140 Key Copyediting Terms and What They Mean

From All Cap and Bastard Title to Widow and X-Ref

Black and white image of a copyeditor working in profile.

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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 backslashes are rarely fatal. Even dead copy is often livelier than it sounds.

What Is Copyediting?

Copyediting (or copy editing) is the work that a writer or 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 we need to understand these terms? Usually, only when our work has been accepted by a book or magazine publisher and we have the privilege of working with a conscientious copy editor. Let's hope that time is soon.

Glossary of Editing Terms

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

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

air. White space on a printed page.

all cap. Text in all capital letters.

ampersandName of the & character.

angle brackets. Name of the < and > characters.

AP styleEditing 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.

apos. Short for apostrophe.

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

at sign. Name of the @ character.

back matter. The material at the end of a manuscript or book, which may include an appendix, endnotes, glossary, bibliography, and index.

backslash. 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.

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

blockquoteQuoted passage set off from the running text without quotation marks. Also called extract.

boilerplate. Text that is reused without changes.

bold. Short for boldface.

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

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

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

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

bulletDot 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.

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

caps. Short for capital letters.

caption. 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.

character. 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.

citationAn 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.

copy. A manuscript that is to be typeset.

copy block. A sequence of lines of type that is 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.

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

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

corrections. Changes made in a manuscript by the author or editor.

corrigendum. 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.

cross-reference. 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.

dagger. Name for the † character.

dead copy. A manuscript that has been typeset and proofread.

dingbat. An ornamental character, such as a smiley face.

display type. Large type used for chapter titles and headings.

double dagger. Name for the ‡ character.

ellipsisName of the . . . character.

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

en dash. Name of the – character.

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

face. The style of type.

figure. 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.

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

flush. 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.

FN. Short for footnote.

folio. 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.

font. Characters in a given style and size of a typeface.

footer. One or two lines of copy, such as a chapter title, set at the bottom of each page of a document. Also called running foot.

front matter. The material at the front of a manuscript or book, including the title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents, list of illustrations, preface, acknowledgments, and introduction. Also called prelims.

full caps. Text in all capital letters.

full measure. The width of a text page.

galley. The first printed version (proof) of a document.

glance. A brief listing of information that accompanies a story.

GPO style. Editing conventions recommended by the "United States Government Printing Office Style Manual," the style guide used by U.S. government agencies.

gutter. The space or margin between facing pages.

hard copy. Any text that appears on paper.

head. A title that indicates the start of a section of a document or chapter.

headline style. Capitalization style for heads or titles of works in which all words are capitalized except articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions. Sometimes, prepositions longer than four or five letters are also printed in upper case. Also called UC/lc or title case.

headnote. Short explanatory material following a chapter or section title and preceding the running text.

house style. The editorial style preferences of a publisher.

index. Alphabetized table of contents, usually at the end of a book.

ital. Short for italics.

justifyType set so that the margin is aligned. Book pages are generally justified left and right. Other documents are often justified only at the left (called ragged right).

kerning. Adjusting the space between characters.

kill. To order deletion of text or an illustration.

layout. A sketch indicating the arrangement of pictures and copy on a page. Also called dummy.

leadJournalists' term for the first few sentences or the first paragraph of a story. Also spelled lede.

leading. The spacing of lines in a text.

legend. An explanation that accompanies an illustration. Also called caption.

letterspacing. The space between the letters of a word.

line editing. Editing copy for clarity, logic, and flow.

linespacing. The space between lines of text. Also called leading.

lowercaseSmall letters (in contrast to capitals, or uppercase).

manuscript. The original text of an author’s work submitted for publication.

mark up. To put composition or editing instructions on copy or layouts.

MLA style. Editing conventions recommended by the Modern Language Association in the "MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing," the primary style guide used for academic writing in languages and literature.

MS. Short for manuscript.

monograph. A document written by specialists for other specialists.

N. Short for number.

numbered list. Vertical list in which each item is introduced by a numeral.

orphan. The first line of a paragraph that appears alone at the bottom of a page. Compare to widow.

page proof. Printed version (proof) of a document in page form. Also called pages.

pass. Read-through of a manuscript by a copyeditor.

PE. Short for printer's error.

pica. A printer's unit of measure.

plate. A page of illustrations.

point. A typesetting unit of measure used to indicate font sizes.

proof. A trial sheet of printed material made to be checked and corrected.

proofreadA form of editing in which errors of usage, punctuation, and spelling are corrected.

query. An editor's question.

ragged right. Text aligned at the left margin but not the right.

redline. On-screen or hard-copy version of a manuscript that indicates which text has been added, deleted, or edited since the previous version.

reproduction proof. A high-quality proof for final review before printing.

research editor. The person responsible for verifying the facts in a story before it is printed. Also called fact-checker.

rough. A preliminary page layout, not in finished form.

rule. A vertical or horizontal line on a page.

running head. One or two lines of copy, such as a chapter title, set at the top of each page of a document. Also called header.

sans serif. A typeface that does not have a serif (crossline) decorating the main strokes of the characters.

sentence style. Capitalization style for heads and titles in which all words are in lowercase except those that would be capitalized in a sentence. Also called initial cap only.

serial comma. Comma preceding and or or in a list of items (one, two, and three). Also called Oxford comma.

serif. A decorative line crossing the main strokes of a letter in some type styles such as Times Roman.

short title. Abbreviated title of a document used in a note or citation after the full title has been given on its first appearance.

sidebar. A short article or news story that complements or amplifies a major article or story.

signposting. Cross-references to topics previously discussed in a document.

sink. Distance from the top of a printed page to an element on that page.

slashName of the / character. Also called forward slashstroke, or virgule.

specs. Specifications indicating typeface, point size, spacing, margins, etc.

stet. Latin for "let it stand." Indicates that text marked for deletion should be restored.

style sheet. Form filled in by a copy editor as a record of editorial decisions applied to a manuscript.

subhead. A small headline in the body of a text.

T of C. Short for Table of Contents. Also called TOC.

TK. Short for to come. Refers to material not yet in place.

trade books. Books meant for general readers, as distinguished from books intended for professionals or scholars.

trim. To reduce the length of a story. Also called boil.

trim size. Dimensions of a page of a book.

typoShort for typographical error. A misprint.

UC. Short for uppercase (capital letters).

UC/lc. Short for uppercase and lowercase. Indicates that text is to be capitalized according to headline style.

unnumbered list. Vertical list in which items are not marked by either numbers or bullets.

uppercase. Capital letters.

widow. The last line of a paragraph that appears alone at the top of a page. Sometimes also refers to an orphan.

x-ref. Short for cross-reference.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "140 Key Copyediting Terms and What They Mean." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/key-copyediting-terms-1692372. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). 140 Key Copyediting Terms and What They Mean. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/key-copyediting-terms-1692372 Nordquist, Richard. "140 Key Copyediting Terms and What They Mean." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/key-copyediting-terms-1692372 (accessed June 10, 2023).