October 19, 2022, Comment off
The Complete Beginners Guide to Copyediting (2023)
Copyediting and proofreading are both essential stages of the content creation process.
Copyediting (sometimes called line editing) is the process of improving a text by correcting errors and ensuring that it is clear, consistent, and well-organized. On the other hand, proofreading is the final stage of checking a text for errors before publication.
Despite their similarities, there are essential differences between copyediting and proofreading. Copyediting is usually done midway through the editing process before a text has been formatted for publication. On the other hand, proofreading is performed after a text has been typeset or otherwise prepared for publication.
Copyediting is a vital part of the editing process and is a step that occurs before the proofreading stage. Successful content writing is a process that involves many steps to get from the author or content creator to the reader, whether it’s book publishing, landing pages for websites, or even the script for video content.
- What is copyediting?
- Is it ‘Copy Editor’ or ‘Copyeditor?’
- Copy editing vs. proofreading
- Who needs a copyeditor?
- What tasks do copy editors have?
- What is the editing process?
- Is the copyeditor responsible for any errors?
- How do I tell a copy editor what I want?
What is copyediting?
This page explains what to expect from a copyeditor: what they do, how they work, the kinds of edits they make, how long editing takes, and what standards they adhere to. It also explains how to brief a copyeditor and objectively judge their work’s effectiveness.
‘Copy’ is any text to be published, from a company report to a novel to a T-shirt slogan. Copyediting is professional help to make a text ready for publication by ensuring that it is clear, consistent, correct, and complete.
Is it ‘Copy Editor’ or ‘Copyeditor?’
There are three schools of thinking on how this noun should be written. The Merriam-Webster dictionary, The Associated Press Stylebook, and the Oxford English Dictionary all opt for Copy Editor. The Chicago Manual of Style, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language all prefer Copyeditors. Others opt for copy-editor. In essence, all three are correct, so use whichever style you prefer. In our case, a mix of all three is best for SEO purposes.
Copy editing vs. proofreading
Copyediting focuses on the detail of a text, agreeing on the final content, ensuring it reads well for its intended purpose and applying consistency to the language and formatting. Copy editors perform substantive editing on the submitted draft. Once a text has been copyedited, it is ready for the next stage: design and layout. The copyeditor needs technical knowledge of the topic in question, ensuring that facts and figures are accurate and that the text flows well.
Proofreading is the last step before publication when the text is in its final design. The proofreader looks for any remaining typographical and layout errors and corrects them. Proofreaders are experts in written language but not necessarily the content. They will pick up on spelling errors, grammar problems, missing page numbers, and so on, but they will not know if a fact stated in the text is accurate. That’s not their job; that’s for the copyeditor!
Who needs a copyeditor?
Anyone who plans to publish a text in any format needs a copyeditor. The copyeditor’s role lies in maintaining exceptional quality in the material before being passed to the proofreader. The scope of their role can include books, magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, company reports, brochures, and marketing materials. Here is how a copyeditor helps everyone involved in the process:
How a copyeditor helps an author
Copyeditors help authors by ensuring that their message comes across clearly, without unnecessary duplication of text, confusing sentences, misspelled names and words, or stated facts that are incorrect or have no proof. A copyeditor ensures that the authors’ voices are heard and that their text is readable, consistent, and polished.
How a copyeditor helps a publisher
Copyeditors help publishers by ensuring that their published books are free of errors, typos, and inconsistencies. This level of quality control reflects well on the publisher and builds trust with readers. In addition, copyeditors can help to improve the flow and clarity of a text, making it more enjoyable to read.
How a copyeditor helps a designer or typesetter
Copyeditors help designers by ensuring that the text they are working with is free of errors, easy to understand, and presented in the appropriate and approved styles, making the designer’s job easier and helping to create a better-looking final product.
How a copyeditor helps the reader
Copyeditors help readers by ensuring that their text is error-free, consistent, and easy to understand. A well-edited text makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. They ensure the text is written appropriately for the intended audience. For example, ensuring that a science textbook for 11-year-olds does not read the same as a University textbook.
What tasks do copy editors have?
Copy editors have four key roles, the importance of which varies depending on the nature of the written content. As it can be a time-intensive task, the role may need to be reduced in scope if there is a limited budget. We can broadly break down the role into the following categories:
Checking the writing
The copy editor will check the text for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax errors. They will also check for consistency in style, format, and terminology. The copy editor will also review and edit the text to improve clarity, flow, and readability. They may also make suggestions for reordering or rewriting sections of the text.
The role is not limited to text only. While ensuring the copy itself is search engine optimization friendly falls within the role of the content writer, content editors will ensure that vital elements are not missing that would otherwise reduce the material’s impact. The copyeditor will check that all appropriate images have been supplied and are correct. In the case of online content, such as digital marketing material, all the visual content will need alternative text to aid viewing the page for visually impaired customers and help with search engine optimization.
Ensuring citations are included and correct is one of the many unglamorous tasks that fall within the copy editor’s job description. Other tasks include checking titles and chapter headings, lists are clear and shown numerically, and pages are numbered consecutively.
Correcting and maintaining exceptional quality
Having identified errors, it is the copy editor’s responsibility to make corrections. This can include anything from correcting a single word to rewriting an entire sentence or paragraph. In some cases, the copy editor may make changes to the structure of the text, such as reordering paragraphs or cutting and pasting sections of text to improve flow.
