The word ‘copy’ refers to any text that is being prepared for publication – it might be a book, an academic paper, advertising material or website text. During copy editing I check your document for errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, word use and formatting. I suggest changes to remove these errors; when you receive your edited text, you can review my suggestions and decide which changes you’ll adopt in your final document. I make sure all parts of your document are consistent, and I point out where information might be missing or repeated. If your document includes illustrations, I check that these are suitable and will appear in the right place. I also let you know about potential legal issues.
Copy editing involves a detailed check of:
- language – spelling, punctuation, grammar, word use, suitability
- consistency – headings, captions, labels, abbreviations and acronyms, punctuation
- layout – heading styles, typography, captions, illustrations, tables, lists
- references – bibliography, table of contents, lists, cross-references, quotations, glossary
- index – content, alphabetical order, capitalisation, punctuation, layout, fit to page
- completeness and order – all sections, illustrations, page numbers, sequences and lists.
Spelling and word use
English is a living language with many variations around the world. Dictionaries reflect the way words are spelled and used in particular places. When copy editing for Australian readers, I refer to the Macquarie dictionary . If you are writing for an international audience, you or your publisher might prefer US English (for example: organize, analyze, color) or UK English (for example: organise, analyse, colour). Please let me know if you would like me to refer to a particular dictionary.
For most projects, I refer to the Style manual: for authors, editors and printers (6th edn), which sets out the requirements for Australian Government documents. Many Australian publishers also prefer the Style manual. If you are preparing business documents, I can edit to your corporate style guide. I am familiar with a number of academic citation styles (such as APA, IEEE, Chicago and Harvard) and can apply the style that your university or journal requires.
If you prefer, I can create a style sheet for your document to record the decisions made about punctuation, spelling, word use, numerical values and more. A style sheet is a useful reference for typesetters, web developers, designers or printers who might work with your document later in the production process.
Marking up changes
I can copy edit either on screen (using MS Word Track Changes) or on hard copy (using standard proofreading symbols). If I need more information from you before I continue editing, I’ll make comments in Track Changes or compile a list of questions for you.
Before your document is published, some changes might be needed for legal reasons. For example, you may need to obtain written permission to quote from another person’s work or to use images created by someone else. You may also need to acknowledge the creator of the original work. If you are writing about real people, you may need to ask their permission or make changes so that you don’t face court action for defamation. These are just some of the issues for which you may need to seek written permission or professional legal advice. I can point out general areas of concern; however, for specific, up-to-date legal advice you should see a lawyer.
I check facts that can be verified easily and quickly: Are the correct dates used for major historical events? Are names and places spelled correctly? Are locations described appropriately? I check basic maths in tables and figures. I also check word use so that the manuscript sounds authentic – for example, 19th century character wouldn’t use modern slang.
The next step
After copy editing has been completed, your document is ready for proofreading.