What is copy editing and why do you need it?

Copy editors provide a second set of eyes to catch and correct errors in your writing. A copy editor will fix errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage and style  – which is a list or guide of preferences a company may have for referring to names, titles or descriptions to maintain consistency.  I use The Associated Press Stylebook unless otherwise directed.  I also create and maintain style guides for clients.

Copy editors also may smooth out bumpy prose, add or correct awkward transitions, tighten up loose or wayward writing, conduct basic fact-checking, and pinpoint potentially libelous material.

Copy editors are the behind-the-scenes technicians who organize and polish your work. Innocent, undetected errors can quickly turn away a potential client and leave the wrong impression about your business.

Is all copy editing the same?

There are many levels of proofing and copy editing. The following descriptions of copy editing are taken from The Bay Area Editors Forum:

Light Copy editing (baseline editing)

  • Correcting faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Correcting incorrect usage (such as can for may).
  • Checking specific cross-references (for example, “As Table 14-6 shows…”).
  • Ensuring consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization.
  • Checking for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical order) in lists and other displayed material.
  • Recording the first references to figures, tables, and other display elements.

A light copyedit does not involve interventions such as smoothing transitions or changing heads or text to ensure parallel structure. The editor checks content only to detect spots where copy is missing. A light copy edit may include type marking.

Medium Copy editing

  • Performing all tasks for light copyediting.
  • Changing text and headings to achieve parallel structure.
  • Flagging inappropriate figures of speech.
  • Ensuring that key terms are handled consistently and that vocabulary lists and the index contain all the terms that meet criteria specified by the publisher.
  • Ensuring that previews, summaries, and end-of-chapter questions reflect content.
  • Tracking the continuity of plot, setting, and character traits, and querying the discrepancies, in fiction manuscripts.
  • Enforcing consistent style and tone in a multi-author manuscript.
  • Changing passive voice to active voice, if requested.
  • Flagging ambiguous or incorrect statements.
  • Type marking the manuscript.

Heavy Copy editing (substantive editing)

  • Performing all tasks for medium copy editing.
  • Eliminating wordiness, triteness, and inappropriate jargon.
  • Smoothing transitions and moving sentences to improve readability.
  • Assigning new levels to heads to achieve logical structure.
  • Suggesting—and sometimes implementing—additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level.


My minimum standard rate for copy editing is $25-$30 an hour. All jobs are negotiable based on quantity and deadline. I require $25/first hour down payment for new clients and/or quick turnaround jobs. An invoice for the balance due is then sent via PayPal.

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