Things I’ve Learned Through Being Copyedited
1. If you ever use a quote from a historical figure, be sure it’s backed up and referenceable, and not one of those faux-aphorisms from one of our eminent misquatables such as Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wilde, or *ahem* Eleanor Roosevelt.
2. There is no default race, and no default gender. You know this. You think your writing and editing knows this too, but there are some things so deeply ingrained in our usage and language that things slip by you. You will find them and fix them as you edit. Then when your editor looks she will find even more. Gratefully and graciously make those corrections, doing all you can to solidify this better usage into new, better habits for the future.
3. Do yourself a favor from the beginning and keep your timeline as loosey-goosey and non-specific as possible. Unless your story does call for a very tight daily calendar, keeping things general instead of using specific numbers or days of the week (again, when possible) will help you more than you realize. For example, you don’t want to send your seventh grade protagonist to math class “three days later” when, after calendrical calculations are complete, “three days later” turns out to be a Sunday. You might think you’re savvy and precise enough to keep it all correct and ordered, but trust me: you’re not. *My editor suggested using changing weather and seasons to signify the passing of larger amounts of time without getting too specific, and it’s a trick I’m going to be keeping in my tool box forever and ever, and I commend it to you.
4. Likely you already have a list of your personal crutch-words that you just love to overuse. The wise writer will have already found and fixed most of those crutch words, but there are going to be more, because that’s just how it goes. Your editor won’t blink, she’ll just take her editorial scissors to those repeating crutch words and pry them from your carpal-tunnel-ridden fingers. Justly so.
These are some of the main personal habits I'm working on from a copyeditorial standpoint. Authors, what other copyedit tips do you have?