Category Archives: Resources

How To Be a Good Copyeditor

There was a time when the title “Editor,” at least in terms of writing, had to be further clarified. Substantive Editor? Copyeditor? Proofreader? These were the days when editing killed a lot of trees and men stuck press credential in their hats.

Ok, perhaps not that long ago, but it does seem that way sometimes. With the advent of online content management, blog accessibility, and digital publishing, “editing” can be a catchall term covering an amalgam of skills. As a professional writer hiring an editor, you need to clarify what sort of expertise you’re getting. This has consequences for the student writer as well. If you’re faced with writing and revising a term paper, you’re going to want to approach revision as though you are wearing multiple hats, rather than covering all your editing bases in one pass.

I use the following graphic with my composition students. It’s a good representation of how the editing process can be segmented for maximum effectiveness.

Editing as a fluid process

Editing as a fluid process

There are four basic phases:

  1. Revision
  2. Substantive Editing
  3. Copyediting
  4. Proofreading

I’ll cover Revision and Substantive Editing in my next post, so let’s look at Copyediting and Proofreading for now. While the temptation may be great to do both in one pass, the distinction is necessary, especially if you operate under the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” mantra. Think of copyediting as clarifying the voice of your paper–how the sections and paragraphs come together to represent your ideas. A copyeditor wants to make sure the paper’s readability is maximized. Focus on clarity and consistency. Proofreading, on the other hand, about clarifying the look of your paper–typos, grammar mistakes, basic stuff. That should come as the absolute last step, when you know your content and flow are solid, and you just need to put that final inspection to be sure you don’t do something stupid, e.g. confuse there, their, and they’re.


Foreword, Preface, and Introduction

A quick word on the front matter of a manuscript.

Foreword (not “forward”): Usually written by someone other than the author.

Author’s Preface: Tells how the book came about.

Author’s Introduction: An abstract of the book, essentially.

Additional resources:

Ian Kingsley Author Blog

Writers and Editors

BPS Books


Positive and Negative Correlation

Let’s assume for a moment that we compared number of hours studied by a group of college students to their final exam scores. We might assume that those who studied longer hours would score higher on the final exam. That is considered a positive correlation.

Now, let’s think about hours exercised per week by a group of college students, and how that might relate to percent body fat. More hours exercised would reasonably lead to a lower percent body fat, right? (Actually, that’s more of a thesis question, but for the sake of my example let’s say yes.) That is considered a negative correlation.

Further reading here.

Normal and Non-Parametric Data


Yes, you really have to do all those tests.

Much of statistical analysis is based on the assumption that you have a lot of data to work with and the data follow a normal distribution. Beyond that, though, there are reasons we can’t just work up a t-test and a Pearson correlation without examining the data set first.

Non-parametric statistical tests are appropriate in different instances. This article from Boston U School of Public Health is a good place to start if you’re wondering.

In any instance, it’s always a good idea to run a normality test (Kolmogorov-Smirnov or Shapiro-Wilk, depending on sample size) before further analysis.


Choosing the correct statistical test

Statistical test flowchart

On my Resources page, there’s a link every student or statistician should have handy. I use it sometimes to double-check my thought process (much like I still use Andy Field’s introductory SPSS textbook, dutifully marked up and full of Post-It Notes).

I posted the link originally for SPSS, since that’s what I use, but here’s the full enchilada: a decision flowchart and matching instructions for statistical tests in SPSS, STATA, R, and SAS.

No matter how accomplished you might be in statistical analysis, it’s good to have something to jog your memory.