tracking affects whole lines of text. It tightens or stretches the characters and the spaces between them. If used correctly it can get rid of the gappy effect some fonts have, but it can also cause unevenness, which will be distracting to the reader.

Line spacing is not limited to single spaced or double spaced documents and is very important. If spacing is too wide then readability decreases. If spacing is too tight it causes eyes strain. The amount of space between the lines is called “leading” as many years ago the lines were separated by strips of lead. The proper way to set line spacing, which gives the best result for reading, is to set the leading for type about 2.0-2.3 points greater than the type size. For example, if the type size is 12 point then the leading will be 14-14.3 points.

Type Layout

Layout of type is essential for design of a publication. It is the way the reader views the document or book at first glance. It can determine if the reader will continue because they must find it appealing to the eys, pleasing to read to read on. If not, they will move on to another book. This may not be a conscious decision.

Headings: The publishing industry is divided in whether full caps should be used in headings and headlines. Headings are used to introduce a section of text. Headlines are used to make a statement or attract attention, but can still be used to introduce text. Generally, it is best to use upper and lower case for readability but all caps can sometimes have a stronger impact value. It comes down to personal preference.

Subheadings: In contrast, subheadings should generally be in lower case, with only the first letter capitalised.

Body Text: This is always in lower case — excluding proper punctuation, of course.

Drop Capitals: These are popular in magazines and newspapers, and some books also use them. They can enhance the layout and draw the eye to a point on the page.

Line Lengths: The best readability line length is about 12 words per line. A person’s attention span is limited so it is important to keep this in mind when planning a book layout.

Mixed Typefaces: Avoid using too many typefaces as it can become chaotic and slow the reader down. It is generally better to use one typeface for text and one for headings.

Blocks of Capitals: These should be avoided as it reduces readability a great deal. Only use all caps for headings and headlines to achieve impact, if required.

Bold and Underline: It is considered bad practice to use bold and underling together and should be avoided at all costs.

Editing Course: Book Publishing and Design

Unit 3 of the course is mainly theory. Luckily for me I worked as an Office Manager for a printing company for five years so I have a good understanding of the content. And, as it happens, G is a printer by trade so if I don’t understand anything I can ask him to clarify things for me.

Here are my notes:

Unit 3, Topic 1: Book Publishing and Design

Taking a book from the raw manuscript through to the finished product is a time-consuming process. It is important that the publisher/self-publisher understands the stages involved.

There may be extensive marketing research prior to starting a non-fiction book to ensure there is a market for the book.

Other questions will include the size of the publication, the format it will take (ie digital, paperback, hardcover), the length of the book, the potential audience and the retail price.

The design of the interior and exterior are also critical. These details need to suit the audience and must be reader-friendly.


This means to copy something so that it imitates or resembles the original.

The stages from creation to printing is as follows:

1. The document is created by the author.
2. The document passes through the pre-press stages.
3. The document is printed (or reproduced).

These stages are pretty basic, but there are a number of aspects to each of them. Some of them can overlap.

Naturally, the author will take care of step 1 and the substantive editor, copyeditor and proofreader will help revise and refine the work until it is as best as it can be.

Step 2, pre-press, refers to everything done prior to printing. This includes book design (cover, layout, typography, formatting, punctuation, images and illustrations), colour corrections and separations, proofing, conversion and whatever else needs to be done.

Step 3, printing, covers the printing stage, including print runs, paper used, method of printing, cost and binding type.

More on the Pre-Press Stage

Graphics and Illustrations

The following is a rough guide for resolution required for graphics in publication. DPI stands for “dots per inch”.

  • Websites require images to be 72dpi for on-screen viewing and 72-150dpi for ebook printing.
  • Newspapers and in-house publications require graphics to be 72-150dpi.
  • Magazines and colour advertisements require resolutions to be at least 150dpi.
  • Professional publications and brochures require resolution to be 300dpi.
  • Large posters and displays require resolutions of 600dpi or more.

Graphics can be captured using a digital camera or flat-bed scanner but for more professional publication, the images may need to be sent to a digital pre-press studio for high resolution scanning.

Proof Checking

Throughout the entire process the book will undergo several rounds of revision by a copyeditor and proofreader. If the book needs indexing, this can be a detailed and time-consuming process.

If proofs are printed in-house on a laser printer, they are referred to as page proofs (formally galley proofs).

Once the copy is finalised, it is sent to the printer for laying up (imposition) and the printer will make up a set of proofs. These proof sheets, set up as economically as possible, will be 4 up or 6 up on an A3 or larger sheet (it varies depending on paper size and finished print size).

