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Copyediting & Proofreading For Dummies

Turn your knack for language into a lucrative career

Must-know techniques and resources for maximizing your accuracy and speed

Interested in becoming a copyeditor or proofreader? Want to know more about what each job entails? This friendly guide helps you position yourself for success. Polish your skills, build a winning resume and land the job you've always wanted. Books, magazines, Web sites, corporate documents - find out how to improve any type of publication and make yourself indispensable to writers, editors, and your boss.

  • Balance between style and rules
  • Master the art of the query
  • Use proofreader symbols
  • Edit and proof electronic documents
  • Build a solid freelancing career

    Who pays attention to punctuation? Translators and proofreaders do and you should too.

    Punctuation has to rank as one of the items translators and proofreaders deal with most frequently when reviewing documents. Oftentimes the text these professionals receive is inconsistent in its application of punctuation, particularly so when it comes to numbered lists or a series of items with bullet points. (Do you end each sentence with a period? Or do you use a semi-colon? Or nothing at all?) You especially encounter inconsistencies in long documents where there are a number of lists.

    One gets the impression that the people who draft a document assume that the folks doing the typesetting or desktop publishing will 'fix' the problem(s). To experienced translators and proofreaders, reliance on the design and desktop publishing process for catching and fixing errors is problematic. Graphic designers have to rank the worst for spotting and correcting such problems. It really comes down to having a proofreader catch these errors or problems.

    Another common problem is with the use of commas. A comma in the wrong place can really alter the meaning of a sentence. There are plenty of examples in the book authored by Lynne Truss, titled "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation". Remove the comma in the title and you're left with "Eats shoots and leaves" -- a totally different meaning, to be sure.

    Once a document is in translation, punctuation problems can easily get amplified. Punctuation is all about context as Lynne Truss' book demonstrates so clearly. And of course, most of us have heard stories of how punctuation issues have cropped up in the Courts; situations where the interpretation of a legal agreement hangs on the placement of a comma or a period. Small wonder that most freelance translators and many translation companies have disclaimers of liability in their terms of service that apply to all of their work. It's gotten to the point where insurance companies have a huge say in such matters... but I digress.

    "Issues" aside, when it comes to translated text, this is one area where the use of punctuation varies little from one language to the other. Though of course, there are exceptions. One of the biggies between English and French is in the use of quotation marks, a little “thingamagig” referred to as « Guillemets » as in entre Guillemets (those little double-arrow ‘thingies’) -- and mind the spacing please. It's enough to drive proofreaders and desktop publishers batty. Not to mention people who work on websites and have to fish around for the right HTML code for all of these special characters.

    By the way, one very handy reference source for finding HTML codes for all of the esoteric foreign language punctuation and accents are on the Penn State website for Teaching and Learning Technology. One page lists HTML Special Entity Codes (letters with accents, foreign characters, currency symbols, math symbols, and other punctuation, e.g. &, ®, ©, etc.). Another page has a whole section devoted to HTML equivalents for French accents. Very handy resource.

    For more information on the topic of punctuation, there is an excellent overview and history of the whole subject on the Wikipedia website.


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    The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications

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    This revised edition reflects the most recent editions of The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (5th ed.), and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).

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    The McGraw-Hill Desk Reference for Editors, Writers, and Proofreaders(with CD-ROM)

    McGraw-Hill's Proofreading Handbook

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