by Claire Niven>
Copy editors love language and grammar; it’s the backbone of the work after all. But they must like people too.
It’s true that being a copy editor is rather solitary occupation (which is why I value my shared office space for the human contact, the tea drinking and supporting the ebbs and flows of each other’s businesses), but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a people person.
Good copy editors never forget there are real people behind the words. Yes, spelling needs to be fixde fixed, sentences refined, unnecessary commas deleted and facts checked. But if you’ve ever seen a document full of tracked changes, you’ll know how scary those red squiggly lines can be! It can be undermining, intimidating and downright annoying to see your carefully crafted words revised with the click of a mouse.
A vital skill for a copy editor is to be respectful. You must build trust with clients and communicate clearly and with tact. Queries should be constructive and collaborative—sneering comments are unpleasant and unhelpful. Most editors don’t give a reason for every edit, but they are happy to explain when asked.
Editors should be grammar coaches not grammar grouches.