The first set of proofs (master proof) will need to be thoroughly checked. The second set (revised proof) and any other set will only be checked to ensure corrections previously marked up have been taken up.

Some things to check, other than the content itself, are:

  • Top and bottom margin (also known as head and foot) – ensure they are consistent.
  • Inner and outer margins (also known as back and foredge) – the inner margin forms the gutter and may need extra space for binding.
  • Folio (also known as page number) – make sure they are consecutive and that odd page numbers fall on the pages on the right (recto) and even numbers fall on pages on the left (verso). This is also known as “pagination”.
  • Page headers and footers (also known as running heads and running feet) – ensure they are consistent.
  • By-line (the name of the author) – make sure the name and spelling is correct.
  • Bio (biography of author) – if included, make sure it is correct and is exactly how the author provided it.

More on the Printing Stage


Once the master proof or revised proof has been finalised and signed off, the job will progress to the printing stage.

If printing is to be done externally it is common practice to get three quotes. Printing costs can vary considerably depending on the job and requirements.

Things to be considered are method of printing, number of copies required, layout and paper. Colour printing will always be more expensive than black and white printing. Specialty papers will also be more expensive. As will satin art paper or semi gloss. The requirements will depend on the project. For example, a picture book usually required coated paper due to young children and their sticky fingers whereas a novel for adults would not have this requirement.

Differences in absorbency of the paper can also make a difference to the final product and this must be considered too.

Book Binding

There are a few options:

  • perfect binding
  • stapled binding
  • looseleaf binding
  • case binding

Perfect binding is when the pages are glued to a card stock cover that is wrapped around them. Most paperbacks use this method.

Stapled binding is when the pages are printed double sided and stapled together, often with a card cover and backing sheet. This method is used for tutorials and documents with less than 100 pages.

Looseleaf binding is when a person uses a method such as spiral binding, comb binding and ring binding. The pages actually remain separate.

Case binding is usually labour intensive and quite expensive. Methods used are hand binding, saddle-stitching and other prestige binding methods.

Book Promotion and Distribution

Once printed and bound, the book must then be marketed and distributed.

Many publishers and self-publishers have a marketing campaign…and budget! The extent of the campaign will largely depend on the budget available. Marketing can include advertisement on TV, radio and in newspapers and magazines. Or more traditionally the publisher/author will arrange book readings, book tours, author interviews and create a solid web presence. They will also use marketing material such as leaflets and bookmarks.

Distribution can be taken on by the publisher and self-publisher or they may decide to out source the work to a book distributor. Again, this will largely depend on finances.

Editing Course: Wordplay II

This is the last topic I’ll be writing a post on for this unit. The rest of the unit is all practical exercises and then I’ll have the second assignment to complete. I haven’t received the first assignment back yet, so I’m unsure how I went with that. It might be a good idea to wait until it comes back before I tackle the next assignment.

Also, I’ve injured my shoulder in some way and find it painful to write (longhand) and to use the computer. I feel as if the pain is getting worse each day and it’s time to step back from the computer for a few days and give myself time to heal. It is my intension NOT to use the computer (except at work on Friday because I can’t avoid that) for a period of three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). This post was actually written on Thursday night and scheduled for Friday (in case you think I’ve caved already). 😀

Anyway, let’s get back on track.

8: Wordplay II

Words can be confusing. Often they sound the same but have slightly different spellings and completely different meanings.

The Right Word

Practice or Practise?

In the US the word is always spelt “practice”, the spelling doesn’t change with use. However, in Australia and Britain the word takes on two spellings – practice and practise.

1. If you can insert the word “preparation” then the right word to use is “practice”.
2. If you can insert the word “prepare” then the right spelling is “practise”.

1. Peter needs more practice = Peter needs more preparation.
2. Jill needs to practise = Jill needs to prepare.

Effect or Affect?

These two words have different meanings so it’s important to use the right word.

Effect means consequence, appearance, result.
Affect means transform.

TIP: If you can insert the word “transform” then you should be using the word “affect”.

Example: It doesn’t affect me = It doesn’t transform me.

Beside or Besides?

I find it difficult to imagine anyone confusing these two words but apparently they do.

Beside means “next to”.
Besides means “in addition to”.

Mary place the box beside the table.
Besides computers, I enjoy reading and writing.

Licence or License?

Again, the US uses only one of these words, “license”, but in Australia and Britain it changes.

1. If you can substitute the word with “paper” then the right word to use is “licence”.
2. If you can substitute the word with “allow” then the right word to use is “license”.