Copy editors will impose consistency throughout the text, such as ensuring all instances of a particular term are spelled the same way or that dates and numbers are consistently formatted. They will also check for consistency in style, format, and terminology.
Copy editors will remove unwanted spaces and formatting that negatively impact the work. This can include anything from removing extra spaces between paragraphs to ensuring consistent font size and style throughout the text.
When it comes to digital publishing, the modern copyeditor may also be responsible for style sheets to ensure that written and visual material remains faithful to a publisher’s house style or the website’s chosen design concept.
They may also be required to liaise with authors, designers, and typesetters to ensure the text meets the project’s requirements.
What is the editing process?
The most common tool copy editors use is the Track Changes function in Microsoft Word, allowing them to mark up the document with their changes. These changes can then be accepted or rejected by the author at their discretion.
Some copy editors also use specialist software, such as PerfectIt or CopyLab, which help streamline the editing process by automating more repetitive tasks, such as checking for consistency in spelling and style.
Once the changes are completed, the copy editor will save the document and return it to the author or client, who will be able to view the changes and approve/deny them as they see fit.
Is the copyeditor responsible for any errors?
While copyeditors are tasked with reducing or eliminating errors from the material, they are not responsible for any errors that may remain in the final published version. The author or client will have final approval over the text before it is published, and it is their responsibility to ensure any remaining errors are corrected.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the author or client to approve the final copy before it is published. In the end, the text should be fit for purpose and so as free of errors as feasibly possible, consistent and clear.
No professional copyeditor should guarantee perfection; no matter how well-trained they are, this may be impossible to achieve. However, a good copyeditor will significantly reduce the number of errors in your work and improve its overall quality. There is also the issue of subjectivity, which means what may seem right to the copy editor may disagree with what the author believes to be correct, and vice versa.
How long does copyediting take?
The timescales for copyediting come down to how complex, long, and error-ridden the text is. A simple document with just a few errors could be edited in minutes, whereas a more complex text with multiple errors could take hours or even days to fix.
While copyediting can be completed relatively quickly, it is necessary to allow sufficient time for the editor to do their job correctly. Depending on the text’s length, complexity, and accuracy, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 1-2 days for every 1,000 words.
For example, a 10,000-word document would take around 10-20 days to copyedit properly. This may seem like a long time, but it is essential to remember that a copyeditor is not just responsible for correcting errors but also for ensuring the text is consistent, clear, and fit for purpose.
If the budget for the task is insufficient or the deadline is too tight, this could negatively impact the quality of the final text.
How do I tell a copy editor what I want?
If you want the best results, you need to provide your copyeditor with a detailed brief. The copyeditor may regularly cover many different topics, but you should ensure they are familiar with the type of material you are writing.
A good brief will enable the copyeditor to understand your target audience, the purpose of the text, and the tone you want to convey. It should also include any specific instructions on how you would like the text to be edited, such as which style guide you want the editor to use.
A copyeditor who understands your goals and requirements will be able to do a better job of improving your text.
If you have a specific set of requirements, such as using a particular style guide, you should make this clear from the outset. This will ensure that the copyeditor is able to edit the text according to your needs and avoid any misunderstandings further down the line.
Copyediting is a vital part of the publishing process, and it is important to choose a copyeditor who is experienced and knowledgeable in the field. A good copyeditor will be able to improve the quality of your text by correcting errors and ensuring consistency, clarity, and precision.
While copyediting can be completed relatively quickly, it is essential to allow sufficient time for the editor to do their job properly. Depending on the length, complexity, and number of errors, a good rule of thumb is to allow 1-2 days for every 1,000 words.
If you want the best results, you need to provide your copyeditor with a detailed brief. The copyeditor may regularly cover many different topics, but you should ensure they are familiar with the type of material you are writing. A good brief will enable the copyeditor to understand your target audience, the purpose of the text, and the tone you want to convey. It should also include any specific instructions on how you would like the text to be edited, such as which style guide you want the editor to use.
What is the whole team pipeline for publishing unique content?
While anyone can sit down and create content quite quickly, if you’re looking to create content with goals in mind, there are several stages to the writing process, each requiring a different skill set. In order of who works on the material and when you can expect a corporate content creation team to consist of:
- Content Planner
- Content Writer (Potentially an in-house or freelance Copywriter or Content Marketer)
Do I need special training to become a Copyeditor?
No, you don’t need any specialised training to become a Copyeditor. However, it is vital to have excellent attention to detail and strong English language skills. Various courses offer a quick introduction to getting started. They may offer certificates, but these are not from university settings and are not generally necessary to get a job as a copy editor. What matters is establishing yourself in a niche, proving your in-depth knowledge of the subject, and getting some good experience under your belt.
Can I be a freelance copy editor?
Absolutely. There are many ways to make money online as a freelance writer. Many freelance content writers also work as freelance copy editors. In fact, it’s quite common for copy editors also to be content writers, as they often have similar skills. If you’re a freelance copy editor, you can work with many different clients and many projects simultaneously. This can be a great way to build up your portfolio and experience. If you’re working for yourself to create original content, you can apply your Content writing skills to your first drafts and then follow up with a round of copyediting to ensure everything is correct.