Tag Archives: American English vs. British English

Copy Editing versus Copyediting

Copy Editing versus Copyediting

These are just some of the references required for my classes.

It took a bit of time but I finally finished editing my entire blog. This task included making a style sheet which covers mechanical usage and standardized formatting for the entire website.

Style sheets have become a part of my life since I started taking editing classes at UC Berkeley Extension. I am grateful I learned about style sheets as I did without them for the first decade of my career. Nowadays I look back on my previous editing gigs and I wonder how I did without this useful tool. It certainly would have cut down on the minor bickering and word-to-word combat with senior editors.

It amuses me to no end that copy editors cannot agree whether it’s copy editor or copyeditor. Amy Einsohn’s fantastic reference is called The Copyeditor’s Handbook while Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2011) lists copy editor as a noun yet copyedit as the verb. Oxford Dictionaries notes that copyedit is preferred for American English while copy-edit is British English. A quick glance at the index of the Chicago Manual of Style (2010) lists copyediting, but the reference really prefers the term manuscript editing.

At the end of the day, I believe it boils down to a few factors: the dictionary a writer consults, the style sheet the editor uses, and the target audience’s preferences.

Since this website is my public space, I have set my own boundaries. This includes all tags, categories, and entry titles in headline style, a preference for em dashes over parentheses, and copy editing spelled as two words.

I prefer to leave copy editing as two words, without a hyphen, as I have dabbled in other types of editing before. Since photo editing and video editing remain unhyphenated compound words, it seems reasonable to me to let copy editing stand as such.

I know many colleagues will disagree with this. That’s fine. They can spell copy editing as one word on their own websites. The most important matter is that I spell it as two words consistently throughout my blog, and they spell it as one word all throughout theirs. It’s not as if I am butchering the English language and spelling it as c0py3dItiNg.

In a couple of decades, the trend may veer entirely towards copy editing as one word, or perhaps a new term will come into use. Until then, I will wave my little style sheet with like a white flag of truce.