You are a master of English usage and style. You possess a superior knowledge of grammar. You can recite large portions of The Chicago Manual of Style from memory. Your attention to detail is laser sharp. So, are you are ready to be a copy editor? Not quite.
There is another aspect to copyediting that is important to keep in mind as you approach your work—the customer service role. When you copyedit someone's work, you are performing a service for that person, and there are several characteristics you should demonstrate in order to keep your customers happy. These include the following:
- Sense of Humor
People are counting on you to help them get their projects approved; therefore, you play an essential role for them, and they need to know that they can rely on you. Do what you say you are going to do, and do it when you say you are going to do it. And if someone gives you an exact deadline for completing a task, make sure you meet that deadline. That person likely also has a deadline for turning in his work, and if you miss your deadline, that person could miss his deadline. Missing a deadline can jeopardize an entire project, and you do not want to be the person who causes a project to fail because it is late.
Maintain communication with those whom you support. When you receive a project to complete, inform the person who assigned it to you that you received it. You do not want to leave people wondering whether you received what was sent or whether you are working on it. Also, let them know when you are available to undertake copyediting tasks, or if you are overloaded with work, let them know that you are not currently available. Doing so helps them plan accordingly. Of course, if you are not able to complete a task by when you said you would have it finished, it is essential to immediately let the person with whom you are working know about the project’s status. Maintaining communication demonstrates your respect for those whom you support, and it helps them establish confidence in you.
Be flexible and adaptable to changes and surprises. During periods with heavy workloads, you could be working longer hours, including late into the night or on weekends. Or, someone might ask you to copyedit something just as you are getting ready to leave for the day. You need to stay and finish copyediting it.
When communicating with those whose work you are copyediting, you should maintain a courteous demeanor. You do not have to always emulate Mother Teresa, but you do want to ensure that people feel comfortable approaching and working with you. Think about the kind of person with whom you would want to deal, and be that person when interacting with others.
You are correcting the work of others. This includes altering and changing what other people have written, and you do not want to insult or demean them in the process. Be able to explain why you made the edits that you made—that they were made not to show off how “smart” you are and how “dumb” the writer is, but to improve the product. Usually, people will be pleased that you are making sure that their written work is error free and professional looking.
Sense of Humor
It is helpful to be able to find something to laugh about, especially during stressful periods. If it is difficult to laugh during work, watch or listen to something funny after work. The famous publisher and humorist Bennett Cerf extolled the benefits of laughter, and he was right. Laughter will help you forget, or at least deal with, the stress at work, and you will be more productive. And besides, you will feel healthier after a good laugh.
Keep these characteristics in mind as you approach your copyediting work. They will help you become a valued asset to those whom you support, and along with superior language skills, will help ensure your success as a copy editor.