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02/20/2023

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Malcolm

I see many errors in published books and articles these days. This includes grammatical problems and typos. And don't get me started on diacritical marks (both errors and inconsistencies)! If you are concerned that the copyeditor is incorrect and that their editing job is not good, you could ask the editor to have a new copyeditor assigned because of the errors. Before doing that, though, I'd pause and get another set of eyes on the changes.

Without seeing the particular edits, it's difficult to know if these are optional or not. Even native English speakers don't always understand rules of grammar. And we all make mistakes. It's easier to edit someone else's work than your own.

Too, there are some rules which vary from publisher to publisher. While the rule about using "that" for restrictive clauses and "which" for non-restrictive is controversial (I personally don't have an issue with restrictive "which"), some journals have house styles for this kind of thing.

I would suggest the OP confirms the house style and double-checks that the suggested changes are incorrect in light of these. It also might not hurt to run the corrected version by a trusted friend to make sure that the "optional" changes are really optional. Perhaps there's something you've missed? No one enjoys having their grammar corrected, but it is possible that the editor is right about a punctuation rule that impacts a lot of sentences.

Once you've double-checked things, I wouldn't bother with long emails or explanations to the editors involved. I would simply enter "STET" where necessary or write a polite yet firm email listing several points of egregious errors (with evidence) and asking for a new round of editing.

Finally, I do agree that it would be better if copyeditors would insert an explanation at the first change, citing a CMOS rule or similar. But this additional step takes time and editors are under time pressures. As well, since many authors don't care about the justification, it's easy to just make the change anticipating they will click "accept all." (When I do initial copyedits on book reviews for my journal, I usually omit this justifications unless I see an author making a single mistake many times.)

And by the way, Word macros are useful for saving time editing and responding to comments. You can search online for how to record or code macros. (Many are available on editing websites, too.) This would let you enter "STET" with a macro instead of typing it manually.

Copyediting is awful

I had some shockingly bad copy editing from PPR. My assumption is that it was done by some automated process. Things like numbered principles, bullets, lists, etc. all disappeared. Actually, it was worse than that: some of them disappeared so it would have (1).... and then (2) would lose its label, and then was was (3) became (2).......a complete joke.

It took me an absolute age to edit things back. I think they actually made 2 correct copy editing improvements through the paper—the rest was nonsense.

Whyly

Can confirm that PPR type setting is shockingly awful. Had a similar experience to the previous commenter, and had to haggle with overburdened incompetent and unfriendly typesetters for over a year (!) after the article was accepted to get the copy to a readable level.

I think Wiley's refusal to invest in better typesetting (esp for an esteemed journal like PPR) speaks to a deep disrespect towards its authors and its readers.

Managing Editor

I'm a Managing Editor at a journal in another discipline, and I've seen this on my end. Our publisher contracts out the production process and, in my case, it turned out a trainee copyeditor just needed some additional guidance from their supervising copyeditor. But importantly, it was due to our intervention on the editor side that meant the author wasn't left requesting numerous reversions; we requested the copyeditor revert the entire document and start anew, and to take a less (in our eyes) editorial approach.

You might reach out to the journal's Editor-in-Chief and express your concerns and interests. It is entirely possible the EIC will share them and could make this process a little more bearable to you, for instance by telling production that you needn't write STET for over one hundred edits or by reminding the copyeditor that minor wording changes ('but' to 'however') may not be appropriate in the context of academic editing.

At any rate, even if they cannot intervene -- I would hope that isn't the case but sometimes, depending on the journal-publisher relationship, the journal has little control over production -- the EIC would likely be keen to hear your feedback in order to make the case later on to the publisher for improvements to production quality.

Rui Duarte

I think the editor would like to have written your article.

Sorry fir the blantness, but editors should respect the STYLE of the writer. If the writer wants to say "but", that's his prerrogative. If the editor wants it his way, write.

ed

Rui Duarte
It sounds like you are interested in self-publishing, which anyone can do any time. And what you will find is that your self-published work lays unread on some obscure website, and it counts for nothing when you apply for tenure.
Sorry fir my blantness

Malcolm

Since I posted, I had one other thought on the OP's query. They mentioned replacing "but" with "however." These are not perfect synonyms. "But" is a coordinating conjunction. "However" is a coordinating adverb. This makes a different with regard to punctuation and placement.

It is possible that the copyeditor has made changes to these words because they were improperly used. While these changes may seem "optional," perhaps they were grammatically warranted.

I'd reiterate the importance of double-checking whether the changes are correct before asking for them to be reversed.

Prof L

Those *seem* like primarily grammatical changes. If they are wrong, then complain. But be sure they are wrong. Whether a semi-colon or a comma goes somewhere should not be a mystery or a matter of style. There are strict rules about these things, and without seeing OP's writing, it's not easy to know whether s/he is in the wrong or the copyeditor is.

