The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A guide for book publishing and corporate communications

by Amy Einsohn (University of California Press, 2000): 560pp (hbk), £18.60 (3rd ed.) ISBN 978 0520218352.

Reviewed by Margaret Corbett

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The book has three parts – the ABC of copyediting, editorial style, language editing – and includes 15 exercises with answers.

The material deals with American English, not British English, which might make it difficult for an inexperienced copyeditor. On the other hand, probably most people start by proofreading, so this should not be very troublesome, provided the reader stays alert.

Emphasis on journal articles

A very interesting and detailed chapter on punctuation deals with the subject from the point of view of grammar rather than by taking each item of punctuation in turn. Of course, there are differences between American and British punctuation rules.

Part III, Language editing, is largely grammar, and must contain quite a lot of formal material with which I am not really familiar. A short chapter on type coding includes 'design specs' and some other material that I did not previously know. The emphasis is on journal articles rather then books.

Detailed, comprehensive and sound

On the whole, I found the advice detailed, comprehensive and sound. One criticism: I disagree that foetus is a correct British spelling, as the correct derivation and spelling of this word have been exhaustively discussed while I have been editing; the choice of fetus seems compelling.

The tone is pleasant, chatty and enjoyable. Inevitably the book is becoming dated, though this shows mainly where the copyeditor might have recourse to the web for information, rather than to the bookshelf.

This review refers to the first edition of 2000, which is out of print. The 3rd revised edition, published in September 2011, is available for £18.60.

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