I’m working with a group of fellow Birkbeck students on our final assignment before graduation. Our task is to put together and publish a journal: 46 Square, an anthology of non-fiction pieces.
We are currently at the copy editing stage.
Copy editing? Or, is it copy-editing? Or even, copyediting?
Here are some of the other questions I’ve been facing:
- Is he a man servant, man-servant, or manservant?
- Do we singalong, sing-a-long, or sing-along?
- When is it night time, night-time, or nighttime?
- And do we say his eyes shone, or his eyes shined?
One thing I’ve learnt during this process is that spelling is fluid (despite what we were taught at school) and varies with both geography and the passage of time.
For example, night-time appears in my version of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (ninth edition, published 1995). But nighttime seems to be an accepted spelling in the USA. And some pundits recommend sticking to night time in order to avoid the dilemma altogether.
Another thing I’ve learnt is this: I could never be a professional copy editor. I read too quickly and am more concerned with the sense of the piece than the intricacies of punctuation and spelling. Of course, all writers are, to some extent, copy editors of their own work. But I have a new respect for those who do it for a living.
In case you’re wondering, these are the final spellings I settled on.
- and I allowed the phrase ‘his eyes shined’ because it seems to be an acceptable variant, although every instinct in my body wanted to change it to ‘his eyes shone’.
And copy-editing? The consensus appears to be as follows:
noun: copy editor
verb: to copy-edit
Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Your views are, as always, welcome.