Copy editing is the process of reviewing and making changes to text (or copy) during its revision period. It is not uncommon for a document to have multiple rounds of edits before it is ready to be proofread and then, finally published. Published documents can include ebooks, scholarly articles and documents, hardcopy short stories and novels, website material and most, if not all, professional documentation.

Freelance editors will copy-edit a range of documents and if you are producing a document that will be published or assessed, then it is highly likely you will need the document copy edited or proofread by a professional.

Why you shouldn’t edit or proofread your own work

Consider this – you are writing a novel, ebook or short story; perhaps an assignment, thesis or journal article – and your hundredth draft looks like it’s the final version. Are you going to submit the document before a second pair of eyes reads over it? Are you going to hope that Word has picked up all the spelling and grammar mistakes automatically? Are you going to assume that because you understand your research question, story plot, or key messages that all your readers will too? Of course not! Your professional and personal reputation is on the line.

Yes, it is possible for you, as the writer, to distance yourselves from your work, but will you be completely objective? And will your spouse, partner, relative or friend be completely objective as well?

As a freelance editor I have no emotional connection with your work and have not invested the same amount of time, energy or passion into your piece. Therefore, I can independently review your work with minimal room for errors by omission. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t care about your work, completely the opposite really! I want to help make your document shine.

How professional copy editors work

As a professional copy editor I will review written text for:

  • Errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar, including typographical mistakes
  • Appropriate word choice
  • Correct sentence structure
  • Use of style, tone, and voice
  • Formatting styles (references, bullet points, headings)

Copy editors will read through a document at least twice. The first time I read a document is to get the overall sense of the message, so as to understand the subject matter clearly. During the second round, I read and edit at the word and sentence level and make marked-up changes in Word and comments in the margin. Comments can include suggestions to word choice or sentence re-writes to clarify the writer’s overall message.

Once you are happy with the edits to the copy there will then be the opportunity to do a final proof of the document before its published. It may be useful to know that some online self-publishing solutions, such as CreateSpace from Amazon will allow proofreaders to proof the final version of your ebook before it’s published. This is extremely helpful in ensuring that all spacing, margins and images are formatted accurately.

Finding a copy editor

It is important that you engage a copy editor that will help you on your journey to publication. You will know your copy editor is a professional and good at what they do because they have an eye for detail and have a working knowledge and understanding of current writing styles and techniques.