Please see the Why Is Copyediting Necessary? page, which summarizes the reasons that copyediting is important to your success.
Mainly, you need to understand what stage your manuscript is in, therefore what kind of editing it needs, before you hire any professional editor. Developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading are very different from one another, but each is useful for a different stage in your manuscript’s development. I recommend Brian Klems’ helpful article titled “10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You—But Should” in Writer’s Digest. You should also take a look at my brief explanations of copyediting vs. developmental editing and copyediting vs. proofreading. Finally, I recommend to all of my clients that they use beta readers. Jen Anderson of Clearing Blocks Editing wrote a helpful article titled “The Importance and Limitations of Beta Readers.”
When I receive your manuscript, it will stay safe in my hands until I have finished a full and thorough edit. After I’ve done an initial high-level pass through the manuscript, I’ll ask you any overarching questions. I prefer that all manuscripts be sent to me as Microsoft Word document files (.doc or .docx), because I use the Track Changes feature in Word for all of my comments and suggested changes. If I think it necessary for a specific change, I provide an explanation for the correction or suggestion so that you can understand my reasoning. You can then review each comment and suggested change, accepting those you approve. Rather than immediately rejecting any substantive change, you may want to ask me for further clarification of the reason for the change. Finally, you will have either accepted or rejected each change and considered (then deleted) each comment so that you will have a clean version of your edited document—my job is to make suggestions intended to improve the reader’s experience, but the final decisions are yours. If you’re unfamiliar with the Track Changes feature of Word, I’ll be happy to give you a quick tutorial.
Please see the Contact page, which requests the necessary information so that I can provide you with a sample edit and a preliminary price and time estimate. If you approve, you’ll then need to send me the full manuscript and I’ll review it to finalize my estimate before beginning work.
I prefer that all manuscripts be sent to me as Microsoft Word document files (.doc or .docx), because I use the Track Changes feature in Word for all of my comments and suggested changes. You can then review each comment and suggested change, accepting those you approve. Rather than immediately rejecting any substantive change, you may want to ask me for further clarification of the reason for the change. Finally, you will have either accepted or rejected each change and considered (then deleted) each comment so that you will have a clean version of your edited document. If you’re unfamiliar with the Track Changes feature of Word, I’ll be happy to give you a quick tutorial.
While editing a manuscript, the copyeditor creates a style sheet listing the references relied upon (usually a specific dictionary and style manual) and the decisions made on spelling, punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, presentation of dates and numbers, etc. For fictional works, the style sheet can also contain information about people, places, and the timeline. This style sheet is specific to the manuscript (or, in the case of a book series, the series of manuscripts) and can then be referred to by the author and the rest of the editorial and publishing team.
That depends. I generally work on a first-come, first-served basis but try to accommodate short deadlines whenever possible. For rush jobs, there may be an additional charge. Mainly, turnaround time is determined by the following:
- Length of the manuscript
- Extent of editing work required
Based on my sample edit and the stated length of your manuscript, I’ll prepare a preliminary price and time estimate before we agree that I’ll do the project. For further information and to obtain the sample edit and estimate, please go to the Contact page.
Prices for my copyediting services depend on the following:
- Length of the manuscript
- Extent of editing work required
- Turnaround time requested (there may be an additional fee for rush jobs)
Based on my sample edit (see Contact page), I will determine the extent of editing work required for your project and prepare a preliminary price and time estimate explaining my rationale. If you disagree with my assessment of how much editing will be required, we can certainly discuss alternatives.
I generally charge by the page or word (the standard page in the editing world is defined as 250 words), but may charge per hour for some projects if they include significant uncertainty regarding the work required or if the client requests.
Soon after I complete your project—or after any agreed-upon milestones or on a predetermined schedule—I’ll send you an invoice via email or regular mail. Acceptable payment methods will be listed in the invoice, but my preference is generally for payment via credit card or PayPal.
No, not if we’re “on the same page.” My goal is to help your voice shine through, by intervening only as much as you like. In fact, I’ll edit a few pages of your work as a sample before we agree on editing the entire manuscript. This sample edit helps both of us: I gain an understanding of your editing needs and you can evaluate my approach. I’ll work in collaboration with you and make suggestions that will improve the manuscript. And remember: Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function allows you to accept or reject any change.
Copyediting is a “micro” edit that takes into account line-by-line language issues, as well as issues of consistency and clarity, within a manuscript. For example, a copyeditor will edit for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax, but will also point out discrepancies such as dates and characters’ physical descriptions. A copyeditor is a close reader and also considers the standards of the appropriate style manual. Note that heavy copyediting can incorporate some aspects of developmental/substantive editing, but this would be agreed upon by the copyeditor and client.
Developmental/substantive editing is editing at the more “macro” level, looking at the “big picture” elements, such as structure, flow, and voice, (plus, for fiction, plot, character, dialogue, and setting). For example, although a developmental editor should question unclear organization of sections of text, a weakly developed character, or an improbable plot twist, a copyeditor does not have the responsibility to do so. A copyeditor may note the lengthiness of a passage and let the author decide whether to revise, but a development editor will likely re-draft the passage for the author’s review. An editorial letter from the developmental editor to the author can often be helpful in explaining the rationale for these “big picture” edits and may also mention potential audience and marketability of the manuscript.