I HAVE had such problems with copyeditors, and I took it up with the editor. They wanted to change my references to primary material from a standard to nonsensical style (like imagine "Plato _Symposium_ 210a.5-7" to "Plato (1990), p. 210, a5-7") and they changed all my 'since's to 'as's. I found this particularly annoying, since in my view, 'since' is clearer than 'as'. They made other such stylistic changes, which in my view made things worse.

I wrote a polite email to the editor, explaining the situation and asking advice. He expressed frustration, this had been an ongoing problem for the journal. We worked it out such that I wrote a note to the copyeditor (cc'ing the editor), explaining how and in what ways I would like a lighter touch and why, and then eventually got revised copyedited pages which were much better.

two cents

I have similar experience too. The copy editor asked me to explain and/or improve about 10 places where she felt problematic. But it's difficult to explain those to laymen, so I contacted the EIC. The EIC insisted that I answer the copy editor's queries, and I answered and improved the paper a bit (most queries are no real problem). The paper was then published. I thought the copy editor was in a well-paid permanent job, so she could spend a lot of time reading and questioning my paper.

Some copy editors may simply enjoy questioning and correcting scholars' works because being able to do so makes them feel great. So there can be many unnecessary changes and questions if an author is unlucky. They may regard themselves as quality controllers (so your product cannot go on the market until they fix it), though they often haven't studied for a phd and have never published a research paper to their names.

And I agree with Rui that the copy editor should not change the style of the author.

Malcolm

I understand that we have all had bad experiences with copyeditors (I include myself here). However, I think this thread demonstrates are some significant misunderstandings of what they do and how they (typically) think.

- copyeditors are often working per project on contracts for publishing companies and are not earning salaries in a "well-paid permanent job,"

- they are typically too busy correcting grammar and identifying stylistic inconsistencies to feel any kind of pride at changing an author's style,

- they may not have PhDs, but they typically have training in English grammar, which is the relevant subject-matter expertise for editing,

- some may be former academics (this is increasingly common, I believe) so it's best not to make assumptions about their level of education and experience,

- they are quality controllers (they do not "think of themselves" this way), having been hired to ensure final documents are error-free and follow relevant style guides consistently.

The OP asked for some helpful advice about copyediting. I think many of us have pointed out that there may be genuine grammatical issues in their work, which an editing professional has found, and so they should get a second opinion rather than just reject the changes.

In addition to that advice, I'd suggest that, generally speaking, treating editors as professionals is also beneficial, rather than assuming that we as authors and PhDs have produced an error-free document in virtue of our subject-matter expertise.

Wood

OP here, thank you cocooners for your comments! I asked for a different copyeditor, but the EIC rejected this request, so I withdrew the paper. The copyeditor, production editor, and the EIC clearly did not show appropriate respect for an author's moral right to oppose certain kinds of changes to their work.

Jacqueline B

I have been working as a freelance copyeditor for many years and largely edit scholarly manuscripts. Rather than faulting the inadequacies of the copyeditor assigned, I think it’s more constructive for authors to understand the changes in the overall process that have led to the egregious breakdown in quality and basic standards. Practically all the major book and journal publishers, especially those publishing exclusively academic work (which means a smaller profit margin), have now turned over the entire production process (of which copyediting is the first stage)—essentially editorial control over their once esteemed product—to vendors all across the globe. Mostly in Asia, principally India.

Many of the vendors’ staff members have poor to middling English-language skills and are in no position to adequately review scholarly manuscripts, much less communicate appropriate instructions to a freelancer or even evaluate their work. There is also high turnover at the vendors, so sometimes little consistency and a lot of confusion and miscommunication.

Every manuscript Is treated the same way, with no regard for any special needs that might exist. Budgets are based on character count only, rarely level of difficulty, and scheduled accordingly. The vendors generally expect 300 manuscript pages a week for an academic trade title. Copyeditors have thus been reduced to factory workers on an endless assembly line.

The glue that holds this sad excuse of a process together are the countless standardized forms and procedures that the publishers have created. The offshore staff are rarely able to problem-solve or answer basic questions on their own. Everything has to then travel back up the food chain, and it can be days or weeks before you receive a satisfactory response or explanation.

Don’t get me wrong: Some of the offshore vendors are very good, completely competent. But this is increasingly the exception, not the norm. So hence the noticeable decline in quality. The poor-quality copyediting devoid of good judgment is what happens when you are basically paying people the equivalent of the U.S. minimum wage for unskilled labor.

Instead of complaining to your publisher about the work of the copyeditor, ask them more questions upfront about the intended production process for your article or book. Research the assigned vendor if you can. And at the first sign of trouble, make your displeasure known LOUDLY to your publisher or in-house editor. This is the only way your labor of love will get its due.

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