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What Does a Copy Editor Actually Do?

So you've finished your manuscript, and you're on the hunt for a great editor. You've asked around in your writers' group for some recommendations of editors who specialize in your genre, and you've sent your manuscript for a quote on copy editing. What can you expect after that?

Most editors will review your manuscript to determine the level of editing you've already completed and what it will take to make your book ready for publishing. They will most likely have a rate that is based on word count and reflective of their level of expertise, ranging from $.03–$.039/word. (For other editing rates, check out EFA's rates page: Your editor will send you an overall cost for editing, an estimated timeline, and go over the process of editing and revisions. You should know up front what is expected of you and what you can expect from your editor, and most will provide a contract or agreement that details all of the terms of the project. The main responsibility of a copy editor is to prepare a manuscript for publishing by addressing the four Cs: making your writing clear, correct, concise, and consistent. They work in word processing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs and make revisions right in the file using track changes. They will leave comments or questions if something is unclear, and they will likely use a style guide (often Chicago Manual of Style) for guidance. Copy editing does not generally include heavy revisions, so the copy editor will mark any sections that are unclear and may suggest possible revisions.

Examples of errors that copy editors address:

  • spelling

  • capitalization, hyphenation, compound words

  • treatment of numbers

  • punctuation

  • missing citations or sources

  • missing or broken URL links

  • redundancy

  • swapping passive voice for active voice

  • accuracy of quotes used

  • accuracy of scriptures used, if applicable

Some copy editors will create a style sheet specifically for your book if the content merits one. A style sheet helps to ensure consistency and is especially helpful for future proofreaders once the book is professionally formatted. This prevents markup of something a proofreader may perceive as an error but is actually a matter of author or publisher house style. When Inspire Books editors work with a book, we do two full copy editing passes through the manuscript. After the first pass, the book goes back to the author with questions and comments noted. The author can then make edits to the text, answer editor queries, and have peace of mind knowing the book will receive another close look before the design work begins. Once the second copy editing pass is complete, a book is ready for typesetting.

What copy editing is not:

  • An overview or analysis of the manuscript (this is an editorial review)

  • a line-by-line edit with a focus on structure, clarity, and style (this is a line edit)

  • a final review of the book’s formatted interior to check for copy and formatting errors (this is proofreading)

Though there are many ways you can prepare your manuscript by using self-editing steps, you should always invest in a professional copy edit to make your book the best it can be!

Are you ready to have a copy editor review your book? Click here to schedule a call.

Happy writing!

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