Newsletter layout editing responsibilities
January 21, 2005 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I have been hired to layout a newsletter for print and for publication online. There is an editor who compiles the articles, edits for length, and etc. In this situation, who should be responsible for the copy editor duties? I find that it is a pain to finish the layout and then hear back from the editor that there are several spelling, punctuation, and line break mistakes that need to be corrected (which is generally hard to do in DTP software). Is it unreasonable of me to expect that the copy-editing should be done by the editor and not the layout person?
posted by achmorrison to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
A copy editor or proofreader should be hired to do that. It's oftentimes not part of the editor's job to do that, though there is some overlap.
posted by smich at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2005


I agree with smich. This should not be the layout editor's problem.
posted by moooshy at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2005


This wasn't for a paying job, but I was the Editor-in-Chief of my Jaycee chapter newsletter a couple years back. My job was to solicit and compile articles, edit for length, and also edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation and other things. My layout editor did the layout, period. He had nothing to do with copy editing.

When you were hired, were you told that copy editing was going to be one of your duties? If not, I don't think it's unreasonable of you to expect the editor to do the copy editing.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2005


They are on crack to be having you double as copy editor. Seriously. Never heard of such a thing. Even at my high school newspaper all editorial was kept separate from the layout folks.

That's not to say that you won't have to crash late changes—but what those changes might be in particular is their problem, not yours.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2005


Is the editor implying that you should have found and fixed the errors before designing (i.e., that copy editing is part of your job)? Or is she simply communicating to you the editing/proofing corrections she has found after looking at a first galley -- in other words, is she just giving you changes/corrections she found in the course of doing her job?

If it's the first and you were never told that copy editing was part of your duties, she's out of line. But if it's the second, I don't think that's unusual at all -- speaking as an editor/proofreader with 10+ years experience, there are always proofreading and design corrections (line breaks, etc.) to be made after the initial layout. It's a copy editor's (or proofreader's) job to find them, correct them on hard copies, and then return them to to the designer. It then becomes the designer's job to make the changes as indicated by the editor, then turn over a new galley and continue through the process till the editor signs off.

In other words, making changes to the first version of a layout is pretty standard stuff -- the designer just shouldn't be responsible for actually finding and determining those editorial changes. (I do know some designers who also happen to be good copy editors and proofreaders -- but that's a bonus that they bring to the job, not a requirement.)
posted by scody at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2005


I typeset books. Looong books. And I find that most typesetters have a far better eye for mistakes in typography, spelling and grammar than the average copy editor. Also, since I typeset on a big giant flat-screen monitor, I am looking at 9 point type at somewhere around 30-50 point - so it becomes much easier for me to spot these mistakes than it is for a copy editor with perfect vision working from hardcopy.

However, as SisterHavana notes, if it wasn't part of the original job description, then you should be paid more to take on these additional duties - if you are willing and able to become editor of what you are typesetting.

Typesetters, binders and printers are, at the end of the process, the most responsible for the physical object that gets delivered to the client - not the writer, not the editor, not the publisher. So if you are comfortable with someone else editing something you typeset, I say go for it and relax.

I myself cannot allow someone else to be responsible for these things, which is why I press-check everything up the ass and am generally a very, very demanding person to work with or for. But I am usually happy with the final product - not always overjoyed, but satisfied.
posted by luriete at 2:37 PM on January 21, 2005


And I find that most typesetters have a far better eye for mistakes in typography, spelling and grammar than the average copy editor.

Typesetting yes, spelling and grammar no. Unless you're really contrasting top-notch typesetters with lousy copy editors, which ain't cricket.
posted by languagehat at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2005


It's a copy editor's job. It should be done by a real one, not the editor or the designer. Skimping on a real copy editor is wrong.

Also, what languagehat said.
posted by dame at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2005


To clarify, I was never told to do any copy editing.

I have no problem correcting mistake that were not initially caught. Or making layout adjustments that the editor deems necessary.

What I am sensing is that the editor thinks I should know to correct formatting errors (titles or citations) and that I will notice typos and grammar mistakes. I tend to think that as the layout person, I shouldn't even have to read the text of the article.

I know they shouldn't skimp on these things, but part of the reason they asked me to do the layout was to save money. (This is not my full time job, or even my field obviously.)
posted by achmorrison at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2005


Typesetting yes, spelling and grammar no. Unless you're really contrasting top-notch typesetters with lousy copy editors, which ain't cricket.

The finest book designer/typographer I know also happens to be the best designer-who-can-proofread-too, and yet I can say with absolute confidence that I still know more about grammar and spelling than he does. And not only would I say it -- so would he. It's my job and he respects it, just as I respect his.

Furthermore, strong typography/design skills don't necessarily translate into strong verbal skills. I work with another exceptionally fine designer, but half the time she can't write a direct sentence with subject-verb agreement or without at least one spelling error. I say this not as a snark on her at all -- as I said, she's a fantastic desgner with great aesthetic sense, but her extraordinary knowledge of typography means exactly zero when it comes to spelling.

