Avoid Passive Voice | Angela Harms, Editor

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Books Worth Reading

The Copyeditor’s Handbook
by Amy Einsohn

For the aspiring copy editor, Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook is a must-read. Her systematic, intelligent approach doesn’t leave anything out, and she doesn’t shy away from even the stickiest issues.

You’ll get a feel for what copy-editing is really about, both practically—on the job—and philosophically. What do you do when the deadline is too short? How do you decide how to edit when the rules are ambiguous?

Einsohn makes it all clear.


As your copy editor (sometimes spelled copyeditor or copy-editor), I’ll review your manuscript for grammatical problems, spelling errors, factual or plot inconsistencies, too much use of passive voice, and anything else that will make it hard for the reader to enjoy the novel, understand the textbook, or stay interested while reading the philosophical treatise. In fact, copy editors have it as a sort of motto: Be kind to the reader. This reminds us that anything that requires the reader to stop reading for a moment to figure out what’s being said is something that could be made clearer.

One of the first things I do when copy-editing is to create a style sheet. A style sheet is vital for ensuring that a manuscript is consistent. It will include such things as character and place names, dates, and the author’s preferences for certain ways of writing. This lets us remember that Rebecca is called Becca, and not Becky, that she’s older than June, and that the author (or publisher) prefers to put two commas in “bread, eggs, and milk” rather than only one. The style sheet will follow the manuscript to publication, for use by proofreaders or anyone else who works with the text.

While I may offer suggestions for rephrasing a short (one to two sentence) passage to solve a problem, beyond that, copy-editing does not involve re-writing. You will receive queries asking you to clarify things or suggesting that you rephrase something to correct an error. There are standard practice in copy-editing, and are simple to deal with by way of email or phone calls.

Fact-checking is sometimes part of the copy editor’s job. Easily checked facts (that can be checked on-line in a moment) are part of my typical copy-editing fee. Extensive checking for a fact-filled tome—like Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson—would not normally be included.

For rates, see the Editing Services page.

Request your free 1000 word sample edit, or just email with questions: Angela Harms