Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. I wrote a profile article for an in-house employee-networking group’s intranet website. My lead consisted of a quote from the interviewee and my reply, which included the pronoun “I” in the sentence. The committee chair decided I should not be the only one credited as writer, since in her thinking, some editing suggestions that I incorporated in the final version negated my “ownership” as sole writer, so she changed the byline to “Reported by [me, Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2].” She then changed the “I” in the lead to “we.” How is something like this seen in the publishing world? Would it be considered fabrication, copyright infringement, or just a case of bad judgment?

A. Although I don’t think it’s grounds for a lawsuit, typically writers receive editing without having to share the byline. If Janes 1 and 2 didn’t actually create original text or provide you with source material, then it shouldn’t matter how much they reworked your piece—you are entitled to be the author. If they gave you paragraphs that you integrated into the article, or did research for you, then they could at least be acknowledged as contributors. If the Janes did substantial original work (not editing), they can claim coauthorship. “Reported by” fudges these issues, but it suggests a true collaboration. If you drafted the piece and it was printed more or less intact after editing, even substantive editing, you should have the byline, and acknowledgment of others would be up to you. It’s tough for copyeditors, but we have to accept that we aren’t in it for the glory.