Having a copy editor review your manuscript is expensive, so you want to get the most benefit from their review. You also want to be clear as to how you would like your manuscript edited so that your copy editor does not make major changes that will cost you time when completing your manuscript. Here are a few tips to help your copy editor be more effective.
Copy editors have a lot of writing and editing experience that will benefit the quality of your writing. However, the experience and preferences the copy editors have may also negatively impact your manuscript because a different style manual may be used, or the manuscript will be changed to be in the incorrect tense or person (e.g., first vs third).
The first recommendation is to provide clear editing instructions. Specify the style you want to use, whether it is American or British English and requirements that you may have outside of the style manual. For example, if this is a thesis, provide the copy editor the institutional and advisor’s requirements. If you are working with a publisher and submitting a manuscript, ask that the publisher’s requirements be met. In many cases, you can provide the copy editor the Website URL for this information.
If this is a highly technical paper or an academic research paper, you may want to add a glossary of terms (plural and singular) or formulas or special symbols so it is easy for the copy editor to add these into the manuscript. I also highly recommend including an academic paper within the research area so that the copy editor can see how terms are used and examples of commonly used phrases. The copy editor may not have access to the journals, so attach an example or provide the Website URL if it is in the public domain.
Also, let the editor know that if there are items you prefer that they not change. They may have been told by their advisor, for example, to use specific phrases or explanations. Note that so the copy editor does not change these items through the entire paper.
If you are submitting a short story or novel, provide specific information as to when the dialogue of your characters may be changed. I once worked with a copy editor who corrected the grammar in the dialogue through the entire 1000 page manuscript only to find that the poor grammar and misuse of words was intentional by the author to reflect on the character’s background. Also, specify the tense preferred, and distinguish between first, second and third person.
If you are submitting a manuscript that is fantasy, science fiction or uses unknown or created words, provide the information in a glossary. Your copy editor may not realize that you are making a play on words or have made up a word. A glossary will also help the copy writer make sure that you are consistently using the spellings or symbols.
Encourage your editor to contact you if she or he has questions. This will save time so that they can focus on other issues in the manuscript.
There are also ways to figure out if your copy editor is the best editor for your project. If you are working with an editing company, ask for a copy editor with specific expertise in your project area. Also, choose an editing company that provides you a free edit sample so you can see how they would work with your specific document.
Check to see if the copy editing company provides an opportunity for the writer to put in specific instructions and provides a re-edit if there are errors in the editing. First Editing provides these services and is a good example of a company that provides free editing samples.
In closing, look for a copy editor that is open to receiving very specific instructions on how to edit your manuscript. Also, provide the copy editor with as much information you can about the subject area, specific terminology and they style issues that are required. Forming a good relationship and communication style with your copy editor is important and can increase significantly the quality of your writing. By building this relationship, the copy editor can be a successful partner in your next project.