Certain pronouns change their form depending on whether they’re used as subjects or objects. These include the pronouns “who(ever)/whom(ever),” “I/me,” “she/her,” “he/him,” “they/them” and “we/us.” The ones that cause the most trouble are the first two subject/object pairs.
If the first rule of copyediting is “Do no harm,” the second would be “When in doubt, look it up.” This month’s workout focuses on some commonly confused homophones and uncommon variant spellings that can slip by unnoticed if you let your focus lapse.
Like many copyeditors, I sometimes find myself enforcing rules I don’t fully agree with. For one thing, I wouldn’t want anyone who might know the applicable rule to think I’ve made a mistake.
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.
A defining feature of any style is how it capitalizes words in the titles of books, articles, and other works. Most recommend a variation of title case, or what CMOS has traditionally referred to as headline style.
A piece of bossy advice often given to creative writers is to sweep through your manuscripts before you submit them and delete certain words. “Just,” “so,” “very,” and “really” vie for the top target, but the most popular prohibition of all might be of the word “that.”
This month’s quiz focuses on proper nouns and the terms derived from and associated with them, including adjectives. Proper nouns are generally capitalized, whereas the related terms may or may not be, depending on context and meaning.
From the perspective of writers and editors, URLs do their best work behind the scenes or just off the page, in a browser’s address bar. In that role—as an internet address that will take you to a specific page online—it doesn’t matter all that much what a URL looks like so long as it works.
This month’s quiz focuses on the specialized terms that editors and proofreaders and other publishing pros use to communicate with each other. Because authors are also involved in the publication process, they too may need to know what these expressions mean.
To a copyeditor working on a manuscript, a space is usually just a space, and line breaks are random, fluid occurrences that vary as text is added and deleted and moved around. Designers and typesetters will take the edited text and make it pretty for publication, in part by applying different types of spaces as needed to prevent unwanted breaks.