Copy Editing

What is Copy Editing?

Copy editors are savants for language: they edit your book’s “copy.” Fiction or non-fiction, academic or romantic, thriller or sci-fi, copy editors help create the most readable version of your book.

They’ll make sure your manuscript isn’t riddled with bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or blatant inconsistencies. They won’t enter into big-picture issues such as characterization, plot or pacing; instead, they will go through the manuscript line by line and focus on all the little things you might not have thought about. They’ll catch scenes in which your antagonist is wearing “sunglasses” and “spectacles” at the same time. They’ll save your style and tone from unintentionally confusing shifts between sections. They’ll pull your book together page by page.


The Different Standards of Copy Editing

Individual copy editors consult a range of manuals for copy editing. These include Words into Type, The Associated Press Stylebook, and The Chicago Manual of Style. Editors also set a specific dictionary as the authority, such as Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Using these references as guides, copy editors will correct errors and fix inconsistencies in details like compound words (should it be open, closed, or hyphenated?), number treatment (should it be a numeral or spelled out?), and punctuation (should it be a comma or semicolon?).

To keep track of the styles in use in a single manuscript, copy editors usually create a style sheet as they edit. A style sheet should include notes on typography, punctuation, numbers, and spellings; a list of characters, real people, and places; and a timeline of events. A detailed style sheet is an organized way for an editor to maintain consistency and communicate a manuscript’s style to the author and future proofreaders.


What Changes Are Covered By A Copy Editor?

A professional copy editor will gradually work through your text, making changes that perfect your manuscript by improving accuracy, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and eliminating redundancies in your text. Related to this, a good editor will also ensure consistency of style, checking that your own personal style remains intact through smaller details such as hyphenation and capitalization.

Another improvement that a copy editor can make to your manuscript is strengthening the overall composition. They will substitute weak words, phrases, and sentences with powerful alternatives, often even restructuring sentences for enhanced clarity. Once your manuscript has been copyedited, it will be more efficient, accurate, and focused on your voice. In fact, your manuscript will be in such good shape that it will be ready to be reviewed by a proofreader.


What is The Difference Between Line Editing and Copy Editing?

Line editing addresses the creative content of a manuscript, rather than mechanics like punctuation, grammar, factual correctness, and consistency. The line editor looks at the author’s use of language and offers advice to improve the readability of a manuscript. They will address issues like tonal inconsistencies, run-on sentences, poor dialogue, and other such things that may affect the reading experience.


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