Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Copyediting?

From The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes comes the following adecdote excerpt:


The king had some valuable advice for the diarist and author Fanny Burney.

He laughed; and enquired who corrected my proofs?
'Only myself,' I answered.
'Why, some authors have told me that they are the last to do that work for themselves. They know so well by heart what ought to be, that they run on without seeing what is. They have told me, besides, that a mere plodding head is best and surest . . . and that the livelier the imagination, the less it should be trusted to. Madame d'Arblay, VI" (Longford 317).

Now, whatever you think about George III, he was right about proofing: "They know so well by heart what ought to be, that they run on without seeing what is" (Burney, qtd. in Longford 317). We know what we want to say, and our mind slots it in without us realizing it, so it is very difficult to proof what we've written and we always need someone else to read our work.

Copyediting is also important, and to begin I use more secondary information (with some names changed) in the form of a letter some friends received when they lived in an apartment and gave to me because they knew I could use it:

Dear Sir or Madam:

As we all know the Village at Central Park is a beautiful apartment complex which offers many amenities. However, one deficiency in the apartments is affecting most of us almost daily; the shower heads are positioned below most people’s heads, which makes taking a shower incredibly awkward and uncomfortable, compels the user to bend down and thus may cause back ache.

We, Bendi-stretch Advantage Company, feel that we have found a practical, inexpensive solution to this problem. We have developed a new, useful shower extension which was designed to free the user from the unhealthy necessity to bend down while taking a shower. Now, the user has the choice and flexibility to adjust the shower head height to his/her individual need.

We are happy to offer you this quality item absolutely free of charge for 5 days in your own shower. This free distribution is a part of our marketing research plan which is done in order to elect the correct marketing strategy for our newest product, understand our important customer needs and improve our quality service.

If you are interested in taking advantage if this exclusive offer, we will place our unique shower extension in your shower and will provide you with a market research questionaire to answer about your personal experience with it. The product placement procedure takes just a few minutes.

For showing you our great appreciation for trying our product and helping us conduct our marketing research, we will also give you a free gift out of a variety you can choose from.

To gain all these benefits, all you have to do is to call us at (817) 555-71 11 in order to set up the installment at a time convenient to you. If, after trying the shower extension, you decide to keep it, you will be elegible to own it for its wholesale price which is below similar but not identical products in the market. For this market research we need only a limited number of applicants. If we have covered our limit by the time you contact us, plese accept our apology. However, for such occurences we keep extra free gifts and we will happily give you the free gift mentioned above just because we appreciate your interest.

We thank you very much for your cooperation and are very confident that you will benefit greatly from this highly useful product.

Thank you again.

Jon Doe
Bendi-stretch Advantage Research

It is difficult to copyedit what we've written, even for those of us who have writing skills, and not everyone has the same skills, so we need someone to look at our work to make sure it is clear and concise for the readers. The following revision of the "Bendi-stretch" letter shows how copyediting works:

Edited and Revised

Dear Resident,
The Village at Central Park Apartments provides many comforts and amenities for its residents. However, there is one problem that affects us on a regular basis: improperly positioned shower heads.

We developed a practical, inexpensive solution to this problem: the “Bendi-stretch Shower Head Extension.” This flexible shower head adjusts to any height and thus frees you from the bending and stretching that can cause backache.

We want to offer you the use of this product free for 5 days, with free installation provided at your convenience. We request that you fill out the accompanying questionnaire; customer feedback helps up fulfill customer needs for quality goods and services.

To show our appreciation for your participation, we give you the choice of a free gift from our catalogue.

To set up an appointment for installation of the “Bendi-stretch Shower Extension,” call us at (817) 555-7111. If, after 5 days of free use, you decide you want to keep this product, you can purchase it at the wholesale price.

Only a few applications are needed. If the number is filled when you contact us, please accept our apology and choose a free gift from our catalogue in appreciation for your interest.

We hope you will take this opportunity to try the “Bendi-stretch Shower Extension.”


Jon Doe
Bendi-stretch Advantage Research

I'll let the example speak for itself. I know that we're apt to "File Thirteen" any direct mail, but we never know if something might be read, and since we never know, we need copyeditors to look over our work to make sure there aren't any problems or to solve any problems that are there.

Work Cited

Longford, Elizabeth, ed. The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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