A detailed guide to copy editing

A detailed guide to copy editing

Copy editing refers to a process that can be used in various writing fields in the publishing industry. Regardless of whether the text is a news article, a magazine, a book, or an advert, there are good chances that you need to hire an editor to take a look at it. A good copy editor must have an expansive set, such as knowledge about several subject matters, strong attention to detail, and a good way to communicate their edits efficiently and clearly. 

If you are good at spotting small errors in any type of text, then copy editing may be a perfect career choice for you. Quite often, a skilled copy editor spots errors and tends to check the text to identify factual accuracy and stick to a specific style guide. This article is a detailed guide to copy editing.

Understanding copy editing

Copy editing comes in when you review and edit a piece of writing called the copy to improve its readability. A copy editor makes sure that their style of writing is clear and consistent. Also, they ensure that the text flows naturally from one sentence to another. 

Any copy editor must also check the punctuation, grammar, and continuity, offering suggestions on the best way to convey the message of the author. Aside from content editing, a copy editor can also act as a fact-checker, which is particularly useful if you are writing a nonfiction book and involves verification of information. 

You can find copy editors at publishing houses and copy desks for news organizations. There are some freelancers who also work as copy editors. The job description of copy editors can vary depending on the places they work. For example, a copy editor working for a small newspaper can assist to design page layouts, arrange newspaper copies for print or evenonline publications, and decide the news stories that need to run. But a freelancer working for a fiction writer may sometimes only be responsible for checking sentence structure and diction.

Publications and writers usually enlist copy editing services before the proofreading stage, though the type of services can vary. There are some copy edits that are light, meaning that an author can only get the basic level of editing, such as syntax and grammar. There are also heavy edits also called substantive editing which requires a deeper involvement with the text. This may involve reorganizing passages, tweaking voice and style, and rewrites. 

Ideally, a copy editor often looks for several technical issues in a piece of writing. The most important thing any copy editor needs to do is to highlight and suggest corrections to errors, such as spelling errors, punctuation errors, grammatical errors, and syntax. These areas can also be handled by a separate proofreader, but a copy editor must still tackle them once they come across them because they can have an impact on the content of the work.  

Too many words can affect a text and confuse the readers. Therefore, a copy editor needs to tighten phasing and remove superfluous sentences to help to streamline the message or story of a writer. 

A copy editor also needs to be detail-oriented. You should note that one of the key responsibilities of copy editors is to go through a written work and ensure details are consistent like descriptions of characters and settings. If a house is blue in one chapter, then white in the next, it’s the job of a copy editor to take note of this and change the details.

Copy editing can also involve research, particularly when editing nonfiction books. If a specialized fact checker is not available for a publication, then a copy editor can verify the events and dates to maintain factual accuracy. 

Copy editing steps

If you desire to become a copy editor, then there are some basic steps that can help you to get started. Firstly, you need to determine the level of copy editing you want to provide. If you are a beginner, it’s a good idea to follow the more basic responsibilities, such as identifying syntax and spelling errors. But if you have a little experience and are already quite familiar with the style guides, then a more substantive editing role can be right. 

It’s crucial to give the content an initial read-through. Remember that the first time reading must focus on the big picture, but don’t include any editing suggestions. Reading the whole text before offering your notes can assist you to understand the writer and text better. 

After you complete the initial reading of the content, you should go back and reread. While doing this, you need to make sure that the text is properly conveying the writer’s intent and the sentences work logically. The writing should also maintain its style and voice throughout, details or factual should be consistent, and the ideas need to flow smoothly in each paragraph.

Once you analyze the content and formulate your plan on how to edit it, you should go at the beginning again. You must go through each sentence and implement any line edits or suggestions. 

After making the edits, make sure that they comply with specific formatting standards. For example, if you want to edit a magazine or novel, you can decide to use The Chicago Manual of Style. On the other hand, if you intend to edit a news story, then The Associated Press Stylebook can be a good option. There is also a chance that you can have a style sheet. This refers to a handy template that outlines the house style used by the publisher of the book you are editing. But if there are no formatting rules you need to follow, then just make sure that the writer’s style is consistent.

You should also make sure that you check your work. It’s crucial that your editing improves the readability of the content, and not complicates it. There is still a proofreading stage, but try to make sure that the content is error-free. If you manage to accomplish this, then the readers cannot get lost in irrelevant details or overwhelmed by poorly-structured phrases.