Present Editorial Duties
In the role of Editorial Director, my third role at Wonderful Machine, I was the comprehensive editor, copyeditor, occasional factchecker (a result of all of my teaching experience, checking on students’ sources), and format editor.
With certain newer writers my role was as a comprehensive editor, walking the writers through the article’s organization and focus. Then I would copyedit to correct all line-level errors and imprecisions. After the writer loaded the article onto the CMS, I became the format editor, where I continued copyediting but also paid attention to (1) the way images accompanied the text, (2) the file size and presentation of images, and (3) the SEO features of the text (effective slugs, meta descriptions, properly formatted links, keyword density, structured data schemas, alt text).
Previous Editorial Experience
When I taught at NYU, Fordham, and Villanova, my opportunities to edit were primarily as a sort of developmental editor, showing students how their essays did or did not fulfill the prompts. When I was grading their work, I paid attention to their language and composition mechanics and did factchecking.
At C2 Education, I have prepared students for the verbal portions of the SAT and ACT, which requires knowing and explaining all of the rules of grammar, concise and precise language, and thematic organization and focus. This is the knowledge necessary for an effective developmental and/or copy editor. I also worked as a developmental editor (and copyeditor) when I helped students write essays for their high school classes and college applications.
When I began working at Wonderful Machine, my first role was Internal Documentation, which meant that I was both a technical writer and a technical editor. I both wrote documents explaining step by step the different functions of individual staff members, but I also went through and edited staff members’ drafts of documentation.
My second role was as the Client Blog Editor, for which I was the copyeditor and format editor. The client blog promoted recent projects by member photographers to potential clients. We called these “Photographer Spotlight” articles. The writers I oversaw were generally experienced and didn’t need shepherding through the composition process. This was where I learned a lot about the importance of the format editor to be mindful of SEO goals and opportunities.
This means I have taken responsibility for having read through and improved the articles that others have written so that they reflect the tone unique to Wonderful Machine and the quality we aspire to in our published works. It also means I’m responsible for the errors that slipped through.
Here are a few that represent some of the best we’ve published:
- Expert Advice: How To Register Your Copyright,” by Honore Brown, November 12, 2020
- “I Hope To Double What They’re Doing: A Conversation with Creative Agent Freda Scott,” written by Varun Raghupathi, September 30, 2020
- “Expert Advice: Insurance for Photographers,” by Aimee Baldridge, September 10, 2020
How I Copyedit
As copyeditor I strive to make others’ writings as clear and effective as possible (I will not use the word impactful). I try to do that with a light touch because I do not want to distort the writer’s voice. With that said, words have resonances and connotations (inflections, if you’re feeling poetic) over which we have no control. One of my jobs is to think about how diction may convey inapposite connotations. And fix that.
For example, photography uses the word shoot a lot. Q.E.D.
On the most basic level, my job is just to make syntax and punctuation work. I watch out for connected independent clauses that are missing punctuation, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, the inconsistent verb tenses, and—of course—spelling. As well, I think about how the images complement and break up the text.
Style Guides, Pet Peeves
The 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style guided the composition of my dissertation, which is a way of saying that it’s had a deep impact on my writing. On WonderfulMachine.com we adhere to AP Style, with only a few exceptions.
One exception is that we employ the Oxford comma because we are civilized …
One pet peeve: I dislike that the em-dash (and ellipses) in AP Style has spaces surrounding them. I’m a partisan of the non-spaced em-dash of the Chicago Style.
Speaking of the em-dash: it’s the Swiss army knife of punctuation. It can do practically anything. It should not set off non-restrictive clauses—that’s what commas are for. But it can set up lists and certain modifying phrases and whatever else.
Editing for SEO
These days editing means paying attention to the SEO effects of the text. So I am mindful of strong slugs, meta-titles, meta-descriptions, anchored texts, follow and nofollow links, alt text for images, and structured data schema.
To help me I’ve used WordPress plugins like Yoast, Rankmath, etc., but I am not averse to going into the html to fix the page.