On preview: It's a copy editor's job. It should be done by a real one, not the editor

Depends where you work. I perform substantive editing, copy editing, and proofreading in the museum publications department where I work, as do my colleagues (sometimes we work together on projects and divvy up some duties, occasionally we hire freelancers if we've got the money; many times, however, we edit/proof our own projects from start to finish). It would be nice if we had the budget and staff to separate all those jobs out but we don't. In my experience, I've found that unless you're working at either an actual publisher or a firm with a fairly large publications department, it's not particularly uncommon for editors to double up on duties.
posted by scody at 3:22 PM on January 21, 2005


Sorry to double-post, but I just saw this:

What I am sensing is that the editor thinks I should know to correct formatting errors (titles or citations) and that I will notice typos and grammar mistakes.

Right: you shouldn't have to correct formatting errors, typos, etc. if they come to you in the setting copy that way. Basically, what you get is what you set.

Having said that, there may actually be a compatibility issue -- is the editor sending the copy to you electronically in Word format (without a hard copy backup for you to refer to), which you're then converting? Because formatting can sometimes go missing during that processing. It wouldn't explain the typos, but it might explain problems with title formatting, etc. (when our designers convert from Word to Quark, for example, certain formats and diacritical marks drop right out).

Given that you're just "sensing" that she thinks otherwise, however, you'll just have to speak with her directly about it. She may indeed believe (erroneously) that it's your job, in which case you'll need to hash out exactly what your duties really are. However, she may not think it's your job, but just happens to communicate the changes to you in a way that seems impatient, brusque, etc.
posted by scody at 3:41 PM on January 21, 2005


Depends where you work.

True. I set the digital type for the small press I work for, although I also jump in to do read-throughs and copyediting, since the more eyes we put on it, the more mistakes we catch. But we're still sending it out to a professional proofreader, after we've read through it 5 to 6 times already.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:42 PM on January 21, 2005


What I am sensing is that the editor thinks I should know to correct formatting errors (titles or citations) and that I will notice typos and grammar mistakes. I tend to think that as the layout person, I shouldn't even have to read the text of the article.

What I'm sensing is that there are two discussions here: proper roles, and (mostly neglected) whether you should be spending time doing work that you didn't expect to. I think you should focus on the second matter, not the first (since you don't object, inherently, to copy editing).

So: are you paid by the hour? If you are, is the organization willing to pay for the number of hours that you think it will take you to do both types of work? Do you have that much time?

If you're not paid by the hour, how much more work is involved in the extra copy-editing? How much does that impact your (calculated) pay per hour? (If you were getting, say, $100 for four hours work per week, and copy editing would make that eight hours, are you willing to work for $12.50 per hour?) If you don't like the effective rate of pay per hour, are you willing to tell the organization that they need to increase your pay?

In short, it seems to me that a discussion with your editor would be more fruitful if you focused on workload rather than the theory of who should do what.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:38 PM on January 21, 2005


We aren't told how large this publication is, but traditionally a sub-editor is the faceless entity that corrects copy and turns jumbles of words into grammatically correct works of art. The editor on the other hand, who certainly has the right to make copy changes, is primarily concerned with issues of tone, style, and bias.

I see the word copy editor here a lot, and perhaps this is an Americanism for sub-editor, though it is a term I am more familiar of seeing in the advertising industry rather than in newspapers.

As I said, we don't know how large the publication is, or I missed it if it was relayed, and since on smaller publications most of the rules are thrown out of the window.. :)
posted by wackybrit at 5:01 PM on January 21, 2005


It's just a bad idea for the layout person to do the copy editing, even if they are good at it. Having been looking at the content for hours can make a person miss things that another reader would catch. Same reason the copy work should not be done by an author or the editor that gave you the piece.
posted by spaghetti at 5:06 PM on January 21, 2005


wackybrit, see Testy Copy Editors, which is mostly newspaper copy editors. They even have a member whose nic is "tokenbrit". Another frequent poster is in Australia.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:04 PM on January 21, 2005


Wackybrit: You seem to be confusing copy editor (known in the UK as a sub-editor) with copywriter, one who writes (and sometimes edits?) copy for ads.
posted by dame at 9:30 PM on January 21, 2005


Westcoaster, you really nailed it correctly: I am being paid a flat fee and am trying to figure out if I'm putting in too many hours for the pay. Your suggestion of focusing on workload is a good idea.

The newsletter is roughly 10-12 articles, 1-2 pages/article, random announcements, TOC, a directory, headers and title. It usually comes in under 30 pages. It has a scientific readership and often equations, graphs, charts and journal citations are in articles which present enough layout challenges as it is. So it would be nice if when I am sent the article (in Word format) I could just set the surrounding text as it comes.

Thanks for all the feedback. I will check to see if the issues are incompatibilities (thanks for the suggestion, scody).
posted by achmorrison at 9:48 PM on January 21, 2005


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