My copy-editing clients range from novelists to non-fiction authors and the aim for all clients is simple: to polish language to a publishable standard.
Copy-editing varies in scope, from light editing to improve the odd clumsy sentence through to more comprehensive support to tidy the text. The level of intervention that a copy editor undertakes depends on the state of the material and the client’s preference.
Whatever the level of editing, I’m sensitive in my corrections and constructive in my suggestions. I know which changes are essential, which are preferred and which are simply a matter of taste. Copy-editing isn’t about being unnecessarily pedantic and trampling on an author’s writing style; the aim is to ensure that the writing reads well and follows the standard rules of English grammar.
Why work with a copy editor?
If your book is to be clear, comprehensible, impressive and effective, the language needs to be of a good standard. No awkward phrasing. No dangling modifiers. No comma splices. No inconsistencies, no ambiguities, no odd styling or spellings.
Some authors need only minimal editing support, while others need more intensive editing; but all authors, no matter how experienced or skilled, can benefit from a copy editor’s input. That’s why every book published by a publishing house is copy-edited before publication.
My copy-editing service
My job as a copy editor is to ensure that the writing reads well, the meaning is clear and the grammar, punctuation and spelling are accurate and consistent. I do so respectfully, without undertaking significant rewriting, tidying the language of the book through editing and raising queries for issues that require the author’s input.
Essentially, copy-editing is language-only editing. When I copy-edit, I don’t worry about developmental issues, such as a plot weakness or lagging pace; I focus on the language. (If you want a dash of developmental input with a copy-edit, take a look at my intelligent copy-editing service.)
I copy-edit books in both UK English and US English. As I copy-edit, I scrutinise the language of the book:
- Accuracy: Are there misspellings or misused words? Are there missing or extraneous words and punctuation marks? Are names spelled correctly? Are dates right? Do numbers add up? Do all cross-references marry up? Is numbering sequential? Are there any glaring factual errors?
- Consistency: Is a consistent and sensible style applied throughout the book for aspects of style like spelling, capitalisation, italicisation, hyphenation and numbering?
- Clarity: Is the meaning crystal clear? Is any of the writing vague, ambiguous and/or overly wordy? Do any terms need explanation?
- Tone: Is the tone always appropriate? Are any words undermining the tone? Does the author overemphasise (italics, bold, capitals)?
- Repetition: Are words/phrases repeated in close proximity? Is a particular word or punctuation mark overused in the book? Is there obvious content overlap across chapters?
- Dialogue: Does it sound natural? Is it clear who is speaking? Are the capitalisation and punctuation correct?
- Quotations: Are these laid out and punctuated according to industry standards? Are insertions, omissions and alterations handled properly? Are there any obvious plagiarism concerns? Are references provided, complete and correctly presented?
- Sentence and paragraph structuring: Are sentences easy to follow? Are any awkwardly phrased or overlong? Are paragraphs manageable chunks and do they focus on one idea?
I edit in Microsoft Word, raising queries using the Comments tool and making revisions using Track Changes. This enables the author to see all of my edits and suggestions and choose to accept or reject them, thereby retaining full control of the book.
As I edit, I create a style sheet for the client, to lay down a framework for consistent style in the book. The style sheet includes elements like spelling choices, hyphenated terms, capitalised terms and punctuation style, and it’s a useful reference for the author.
Note: Please ensure that you understand the role of the copy editor and the scope of this role. You can find clear information on the website of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. Copy-editing is not proofreading (see the CIEP definition of proofreading). If you want to meet the standards of the publishing industry, you need to commission a proofread after the copy-edit. I can recommend a trusted colleague for the final proofread.