Why Copy Editing is Important
When you pour blood, sweat, and tears into writing the perfect research paper, the last thing you want is for your reader to immediately be distracted by a typo in the fourth line. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors can seem like a minor issue. But let’s be honest—the credibility of any publication decreases when obvious errors are present. This is why copyediting is a key part of the writing process. Copy editing is the process of reviewing a paper to ensure it is 100% error-free. Copy editors check grammar, punctuation, and much more. Once you understand what copy editing involves, you’ll soon grasp why it is part of the writing process that cannot be skipped.
What Is Copy Editing?
What is copy editing exactly? The scope of copy editing can depend on who is doing it. A friend copy editing your essay for English class might simply look for punctuation and spelling mistakes. However, professional copy editing services hired to review a marketing proposal or scientific research paper will check both the mechanics as well as the overall style and consistency, technical accuracy, and formatting. Copy editing is a slow and careful process designed to ensure that a document is the best version of itself that it can possibly be.
Copy editing generally checks the following:
- Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation)
- Word choice (are words used correctly? Is there any technical jargon or abbreviations that need to be explained?)
- Clarity (is it easy to understand the main idea of each sentence and paragraph?)
- Style and consistency (is the “voice” of the document consistent throughout? Is the tone and word choice appropriate for the intended audience?)
- Fact-checking (are the facts accurate and citations or quotes provided where needed?)
- Flow between ideas (are transitions logical and easy to follow?)
- Formatting (are headlines all capitalized? Are sections divided properly? Is font, spacing, and text size consistent?)
As you can see, copy editing can be quite an in-depth process! Copy editing means going deeply into a document while considering who is writing it, who will read it, and what the core message of the writing is. Copy editors think about all of these questions when reviewing a paper.
Who Needs a Copy Editor?Because copy editing is such a thorough process, copy editors are employed by all kinds of organizations. What is the function of a copy editor? A copy editor is, in sum, the first and last person to read a document before it is published. You can imagine the copy editor as the gatekeeper to publication. It is no surprise that publishers and news organizations hire copy editors. News articles with obvious typos or factual errors often become a target of ridicule (such as the time The Guardian newspaper misspelled its own name as Gaurdian), making copy editors indispensable members of any media organization’s staff. But you may be surprised to learn that copy editors are employed by all kinds of other organizations as well. Marketing firms, PR, law firms, universities, and all kinds of businesses hire copy editors to make sure the materials they publish are of the highest quality.
These days, with so much material being published constantly online, professional copy editing services are also on the rise. They are hired by students, professors, businesses, freelance writers, and anyone who has writing that requires in-depth review. Many professional copy editing services offer tiers of service targeting different types of customers. They employ copy editors from all kinds of backgrounds, ranging from specialized subject-matter experts for academia to former PR specialists for marketing.
What Can I Expect if I Hire a Copy Editor?
If you decide to hire a copy editor, you should know what to expect in advance. A copy editor will want to know first of all who your writing is for. Do you hope to publish it in an academic journal? Are you writing a book or a blog? A copy editor will also ask whether your intended publication platform has its own requirements. Is there a particular citation style that must be adhered to, such as APA or Chicago? Is there a word limit or minimum? You can also ask for your copy editor to focus on particular aspects of your work that you know are weak and could use help. You can ask for special attention to language and grammar or style and consistency. Perhaps you are a good writer but a terrible formatter. A copy editor can help you with that too. Whatever you need, you should provide your copy editor with an editable copy of your writing (no PDFs) and clear instructions and information about where it will be published.
Once your copy editor has your document and instructions in hand, you can expect them to carefully read it line by line to fix any issues they find. Most copy editors and professional copy editing services use the track changes function in Microsoft Word, so your document will come back to you marked with changes and possibly with comments or questions from the editor. You can choose which changes to accept or reject and work with the editor from there until you achieve the quality you are looking for. Be warned that most copy editors charge extra after the first two rounds of editing. So, if your paper needs a lot of work, you may want to search for a professional copy editing service that offers an unlimited post-editing support service.
Of course, you can do your best to copy edit your own work. But doing so can be a real challenge. You know what you intended to say, so your brain is likely to perceive your writing as being better than it is. Hiring professional copy editing services to look at your work with fresh eyes will often uncover a whole scope of issues you didn’t realize were there. But don’t despair—the end result will be a clear, accurate, well-written paper.