Don’t Pass on the Second Pass

glasses-on-a-bookMost professional editors make at least two passes through any document they’re reviewing.

In most cases, the first pass consists of slowly, carefully scrubbing the text to enhance readability and to ensure correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style.

The second pass is usually done at a “reader’s pace” rather than an “editor’s pace,” and it consists of catching any snafus, typos, or awkwardnesses that were missed — or introduced — during the first pass.

Copyeditors skip the second pass at their own peril. Recently, for example, I discovered all the following typos during my second pass through a document.

  • the spore place in my armpit [read: the sore place]
  • They boy laughed delightedly. [read: the boy]
  • If I had been told him about our courtship . . . [read: If I had told him . . .]
  • In a careful and discrete way . . . [read: a careful and discreet way]
  • You were brave girl. Well done. [read: You were brave, girl.]
  • Seeing the dark visage portrayed on the canvass . . . [read: on the canvas]
  • Drums beat, bells peeled, and men hurried to the green. [read: bells pealed]

Had I not performed the copyeditor’s customary second pass and caught these typos, my client would have been justified in gently (or not-so-gently) declining to use my services in the future.
This post was originally published in 2009 and was written by Sam Enslen, who runs Dragonfly Editorial.


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