It used to be easy to pick a type of apple. We didn’t have as many choices as we do today. I only remember four from my childhood. Do you recognize these three?
If you couldn’t remember their names, could you at least match them to these tags: Red Delicious, McIntosh, and Granny Smith?
Not too hard, right? So let’s make it a little more challenging. Can you identify the following?
If I give you their names, can you match them up? Gala, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Jonagold, and Fuji.
If you’re a pomologist, or even just an apple lover, you might have identified them all, but most of us haven’t a clue. Even most grocery clerks can’t tell the difference even though the fruit may roll across their conveyor belts on a regular basis. That’s why stores put those little tags on fruit.
Names aside, can you tell which will work best for your “audience” and your purpose? Which would you serve to someone who likes their apples crisp and sweet? To one who likes an apple to be tart? Which are best eaten raw? Which are best for baking?
Copy editors, like pomologists, have a specialty; it’s language. Good copy editors not only can put a name to constructions like dangling modifiers and parallel structures, they can tell which forms and which words are best for your topic, your genre, and your intended audience. Copy editors know when you want “affect,” instead of “effect.” They know that a business document should be more concise than a memoir would likely be. (Dangling modifiers, by the way, are those rotten apples in the barrel; just throw them out so they don’t spoil the rest.)
What do you think of this comparison? Can you see how a copy editor might help you with your writing, whether fiction or nonfiction?
Lisa is a developmental editor and a copy editor, as well as being a writer herself. She loves helping writers bring their books into the hands, heads, and hearts of readers.