Girl Friday Copyeditor and Proofreader Handbook

PART 1: Six Essentials Girl Friday Expects to See in a Manuscript


1. Style

Is the copyeditor following the basics of Chicago style, publisher style, and GFP house styles?

Especially but not limited to these examples:

  • Hyphenation (review CMS 7.85, the hyphenation chart)

  • No periods in capitalized abbreviations: DC, BA, MFA, FBI, etc. (CMS 10.4)

  • Capitalization vs. lowercase of titles, directions, more [Appendix A] ***links to Appendices page***

  • Numbers: spelling out vs. numerals.
    Review CMS chapter 9 as well as the Girl Friday and Amazon guides, but especially:

  • Fourth Street not 4th Street (CMS 9.52)

  • 123rd Street

  • I-35W (an abbreviated highway, CMS 9.51)

  • five o’clock (CMS 9.38)

  • five thirty

  • 5:00 p.m.

  • 3.3 million (CMS 9.8)

  • three million

  • eight hundred thousand (CMS 9.4)

  • 811,000


2. Grammar and Punctuation

Is the copyeditor following grammar and punctuation rules?

Especially but not limited to these:

  • Avoidance of comma splices, generally [Appendix B]

  • Use of comma with independent clauses joined by a conjunction, generally (CMS 6.28) [Appendix C]

  • Use of semicolon with independent clauses not joined by a conjunction [Appendix D]

  • Series must be parallel in construction [Appendix E]

  • Dialogue attribution and dialogue separation [Appendix F]

  • Revision of misplaced and dangling modifiers (CMS 5.112) [Appendix G]


3. Spelling and Usage

Is the copyeditor using Webster’s to check spelling?

As a general rule, use the first spelling listed in Webster’s. Common spelling discrepancies:


4. Style Sheet

Is the copyeditor creating a thorough, detailed style sheet? (A draft style sheet must be submitted to your project editor with your sample chapter.)

  • If the copyeditor is allowing deviations from Chicago or Webster’s or basic rules of grammar, has the CE noted the allowances on the style sheet? Examples:

  • Are comma splices allowed in specific instances? When?

  • Is spelling “email” allowed, though contrary to Webster’s?

  • Is spelling “offline” allowed, though contrary to Webster’s, to match spelling “online”?

  • Is the use of “who” allowed where “whom” is grammatically correct?

  • Has the copyeditor accounted for common issues on the style sheet that appear in most manuscripts? Several examples:

  • Serial comma or no?

  • Commas with terminal and internal “too” or no?

  • Spelling “OK” or “okay”?

  • Spelling “towards,” “backwards,” “forwards,” etc., vs. “toward,” “backward,” “forward,” etc.?

  • Treatment of numbers, both inside dialogue and outside? Example:

    • If numerals for “5:00 p.m.” are used outside dialogue, are they also used within dialogue or spelled out?

  • Treatment of direct thoughts / internal monologue?

  • Treatment of signage and other writing on objects?

  • Has the copyeditor included proper terms and character names on the style sheet, as well as details associated with the characters to ensure these details are not contradicted later in the manuscript? *Click here for an example style sheet, Appendix H. Some examples of character details that are easily contradicted and that need notation on the style sheet:

  • Character’s title or job description. Examples on style sheet:

    • Edward Jones, Detective [third year on the force]

    • Connor O’Malley, Father [priest at Saint John’s]

    • Alec Leamas, Special Agent / Agent Leamas [Eastern Division]

    • Seymour Skinner [tenth-grade physics teacher, two teenage kids]

  • Age, date of birth, hair color, eye color

  • Date of significant event in character’s life

  • Number of siblings

  • Vehicle make, model, and color

  • Character’s make and model of gun [Glock 17]


5. Fact-Checking (basic)

Is the copyeditor verifying real-life proper terms?

  • When copyediting, has the CE checked real-life proper nouns via encyclopedias, maps, websites of businesses and other institutions, and other trustworthy resources such as Has the CE ensured the author has spelled as well as styled (e.g., iPhone, not I-phone) the terms and names correctly? * Click here for an example of verifying terms, Appendix I.

  • All proper names and terms must be checked, no matter the author’s expertise on the subject. The copyeditor should not assume that the author has written a term correctly even if it is in the author’s subject area.

  • When copyediting, has the CE used appropriate references to verify terms? For example, Wikipedia can be a good starting point in order to access its References, Notes, or External Links sections, but a copyeditor should verify against the sources in those sections whenever possible, and should cite those if needed, rather than verifying against and citing the Wikipedia entry itself.

  • When verifying against such resources, is the copyeditor continuing to adhere to publishing style as opposed to the style used in the reference? Two examples:

  • Although the word “The” might be capitalized in a real-life company name such as “The Making Place” on the business’s own website, this does not mean “the” should be capitalized in the manuscript. Follow CMS.

  • Although some bands officially style their names “The Doors,” “The Smiths,” etc., on their own websites and elsewhere, this does not mean “the” should be capitalized in the manuscript. Follow CMS.


6. Querying

Are the copyeditor's queries helpful and professional?

  • Has the copyeditor queried areas that seem unclear (vague language, confusing sequence of events, etc.)?

  • Has the copyeditor worded queries with solutions in mind—that is, has the CE made the issue clear to the author and offered suggestions if possible—rather than as open-ended statements or questions such as “What does this mean?” The latter do not help the author and the editorial team get at the issue and come to a solution. The best queries are worded to elicit clear, verbatim revisions from the author whenever possible.

  • Are the copyeditor’s queries error-free and diplomatically written?

  • Has the copyeditor made suggestions and comments proper to his or her role? Or has the CE made comments outside the realm of copyediting? (Example of the latter: “I find this character unlikable. I need to feel more connected to him before I can care about his quest.” Such an observation is inappropriate from a CE even if true.)