grammar rules

Copy Editing 101

copyediting 101 Copy editing is the process of improving the formatting, style, and accuracy of the text. This is different from proofreading, which looks as spelling and grammar errors and corrects just spelling and grammar errors. Copy editing involves making sure that the facts states are correct and properly cited, that the entire article is understandable from start to finish, that words are used appropriately, among other things. Copy editing is very important for blogs and online publications, which often don't have a dedicated person to assess each article in this way. Here's an introduction to copy editing and a brief overview of what needs to be done when checking your blog posts or articles for formatting, style, and accuracy.

The Five C's of Copy Editing

When evaluating the formatting, style, and accuracy of the article, there are five "C's" that need to be examined. It's important that your article has each of the following before it's published. To evaluate this, you need to ask certain questions and make the necessary changes. The five "C's" are:

  1. Clear - Is there anything in the article that could be confusing, such as acronyms, sources, locations, references, words etc? Is there a better word or a better way to say something? If in doubt, ere on the side of caution and do what it takes to make it clear.
  2. Correct - Are the facts correct? Do people have their names spelled correctly? Do they have the right titles associated with them? Are statistics cited and stated correctly?
  3. Concise - If a sentence is 10 words long, can it be said in eight or seven without changing the meaning? Are there words and/or sentences that are redundant? Are there words and/or sentences that don't provide any meaning or value to the overall paragraph or article, and can be removed?
  4. Comprehensible - Can the article be understood from start to finish? Does it use any industry jargon that needs to be defined or explained? Is the information organized in a way that is logical and easy to follow?
  5. Consistent - Are things like tone, perspective, and the spellings or proper nouns the same throughout the entire article? Does the article fit your brand and the topics that your blog/online publication covers?

Why Copy Editing is Important

Copy editing is important for any blog or online publication because it is the last defense against bad writing and serious mistakes that could end up hurting your credibility. Instead of publishing an article that is confusing, or has a factual error in it, taking the time to edit the copy in this fashion can prevent those mistakes from getting published. You don't necessarily need to have a person dedicated to copy editing the way that newspapers and magazines do, but taking this extra step will set you apart from the rest. Everyone understands that your articles need to have correct spelling, great grammar, and need to be original. However, not everyone understands the difference clear, concise formatting makes to an article, or the difference in quality when industry terms are properly explained or when the best words are used.

Of course, copy editing saves you from embarrassing headlines and text fillers that shouldn't have gone live in the first place. It also provides an extra set of eyes to catch mistakes, or simply allows one more run through of an article before it goes live. Sure, it's a digital world where things need to get published quickly and where mistakes can be changed without everyone knowing that the mistake was made in the first place.

Hopefully, you want to be better than everyone else. Copy editing is a way to do that because hardly anyone else is paying attention.

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Why Every Online Publication Should Have a Style Guide

style guide If an online magazine or publication wants to have any sense of consistency or standard in its content, then a style guide is needed in order to achieve that. A style guide, similar to that of the AP Style Guide, is a set of guidelines your publication adheres to when it comes to industry terms, company names, and other words relevant to your niche.

For example, is it "ebook," "e-book", or "eBook"? An online magazine without a style guide may have all three littered throughout its articles, and that just looks sloppy to readers. However, a style guide would determine which one is correct for YOUR magazine, and would ensure that "ebook" is the one  consistently used throughout the publication.

Creating your own style guide is incredibly crucial for niche online magazines since the AP Style Guide doesn't get into those niche categories. Most online magazines have to deal with city names, for example bu tit's unlikely AP has any ruling on whether it's "shipbroker" or "ship broker", or "coworking" versus "co-working" versus "CoWorking". Keeping that niche terminology consistent will help your magazine be the go-to source for your community as well as maintaining sense of professionalism in its content.

The nice thing about style guides is that they aren't set in stone. Entries can be added, removed, and changed. The purpose of it is to keep your editors and writers following the same rules. You wouldn't want to waste time going back and forth on a few edits simply because one person things it's "cyber crime" and the other thinks it's "cybercrime". A style guide would prevent the needless editing and confusion.

Style guides don't just have spelling and grammar rules, but factual rules as well. Do you know what NASA stands for? How about UAW?  The AP Style Guide will tell you, but having your own can also define what SaaS, VPN, and IP mean. If your readers know, and you get it wrong because you didn't have a style guide to verify the information, then prepare for your readers to call you out on it.

Online publications ought to develop the style guide before publishing their first post or issue, but if that's already happened, then better late then never. A style guide will add consistency and standard to what your publish from here on out. All legitimate publications have one, and it's not necessarily something that needs to be shared with readers. It's to make the publications better at what it does.