Copy Editing: What it is and Why it is Important

2 11 2012

Charles Henry Editing does several consultations every day to meet new clients and to discuss in detail our different editing services. The question we are asked most often is “What are the different types of editing?” Translation: What service is best for my manuscript? We offer three distinct editing services: copy editing, content editing, and proofreading. Today we are hoping to illuminate what copy editing is and explain why it is important.

Copy editing focuses on five C’s:

  1. Clarity
  2. Concision
  3. Correcting errors
  4. Completion
  5. Consistency

Copy editors should make it say what it means, and mean what it says. They fix the words on the page to make sure they say exactly what the author meant to say in the clearest way for the reader to comprehend.

Copy editing involves correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, and semantic, and ensuring that the text adheres to the publisher’s style or an external style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook

Why get a professional copy editor?

Copy editors are expected to ensure that the text flows, that it is sensible, fair, and accurate, and that any legal problems have been addressed. If a passage is unclear or an assertion seems questionable, the copy editor may ask the writer to clarify it.

Sometimes, the copy editor is the only person, other than the writer, to read an entire text before publication and, for this reason they are the writer’s last line of defense. They also advocate changes on behalf of the reader. What seems explanatory to the authors may not always make sense to readers.

A professional to copy editor wants to make the publication the best it can be. They are trained to fix details such as commas, or whether it is correct to use that or which. While it is quicker and easier to use copy editing software than to hire a copy editor, the software will always come up short. Why? Software doesn’t have a brain. It can’t feel an authors style or tone.  Software can only make corrections based on what it has been programmed to understand as correct.

Most importantly, a professional copy editor has another pair of eyes which will look at the work dispassionately. They are not emotionally attached to the text, thus are better positioned to see flaws. Hiring a copy editor is investing in a little tough love. Authors often feel like they have just given birth when they have completed a manuscript. The work is precious, beautiful and perfect. A copy editor is like the nurse in the hospital who cleans a newborn. They aren’t trying to change the essence of the work; they just want to clean up everything and make it presentable for the outside world to see.

Make sure to come back tomorrow because we will be going over the importance of content editing/substantive editing.

Thanks for reading!

Interested in having your work copy edited?

Go to or email to set up a consultation. Throughout November of 2012, copy editing is 1/2 off: $.01 a word.




One response

4 12 2012
Tom Slaiter

I never knew about the “5 C’s”, thanks for the info! Certainly clears up my understanding on why copy editing is important.

Thanks for the post 😀

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