The making of a copy editor – I

When our professor stopped his class to read out a circular about a campus selection programme, I didn’t realize that it was going to change the contours of my life. There were two reasons for my friends and me to choose to attend the written test: we wanted to experience how a campus selection programme would work and the name of the company – Integra Software Services – sounded more mathematical, with “Software Services” adding the software charm to the expectations. Least did we know that “software services” was very different from “software development”. It was a February morning in 2004.

The four traits of a copy editor
The four traits of a copy editor. Image courtesy: http://www.neuropharmlabs.com.

Three months later, on a hot summer day, I stepped into the world of e-publishing as a trainee copy editor – not expecting to make a career out of copyediting. Looking back, it has been more than 11 years in e-publishing, specifically copyediting.

We were given intensive training on various aspects of copyediting. The learning was fun. My natural inclination to learning and the high school grammar I learnt helped in many ways. Many of my colleagues were doing much better than me, but I was slowly getting engrossed into copyediting. At the end of one year, I had long forgotten the desire to look for some “better” jobs. I had already become a language editor. The initial days were shaped by editing the humanities and social sciences titles. Then I edited a lot of scientific content, followed by reproduction of Jane Austen’s work, and editing management books. I have received highly appreciative emails from authors and publishers; I have received an equal number of complaints for not meeting the expectations.

The journey has so far been wonderful. With an adventurous beginning, exploring a new trade, learning the nuances, adapting to different expectations, sweating out sometimes to meet deadlines, listening to the experiences of fellow copy editors, and training the tyros in copyediting and letting them experience the thrills of copyediting, the journey has been more than wonderful. During these days, I have met so many who readily loved copyediting and many who did not even after herculean efforts.

So, what made me a copy editor? What made many of my colleagues a copy editor? Why would many who stumble upon copyediting are lured into copyediting and why many others are scared? I think the answer lies in the four characteristics in a person that makes or breaks the copy editor in anyone.

With the fear of boring you with one long post, I decided to break this post into three. If, at the end of the three posts, you think that there was some logical flow, wow. So why don’t you go grab a cup of coffee and smart-guess what would be the four traits that would make a copy editor? The comments section to this blog have rarely been used. Please make the best use of them. I’ll come back soon.

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