Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Which Comes First...the Content Editor or the Copy Editor?

Okay, it's not quite the age-old chicken vs. egg question (which has totally been solved, by the way; Google it), but it's a compelling question nonetheless. For new authors, it's also a confusing question. What exactly is the difference? Isn't one editor supposed to do all of that?

A content editor is someone who critiques the...content. To clarify, a content editor (also sometimes called a beta reader) is on the lookout for parts of the plot that may be confusing, or facts that don't match up from one part to another. A content editor will look at a paragraph and tell you, the author, what part is confusing and/or altogether doesn't make sense. Many new authors believe they don't need a content editor; they think friends and/or family will suffice. The problem with that idea is that your friends and family know you well enough to surmise the direction of your thoughts, even if the words you're using to express them don't add up for a stranger. So please, authors, do utilize a content editor. Alternately, make sure you give it to multiple friends and family members who are not afraid to be critical.

A copy editor - or copyeditor, both are acceptable - presents your participles and causes tension in your verbs. I joke, but a copyeditor is also essential, because although your audience isn't especially likely to know why something "sounds" off, they are likely to notice something, and it will interrupt the enjoyment of reading a smoothly polished book. Lousy grammar, even when readers can't identify the whys of it all, really ruin a book.

So which comes first? Which takes higher priority? The answer to the second question is - they both take equal priority. It's important for the reader to avoid confusion as well as avoid what I would refer to as "bumpy" reading that comes with grammar and spelling errors. As for which comes first, there's a very concrete answer: the content editor comes first. Find beta readers who are a fan of your genre, or a content editor with a good reputation. Then (of course!) come to me! Or use me for both; one editor can accomplish both, though it takes additional time - just be prepared for a higher cost.

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