Most writers know that for professional results it is important to put their manuscript through at least one round of editing. If the writer is comfortable with the manuscript in terms of story, plot, timelines, character formation, and so on, then investing in the services of a copy editor is the next best step. During the copy editing phase, the manuscript is checked for spelling, grammar, jargon, punctuation, initial formatting, semantics, potential legal issues, and simple fact checks.
During the initial read-through, your copy editor should let you know if your manuscript is even ready for this copy editing step. Some manuscripts are so filled with all kinds of errors, that your editor may request that you continue to work on your manuscript before you submit it for copy editing. Don’t be discouraged; that’s the editor’s job. You should allow your potential editor to at least review the first 1-3 chapters of your manuscript before you receive a quote and/or proposal for the project; that way, there will be no “surprises” from either side.
Copy editing is a very detailed and time-consuming process that should be completed by a professor copy editor, not just someone who got an “A” in their high school or college English class. A skilled copy editor usually takes your manuscript through two separate stages: processing and copy editing. The fee you are charged for copy editing will depend not only on the length of your manuscript but also on how much work will be involved and how many mechanical changes will have to be made. Microsoft Word is the standard word processing application used for editing, including the track changes feature, although Google Docs, Pages, and Scrivener are often used. A professional copy editor will do much more than run your manuscript through the “Spell/Grammar Check”; every single word will be read at least three times. Please consider this workload when you receive your quote.
A copy editor is a “rules-based” editor, checking your manuscript for adherence to both standard and customized rules for spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, consistently, etc. Copy editing is not proofreading, however, although it seems similar. The formal proofreading stage is completed after the preview copy (also known as “galley” pages) has been printed. This gives the author and the editor one last chance to check for errors while seeing the manuscript in pre-final form as the reader will see it.
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Pamela Hilliard Owens is the founder and CEO of Detroit Ink Publishing, a company that helps authors with their ghostwriting, writing, editing, formatting, manuscript preparation, and self-publishing projects. Contact us here to schedule a free consultation about your needs.