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Hard-Copy Editing Versus Electronic Editing

By March 4, 2021No Comments

What is Hard-Copy Editing? What is Electronic Editing?

People have asked me what I mean by hard-copy editing or electronic editing, so clear explanations are in order.

In the days before the internet, all line editing, also called copy editing, was performed by hand on printed copies of a manuscript. Today we call printed manuscripts “hard copies,” to differentiate them from electronic copies—digital files. When we edit electronic files, it’s called electronic editing, which refers to the product that we edit; that is, we edit the electronic files.

Hard-copy editing, then, is the old-fashioned way of editing. We editors usually use a red pen and use predetermined proof marks to show the author what needs to be capitalized, italicized, lowercased, spelled correctly, deleted, or changed, added, or whatever else is needed. When I edit hard copy I also include a sheet that explains every proof mark on the manuscript, because proof marks differ among editors. For example, when I add a period in hard copy I make an X surrounded by a circle. Other editors may use a period surrounded by a circle, but I learned it my way and believe an X is clearer than just a pinpoint period in handwriting.

With hard-copy editing the author of the manuscript must get a printed copy to the editor. Delivery can be handled by normal delivery services or perhaps by hand if the editor lives nearby and allows visitors. I prefer for manuscripts to be delivered to my mailbox or door by delivery services, but if an author wants to hand-deliver a manuscript, we can make an appointment for the handoff. I also offer an added service. Clients who want hard-copy editing can also email the Microsoft Word file to me, and I will print it out using my time, paper, and printing ink. This method saves the author some time, but it does come with a price per page.

Hard-copy editing is simply a method of working; it doesn’t change from any other form of copy editing. What it does do, however, is make the work a little easier for the editor in some ways and a little harder for the author in some ways. It is easier on the editor because we don’t have to sit at our computers to work and can work at any desk or even a kitchen table, if we want. It is harder on the author because after receiving the edited hard copy, the author must follow all the handwritten proof marks on the manuscript and make the changes to the electronic file. In contrast, when we edit an electronic file, we make the changes for the author. Most editors use Track Changes when we edit electronic files, so authors can see each change and accept or reject it.

Authors should maintain control of their manuscripts, and all my editing methods leave the final decisions up to the author, with the exception of when the client is a publishing company, not the author of the works.

Although I like working in hard copy and keep my pricing for hard-copy editing lower than for my other methods, I offer three methods of working with clients.

  • Hard-copy editing through Zebra Communications in done to the printed manuscript and covers careful line editing (copy editing) to correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and noncompliance with Chicago style, the style of punctuation, capitalization, and other details that book publishers follow. In addition to the line edit, hard-copy editing includes a written report/evaluation that explains the proof marks used on the printed copy, addresses all the elements that need work, and makes further comments and recommendations. Hard-copy editing, then, is line editing plus developmental editing.
  • Electronic editing is done to a Microsoft Word file and covers careful line editing (copy editing) to correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and noncompliance with Chicago style, the style of punctuation, capitalization, and other details that book publishers follow.
  • Hybrid editing combines the best of both worlds. It is done to a Microsoft Word file and covers careful line editing (copy editing) to correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and noncompliance with Chicago style, the style of punctuation, capitalization, and other details that book publishers follow. In addition to the line edit, hybrid editing includes an electronic report/evaluation that explains the changes to the manuscript, addresses all the elements that need work, and makes further comments and recommendations. Hybrid editing, like hard-copy editing, is line editing plus developmental editing.

These explanations cover my own methods of working and what you get for your money, but other editors may differ in what they offer or deliver. Before you commit to an editor, be sure to check with each potential editor to make sure you know what you will be getting for your money.

For more details, including pricing for each method of working, go to www.ZebraEditor.com.

Bobbie Christmas

Bobbie Christmas

Editor Bobbie Christmas is your book doctor. She can also be your mentor, ghostwriter, copywriter, and writing and publishing consultant. After spending decades writing and editing for a living, Bobbie became a much-sought-after seminar and workshop leader. She began Zebra Communications in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia, to provide professional editing services to publishers and to writers like you.

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