Copy Editing in Three and a Half Easy Steps

Copy Editing in Three and a Half Easy Steps

Copy Editing in Three and a Half Easy Steps

Welcome to the second in a series of four articles designed to unleash the power of your written words.

Copy editing is vital for crafting professional communications. I have simplified it into three and a half easy steps.

Step 1: Spelling Check

Most word processing programs now include an automatic spell check that highlights and corrects misspelled words. This is a great place to start your copy editing.

However, a word of caution. Spell checkers are helpful for catching spelling errors, but take it form someone who nose, when it comes two grammar and usage, spell checkers due knot know no write form wrong.

As you can see, words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly pass the spell check test just fine. There is no substitute for the editorial eyes and ears of a human being. We'll come back to that in Step 3.

Step 2: Capitals and Commas

Capitals - Capitalize the first word in a sentence. Capitalize proper names, including the names of people, titles, organizations, companies, cities, states, months, days of the week, and holidays. Do not capitalize types of people, organizations or companies.

For example, Sally B. is the sales trainer who developed Motivational Selling, a closing skills workshop firm for pharmaceutical representatives. S. Bacchetta, Vice President of Sales Excellence, Inc., will be presenting a Motivational Selling workshop in Rochester, NY, the second Wednesday in March.

Capitalize Sally B. and S. Bacchetta; both are proper names. Motivational Selling and Sales Excellence, Inc. are capitalized because they are the names of companies. Rochester, Wednesday and March are capitalized for the reasons listed above. Vice President is a title; it should be capitalized. Sales trainer and pharmaceutical representative are types of people, and should not be capitalized.

Commas - A comma is used to separate one thought from another. It prompts the reader to pause. Place a comma before the word 'and' if what follows 'and' is a complete phrase. (Stay with me. I promise that this will be painless.)

Example #1: "I'm producing a newsletter for the sales team, and I need a current training schedule." In this sentence, the phrase that follows 'and' ("I need a current training schedule") could be a stand-alone sentence, therefore the comma is needed.

Example #2: "I'm producing a newsletter for the sales team and one for the marketing department." Why no comma? Because in this sentence, the phrase after 'and' ("one for the marketing department") cannot function as a stand-alone sentence, so no comma is needed.

The comma, used properly, is capable of much more work, but that is enough for our discussion of quick and easy copy editing.

Step 3: Read Aloud

The best way to finish your basic copy edit is to read aloud. Slowly. Reading aloud gives you a sense of how your words will sound in your reader's mind. It calls your attention to things you may have missed during steps one and two.

Have you left out an important piece of your instructional design? Are there topics missing from your sales training workshop? Do your press releases hook the reader early on? Reading aloud helps ensure that your newsletters, promotional brochures and corporate communications say what you want them to say, clearly and vibrantly.

And the half-step of copy editing? Avoid the use of 'and/or' at all costs! Instead of saying, "We offer motivational training programs for your sales representatives and/or managers", take the time to write, "We offer motivational training programs for your sales representatives or managers, or both." You will sound more professional and make a better impression.

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Copyright © 2006 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.