We hate to do this, but the next paragraph is going to contain errors. Microsoft Word won’t catch any of them. How many can you count?
Variant spellings take a toll on editors everywhere. The minutes tick away whenever we leave our documents (as we often do) in search of the answer to that age-old question: What’s the preferred spelling of this word?
Italics can be applied for various reasons, but it is always with the same goal: to mark text as different in some way. This difference can be a matter of emphasis, or it can indicate the title of a book or movie or other work, the scientific name of a species, or the name of a court case, among other things.
Though capitalization can depend on context, there are some general rules that will apply most of the time. Proper nouns and adjectives—including the names of people, places, and brands—are almost always capitalized.
Editors spend a lot of time making decisions related to hyphens. That’s because hyphenation depends not only on accepted usage but also on context—and sometimes on both.
Editors are trained not only to look for errors but also to account for contextual nuances and stylistic preferences. We impose consistency and clarify ambiguous prose, and we know when and where to look things up. To make sure we haven’t missed anything, we make use of spelling and grammar checkers.