The second aspect of editing recognised by the Standards is copy editing. Copy editing is done once the structural details are taken care of. An author or customer may specifically request only a copy edit. This is the most common form of editing in the profession. It involves making a number of ‘passes’ through a document, each time checking for different aspects of the material for consistency, correctness and completeness. Without the valuable second opinion an editor offers, any author striving for perfection will not be able to see errors, being too close to the work to see them.
The aspects of a manuscript requiring checking may include, but is not limited to:
- an authentic author voice
- title formatting
- overall formatting
- flow and consistency
- paragraph and sentence structure
- word use
- fact checking
- spelling, grammar and punctuation
- images and reference checks
- reviewing page numbers, header and footer material.
Copy editing is an extremely valuable service for any writer to request such is the accuracy and detail required of any quality, substantial written work. I remember my interview for the position of manager of the press marketing department at Maharishi University of Management in which the department head asked me, ‘How is your attention to detail?’ It is amazing how much comes to light when a task is given full focus, undivided attention. ‘Attention to detail’: a good mantra for a copy editor.
Traditionally, an editor uses proofreading marks or mark-up to denote changes to a manuscript for the author. These days, the ‘track changes’ function in Microsoft Word is commonly used. In working with an author, a copy editor makes use of the standard, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, or the chosen ‘House Style’ of the publisher or organisation for reference. An editor strives to maintain a respectful, constructive relationship with the author; it is a collaborative effort and tactful, skilful communications is paramount.