What is copy-editing and how it is different from editing?

Posted Time & Date - 10:26 am - October 5, 2016

Unknown to most writers, copy-editing is very different from editing and requires a different set of skills. However, there are common similarities between the two including paying attention to the document details and check for word spellings.

Copy-editing is the process of improving the consistency and style of the text and keeping it on par with the industry standards. A copy editor must ensure that the language used is consistent in spelling (example, “colour” and “color” cannot both appear in the same document), use of hyphens, fonts, and capitalization.

While there is a level of overlapping between copy-editing and editing, listed below are the major differences between the two:

  • Level of work
    Editing work focusses more on the use of language to convey your point or story to the reader.  An editor may point out the errors in the use of overused or redundant words, in sentence construction, or in cases where the author is not able to convey the meaning clearly. On the other hand, a copy editor’s work is more detailed and exhaustive as it focusses on spelling and grammar errors, and language consistency standards.
  • Use of standard writing manuals
    An editor does not necessarily need to know the difference between British English or American English, or be well-versed with writing manuals such as The Chicago Manual of Style. A copy editor needs to have knowledge of all these things in order to do an accurate job.
  • Order of both editing jobs
    For best results, copy-editing must be performed after all the editing and rework has been completed. There is no point performing copy-editing until the content of the document has been finalized. In a book publication process, copy-editing is performed just before the book goes into production.
  • Purpose
    The job of an editor is to focus on the content and ensure that it is interesting and appealing to the reader. Use of extra-long sentences and inconsistency in the material (especially in a fiction story) can put off the reader. The job of the copy-editor is to ensure that the reader is focussed on the content, and is not distracted by silly spelling mistakes or inconsistency in the writing.

Despite these difference, the common goal of both editing and copy-editing is to ensure that the final document in high in quality and can engage any reader.