Copy Editing

To edit something means to revise it. The only purpose of revising something is to make it better.

Copy editing is the process of checking written material for grammar, spelling, style, and punctuation issues. A copy editor may also do a rewrite to fix problems with transitions, wordiness, jargon, and to ensure the style of the piece fits with the publication. [Source:]

Although many copy editors will have slightly different views on precisely what the process involves, the NY Book Editors website provides a useful and more detailed description. It is also one which coincides with Serotine Editing’s approach. They advise that a copy editor:

  • Checks for and corrects errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation.
  • Checks for technical consistency in spelling, capitalisation, font usage, numerals, hyphenation. For example, is it ‘e-mail’ on page 26 and ’email’ on page 143? Or do you use both British and American English spelling variations interchangeably, such as ‘favourite’ vs. ‘favorite’?
  • Checks for continuity errors and makes sure that all loose ends are tied.
  • Checks for factually incorrect statements. This is a necessary part of the copyediting process for non-fiction manuscripts, such as historical pieces and memoirs. The copyeditor must check if the facts in your manuscript are accurate and if the names and dates are correct.
  • Checks for potential legal liability. The copyeditor verifies that your manuscript does not libel others.
  • Checks for inconsistency within the story. This includes character description, plot points, and setting. Does each character stay true to their own description throughout the story? Are there conflicting descriptions of the house? For example, have you described the setting as ‘a yellow brick home’ on one page but ‘a weathered wooden cottage’ on another page?

The copy editor’s job, then, involves much more than just checking the grammar and the spelling. Copy editing and proofreading are separate tasks, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably by people who don’t know the difference.


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