1. The licence has a photo = The paper has a photo.
2. She isn’t licensed = She isn’t allowed.

Afterward or Afterwards?

They mean the same, “subsequently”.

There is no rule with this one, however “afterwards” is the main form but it is suggested you go with sound.

1. We had lunch at a restaurant; afterwards, when we arrived home, we went in the pool.
2. It was afterward that we discovered it was a bad idea to swim on a full stomach.

Editing Course: Good Grammarian II

One of the problems with grammar is that words and their usage can change.


There are two types of hyphenated words:

1. Those that are double-barrelled because it is their normal spelling.
2. Those that become double-barrelled only when they directly describe an object or person.

For example, these words are always double-barrelled:

by-line – The publisher checked the author’s by-line.
jack-of-all-trades – He is a jack-of-all-trades.
dry-clean – The girl picked up her dry-cleaned clothes after work.
cold blooded – They were attacked by a cold-blooded shark.

And these change according to useage:

take you through it step by stepa step-by-step approach
it has a hairy backa hairy-backed creature
has blue framesblue-framed windows

The Word “That”

Many people prefer to remove the word “that” from their work. However, sometimes the word is required for clarification.

Example: John said yesterday, he had an accident.

In the example, the sentence implies that John made a comment yesterday about having an accident. But the next sentence shows what was actually meant.

John said that yesterday, he had an accident.

Editing Course: A Matter of Style

An author’s style can be many things. It can be flowery with long descriptions, which slows the pace down. It can be concise and sharp, which speeds the pace up. The author can use a formal, casual or technical tone. They can write in first, second or third person. And then there’s present or past tense. The voice can be personal or distant. The manuscript could be traditional, classic or modern. All these things contribute to the author’s style and will determine readership.

An editor must look at the author’s style and determine if it is right for the story and if it is right for the publishing house.

Organisations also have their own style. Some may prefer formal looking documents while others will go for casual documents. The style chosen is often the best choice for their needs and what they feel their readers will expect.

No matter what the business, style is a matter of preference.

It is important not to confuse “style” with “sense”. Some writers find it difficult to put words on paper. What they see in their mind makes sense, but the written version doesn’t. The substantive editor will find these troublesome spots and will help the author clarify them.

The copyeditor and proofreader may not have to make sense of something. However, if they find something that doesn’t make sense then they should mark it up by circling the text and placing a question mark (?) in the margin. This alerts the person reviewing the work after them that the text should be checked for sense.

House Style

As already mentioned, style is a matter of preference. It will change from publishing house to publishing house and organisation to organisation.

For example, some organisations spell “copyeditor” as one word, some hyphenate it as “copy-editor” and some spell it as two words, “copy editor”. Some dictionaries spell it as one word, some as two.

Style is not limited to spelling. Other aspects such as capitalisation, punctuation and layout must also be considered.

The internet has not helped. As people have access to more and more information, language has become blurred. The definitions between Australian, British and American English is confusing as they overlap and spell checkers insist on changing “s” to “z” when we know “s” is correct but find ourselves accepting “z” as an alternative.

When editing it is important to know and accept the organisation’s house style. If they prefer “z” to “s” then you do not attempt to change it. In fact, if you do change it the organisation could be offended! What you consider to be right is not right if it goes against the house style for the organisation. For this reason an editor/proofreader must know the preferred style for their clients and, more importantly, must have a system in place to keep track of all the styles.

Style Manuals

In Australia, there is a style manual called Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers which was prepared for use by the Government. This style manual has been adopted by many publishing houses and rejected by a number of others. It is not uncommon for some organisations to refer to the guide but they do not adopt all the styles. It is a house choice.

As a general tip, if the style guide clashes with the Macquarie Dictionary, an editor would follow the dictionary first as it is more widely accepted. However, if your client is a government department then you would follow the style guide first.

Style Guides

If the company or person you are working for has an in-house style then you must know what it is before you start editing their work.

Style Sheets

A style sheet is a list setting out the conventions to follow when editing a document or publication. They can change depending on the document and can be used in conjunction with a style guide. They may include preferred proofreading marks, a list of abbreviations and how they prefer them set out and a list of preferred word spellings.

Always ask a new client if they have a style sheet or word list available. If they don’t, start one of your own so that you know what they prefer the next time they give you something to edit.

It is also advisable to set up your own personal style guide for words and phrases you normally have trouble with.

Remember, when it comes to style, the client is always right.

Editing Course: Introducing Copyediting

First rule to remember: A good copyeditor never relies on spell checkers.

