Copy-Editor

Conatus News is looking for passionate and hard-working volunteers to join its talented team of copy editors. You will be primarily communicating with the rest of the team on Facebook and be expected to commit at least one hour a day.

What is Copy-Editing?

Copy-editing takes the raw material (in this case, Conatus News articles) and makes it ready for publication.

The aim of copy-editing is to make sure that whatever appears in public is correct, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the publication to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure.

Tasks:

  • Content and structure – Is anything missing or redundant? Are there any spelling mistakes? Is the order logical? Are the headings doing their job? Are footnotes essential? Are clickable links needed? Do they work?
  • Information chunks – You will make sure sentences should be short and straightforward, with paragraphs to introduce new ideas and break up the page.
  • Illustrations, graphs and tables – Images ought to support the text, with self-explanatory labels and captions that match. Text should comment on the data in graphs or tables, not just repeat it. As a copy-editor you will advise the typesetter on the location of each element, checks that all the artwork is suitable for publishing on our website and note the existence of permissions and wording of acknowledgements.
  • Wording – Is the language pitched at the right level for our likely readers? Do any terms or abbreviations need explaining? Are tone, style and vocabulary appropriate? Do they add authority, or undermine the writer? Of course, language changes constantly and context is all, but you will be aware of informed opinion on what is acceptable and what is best practice. George Orwell’s six rules for writers, in his essay ‘Politics and the English language’, remain the basis of good wording.
  • Consistency – You will be aware of the alternative spellings, hyphenation, italics, capitals, units of measurement, how quotations are presented and much else. You will make sure the text must not contradict itself, nor any illustrations, tables, graphs and captions. Internal links/cross-references must work.
  • Accuracy and anomalies – Writers are responsible for what they write, but as a copy-editor you will often spot misquotations, errors of fact, mis-spelt names, misused words, numbers that don’t add up and incomplete references, and will check or query them. You will also query anything that does not seem to make sense. They scrutinise facts, dates, quotations and references, but do not routinely check every one unless this is budgeted for and agreed at the start.
  • Legal issues – Copy-editors will flag up any instances they see of
    • plagiarism or breach of copyright
    • libel
    • obscenity
    • incitement to racial hatred.

    – but responsibility for these remains with the writer and publisher.

  • Extent – Is the work too long or too short? Does the writer want to change or add material? You will, if need be, suggest ways to reduce the length or use space better without making the typesize too small or spacing too tight.
  • Technical matters – Experienced copy-editors know enough about the technical aspects of publishing (e.g. typefaces, web design) to be able to discuss various issues – extent, page breaks, special characters, types of image – with writers.

What does a copy-editor not do?

  • extensive rewriting or restructuring (developmental/substantive editing)
  • ghost writing
  • indexing
  • research
  • copyright permissions
  • project management.

Many professional editors can offer some or all of these services, but this requires separate negotiation and briefing with Conatus News staff.

Would I be suitable?

Many people think copy-editing is largely a matter of checking spelling, punctuation and grammar. These are basic, of course, so if you are vague about grammar, unsure how to punctuate or weak on spellings, this is not the job for you.

To be a successful copy-editor, your English and general knowledge must be well above average. Even then, copy-editing may not be your cup of tea. If you find it frustrating to follow a house style that hyphenates where you don’t, if you are easily bored or don’t like working on a text where you disagree with the author, if you find it impossible to do a less-than-perfect job (if that’s what the client wants), then this probably isn’t the job for you. However, if this is something that you enjoy, which many of our editors love doing, then this is the job for you.

How do I apply?

Please drop us a message that includes details of who you are, your academic/job background and details why you think you would make a good copy editor for Conatus News.