Why Would I Need a Copyeditor?
Because we all do!
As a professional copyeditor, I have seen many good writers. But I’ve never seen a book that was ready for publication without some level of manuscript editing. Most final drafts reek of run-on sentences, dangling modifiers, spelling errors, you name it.
Your main focus while writing is your message. By the time you get to the self-editing stage—to improve your language, flow, and diction—you’ve seen your own writing so often, it’s hard to make any quality judgments. Did you use abbreviations consistently? Did you make the same style choices throughout your document? Did you catch all dangling modifiers?
I can offer you a sharp eye and make sure your manuscript is consistent in style, word choice, and spelling. I can help you catch typos, ambiguous sentences, and errors in logic and reasoning. With my help, your document will be ready for typesetting.
What is a copyeditor?
copy·ed·i·tor or copy _ ed·i·tor
Someone who knows their stuff and removes flaws and inconsistencies from your almost-finished manuscript.
Copyediting isn’t proofreading
Copyediting is often confused with proofreading, but there are significant differences.
Copyeditors work on your manuscript before typesetting (i.e., turning it into a book) and can therefore still make major changes. Copyeditors make sure your manuscript is consistent in spelling, grammar, and usage, and that internal references, TOCs, captions, images, and tables are correct.
Proofreaders, on the other hand, scrutinize the typeset version of your book and are limited in the kinds of changes they can make. Proofreaders perform quality control on typesetting and check for spelling errors and typos, but they will never go into complex grammar issues—by then, that ship has sailed.
Writers often hire proofreaders and then expect them to do a copyeditor’s job. To make sure that won’t happen to you, I’ve placed a description below of the tasks for which you should hire a copyeditor.
Levels of copyediting
One copyediting job is not another. Some manuscripts need only a bit of polishing, while others need what’s known as line editing—a thorough sentence-level rewrite of your prose.
Copyediting is usually divided into three levels. These three levels are a representation of a continuum and aren’t set in stone. Before starting any job, the professional copyeditor will compose an agreement about what he will and will not do.
The light copyedit — Mechanical editing and spelling
The first level of editing is mostly mechanical. This comprises correction of spelling, basic grammar, and inconsistencies in—for example—hyphenation, compounding, and comma usage. In a light copyedit, the copyeditor ignores (or at best queries) complex grammatical issues, word choice, and style. However awkward your sentence may be, the only criterium here is that your text is understandable and correct.
The copyeditor will flag factual inconsistencies and incorrect statements when these are obvious but will not focus on them.
Most writers assume their manuscript needs only a light copyedit. But be sure to have a professional editor—not your spouse, mother, or neighbor—assess the editorial needs of your document. Always assume your manuscript needs more than you had anticipated.
Typically, a light copyedit is about 1500–2000 words per hour.
The medium copyedit — Getting the grammar right
In this level of copyediting, the editor has more license to improve the sentence flow—though still minimally. The copyeditor will not remove unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and will not be bothered much with word usage and wordiness. The stress is on grammatical correctness, and in this level of editing, the copyeditor will correct more complex grammatical issues.
The copyeditor will query seemingly incorrect statements and apparent flaws in logic, and verify facts that ring untrue.
Typically, a medium copyedit is about 1000 words per hour.
The heavy copyedit — Adding line edits for beautiful sentences
Here we throw line editing into the mix, turning sentences into magic. In a heavy copyedit, the text is not only being scrutinized for errors, but also for inconsistencies in the author’s voice, style, and syntax.
The copyeditor judges every sentence to determine if it can be improved by removing words, moving clauses and phrases, introducing parallelism, or implementing other stylistic conventions. In short, the line editor is involved with beautifying the language and deciding if the words the author chose are fit for the job.
The heavy copyeditor verifies statements and revises incorrect facts, and queries or edits issues in organization and logic. Of course, the writer can always choose to reject these changes.
Typically, a heavy copyedit or line edit is about 300–800 words per hour.
But sometimes, even that is not enough.
When copyediting isn’t enough — Rewriting or developmental-editing level
Sometimes issues aren’t at the sentence level, but at the conceptual level. Or the author’s voice is so verbose, messy, or un-understandable that every sentence needs a total makeover. We have exited the realm of the copyeditor and entered the domain of the developmental editor.
Niels is a talented editor who knows how to think along with the customer. He has edited some of my academic writings and I can highly recommend him to anyone wanting to see the quality of their texts rise and shine.~ Tobias N. Strijker (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)