“Should it be it’s or its? There or their?”
Cynthia Murrell of Norfolk is one of those behind-the-scenes volunteers who is so vital to our organization but never seems to get credit. For several years, Cynthia has been working as a copy editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice.
What is a copy editor? She works to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Copy editing is done before both typesetting and proofreading, the latter of which is the last step in the editorial cycle.
Interesting note: Cynthia answered our Help Wanted call for a copy editor for Voice even though she was no longer homeschooling. “Actually, I didn’t realize there had been an ad out for editors. My son had indeed graduated, and I was working on building that paid career thing I’d put off for a decade. In an effort to acquire a copy editing resume credit, I contacted Jeanne and offered my services.
“I chose to approach Voice because homeschooling was the area in which I had the most experience, and I had gained a lot of respect for VaHomeschoolers while educating my son. For several years I was the moderator of Tidewater Teen Homeschoolers, and the VaHomeschoolers website was the first link I sent any new or new-to-Virginia families who contacted us looking for answers. I was first drawn in by the non-religious nature of the group, but kept coming back for the terrific information,” tells Cynthia.
Jenny Meyer, who served as managing editor of Voice in 2012-13 has only praise.
“Cynthia is one of the best copy editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Having her on the Voice staff gave me a wonderful sense of security, because I knew that no errors were going to slip into print on her watch! Copy editing is demanding work, and it requires an eagle eye, persistence, discipline, and very high standards. Cynthia has all those things in droves. On the other hand, copy editing is something that happens quietly, behind the scenes, and you are not supposed to notice it. (If it’s missing, though, you’ll notice.) So very few people realize what a critical role Cynthia plays in making Voice a professional-looking publication. She’s one of the unsung heroes of the Voice staff, and a true professional.”
Cynthia’s original managing editor was Jeanne Faulconer, who writes, “Should it be it’s or its? There or their? Is there a dangling modifier or a pronoun in the nominative case when it should in the objective case? These are the kinds of things Cynthia picks out of pages and pages of copy to make sure that VaHomeschoolers Voice is clear and as correct as possible.
”In addition to her straight grammatical catches, I always appreciated Cynthia’s good questions and comments when she was unsure whether a writer had correct information or was expressing things in the best possible way. These kinds of questions go beyond straight copy editing, and they require judgment and knowledge of homeschooling to pick up on.
”Cynthia was always reliable and consistent when I worked with her. She is one of those people who requires little attention and probably sometimes gets too little thanks — but she always comes through. Working on Voice requires attention to deadlines — we can’t just put out a magazine ‘every once in a while,’ so having a copy editor who stays on track is vital. VaHomeschoolers is fortunate to have Cynthia volunteer for us.”
You may wonder why a former homeschooling parent would volunteer for VaHomeschoolers.
Cynthia explains, “Well, the experience, resume credit, and potential letters of recommendation are the main things. The work also keeps me connected to what is going on in the world of homeschooling, which is still an area of interest for me. And, of course, I’m supporting a terrific organization.
“Though my BFA is in Theatre (and I spent a year in grad school pursuing an MFA in theatrical costume design before I realized that it was taking too much time away from my then-young son), I also have a minor in English. I now write for a website devoted to enterprise search products (very dry), and I have a couple of would-be novels I return to now and then (juicy but daunting).
“However, I realized a few years ago that I actually really enjoy getting wrapped up in finding all those little bitty errors in written works. More even than writing itself. Strange, I know, but I think it is the same impulse that lets me enjoy other things that people consider tedious, like cross stitching and weeding the garden.
“I like repetitive work at that up-close level– improving something sentence by sentence, stitch by stitch, weed by weed, and stepping back to view the result. Then diving back in for more. . . . I could do that all day. I figured that if I can enjoy, and do well, something that other people dread, I should go into that field–hello copy editing! I do credit years of correcting my son’s work for keeping me in practice.”
We need more people like Cynthia Murrell! Do you have a simple skill, something you really enjoy doing? You’d be surprised at how much you can help us out, even by volunteering only an hour here and there. Please email Volunteers@VaHomeschoolers.org for more information. Also please check our Help Wanted section on our website: http://vahomeschoolers.org/volunteer/