What Do Copy Editors Do?

From shepherding a project to completion to identifying nitty-gritty mistakes in grammar, there are several types of editing that improve text — not to mention a myriad of additional operations such as rewriting, electronic coding, fact checking, indexing, obtaining permissions, etc.

Copy editing is the last type of editing that a text undergoes. When a text gets to the copy editing stage, it’s getting ready for its close-up.

In the EAC‘s Standard Freelance Editorial Agreement, the definition of copy editing includes the following:

  • editing for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style
  • checking for consistency of mechanics and for internal consistency of facts
  • inserting head levels and approximate placement of art
  • editing tables, figures, and lists
  • notifying the designer of any unusual production requirements

Editing for “mechanics of style” means ensuring the text follows the appointed style guide, such as Canadian Press or Chicago.

Depending on the needs of the text, the contract could be enhanced to include more tasks, such as Canadianizing, metrication, index editing, or providing a system of citation.

That long reference list you wrote to CSE specs? Give your eyes a break, and let a copy editor check it.


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Filed under editing and writing, FAQ, style guides

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