I am a copy editor, and I do copy editing. Or is that copyediting?
I started gathering and writing up my thoughts for this blog post in Word, and I noticed that both terms are acceptable (no dotted red line underneath the words). But upon transferring the text into this post, that little red line appeared under the one word (or closed form) of copyediting.
Much of the confusion for the right usage appears to stem from the inconsistencies between the noun of copy editor and the verb forms of copyedit and copyediting. Explaining my reasoning will hopefully give me cover from both sides.
It appears more clear-cut to say that copy editor is two words. Grammar Girl has a posting on the Visual Thesaurus site that states while copyeditor isn’t wrong, copy editor is the more popular and preferred option, which is shown by the name of the American Copy Editors Society.
Getting back to copy editing
I would read one style guide that preferred one word, so I started accepting that; then another style guide would point me in the other direction. I have gone back and forth in some of my pages, so with my recent website update, it was time to revisit and make sure I was consistent myself, since this is one of my hot buttons.
First stop: check the dictionary. When I look at my preferred dictionary of Merriam-Webster, it shows the closed form of copyedit. The function of dictionaries is more descriptive (showing how individual words are regularly spelled), rather than being a prescriptive rule book. So this indicates that the word is more commonly seen as one word.
Various style guides state the rules as each prefers.
Okay. So what do the style guides say?
Associated Press: The listing shows copy editing as open (two words). Seems a bit unusual, since newspapers and other publications that use this guide tend to lean in the direction of using less space.
Chicago Manual of Style: In Chapter 7, table 1, one row spells out the details as follows: “For noun + gerund compounds, the noun form is usually open; adjective form hyphenated before a noun.” One example in that row is “copyediting.” (Related note: CMOS also lists copyeditor as one word.)
Guides for online style include Yahoo and Microsoft: From asking around, it doesn’t appear that either of these guides directly addresses the question. (Avoiding controversy perhaps?)
Wikipedia: For those contributors on their site, their help area mentions the term “Basic copyediting – gives helpful advice on copy-editing.” (Um, yeah.)
Gregg Reference Manual: Allows for treating troubling inconsistencies between noun forms and verb forms the same way, using the solid form over the spaced form. (Basic Rule #801b)
So which one wins?
In reviewing information I received regarding SEO for the website, I learned that copy editing is searched for far more often than copyediting. I have worked on books (where Chicago style is used), and I have grown accustomed to the one-word form. However, more of my work is in business and popular culture. So to improve potential search results, I’ll go with the open, two-word form of copy editing for this site.
As I work with you using your style guide, or helping you come up with one, I can be flexible with the “rules” as long as the communication is clear. And you will be the winner.