Copyeditors mark up text in between the lines. There is no set process to follow. Each copyeditor develops his or her own system. And it is recommended to have a system, a particular set of rules to work by that works for you, otherwise mistakes will be missed.

Here are some steps to get a new copyeditor started:

Step 1: House Style

Ask the client if they have an in-house style manual or style sheets and refer to them. Set up a style sheet folder.

Step 2: Reading

Each reading of a text is called a “pass”. You would normally make three passes over a text. However, you would not read the text three times in one sitting.

First Pass – A light read to get the feel of the entire document. Correct literals as you go through the text.

Second Pass – This is when you do the real edit. You now look for grammar problems, inconsistencies and formatting errors. This is also when you have to concentrate on details such as language, spelling and punctuation. Read each paragraph carefully and slowly.

Third Pass – This is done after a break, at least overnight is preferred. Check the text one more time and check your mark ups are clear.

Important Note

As a copyeditor, you must be able to sport errors in text, formatting and inconsistencies. But you must also be aware of factual errors, plagiarism and faults in style and vocabulary.

Writers are too close to their work. They read what they meant to say, not what is actually written. The copyeditor must fix these errors but should never change anything that does not need to be changed. You are the copyeditor, not the writer.

Editing Course: Standard & Comparative Proofreading

Yesterday I completed the second half of the practical exercises in topic 2, which I wrote about on Tuesday. This morning I did two more topics, so now I’m back on track.

Below are the notes from the theory side of the two topics:

3: Standard Proofreading

Standard proofreading uses margin marks (as does comparative proofreading). If there are only a small number of corrections all marks are placed in the right-hand margin. However, if there are a lot of corrections then both the left-hand and right-hand margins are used.

The standard proofreading technique is to imagine a line down the centre of the page. All errors on the left-hand side of that imaginary line would be marked up in the left-hand margin. All errors on the right-hand side would have their marks placed in the right-hand margin. However, never split the marks for a single word between both margins, always keep them together. So if a word in the middle of the page needs two or more corrections, group the mark ups together in one margin (it doesn’t matter which margin is used).

A proofreader always works from left to right and the person correcting the work should look at the mark ups in the same way. In other words, the margin marks will correspond to the text marks when read left to right, despite which margin is used.

4: Comparative Proofreading

Comparative proofreading is usually done when the copy has already been edited by a copyeditor or proofreader and has been returned to the typesetter who will make the changes required. When the live copy comes back it will be checked against the dead copy (original version).

The proofreader does not look for new corrections. The idea of comparative proofreading is to check to make sure all corrected errors have been changed by the proofreader. This is the proof and it is usually done in one of the last stages prior to going to print.

What if an unmarked error is spotted by the proofreader? The proofreader marks it up as usual but must bring the error to the attention of the copyeditor, as the error may be intentional. It will be up to the copyeditor to say if the error is corrected or not.

Most publishers cannot afford to have a document/manuscript proofread two or three times, so errors will be found in the printed work unless extra care is taken in the initial proofread.

Editing Course: Proofreading Marks

Although today’s post is going to be short, the actual topic for today was extremely long. It is so long, in fact, that I’ve had to split it over two days. Yet that isn’t going to show in the notes as the topic is mostly practical exercises as I learn new marks for proofreading (which I will not go into here).

Unit 2, Topic 2: Proofreading Marks

Proofreading marks have been fine-tuned and simplified over the years. They didn’t start out as simple strikes and inserts.

It is important when you are marking up to have legible marks. Indecipherable marks only cause frustration, delays and further errors. Ways to avoid this is to use the separator mark (/) to define corrections and the circle for small punctuation characters.

When making corrections to typeset copy, they must be placed in the right-hand margin. However, if there are too many errors to correct and not enough space in the right-hand margin, then you would place some corrections in the left-hand margin also. The marks placed in the body of the text are called “text marks” and the marks placed in the margin(s) are “margin marks”.

If there are no corrections on an entire page, you need to place a slash (/) at the bottom of the page. This means there are no corrections and the author and/or typesetter know you haven’t missed the page when editing. This applies to stand alone passages on a single page too, i.e. newspaper or magazine articles. If one or all need no corrections you need to place a slash at the end of each article indicating this.

A standard convention in proofreading is to circle the instruction mark you place in the margin. Instruction marks let the typesetter know what you want done. For example, “bold” circled means to change the marked text to bold rather than insert the word “bold”. The exception to the rule is when you want the typesetter to insert a full stop (.), a comma (,), a semi-colon (;) or a colon (:). As these punctuation marks are small, the proofreader circles them to bring them to the typesetter attention.