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Key Copyediting Terms


In the world of publishing, sans serif is not a holiday resort, curly quotes aren't a cheese snack, and a bastard title is really nothing to be ashamed about. Likewise, bullets, daggers, and back slashes are rarely fatal. And dead copy is often livelier than it sounds.

Copyediting (or copy editing) is the work that an editor does to improve a manuscript and prepare it for publication. Here we reveal some of the jargon of the copyediting trade: 140 terms and abbreviations used by editors in their efforts to produce copy that is clear, correct, consistent, and concise.

When do writers need to understand these terms? Only when their work has been accepted by a book or magazine publisher and they have the privilege of working with a conscientious copy editor. Let's hope that time is soon.

  • Copyediting Terms: AA - Folio (below)
  • Copyediting Terms: Font - X-Ref

Short for author's alteration, indicating changes made by an author on a set of proofs.

A synopsis of a paper that often appears before the main text.

White space on a printed page.

all cap

Name of the & character.

angle brackets
Name of the < and > characters.

AP style
Editing conventions recommended by The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (usually called the AP Stylebook)--the primary style and usage guide for most newspapers and magazines.

APA style
Editing conventions recommended by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association--the primary style guide used for academic writing in the social and behavioral sciences.

Short for apostrophe.

Illustration(s) (maps, graphs, photographs, drawings) in a text.

at sign
Name of the @ character.

back matter
Material at the end of a manuscript or book: appendixes, endnotes, glossary, bibliography, index.

Name of the \ character.

bastard title
Usually the first page of a book, which includes only the main title, not the subtitle or author's name. Also called false title.

List of sources cited or consulted, usually part of the back matter.

block quote
Quoted passage set off from the running text without quotation marks. Also called extract.

Text that is reused without changes.

Short for boldface.

Type that is framed in a border to give it prominence.

Name of the { and } characters. Known as curly brackets in the UK.

Name of the [ and ] characters. Also called square brackets.

Circle or box on a hard copy in which an editor writes a comment.

Dot used as a marker in a vertical list. May be round or square, closed or filled.

bulleted list
Vertical list (also called a set-off list) in which each item is introduced by a bullet.

Note on hard copy to indicate the placement of art or to signal a cross-reference.


Title of an illustration; may also refer to all text that accompanies a piece of art.

CBE style
Editing conventions recommended by the Council of Biology Editors in Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers--the primary style guide used for academic writing in the sciences.

An individual letter, number, or symbol.

Chicago style
Editing conventions recommended by The Chicago Manual of Style--the style guide used by some social science publications and most historical journals.

An entry directing the reader to other texts that serve as proof or support.

clean up
Incorporating an author's responses to the copyediting into the final hard copy or computer file.

close paren
Name of the ) character.

content edit
An edit of a manuscript that checks for organization, continuity, and content.

Manuscript that is to be typeset.

copy block
A sequence of lines of type treated as a single element in design or page makeup.

copy edit
To prepare a document for presentation in a printed form. The term copy edit is used to describe the kind of editing in which errors of style, usage, and punctuation are corrected. In magazine and book publishing, the spelling copyedit is often used.

copy editor
A person who edits a manuscript. In magazine and book publishing, the spelling “copyeditor” is often used.

Calculating how much space a text will need when typeset, or how much copy will be needed to fill a space.

Legal protection of an author's exclusive right to his or her work for a specified period of time.

Changes made in a manuscript by the author or editor.

An error, usually a printer's error, discovered too late to be corrected in a document and included in a separately printed list. Also called addendum.

credit line
A statement that identifies the source of an illustration.

A phrase that mentions another part of the same document. Also called x-ref.

curly quotes
Name of the “ and ” characters (in contrast to the " character). Also called smart quotes.

Name for the † character.

dead copy
Manuscript that has been typeset and proofread.

An ornamental character, such as a smiley face.

display type
Large type used for chapter titles and headings.

double dagger
Name for the ‡ character.

Name of the . . . character.

em dash
Name of the — character. In manuscripts, the em dash is often typed as -- (two hyphens). See also: dash.

en dash
Name of the – character.

Reference or explanatory note at the end of a chapter or book.

The style of type.

An illustration printed as part of the running text.

first ref
The first appearance in a text of a proper name or of a source in reference notes.

To call someone's attention to something (sometimes with a label attached to hard copy).

Positioned at the margin (either left or right) of the text page.

flush and hang
A way of setting indexes and lists: the first line of each entry is set flush left, and the remaining lines are indented.

Short for footnote.

Page number in a typeset text. A drop folio is a page number at the bottom of a page. A blind folio has no page number though the page is counted in the numbering of the text.

Concluded on page two

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