Freelance copy editors and house style guides

I’d like a little advice, please. I’ve never freelanced, so I’m a bit in the dark about what freelance copy editors and their clients can expect of each other.

I work for an organisation that publishes lots of stuff, and there are two of us who do all the copy editing and proofreading. It can get a bit busy – especially when one of us is on holiday. So we’re thinking about putting together a smallish group of freelancers who could do pieces of copy editing here and there.

But we have our own house style guide. And while it may be fair to expect an experienced freelancer to have passing knowledge of guides such as AP or Chicago (or at least to be able to get into them pretty quickly), obviously nobody is going to know anything about ours at first.

So: I’m wondering whether it’s standard to expect a freelance copy editor to pick up one’s own style guide without missing a beat, treating it as just another part of the brief. Any tips for this sort of situation?

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  • pauldanon  On August 15, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Yes it is. If you can’t write or edit to style, you’re not a professional.

  • Stan  On August 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Colleen Barry’s presentation at ACES last year might be of use or interest: “How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days” (PDF).

  • Stan  On August 15, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    (And by last year I mean this year.)

  • Tom  On August 17, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Ashton Editorial (Tom Ashton)  On September 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    In my experience (educational publishing) they either give you a guide or ask you to create your own style guide so the title is at least consistent internally. Generally I’d always prefer to be given a guide.

  • Tom Slaiter  On December 5, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Usually you’re given a guide, but I like your question. Thanks for the post 🙂

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