Copyediting is one of the essential edits for your manuscript.
But, with all the different types of editing out there, how can you tell the difference between all these editing services?
And isn’t a copyedit just a fancier proofread? (It is and it isn’t, but we’ll get into that.)
In this article, I’ll explain what copyediting is, what a copyeditor does, why copyediting is important, what the difference is between copyediting and proofreading, and where you can find professional copyediting services (spoiler: I also offer copyediting services).
For previous articles in this series, see:
What is copyediting?
Copyediting is a thorough check of grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. If there’s an error, the copyeditor will fix it.
But copyediting is also more than that.
A copyeditor will also look at the syntax of the sentences, meaning word order, grammatical consistency, hierarchical structure, and clarity.
Sound like Yoda, not good would be I think.
There’s also some overlap here with developmental editing, in that a copyeditor also looks at consistency. This means that if they’ll find that a character has brown hair on one page and blond hair on the other pages, they will mark and potentially change the brown hair to blond hair.
But consistency also means to be consistent in how you write out numbers, dates, and time, how you use capitalization for certain words, and how you use formatting for words (i.e., italics for emphasis or titles).
Now, copyediting can go even further than this. Especially in nonfiction, copyeditors do fact-checks. They’ll check if the dates or numbers in a certain fact add up and if it’s accurate, if the reference is good, etc.
But also in fiction, a copyeditor can do fact-checks. This would especially be the case if you write historical fiction, for instance, where you have put in factually correct details for your worldbuilding. It’s good to mention this to your copyeditor, so they know they need to check those facts for accuracy.
If you need to have your facts checked, then make sure your copyeditor has experience with your field. While every copyeditor can google, it helps when they’re experts in a certain topic, such as history for historical fiction. Or psychology when you have a psychologist/therapist as a character or a character with a certain mental condition.
Is copyediting really necessary?
You might think: well, that all sounds great, but I’m pretty good at grammar, so I don’t think I’ll need a copyedit.
To this I say: you have to be absolutely sure that your own grammar skills are top-notch to do your own copyediting. Especially when you’ve already read your story ten times or more.
You tend to become blind to your mistakes at some point.
But, of course, I’m not here to push any kind of editing on you. If you are confident that your story is, in fact, nearly flawless in its grammar, syntax, and consistency, then you may indeed not need a copyedit. A proofread might be enough for you.
However, if grammar is a weak spot for you, you need to invest in a copyeditor. The importance of copyediting cannot be overstated here.
If you want to compete with traditionally published work, your book has to be as close to flawless as possible. Nothing takes a reader more out of a story than obvious grammatical mistakes.
Don’t let that be your book.
Copyediting vs proofreading
So, as I said before, you may not need copyediting if you’re a real grammar person yourself.
But what do you actually get in copyediting that you don’t get in proofreading?
As I’ve said, copyediting is a much more thorough check. Whereas proofreading also focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, typos, formatting, and consistency in numbers, dates, etc., a proofreader doesn’t focus on syntax issues.
Meaning, if you have syntax errors (i.e., disagreements in verb tense, mistakes in hierarchical structure) or unclear sentences (i.e., overuse of demonstratives, run-on sentences), a proofreader may mark them, but they usually don’t fix them. They’re not going to change up the word order.
For those things, you’ll need a copyeditor.
And, as I also mentioned above, if you have facts you want to be checked, you’re also going to need a copyeditor.
So, on the one hand, copyediting is indeed a more thorough version of proofreading. However, copyediting also involves some additional editing that you won’t get from a proofreader.
Need professional copyediting services?
Professional copyediting services aren’t hard to find these days. A couple of google searches can get you enough options to choose from.
When it comes to copyediting, the price range will vary. Some will be cheaper than others. And there’s a difference between charging per word or by the hour. Just remember: you generally get what you pay for.
Grammatical errors are a real killer for any book, so this is a service you’ll definitely want to invest in if you’re serious about publishing your work.
To reduce costs, try and see if you can combine services (i.e., copyediting & proofreading or line editing & copyediting). This is generally cheaper than booking these services separately.
Before you go off and hire a copyeditor, make sure that you’re 100% happy with the story (it would be a shame if you get copyediting and then delete and add chapters) and that you’ve scanned through the document yourself, finding and fixing as many errors as possible.
Another piece of advice: always ask for a sample.
You want to make sure that the copyeditor is a good fit.
Now, where to find a copyeditor?
One way is, of course, to google.
Another way is to look at the Reedsy marketplace (you need to sign up, but the professionals there have been vetted for experience).
And, of course, you can work with me!
My specialties are Fantasy & Sci-Fi, and if you have a story with a lot of psychological facts or a character with a disorder, I’d be happy to check the accuracy. I also have a background in child psychology.
Don’t hesitate to send me an email with any questions you might have!