In this way, developmental editing is really part of the revision process. You can go it alone or hire a developmental editor to help you:
- Go it alone. In this case, you would benefit from following an approach described in a book. For example, I highly recommend the books written by Stuart Horwitz, a developmental editor and writing coach. He has published three books on the topic. In full disclosure, I should let you know that I proofread his second book and copyedited his third book and that he directs many of his clients to me when they reach the copyediting stage. You can find more information about his books on his company’s website. His approach is useful for both fiction and nonfiction works and for works of any length.
- Hire a developmental editor or a writing coach. Again, I highly recommend Stuart Horwitz. Let him know that I sent you.
Regardless of whether you hire a developmental editor, I recommend that you engage beta readers. Jen Anderson of Clearing Blocks Editing wrote an article titled “The Importance and Limitations of Beta Readers,” which provides some helpful tips for finding qualified beta readers and guiding them to provide useful feedback. This step is critical for any type of manuscript.
Only when you have finished writing, revising, and incorporating feedback from beta readers are you ready for copyediting.
Basically, copyediting takes place earlier in the publishing process than does proofreading. In fact, the copyeditor creates a style sheet listing the references relied upon (usually a specific dictionary and style manual) and the decisions made on spelling, punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, presentation of dates and numbers, etc. This style sheet is specific to your manuscript and can then be referred to by the proofreader when checking the project before it goes to print. For example, if you prefer a less common spelling of a word and have used that spelling consistently throughout your manuscript, the copyeditor will note this in the style sheet and the proofreader will see that. Otherwise, the proofreader might be tempted to change the spelling, which might introduce inconsistency and even increase costs since changes at the proofreading stage are often more expensive.
Spellcheck software, such as that in Microsoft Word, is of limited use, because it won’t catch all spelling mistakes. You certainly should run spellcheck on your manuscript, but it’s not sufficient. Let’s consider a few situations in which spellcheck falls short.
A word isn’t the intended word but is a different word and is spelled correctly:
Leaning should be fun.
In this case, the writer means learning rather than leaning, but spellcheck won’t flag the word since leaning is a word and it is spelled correctly. This problem also occurs frequently with homophones—words that sound alike but have different meanings and may have different spellings—such as steaks and stakes.
A word is omitted:
The company plans to sell product in countries.
From context, we may know that the writer was discussing two countries in which consumers might like the product, so he or she intended to say The company plans to sell product in both countries. Spellcheck won’t flag that the word both was omitted. Even the grammar functionality within Word’s spellcheck won’t flag that this intended word was omitted, because the sentence as written is grammatically correct.
An apostrophe is incorrectly used:
You’re mother likes chocolate.
Since the writer means to indicate possessive (the mother of the person he or she is addressing), the correct spelling is Your rather than You’re. The sentence should read: Your mother likes chocolate. Like homophones, contractions and possessives are frequently confused with each other. It’s/its, you’re/your, and who’s/whose are just a few of these. Spellcheck won’t flag you’re in the example sentence above, because it’s a word and is spelled correctly. The grammar functionality within Word is somewhat more helpful in this situation but still not perfect.
Certainly, within reason, and I’ll do my best to find answers. If finding the answer might take too much time away from my paying projects, however, I’ll simply refer you to an alternative source (book or website) in which you may be able to find the answer. If you have an urgent need, you may want to take a look at my recommended books and websites on your own.
Here are some websites that might be of use to writers. Please let me know if you have any additional suggestions.
Writing and Editing—General
- The Writing Resource: Bite-Sized Lessons to Improve Your Writing
- Writer’s Digest
- Jane Friedman
- Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog
- Beth Hill’s blog
- Susan Uttendorfsky’s series of articles with free editing tips for authors, writers, poets, and storytellers
- K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors blog
- Jane Friedman’s explanation of point of view in fiction
- Beth Hill’s article about intimate narrators
- Scribophile’s article about third-person omniscient point of view
- Writer’s Digest article about character consistency
- Writer’s Relief article about dialogue dos and don’ts
- Joanna Penn’s article about dialogue tags and action tags
- Jen Anderson’s article about finding good beta readers and guiding them to provide useful feedback
- Merriam-Webster Free Online Dictionary & Thesaurus (a free smartphone app is also available)
Grammar & Usage
- Grammar Girl’s tips for editing and revising
- Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Capital Community College Guide to Grammar and Writing
- Daily Grammar
- Englishpage.com: Prepositions & Phrasal Verbs
- Word Power: English Grammar (especially useful for verb tenses)
- Paul Brians’s Common Errors in English Usage
- Dr. Grammar (University of Northern Iowa)
- Grammar Monster
- Grammar Girl’s summary of how to use commas
Microsoft Word Tracked Changes Feature
As with any Microsoft Office software feature or function, I suggest that you look at the Help menu (the ? at the upper right) for the details. The following serve as good starting points, providing an overview of the Tracked Changes feature for each version of Word.
Certainly, I take confidentiality very seriously! The documents that you submit to me are your property. If you’re concerned about confidentiality with regard to a legal document that you need copyedited, I would recommend that you replace proper names with aliases that you can find & replace in Word after the document has been copyedited. However, all documents are confidential unless you provide me with specific approval for using your name or any portion of your original or edited manuscript in my marketing materials.