Are you considering hiring a copyeditor to help you elevate your writing, but you’re wondering:
- Do I really need a professional copyeditor?
- What does a professional copyeditor actually do?
- How will a professional copyeditor elevate my writing?
This article is all about the responsibilities of a copyeditor. A lot of terms get thrown around incorrectly (such as “editor” and “proofreader”), and it can be confusing to understand just what copyediting actually entails. But using a professional copyeditor is the best way to elevate your writing, so you know you are putting your best work forward. Let us count the ways… there are 6 major ones.
By the way, copyediting comes after developmental editing and line editing, and before proofreading. For a more in-depth explanation of the different jobs of these 4 editors, check out my article, The 4 Different Editorial Passes and How To Tell Them Apart.
Here are the 6 proven ways a copyeditor elevates your writing:
1. Ensuring the logic and clarity of your ideas
Have you ever written out your point of view on a certain topic and shown it to someone, only to have them a) not understand it at all, or b) understand something totally different?
I’m an editor and a proofreader by profession, but as a casual writer, I am totally guilty of unclear writing!
It can be hard to critique your own work. Your words are your own. You even read them in your own voice. Of course you know what you’re talking about!
But do your readers know what you’re talking about? That’s how having a copyeditor look over your work for logic and clarity of ideas can improve your writing: so that your message gets across perfectly to your readers. A copyeditor will flag confusing or vague phrasing and even suggest how to reword it (I say suggest, not rewrite—you as the author still have the final word over any edits).
Is a copyeditor going to argue with your point of view? No, absolutely not. A copyeditor’s job is to simply make sure your message is clear to someone who is reading your work for the first time.
2. Guaranteeing consistency of voice and usage
A line editor is responsible for homogenizing your voice as a writer throughout your text. Each line should flow into the next, with the author’s inimitable voice preserved throughout.
Unlike a line editor, a copyeditor isn’t going to correct your voice for you line by line, as it should have already been taken care of. What a copyeditor will do, however, is make sure that nothing got left out.
Think of a line editor as seeking errors on a sentence level, and a copyeditor seeking errors on a word level. Here is where we start to get into the nitty-gritty. A copyeditor will make sure that:
- Passive voice does not take precedence over active voice
- Parallel sentence structure is preserved
- Subject/verb agreement is correct
- Pronouns are appropriate
- Verb tense stays consistent
Here, a copyeditor will correct most mistakes for you, and may make suggestions for the rest.
3. Deleting repetitive words or adding missing words
A common request I get from clients is: Can you weed out the overuse of certain phrases or words? Sometimes this is a result of using a ghostwriter, but not always. And the answer is, yes, I can!
Also called echo words, repetitive words make reading dull. We all have our pet phrases, and while artistic liberty says we are allowed to use them, they can become detrimental to our writing.
Another word-level issue a copywriter looks for is—gasp—missing words!
Yep, it happens to the best of us. In fact, a copyeditor should not only correct missing words, but also add in missing punctuation. Missing words and punctuation are easy to miss, even for spellcheck.
Have a copyeditor flag all your repetitive words and phrases, making suggestions for revisions, and add in all the missing words and punctuation marks.
4. Homogenizing formatting (paragraphs, lists, headings, etc.)
Luckily, as a copyeditor and proofreader, I have a great love for formatting! I spoke about this briefly in my article on how to self-edit your writing because I know it’s a common issue for writers.
Formatting is another one of those things that falls by the wayside because it’s not the fun part of writing, is it? Surely you’ve properly constructed your thoughts in the form of each paragraph beginning with a topic sentence. But have you been paying attention to things such as indentation and the homogenization of bullet points and automatic numbering?
Probably not, as you’re mainly concerned about getting your argument across as you’re writing along. But a professional copyeditor can correct all your formatting in a jiffy, because it easily jumps out to someone who gets their eyes on a text for the first time.
It’s nothing to do with the clarity of your ideas or the typos that might have slipped into your writing. Formatting is about making your writing visually pretty—or at least pleasing to the eye!
5. Correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization
The things no one wants to do, basically! Not even spellcheck can eliminate all of your grammar errors for you. You really need someone to read each word of your text to correct all the issues that are most commonly thought of as “editing.”
You might be thinking, Isn’t it the job of the proofreader to fix the grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Yes and no. These 4 things certainly fall under the call of duty for a proofreader. Ideally, they will have all been corrected in the copyediting phase before your manuscript even makes it to proofreading, because a proofreader is your last line of defense to make sure there are no errors in your final version.
I’ve created a helpful table to show you the difference between copyediting and proofreading:
6. Providing peace of mind for authors
There is an intangible 6th way that a copyeditor elevates your writing, and it comes in the form of peace of mind for authors. Imagine having a second pair of eyes look over your work for the 5 common issues discussed above. It’s a tall order to try to fix all those issues yourself. Wouldn’t you rather get feedback from someone whose job it is to correct them? I promise that when you put your trust in a copyeditor, your writing will be all the better for it.
And, if you’re curious about how I can help you, here are just some of the ways to date that I as a copyeditor have helped authors to elevate their writing:
- Fixed the title case in all headings
- Homogenized the formatting of em dashes
- Transformed UK spelling and usage to US spelling and usage
- Added the Oxford comma to all series as requested by author
- Adhered to author’s style guide (AP, CMOS, or custom)
- Checked that all embedded links were live
- Reformatted lists with bullets throughout
- Fixed pronoun usage for gender considerations
- Added italics for internal dialogue
- Changed single quotation marks to double quotation marks
- Formatted abbreviations (e.g., i.e., etc.)
- Added commas between independent clauses, and for emphasis or clarity
- Checked that all chapters were correctly referenced
- Weeded out overused punctuation (em dashes, ellipses) and phrases
- Fixed number usage (spelled out vs. numerals)
- I’ve even helped clients to develop their own style guide!
If you’re ready to discover how I can achieve the same results for your writing, get in touch with me today.