Copyediting and Editing and Becoming a Part of the Publishing World

Almost two months ago one of the curators at work said to me, “Rumor has it you like copyediting.”

“Yes, I do!” I said, a little more emphatically than she probably expected. She asked me if I would help copyedit the catalog (for the upcoming exhibition, Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism) but they were on a tight deadline. I agreed and we waited for the proof to come in. It arrived around noon on a Friday so we had the weekend to work on it.

I woke up early Saturday morning and went to La Boulange because they have coffee and food and tables. And I don’t have a desk.

Designing Home, La Boulange

I read as much as I could but it was loud, as cafes tend to be, so I went home. I set up my little tv tray on my bed and continued reading.

Designing Home, Jews and Midcentury Modernism

My cat Hermione did not like how much attention I was paying to the paper so he sat on it. I would gently push him off and he climbed back on twice more. And turned his back on me so that his butt was facing me. Typical cat.

This was the moment my le pen died. It served me well. RIP.

Designing Home, lepen

On Monday I holed up in a hidden space at the Museum and transcribed all the notes onto a master copy. We sent off the notes that evening to get a new set the next day.

Claire, another curator, and I took over the conference room and reread everything. Claire handled the end notes (which are a lot trickier then you could imagine. They’re like a labyrinth of numbers and words that are extremely important but only a handful of people read them. But they have to be precise for those extremely dedicated readers). Daryl read all the essays. The other curator reread all the essays as well. And then I transcribed the notes onto another master copy.

Note the Chicago Manual of Style.


Here I am preparing to transcribe three edits into one version.


The beginning of what most would consider a laborious hell. For me? It was calming. I enjoy creating order and organizing copy and edits. I highlight each edit on the old copies so I know which ones are integrated. It may seem like an unnecessary step but my process allows me to know exactly what I have added and dismissed. (In this case, the final say was the curators’ of course, because it was their project.)

At some point my name was added to the acknowledgements. Being a book nerd, it was very exciting to see my name printed in a catalog for “generously volunteering [my] time and skills to reviewing the catalog and exhibition texts.”

When the catalogs came they were more beautiful than I imagined.


Since I work with the press a lot, I manage all of the department’s copies and tend to keep them locked away.


Kathy caught Daryl taking one and photographed him, “Busted!” as she texted me. Of course, he’s the director of marketing and he said, “that photo’s going to be on your blog, isn’t it?”


When I started at the Museum I initially did only light copyediting until Daryl realized I was good at it. He called me Eagle Eye. I never realized I was talented; I thought everyone read like I did. Soon someone in another department emailed me and said, “a little birdy told me you have an eagle eye.” So I began copyediting for other people. Now every print project routes through our department and my desk. I clean up the copy and Daryl oversees the final round before it goes to press. The Museum needed a Style Guide and I helped create it; I am now the keeper and manage the annual review.

I have learned a lot about editing from Daryl; he introduced me to copyediting marks and taught me that the routing process is almost as important as the editing itself. He urged me to take a copyediting course. Most importantly, he’s taught me about the “big picture.” The final review should only include editing titles, subtitles, and dates.

Initially I used a purple pen, then I graduated myself to pink. Only last year did I start using a red pen. And when I did I felt it was an accomplishment. It felt presumptuous to begin editing with a red pen.

I created my first style sheet while working on the Designing Home exhibition catalog. I worked with an extremely tight deadline and multiple people. There were conversations about using italics vs quotation marks, apostrophes after possessive words ending in s, and the merits of a good red pen. Seeing all those numerous tabloid size papers turned into an actual book is amazing. To see my edits in a book is incredible. And while this is something people do all the time, it’s different for me because it feels as though I am truly a part of the publishing world. I realize I played a small part, but it was a part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s