Copyedit 3

Today’s post concludes an interview with Madeline Hopkins, who copyedited the manuscript for Touchstone.

Madeline Hopkins first entered the publishing world over a decade ago as a temp at a weekly thoroughbred racing magazine and worked her way through most of the facets of magazine and book publishing at a variety of companies in several different cities. For her thirtieth birthday, she decided to give herself the gift of a freelance career, so she left New York for Lexington, Kentucky, and the life of a copy editor and yoga teacher. She works out of her home and can’t start the day without her alligator coffee mug and faithful gray dog.

LRK: It’s hard to edit one’s own material, but is there anything you’d recommend that the author do to clean up their manuscript before submission? Spell checks, grammar checks?

MH: The best thing you can do for your manuscript is find a brutally honest friend or an English teacher (or both) and ask them to read the novel out loud. Simply hearing the words, they’ll catch many more errors and realize when things don’t sound right. And hopefully they’ll tell you if anything is confusing or unclear.

LRK: Are writers becoming sloppier? Are schools turning out writers who don’t know the rules of grammar?

MH: I don’t know what copy editors in the past had to put up with so I’m reluctant to say writers in general are becoming more careless. However quite a few of them seem that way to me; it might be because of the shortened turnaround time or the more relaxed approach to grammar e-mailing and text-messaging encourage. Or maybe I’m just getting testier.

LRK: Do you have any pet peeves, words that are often used incorrectly, or non-words that are commonly used?

MH: My pet peeve is character names that all start with the same letter. I recently finished a manuscript where three of the five main characters had names beginning with the letter A. I find it very confusing and distracting. But I get the satisfaction of querying it so hopefully some characters will be rechristened in the second round.

LRK: Do you find that authors tend to over-use certain words? In Touchstone, you would often mark when words were repeated in close proximity, but do you have any recommendations for writers to avoid the trap?

MH: Again reading out loud is the best way to avoid this trap. Some repetitions can’t be helped but things like, “She tried not to show how trying the experience was,” are just frustrating to the reader. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a common word everybody overuses, other than “like,” but each author has a few words that pop up far more often than necessary. Comfort words, perhaps?

LRK: How does it feel to be always right? Always and invariably right?

MH: It feels wonderful, I’m even smirking in my driver’s license photo.

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  1. corgimom on October 12, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview and especially loved the final question and answer!
    And fyi for anyone wanting such assistance, I’m a former English teacher who would be happy to read aloud a manuscript prior to its submission to the loving ministrations of a copyeditor.

  2. Teresa on October 12, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Corgimom, you are ON! Hope you like poetry.


  3. Teresa on October 12, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I too have enjoyed this interview, and from the sound of that last wonderful exchange, it is the last part (i.e., there will be no part 4?). Laurie, thanks for giving us this chance to see things from a readers-eye-view. The reading aloud is a constant (I am a poet, after all) with me, but I was glad to hear it from others. Repetition of favorite words is a problem though. I read it aloud and I LIKE the repeated words, but of course that’s because they are my babies. But giving it to someone else to read aloud . . . . ay, there’s the rub.

    Again, thanks.


  4. corgimom on October 13, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Teresa–poetry is fine! Anything but LAW is fine!

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