Louise Marley has a trenchant post on the copy editor’s craft on Red Room, the writing site she blogs for, and let me add hear hear! to her words.
Copy editors are often unsung heroes in the publishing world. And I say this not only because I’ve been a copy editor, but because the one who was assigned to Gordath Wood saved me from myself quite often. Sure, there was that nasty continuity error in Red Gold Bridge, but that had nothing to do with the copy editor and everything to do with me. (It’s also why I won’t ever turn around a book that fast again, ever.)
I’ve heard writers complain about copy editors and I’ve never quite got why. Copy editors are better than writers at catching grammatical errors because they do it all day, every day. If I were to try to copy edit professionally now, I would have a lot of catching up to do. A good writer understands grammar and spelling and has a facility for it, since that’s part of the toolset. A copy editor lives it. They also catch consistency errors, errors of fact (factcheckers, a different breed, make copy editors look like anything goes flower children), and anything else that can make a writer look like an idiot.
Copy editors talk about grammar like they enjoy it.
Copy editors get deep into conversations on whether something is a misplaced modifier or an unclear antecedent, and they enjoy that too.
Copy editors love words, style, punctuation, and grammar, and read grammar books for fun. Speaking of which, does anyone know where my copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves went to?
Copy editors put the hyphen in “anal retentive,” but only when it’s modifying a noun.
In short, love your copy editor.