Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mechanics—The Details Part 6

The mechanics of copyediting go far beyond the obvious items of spelling, capitalization and punctuation. According to Amy Einsohn in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, the mechanics also encompasses the following:

treatment of numbers and numerals
treatment of quotations
use of abbreviations and acronyms
use of italics and bold type
treatment of special elements (headings, lists, tables, charts, and graphs)
format of footnotes or endnotes and other documentation.

An editor must ensure consistency in all these elements. Perhaps now my analogy as to how a good copyeditor is like a good mechanic becomes clearer. Let’s look at a few brief example.

I counted twenty chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per the Chicago Manual)
I counted 20 chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per AP)

Chicago’s general rule is to spell out numbers between zero and one hundred. I say “general” because there are specific rules for specific uses (remember, nothing is ever easy). The AP Stylebook’s general rule is to spell out the numbers between zero and ten, and 10 and above get a number.

The first person who catches my deliberate error in today’s post will receive my article “Crafting Memorable Characters” (pdf format). Post your answer in Comments. Happy editing!

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 


  1. There are quotation marks at the beginning of the list, but not at the end. So either there are quotation marks missing at the end or the quotations at the top of the list shouldn't be there.

  2. Congrats, Sarah. You found my mistake. There should be quotation marks at the end because this was a direct quote from the book. You'll receive my workshop pdf "Creating Memorable Characters" via email.