Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies

by Suzanne Dilad (New York: Wiley, 2007): 364 pp, £11.19, ISBN 978 0 470 12171 9.

Reviewed by John G Taylor

Buy this book

'Books for Dummies' really seem to have been a hit, with more than 100 titles now available. This one will be welcomed by those hoping to make a career as a copy-editor/proofreader. (NB 'copy-editor' is SfEP's preferred style.)

Really useful tips

As the author points out, this is not a murder mystery where each chapter has to be read in sequence. The experienced copy-editor will probably skip Part I: 'Welcome to the word world'. Personally, I hopped to Chapter 5: 'What makes a good copyeditor great'. Here I found some really useful tips on checking brand names, people's names, place names and so forth. Not only are examples given of what to watch out for – is it NBC or N.B.C.? – but also a wealth of websites to check these. Try the New York Times Newsroom Navigator, which will 'lead to you just about every resource you could ever possibly need'.

As expected, there is a chapter (no. 7) devoted to 'The copyediting process in action' with examples, each of which you have to work through in order. Three solid chapters related to mastering proofreading symbols and techniques really made light of these, and I'm someone who is constantly having to refer to BS 5261. OK, this is the US rather than the British standard, but the marks are virtually the same.

A must-have

I have never been consistent in my style sheets – i.e. the guidelines of what to watch out for in terms of style for a particular document. Chapter 15 is a comprehensive guide to creating and using a style sheet. This is followed by solid advice on 'Formatting a manuscript' (Chapter 16), including typecoding. Chapter 17, 'Editing and proofreading electronically' … well, we thought we knew it all, but we'll certainly know even more after reading this.

On p. 263, Suzanne Gillard instructs us on 'Saving your files (and your tuchis)'. That sums up the amusing and readable style of the entire book. The 16-page index is exemplary – comprehensive, structured – summing up the quality of this must-have.

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