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How a copy editor can help you polish your work

As a professional freelance copy editor, I have the pleasure and honor of working with publishers and authors of scholarly titles. I have known authors who resisted copy editing (or any kind of editing), and publishers who won’t pay for a thorough edit of a manuscript. Sadly, these occurrences generally result in inferior work being published.

You may wonder why you should work with an editor at any stage of your writing. Working with an editor that you hire can help prepare your book for a publisher by making it clearer, effective, and easier to read. Most reputable publishing houses will have copyediting done as part of the process of publishing to clean up your text and make sure it conforms to the publisher’s style.

A copy editor (one you hire, or one the press uses) is not out to get you. We don’t edit just for the sake of chopping up the prose you worked so hard on. Our job is simply this: Clean up your text so that the reader gets right to your content, instead of getting tripped up in your grammar or spelling issues. If we do our job right, the author looks great, and so does the publisher! Changes we might make are all in service of that higher goal.

Here are some of the things copy editors are tasked with doing. You can see how this kind of work can improve a text:

  • Light fact-checking (place names, person names, and so on)
  • Correct grammar and (more important!) correct word usage
  • Punctuation that highlights your text and makes it readable
  • Checking that all elements (tables, figures, boxes, and so on) are placed properly and in the correct order
  • Clarity of text (by offering a “fresh set of eyes” to read over it and querying anything that is unclear)
  • Checking notes and references to make sure all are there, all are cited, and they are in the proper format.

As you can tell, copyediting provides a critical final review of your material, whether you hire an editor yourself so that you can present a polished, complete manuscript to your publisher, or whether the publisher hires an editor to be the final set of eyes on your work before it goes to typesetting. If you develop a relationship with a specific copy editor, you can probably write faster and better by knowing that someone will be looking out for you in terms of clarity and readability. You get the content down, we’ll polish it up!

Laura Poole

Laura Poole is a professional freelance copy editor with over 15 years of experience in scholarly publishing. Her company is Archer Editorial Services.