My book copy-editing clients range from authors to fiction and non-fiction publishers, 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. My job isn’t to be unnecessarily pedantic and trample on an author’s writing style, but to work my magic so that the writing reads well and follows the core 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 non-standard styling and spelling.
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 rigorously copy-edited before publication.
My copy-editing service
My job as a copy editor is to ensure that the writing reads well, that the meaning is clear and that 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 any misspellings or misused words? Any 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 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?
- Basic formatting: Are there any stray indents or spaces? Are straight quote marks mixed in with curly ones?
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 over 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 great reference for the author.
Please note: In a publishing house, all books are copy-edited by an editor and then proofread by a different professional. So if you want to meet the standards of the publishing industry, I recommend that you commission a proofread after the copy-edit. I can recommend a trusted colleague for the final proofread.