During a copy edit, an editor reviews a finished manuscript and corrects errors in grammar, spelling, and syntax. A copy edit is less comprehensive than a line edit in that your editor will not significantly alter the structure of your sentences or paragraphs.
Is copy editing only for books?
Not at all. If someone has written it, it can and should be copy edited. Even if you're not publishing books, if you're a professional, you're writing all the time. You may be writing internal communications, blog posts, proposals, websites, or client correspondence but whatever it is, trust me, you need a copy editor.
Should I hire a copy editor?
Yes. Even though you can have a friend or colleague edit your work --- if they're very good at editing -- you should probably hire someone. Copy editing is a skill which requires more than just good grammar and, if it's a professional communication, it should be edited by a professional.
When do I need a copy editor?
By the time your manuscript is at the copy edit stage, it shouldn’t need any more style, flow, or language suggestions. As far as you are concerned, it’s complete and you’re ready to take the last step of ensuring there are no mistakes.
How do I know if I’m ready for a copy edit?
You might not. Newer writers frequently misjudge when their manuscripts are ready for a copy edit. I’ve worked with writers who weren't ready but asked for a copy edit only because they didn't know they had any other choice. If you're meeting with an editor and they suggest that your manuscript may need additional work, be open to their feedback. They know what they’re talking about and listening to them now will make your manuscript better in the long run.
Is copy editing foolproof?
Nope. Nobody's perfect and errors get past editors all the time; they also get past Grammarly and Spell Check. When you hire a copy editor, even if they’re good at their job, they may still miss one or two errors. If there is a pattern of repeated errors, however, you'll probably want to hire someone else.
What’s the difference between copy editors?
First of all, different copy editors may use different style guides, so you want to make sure the copy editor you hire will use the right style guide for the job. Different copy editors differ in their opinions about certain disputed topics (i.e. the Oxford Comma). If you feel strongly about something, ask the copy editor about their preference. Where there is room for flexibility, you can request that the editor adhere to your own preferences.
Lastly, because they are human beings, copy editors also differ in how they interact with clients. Some are very shy and prefer no contact beyond an email or a brief phone call. Others are more outgoing and make themselves available for conversation. However, remember that an editor's time is valuable and you should make an appointment and pay their hourly rate if you want to have a more in-depth discussion.
I am always happy to schedule a brief phone call to discuss whether I am the right copy editor for you. In addition to working with book-length manuscripts, I love working with organizational and corporate internal communications, essays, and blog posts.