Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. How often should a good copyeditor consult his or her style manual or handbook? I work on a team of copyeditors whose client projects use CMOS or the AP Stylebook. On any given day, an editor might switch between editorial style guides four or five times. However, alarmingly, I have noticed that few of my fellow editors consult their style manuals and handbooks frequently. This concerns me. What are your thoughts?

A. Good copyeditors consult a style manual when they run into something they don’t know. The frequency is unpredictable, depending on the content being edited and the skill of the editor. The right answer might be “rarely,” if an experienced editor is marking the same kind of texts day after day and running into the same kinds of issues. As for your concern, if you are a supervisor and you’re concerned that your workers aren’t editing to style, the way to determine it is to look at their editing, rather than count the number of times they look at a manual. If you’re not their supervisor, you’ll be happy to know that this need not concern you at all.