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What Is Copyediting and Does Your Book Need It?



You've thoroughly checked your novel for plot consistency, dialogue differences, character believability, and more. You've spent countless hours staring at your screen, bending your neck this way and that, trying to determine if the words on the page are perfect enough to publish. But how do you make absolutely sure? Talk to a professional editor who specializes in copyediting.


What Is Copyediting?

Think of copyediting as a close-read of your novel or a more intense proofread.


A copy editor reviews every sentence of your work, checking for elements such as:

  • sentence structure (Are there too many run-on sentences? Too few phrases? Overused words?)

  • punctuation consistency (Does every series of words include an Oxford comma?)

  • grammar application (Should you say "my family are" or "my family is"?)

  • spelling accuracy (Is it "there," "their," or "they're"?)

  • fact checking (Did men carry pocket watches or wear wrist watches back then?)


What Else Does a Copy Editor Do?

In addition to the above responsibilities, a copy editor pays particular attention to style. They enjoy working with style guides such as Chicago Manual of Style or AP Style and following the rules supplied by that style guide. They might also create their own style guide if one doesn't exist for a book.


Copy editors might also index a book. However, this is usually reserved for nonfiction books.


What DOESN'T a Copy Editor Do?

Copy editors do not give suggestions about the book's plot, characters, or themes. That is the responsibility of a developmental editor or a line editor. However, if a map exists in the book, they will check it for accuracy, and sometimes that might relate back to your story.


For example, if an author says country X is next to country Y, but the map says country X is next to country Z, a copy editor would bring this to the attention of the author to confirm and then make changes if necessary.


A copy editor's attention is solely on the words and features on the page. Like a proofreader, they pay attention to minute details that others might never think about but that make a huge difference in the way words look on the page.


Examples include:

  • One space or two between sentences

  • Hyphen, em dash, or en dash

  • Comma splices

  • Pagination

  • Headers and footers

  • Design consistency around a chapter number

  • Serial (or Oxford) commas

  • Hyphenated text at the end of a page


When Does Copyediting Take Place?

In book publishing, a copyedit happens near the end of the editing process. Once a book (or manuscript, in technical terms) has gone through other editing stages, a copy editor reviews it and makes sure the appropriate style and conventions have been applied. Often once a copyedit is complete, the book is sent to typesetting (laying out a manuscript in its designed-book form) or publishing.


Do You Need a Copy Editor?

Wondering if you need a copy editor for your book? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I confident all spelling, grammar, and punctuation is correct?

  • Are my sentences varied enough?

  • Do my paragraphs make sense and look okay?

  • Have beta readers made any comments on these element of my story?


If you can't answer positively to all of these, it might be time to find a copy editor. The good news is that many professional editors offer copyediting as part of their services. Plus, copyediting costs less than other types of editing.


Interested in working with someone skilled in copyediting? Look no further! I offer a range of editing services, including copyediting. If you want to make your work flawless and ready to publish, contact me today!


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