You may come across one or two authors who (incorrectly) claim that they do not need an editor, but you will rarely, if ever, meet an author or editor who will say that they do not need a copy editor.
The role of a copy editor is often misunderstood or underestimated by those who are not in the business. Kara Verlaney, senior copywriter for The Verge, when asked to explain the role of a copy editor, put it this way: “Copy editing is all about maintaining consistency and accuracy; The Verge the authority to tell the audience about a topic. In addition to looking for grammatical errors and highlighting the Oxford comma, copy editors also monitor things like sensitivity and tone, style, source diversity and clarity. The VergeThe process has copy editors who check pieces right before publication, so we are often the last line of defense before something goes up on the page. ”
We talked to Kara to find out how she does her job and what tools she uses.
What is your job with The Verge?
I am a senior copywriter and I have worked here for five years. My daily responsibilities vary, but a large part of my time is devoted to editing … everything we publish. It includes news, longform features, Instagram captions, video assets ̵
What hardware tools do you use?
My sound preferences vary depending on the length and / or subject of the piece I am editing. Sometimes I blow up music; sometimes I enjoy silence while reading. While working remotely, I rely mostly on AirPods Pro, which allows me to control the level of noise transparency. I also tend to move around a lot in my room while I work, so I’m essentially glued to the MacBook Pro 2019 during the workday.
What software tools do you and your colleagues use for your work?
Various publications have created style books to guide authors and editors – examples include Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Handbook. Each style box’s rules and formats vary slightly based on content and audience, but consistency is universal.
Like many news organizations, our style largely follows Associated Press Stylebook (otherwise known as AP). Its online current style guides and Ask the Editor sections can be great language resources (though the answers are sometimes confusing). The Vergedefault dictionary is Merriam-Websters In full. It produces weekly vocabulary quizzes that are super fun, if that’s your thing. I have AP and MW opens all the time.
I do most of my editing in Google Docs or Vox Media’s CMS (content management system) Chorus, so I can leave comments and track changes.
What other tools do you use?
One aspect of handling the copy board is updating and maintenance The Vergehis style guide and convey these rules to writers. Some of our house style is unique to the publication, so we differ somewhat AP style. Language is constantly evolving and changing, so I have to stay up to date on what other publications and style guides do to ensure that our language remains relevant and inclusive.
I love using physical manuals – anytime I can avoid staring at a screen, I do! – but most of my hard copies still collect dust in the office. I took one home with me, though: Strunk and White’s Elements of style, which is really the lifeblood of any editor. The illustrated edition pictured at the top of this article was given to me as a gift, especially because of the cover. (As my colleagues will tell you, I ask for pictures of dogs and other pets as a form of emotional currency.)
What advice do you have for people who consider copy editing as a profession?
Being a copywriter is a very involved job. You need to communicate well with the authors, editors and creators you work with; operate efficiently during some tight deadlines; and try to understand the essence of each story you read, and catalog some of this information for reference later. It is quite nuanced work to be so prescriptive.
I would recommend reading as much as you can and refreshing your grammar skills. (New York Times creates copy editing quizzes; I have received a perfect score of very few.) There are also tools like Grammarly that will highlight and explain different parts of speech and language rules, which some people find very useful.
For the most part, you need a willingness to learn (and unlearn) a series of rules you were likely taught in fourth grade English. Language is learning!