Thinking Fiction: Making Copyediting Decisions

An American Editor

by Carolyn Haley

In a recent discussion with a colleague about editing fiction, I was asked the following questions:

  • How do you determine if the language level fits the readership?
  • If a phrase is properly worded but there is an alternative phrasing that might be better, how do you determine whether it is better for the target audience?
  • How do you decide how much explanation of events or characters is too much or too little?
  • How do you decide whether an allusion can be left without explanation?

In each case, my answer is, “It depends.”

It depends, primarily, on scope of work and who you’re working for. Secondarily, it depends on contextual variables, such as genre and vocabulary — and yourself.

Scope of work

The keywords in the above questions are how do you determine and how do you decide. In actuality, you might not have the luxury to…

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