This is a traditional line and copy edit with Book Puma Services efficiency cost controls and operational attention to detail. The Book Puma Services platform is about a systemized approach to handling authors’ manuscripts with care to ensure utilizing the traditional system of editing, but with a modernized approach that utilizes a team of editors so that three types of editors see the manuscript with fresh sets of eyes.
After an author and developmental editor have perfected the story, a manuscript enters the next phase of the editing and proofreading phase: line editing. This is when a Book Puma Services editor skilled in the craft of language digs deep into every line to make sure each sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter of a book is word perfect.
Authors and publishing professionals often use the phrase “Good story, well told” — part of a famous quote by Mark Twain — to describe a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction (memoir and true crime), though it’s usually said when they think a story is great and it is superbly told. In terms of professional editing and proofreading services, the developmental editor makes sure the author has a “good story,” while the line editor is in charge of making sure it’s “well told.”
A quality line edit, like the ones provided at affordable prices by the Book Puma Services platform (brought to you by Blue Handle Publishing), is the most time-intensive step in the complete editing process. A line editor must think critically about the prose and writing style of the author in addition to other, more technical issues such as passive voice and redundancies.
And unlike many developmental critiques, during which an editor may send a separate editorial letter or write comments in a manuscript, a line editor will make text changes directly in an author’s manuscript. The standard program for writing and editing a manuscript, from self-publishing/indie publishing to traditional publishing, is Microsoft Word. In Word, a line editor will turn on the track changes function so an author can see what changes have been made when the editor returns the manuscript to the author. A line editor will also leave comments either explaining the reasoning behind major changes or asking an author to clarify something that the editor didn’t understand, and was therefore unable to make a strong, informed change.
Much of what a line editor does involves deleting unnecessary words and sentences. These can include redundancies, such as duplicated or similar sentences or paragraphs. But many such changes will focus on smaller redundancies, such as saying someone “nodded her head.” A nod is done with one’s head, so taking out “her head” makes the phrase stronger. Line editors will also delete unneeded or clumsy adverbs and other qualifiers, often choosing a better verb, as well as words such as “that” and “very,” which add nothing to a sentence in many cases. Many line editors make it a goal to eliminate 10 percent of a manuscript’s word count, depending on an author’s skill level and the number of times the document may have already been edited.
After an author gets back a manuscript from their line editor, they will evaluate the changes. Under most publishing and editing contracts, an author has the power to not accept a change in Word. This is referred to as a STET, which means “let it stand” and acts as an author veto. Though authors have this STET authority, most accept the majority of changes made by a quality line editor.
An author may exercise this option when a line editor has fundamentally changed the meaning of a sentence or has altered an artistic choice that an author has made for style or voice purposes.
Depending on the contract or arrangement made between an author and a publisher — which often comes down to whether an author is working with a traditional publisher or is pursuing self or hybrid publishing — they may have to go through a second round of line edits to make sure both parties agree on every word of a manuscript prior to publication.
But after the line editing process is complete, a manuscript will have both a story that is as compelling as possible and prose that makes that story come alive for readers.
After going through a line edit, a manuscript is then sent to a Book Puma copy editor. At this point, a manuscript is presenting the best possible version of an author’s story and is told using prose that best fits the author’s voice and tone of the narrative.
But full-length novel manuscripts can contain more than 100,000 words, and while line editors will fix the technical errors they come across, they will not find all of them while deciding on larger matters such as word choice and sentence structure.
This is where a copy editor comes in. They search for typos — often misspellings or errant letters within a word — as well as errors in punctuation, grammar, punctuation, and missing words.
Even the most skilled writers and line editors will not catch every technical mistake in a book-length manuscript. After reading so many words, the human brain will automatically “fix” some errors during the processing of visual images.
However, a copy editor knows how to trick the brain into not skipping over those errors. One of the most effective ways is to read the manuscript on printed paper rather than on a computer screen.
There are several scientific theories as to why copy editors find more errors on paper. One involves the brain’s ability to adapt to technology.
Much of what we read is now presented to us on a screen, be it a cellphone, laptop, desktop, or television. And because virtually anyone can produce and publish content for free on the internet — most of it via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — much of what people read includes errors. The advent of texting and web-based messaging services is also part of the equation.
As our brains have read more and more writing done without having been professionally edited, they have increased their ability to “autocorrect” all text on screens to increase reading speed and comprehension. Therefore, when reading on a computer screen, editors’ brains are more likely to autocorrect than when reading on printed paper.
Additionally, reading on screens puts more strain on the eyes of all readers and editors. Some of this can be mitigated by special glasses, but even that does not make reading on screens less strenuous than paper. And catching mistakes that have gotten past two editors is physically easier with fresh eyes.
Another well-known technique is for a copy editor to read the manuscript out loud, something a line editor is also likely to do. This makes an editor’s brain go through an additional process — turning the words into speech — which gives it another chance to process what’s actually on the page rather than what it knows should be there.
Still another tactic involves physically tapping every word with a pen while reading a manuscript out loud. This adds a third process for the brain — the tactile function of touch — which again slows down the reading process enough to fully process each word.
Some copy editors will read sentences out of order, such as starting with the last sentence and working their way back through a book. This takes away much of the context for every sentence, which works around the brain’s tendency to autocorrect.
After printing out and marking up a manuscript, a copy editor must then make the necessary correction in the Microsoft Word document. This is a slow, painstaking process, as a copy editor cannot insert an error while trying to correct another.
Whatever techniques they employ, quality copy editors like the ones used by the Book Puma Services platform are perhaps the most crucial to the reading experience. This is because if a reader finds an error, it pulls them out of the story because their brain is focused on the mistake rather than the narrative.