Agree to Disagree: The Subjectivity in Copy Editing and Proofreading

By eContent Pro on Aug 14, 2017
The Subjectivity in Copy Editing and Proofreading

Have you ever received a document submitted through a text editor process, only to find that you disagreed with some of the suggested edits or formatting tips? Although you may not always agree with all of your editor’s suggestions, it is still worthwhile to have your document fully copy edited and proofread. Exposing your manuscript to the services of an experienced copy editor is a collaboration that, when executed correctly, will add value to your work while also ensuring that your research is the key focus of your document.

Many changes that a copy editor implements on your document are related to correcting spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and usage. These corrections are guided by the rules of proper grammar. Edits to your document ensure that the formatting style guidelines are being met and executed based upon stringent, predetermined guidelines. However, the role of a professional editor in copy editing or proofreading expands beyond basic grammar and formatting, and this is where subjectivity may affect the intent of your voice and overall results of service.

Copy editors are not text editor software applications, nor are they human dictionaries. The role of a professional copy editor is to review your document with a tenured perspective, correcting errors that you may have become blind to while also ensuring the accuracy of your writing and the flow of your content.

A professional copy editor may make a recommendation for the author to elaborate on areas that may, in their opinion, not be clear to the reader or may recommend areas be removed that are ostensibly redundant. During copy editing, your editor may offer corrections or ask questions concerning doubtful facts or weak arguments. Your editor may suggest different wording or phrasing be used in one of your sentences. This does not necessarily mean that your word or phrase is incorrect. It simply means that they are making a stylistic suggestion based on their editorial experience and understanding of your document thus far.

In fact, subjectivity is largely due to style. For example, which is correct, e-mail or email? The answer is neither because that’s a matter of style. An effective copy editor will edit for consistency and per the tone and style of your content accordingly.

Some edits may not make sense to you, which should be expected; subjectivity can range from trivial to ambiguous. Yet, as the author, you have the final say on what edits make it into your final transcript. The suggestions of your editor are not set in stone—you are not required to accept every edit, which is primarily why professional copy editors typically use Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature. This option allows you to quickly review and manage the suggested edits to your manuscript, accepting what you agree with and rejecting what you don’t.

It’s important to recognize that, when an author submits his or her work to a copy editor, he or she is under no obligation to adhere to contextually edited content returned from the copy editing and/or proofreading process. An editor is merely looking to make sure that the copy itself is given the seasoned attention and critiques of an outside opinion that yield a high standard.

So, when you get your document back, know that it’s still yours—and always will be.

For more information about the copy editing services that we provide, visit our copy editing page. You can also take a moment to meet our team of copy editors!

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