What Is An Editor: Part Three

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Copy Editing

In our final post of this series, we’re talking about copyediting, which is the type of editing many writers who are looking to hire an editor think of as “editing.” Copyediting is the step where a skilled wordsmith and grammarian will go over your manuscript with a fine eye. A question that many writers ask is why they shouldn’t go straight to the copyediting first. After all, you want to put your most-polished work out there, right?


As we’ve described in Part One and Part Two of this series, your most-polished work comes after you’ve got your story intact and your prose is doing justice to the story you’re telling. Then comes the spot-free rinse—the final cleanup before you send your words out to the world. So, other than needing to make sure your story works and that your prose is perfect, why not go to copyediting first? The simple answer: You don’t want to pay for copyediting and then find story problems later, making any copyedits null and void if you cut entire scenes. That’s why this one is your last step, rather than your first.

A copy editor will make sure that you’ve:

  • punctuated properly

  • used correct grammar

  • avoided spelling errors

  • stayed consistent in style, voice, and story

As they go through your manuscript editing and correcting any issues, copy editors also give an overall review to make sure it has that highly-polished, professional look. In the book-publishing arena, copyeditors must be well-versed in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS); so if you’re looking to traditionally publish, make sure you hire a copyeditor who knows CMS formatting.

Sometimes, editing firms and publishing houses combine the line- and copyediting steps. The line/copy editor will focus on the sentence-level as well as the word-level, trimming sentences down where needed and polishing up the prose as well as the mechanical level of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. When you hire a copyeditor, be sure to clarify with them if they are combining the line and copy steps.

So what happens after copyediting? It depends on which publishing route you’re taking. If you’re going to traditionally publish, this is usually the final step before you start submitting to agents and publishing houses (note: you can query at any time during the editing processes—if you get a manuscript request, you’ll want to submit it after all of the editing is complete!). If you’re going the self-publishing route, copyediting is usually the last step before you take your manuscript to press. Once the book is laid out by a professional book designer, you’ll want to be sure you have a final look, called proofreading, to make sure that everything still looks good (and to check for pagination issues, widows and orphans, and other inconsistencies that may have been created in the layout process or may have been missed in the copyediting process).

Now that you know there are different types of editing—and just as many different types of editors—you’re ready to take your manuscript to the next level by hiring a professional (and reputable) editor.

Lindsay Flanagan is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in developmental and substantive editing. She runs her own writing, editing, and photography business, Elle&A, and also edits for the award-winning Eschler Editing firm and for Immortal Works Publishing.

*The opinions expressed in this blog are of value and importance, yet do not serve to represent any and/or all opinions of TLM Language Services Co., nor necessarily the employees/affiliates of TLM Language Services Co.

#editor #editing #grammar #writing #copyediting

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