Angie Baxter, copy-editor/proofreader

“Angie is a brilliant proofreader.  Her immense talent is matched only by her dedication.  She does not miss a beat.”   
John Baird - Chair, New Writers UK

Welcome to Angie Baxter, a freelance copy-editor and proofreader.

Tell us about yourself?

I was born in Dublin but moved to the UK in 1978.

How did you get into the world of publishing?

Quite by accident! A friend – an author and editor who had considerable experience with some of the big publishing houses – set up her own publishing company and asked me to help on the admin side. One day, she asked me to do some proofreading. A daunting task, I thought, but I found I had a flair for it. I learnt a huge amount from her. After a couple of years, I got a job as a desk editor with Croner Publications, where I honed my skills. Two years later, I went freelance.

How long have you been working freelance as a copy-editor/proofreader?

For over 14 years.

How would you describe copy-editing?

For me, copy-editing is about helping the text to flow, so that it can be understood on the first reading. A reader shouldn’t have to reread a sentence to figure out the meaning.

How does copy-editing differ from proofreading?

Traditionally, proofreading involved checking the typeset work (the proofs) against the copy-edited manuscript to ensure that all the changes and instructions have been picked up. Nowadays, proofreading is often done ‘blind’ (without the original manuscript) – checking spelling, grammar and consistency within the text, and page numbering, etc in the typeset book. Think of it as “quality control” – a vital part of production. Copy-editing is far more involved, and could include restructuring as well as rewriting.

Do you prefer to edit non-fiction (manuals and reports) or fiction? And is there a different approach to editing these?

I don’t have a preference. It’s all about crafting with words and helping to get a message across, whether it’s a financial forecast or a who-dunnit! But the approach is very different. Business reports are factual documents; the reader needs to be able to extract the required information quickly, without having to wade through too much waffle and over-long sentences. There’s no emotion involved. A novel, however, is someone’s baby and must be handled with care! Here, it’s essential to maintain the author’s voice when editing. It’s important that the author knows that any changes I make are merely suggestions to improve readability. I’ll sometimes just highlight sentences/paragraphs that don’t work for me, but leave it to the author to rewrite if he or she thinks it necessary. “But you haven’t understood!” Well, yes, but if I haven’t understood, maybe other readers won’t either.

Do you read the manuscript first, before you can provide a quote? Or do you have a set fee per 1000 words?

My standard fee for copy-editing is based on the assumption that a work will require a certain amount of rewriting. Of course, some may need little more than a general tidy-up and consistency check. If that became clear after a few chapters, I’d be happy to renegotiate.

If an author has a manuscript that they need editing or proofreading how should they contact you?

I don’t care how they contact me, as long as they contact me! But it’s probably best to phone me on 07988 699 073 or email me at I find Skype very useful for discussing work with clients.

What is the most common mistake that you notice?

It’s mostly mundane: misused commas and apostrophes. But I often see ‘only’ in the wrong place, and ‘not only…but also’ used incorrectly.

What are your favourite books?

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks has been at the top of my list for years. I’d no interest in the First World War until I read this, but it brought it all so vividly to life. As a result, I visited the Somme. Walking through the trenches and fields, and those vast ordered graveyards, was very moving. I find it impossible to come up with words to describe the feeling when I first saw the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, inscribed with over 70,000 names.

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is another must-read.

I’ve tried – and failed (for now) – to read Ulysses.

Do you have any pet hates?

Indeed I do: the use of ‘impact’ when ‘affect’ or ‘influence’ (and many others) would be more appropriate. We hear about companies being impacted by the recession. Why not damaged or hurt? Or X having a great impact on Y. Why not say that X influenced Y? Although such uses of ‘impact’ are widespread and accepted, I feel they weaken the word. What happens when we want to describe a car crash? We need to keep ‘impact’ for when something forcefully hits something else…or to refer to those wisdom teeth that refuse to emerge!

Any final words of advice for authors?

Once the editing process has begun, work on just one version of a file (whether it’s a chapter, a set of chapters, or the whole book), which goes back and forth between you and your editor. Continuing to work on one version of your manuscript while your editor is working on another is a recipe for disaster. It’s also essential to proofread (preferably more than once) after copy-editing. Minor errors can slip through the copy-editing process, as the emphasis is on readability and content rather than on the minutiae of commas and colons. My heart sank when an author once said to me, “It’s OK, I proofread it myself; it’s gone to the printers!” Yes, my worst fears were realised. Believe me, quality control is worth the extra outlay.

I agree. The other one is when they say, “My friend proof read it.” This makes about as much sense as letting your uncle write your final chapter.

Thanks, Angie.

Angie Baxter will be attending the New Writers UK, Festival & Fayre, in October. Details on the website

Asking the questions was John Baird, who adds, I don’t care how experienced or skilled the author may be, every novel needs to be edited and proofread. In the hands of an expert, like Angie Baxter, this can make all the difference to the final book. I have recently been fortunate enough to work with Angie, and I have been VERY impressed with her input.

Angie Baxter
Angie Baxter
Freelance copy-editor and proofreader
Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders
Tel. 07988 699 073