Editing Previously Published Material

Previously Published Material

Now and then, I am asked to edit a collection of previously published material, such as The Collected Papers of Joe Bob Clampett. Such a volume might consist of journal articles, talks and presentations, book chapters, working papers, and so on. Presumably, all the original publications have granted permission to reprint the material by the time it comes to me for copyediting, so I don’t have to fret about permissions (I work directly for publishers, who handle this sort of thing). What I have to worry about is what I can and can’t change. Generally, the client will provide guidelines. Here are examples of the kinds of things I can change in a collection of previously published works:

  • Serial comma may be imposed
  • Conform to U.S. punctuation
  • Conform to U.S. spelling
  • Consistency in how numbers are handled (whether spelled out or digits)
  • Footnotes versus endnotes
  • In-text citations may be made consistent (i.e., “Barlow and James, 1995”)
  • Dates in the same style (American or British), consistent throughout
  • Some capitalization issues may be made consistent
  • Major, obvious misspellings and errors can be fixed.
  • Change the word “paper” or “article” to “chapter” or “essay.”
  • Update any references marked as “forthcoming” with publication info (usually findable online, or just remove the word forthcoming if the year is provided).
  • Renumber elements by chapter: Table 1 to Table 3.1 and Figure 4 to Figure 6.4, as necessary.
  • Certain terms may be consistent across the book, for example, Basle or Basel Accords.
  • Notes and Refs might be made consistent; sometimes I am instructed to make it consistent within a single chapter, but not across the whole book (much easier to do).

Changes must be kept light in editing previously published and copyrighted material. This is a much lighter edit than most jobs, but requires a level of close attention to technical details.

I enjoy the opportunity to edit a collection of papers! It can be interested to read how a scholar’s work has evolved over decades and how their contributions have shaped their field.

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