What You Need to Know About Copyediting
Out of the different editing techniques, copyediting is by far the most in-demand. That doesn’t mean it’s the most important of all the techniques, as each one serves a specific purpose. It means, however, that it’s one of the most difficult to deal with.
But what is copyediting? How is it different from line editing and proofreading? What do you need to do to become a copyeditor? And where can you hire professional copyeditors? That’s what we’re here to explain to you.
What is Copyediting?
The purpose of copyediting is to make the written work more readable and readily available for publication regardless of the medium the work is to be published in. It also ensures that the work is grammatically correct, in the desired style, with all the information mentioned fact-checked and unplagiarized.
Copyediting is often referred to as manuscript editing, especially by the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which is considered the be-all and end-all of the editing guidelines.
According to the CMOS,
“Manuscript editing encompasses any or all of the tasks along a continuum from simple mechanical corrections (mechanical editing) through sentence-level interventions (line, or stylistic, editing) to substantial remedial work on literary style and clarity, disorganized passages, baggy prose, muddled tables and figures, and the like (substantive editing). Several professional associations of editors further describe this continuum of manuscript editing in terms of levels of editing and characterize the degrees of intervention as light, medium, and heavy copy editing.”
Copyediting vs Line Editing
Copyediting and line editing are often mistaken for one another. Some even believe that line editing is a small part of copyediting as a whole. The easiest way to point out the difference is to focus on what purpose each serves individually. So, with line editing, we’re focusing on style. Basically, it’s ensuring that the words flow together in a clear and cohesive way with no issues.
This is what Masterclass had to say.
“A line editor works line-by-line, tightening up sentence structure, so the language is sharp and clear. They look closely at how a writer’s word choice and syntax contributes to the tone or emotion of a piece of writing. Finally, a line editor is concerned with the overall pacing and logical flow of a piece.”
So, while line editing focuses on cohesiveness and fluidity, copyediting will focus more on the grammar and that the style in question was the one agreed upon from before. It’s basically more mechanical as you’re diving deep into the book and all it needs to fix what needs to be fixed.
Copyediting vs Proofreading
Another common confusion is between copyediting and proofreading. The easiest way to differentiate between them is to think of when they’re done. Copyediting comes before the manuscript is complete. Proofreading comes once it’s officially complete, but right before it’s published. The purpose of proofreading here is to ensure that all the copy edits that were done weren’t altered, pick up small inconsistencies, and errors here and there. If the errors aren’t just minor, then the proofreader will have to return the work to a copyeditor to deal with it.
How to Become a Copyeditor
So how do you become a copyeditor? Aside from being proficient in the English language, you must have an expert eye to catch all the inconsistencies in the text you’re working on. Whether it’s your own book or someone else’s, deft work in spotting everything wrong with the manuscript.
To lend you a hand, we’ve brought you a copyediting checklist from Trevor Horwood’s Freelance Proofreading and Copyediting book. According to Horwood, the copy-editor needs to:
- mark up the typescript for the typesetter;
- check for grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors;
- impose consistency;
- ensure that the publisher’s house style has been followed;
- read for sense;
- watch out for factual errors and libelous statements;
- make sure all illustrations and tables are present and correct;
- check notes and references;
- prepare a list of running heads;
- prepare caption copy for figures and illustrations;
- prepare lists of queries for author and publisher;
- prepare a word list and style sheet.
This list might seem overwhelming, but with practice, it becomes second nature. Not to mention, the best thing about online technology these days is the various tools available to help you accomplish your tasks.
To help you out, here are five tools that will pick up some grammatical and stylistic mistakes you might have missed as you went over your work.
The New York Times even has a copyediting test you can take to see how well you’re doing. You should give it a try before taking on some copyediting tasks. It will help you gauge your level and see if there’s more work you need to do on yourself to improve.
Where to Hire Copyeditors
As we’ve established, copyediting is not a simple job. It requires a lot of strenuous and meticulous work that some might find rather frustrating. Not wanting to take the step on your own doesn’t make you lazy. Mainly, it makes you someone who understands their limitations and thinks it’s better to hire a professional for the job.
Being done with your manuscript is hard enough without adding the pressure of copyediting to it. So here are a few websites that can help you find the perfect editor for you!
Now if you’re hiring someone, it’s best to prepare for how much that might cost. This is also important if you’re about to embark on a copyediting career yourself. If you’re not familiar with the common rates, here’s what the Editorial Freelance Association has offered this rough guideline:
|Type of Work||Estimated Pace||Range of Fees|
|Basic copyediting||5–10 ms pgs/hr||$30–40/hr|
|Heavy copyediting||2–5 ms pgs/hr||$40–50/hr|
So there you have it, everything you need to know about copyediting. Whether you think it’s time for your manuscript to be copyedited or you want to start a career as a copyeditor, this information will come in handy.
Keep in mind that the aforementioned editing techniques aren’t the only ones out there. There are a few others you might need to be aware of as you embark on your publishing journey.