Monday, June 16, 2014

Proofs and copyediting


It surprises me that it's never happened before, but for the first time ever I've received a copyedited version of one of my manuscripts as a Word document displaying the tracking of changes (above),which I can add to as I see fit.

It's a very long time now since copyedit proofs came through the post to be marked in red pen with British Standards Institution proof marks:



Usually though with short stories in those days, if you got proofs at all, they were the final or so-called page proofs, which is what my first-ever proofs were: I remember how anxiously I referred to the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (where the BSI marks were printed - I don't know if they still are), worrying about getting it right, and about neatness and clarity: in those days of metal type, it was the printer you needed to communicate with (via the editor, of course), and at that final proof stage you only had the one chance.

BSI marks were a wonderful shorthand though, and generally unequivocal (apart from one occasion, I found: I'm not sure whether the fault was mine or the printer's, but a line in the first edition of The Birth Machine, which I thought I had indicated should be moved in position, was repeated instead, and the effect was ridiculously sonorous). But as I've commented before, even before the internet really took off, BSI marks had begun to fall out of use. When Ailsa Cox and I edited the short-story magazine Metropolitan, we had the use of a computer (remember desk-top publishing? - how things change!) so we were able to print out typeset copy, but we still sent it by post to the authors for their approval. Very few of them in fact used the BSI marks, which surprised me: it seemed so laborious to have to explain in writing the necessary changes, and so open to misinterpretation. Yet once the internet made it possible to whizz proofs back and forth at the press of a button, that's mostly what I've ended up having to do with my own work. We've gone straight to typeset (page) proofs and I've had to send emails with laborious lists of items such as: 'Para 2, line 3, the word "out" should be omitted' - even though change-tracking software has been available.

But Honno, the Welsh Women's Press is ahead of the game. The copyedited extract above is from my story 'A Matter of Light', to be included in their anthology of ghost stories, The Wish Dog, which will be published in the autumn.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Copy editors are also referred to as sub-editors in the magazine and newspaper industry....!!


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