Copy-editing is the mid-way point of preparing any type of written document – printed or electronic – for presentation and communication. The “copy” is the raw material. It can be anything – a novel, website, journal article, thesis, leaflet, podcast, textbook, examination paper, menu, flyer, or even a tee-shirt – and it may include various kinds of text, tables, graphs, diagrams, illustrations or animations.
The role of the copy-editor or sub-editor in the case of newspapers and magazines, is to correct and finesse the written style and format of the text and its grammatical usage and punctuation.
Here are a few questions a copy editor would ask when working on a text: Is everything spelt correctly? Are there grammatical mistakes? Are sentences, paragraphs, and points, clear and precise? Would the writing improve by removing words, sentences and sections? Would the writing improve by moving sections to other parts of the text? Do new sections need to be added to the text? Can the text be written more concisely? Is the tone of the text in tune with the audience and readership? Can this be improved without diminishing the authorial voice? What degree of fact checking needs to be undertaken? Are copyright permissions authorised?
That’s just a starting point as often the copy editor will rewrite and reorganize the text, a task similar to the work of an editor. These two roles are sometimes combined depending on the project and budget.
More complicated than you thought? Don’t fret. We can get you in good writing shape.
Susan England is the lead project manager on copyediting.