Copy-editing Your Garden
Copy-editing your woody shrubs and proofreading your compacted perennials may seem to stretch a metaphor a little far. But Country Life this week has an article on just this subject. It’s the time of year to put on some layers and the wellies and get out there in the mud to prune, hack, trim, split and generally tidy the garden before its publication in the spring.
Can we use the metaphor to distinguish between proofreading and copy-editing? Well, it’s a dangerous game, but here goes!
Sometimes a copy-editor wants to move text about to make the author’s message clearer. This is very heavy editing and the gardening equivalent might be to move a shrub which is not thriving in the shade to a sunnier spot (or vice versa). Or we may split a group of perennials which have become too crowded and give them more space. This is risky and only done with great care and often with the advice or consent of the head gardener or author.
More gentle copy-editing may involve tidying up a sentence which has become too long, perhaps trimming it a little or adding or subtracting a little punctuation. Here the gardening counterpart might be to take out a dead branch of a large shrub or to cut back last year’s growth. Pruning is always tricky in cold weather, however, and you should make sure that you wear thick gloves to ward off any possible attack by thorns or nettles. Authors may be similarly hostile and the art of good copy-editing is to make the author feel that not much has been changed. Remember that he or she might have spent an entire morning puzzling over whether or not to use a comma or a semicolon.
Proofreading is easier. You only change things which are clearly wrong or out of place: a weed could be regarded as a typo, or a bramble as a spelling error or transposed letter.
Of course, this post could become more and more ridiculous and the strain to provide analogies tiresome for me (and you). So I’ll stop. And anyway, I can always blame Country Life!