Copyediting – WDYD Series

“I need a copy editor…”

Okay, okay. I can’t lie. So unlike when clients request proofreading or editing, NO ONE says the above statement. Simply because no one understands what copyediting is.

Remember the examples of the clients who needed proofreading and editing? Only one of them required copyediting. I bet you can now figure out which one needed copyediting:

Client A says, “Document previously edited. Needs a final check of spelling and grammar.”

Client B says, “Document needs to be checked for spelling and grammar errors. The proofreader may rewrite sentences if needed for clarity.”

Client C says, “You need to check spelling, grammar, and rewrite unclear sentences. Please help maintain style through the writing. Fact-checking required as well.”

You should have said Client A wants proofreading, Client B needs editing, which means Client C requires copyediting.

Now if you didn’t answer correctly and you read the previous posts in the series, we should brush up on your reading skills. I’ve already explained the difference between proofreading (see here) and editing (check it out here), so that leaves copyediting to figure out. Here goes!

So, what is copyediting?

Copyediting is a bit trickier to explain than proofreading or editing because it’s a little bit of both and a lot more. Boiled down to the basics, copyediting is editing copy, while proofreading is reading proof. And no, I didn’t just take apart the words and rearrange them.

Copy editors must know how to proofread, but they also need to ensure the copy fits its intended purpose, has no mistakes or inconsistencies and is formatted correctly for the typesetters and designers.

Copyediting also involves focusing on making the writing style specific to the particular publication market. There are several style guides for different areas of writing. Your copy editor should be familiar with the genre in which you want to publish.

  1. Copyediting is a bit of proofreading and editing combined. Copy editors may correct spelling and grammar errors like proofreaders but also can correct sentence structure and word usage like editors. But copyeditors are not just proofreaders and editors. The job of a copy editor is to check the copy for accuracy in facts and quotations and anomalies or potential legal issues. They may reveal plot holes or weak, unclear arguments. They must ensure there are no inconsistencies in writing style or character development. Copy editors are also involved in formatting headings, subheadings, and the structure of the content. Some copyeditors even make more technical edits, such as working with typesetters, designers, and publishers.
  2. Copyediting is done typically after editing, but always before proofreading.
  3. Copyediting ensures the seven Cs of writing and editing are accomplished: clarity, coherence, conciseness, completeness, correctness, credibility, and consistency.

So, copy editors can do it all and then some more. But they are not just proofreading or just editing or just ghostwriting. They aren’t merely fact checkers or formatting experts. Copy editors follow the style guide of the particular target publication to make the writing most suitable for that market.

Who should hire a copy editor?

  • Writers who need help with style, structure, grammar, spelling, and development.
  • Writers requiring professional assistance in publishing in a specific field.
  • Writers who are willing to invest in perfecting their writing for publication.

How does a copy editor work?

The biggest difference in editing and copyediting is that editing focuses on reorganizing and rewriting copy, while copyediting focuses more on accuracy and formatting. Though copyediting can (and usually does) involve editing, most copyediting falls under one of four umbrella terms that I will cover in a later post.

A copy editor receives a draft typically after an editor has made more of the broad changes. The draft is closer to publication-ready but has not yet been formatted for the proofreader. The copy editor will discuss the process with the writer. As I said in the editing process, I still believe this is a major step for writers: building and nurturing a relationship with your copyeditor.

The copy editor will ensure accuracy and proper formatting by using a style guide specific to the field of publication. The copy editor will run the work as a whole through the seven Cs of writing and editing: clarity, coherence, conciseness, completeness, correctness, credibility, and consistency.

What should I look for in my copy editor?

  • Above all, knowledge and prior experience in the field is the most important qualification. Ask your copyeditor for their portfolio, qualifications within the field and knowledge of style guides.
  • Someone who is transparent in their abilities, their services, and their pricing. Copy editors are very skilled, so they typically cost more than other types of editors. You need to know what services the copy editor provides and what services they do not provide. Some copy editors provide technical editing, while others focus on substantive editing.
  • A methodical, meticulous personality who takes their time to address your manuscript’s needs and your feedback when provided.

All writing has the potential to be published with quality copyediting services.

Read about the five styles of copyediting to see if I can offer your manuscript the service it needs.


This is part of the What Do You Do series.

For more posts in this series, check out:

CV + Resume Writing and Editing




About Me Sections

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *