There is no easy way to catalog all the types of structural, conceptual, and stylistic problems a copyeditor encounters. In this chapter, we'll look at how copyeditors handle common problems in four broad areas: organization, expository style, bias-free language, and publishing law.
The overall structure of a piece (whether a report, an article, or a book) is dictated by its central purpose. As you read a manuscript, be sure you can discern the structure of the entire piece and each major section of the text. Look at the table of contents and the opening and closing paragraphs of each chapter (for a book), the headings and subheadings (for an article), or the opening sentences of each paragraph (for a short essay). Copyeditors are usually instructed not to fix large-scale structural deviations—doubling back, omissions—but are expected to bring them to the author's attention. Easily repaired minor structural errors should be corrected and flagged for the author's attention.
Alphabetical order is useful for directories, inventories, glossaries, and catalogs. Note, however, that if the work is to be translated into another language, the alphabetized elements—with the exception of personal names—will have to be reordered. For example, the alphabetical sequence “England, France,