In a copy edit, I get into the meat of each sentence to make sure there are no errors. For a copy edit we are not looking at what role the subject of the sentence plays in the bigger picture — only the sentence matters at this level. Think of me as your editor with blinders. With them on, I won’t be touching the plot, or changing characters, writing style, or pacing.
A copy editor doesn’t modify sentences, chop them up or combine them. My focus will be on making sure of the correctness of the syntax and grammar. But the copy editor’s job is more than just checking grammar and spelling. I need to ensure that all elements of the manuscript are consistent, cohesive and complete.
Copy editing consists of:
For a little more concise list, here are things I’ll be looking for and revising, if necessary:
Copy editing can be heavy, medium or light depending on the amount of work or the needs of the manuscript. Again, being able to do English copy editing and Spanish copy editing is a big help to a lot of my clients.
Heavy copy editing may stray into the realm of line editing or even substantive editing when it involves changes to structure. This can happen while working with any author, but is especially true when working on manuscripts authored by non-native, non-fluent English writers. In such cases, the content might be brilliant from a developmental perspective but sentences could be cumbersome, paragraphs need better organization and word choices might not be optimal.
Medium and light copy editing do not require structural changes. They focus on improvements like correcting wordiness, punctuation, subject-verb agreement and others from the above list.
Now is a good time to mention that if you’re on a limited budget, are confident in your writing style, and are only going to have one round of editing done, make it a copy edit. While a misspelled or misused word in a published book can be embarrassing, a full sentence that just doesn’t make sense is worse.