can be a quick cleanup, or it can go deeper—depending on what I find.  Copyediting is the most usual name for this process, though some people refer to it as manuscript editing or line editing.  I've found that copyediting sorts itself into three levels:  light, medium, and heavy.  You and I will come to an agreement on which level you need before I begin work. 

The Light Edit

An editor working at the light edit level is a bit like Watson the computer with a human soul.  It's the last step before typesetting.  (It's more than proofreading: see the bottom of this page for the proper definition of proofreading.)

Correctness is, first of all, in the mechanics.  I will go over each sentence of your manuscript to deal with basic issues like grammar, spelling, punctuation, lack of parallelism, misuse of idiom, erroneous word choice, dangling modifiers, and adherence to a designated style. Correctness also includes factual accuracy.  If that is in question, the perceived value of your entire piece can go way down.  If I suspect a compromise to your credibility, I will offer corrections or suggest that you revisit your references.  I can do a more thorough fact-check if you request it.

Consistency in mechanics and format, including references and visual elements, is ensured according to two standard style guides,The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.  I am also current with APA* style, 6th ed., and MLA.  

*A special note for students:  I will address any mechanical problems or issues of consistency, clarity, and flow that I identify in your manuscript; verify references; and ensure compliance with the style guide and writing conventions of your discipline.  I do not make fundamental content alterations in response to recommendations from your faculty mentor—that's your job.

If you represent an organization and it has a style guide, I’ll follow that too.  I will ensure continuity of detail, and develop a style sheet just for you so that Aunt Millie doesn’t morph into Aunt Milly in the last chapter.

If you are very sure a light copy edit is all you need, whenever I identify concerns that go beyond mechanical issues, I will simply query you instead of rewriting.  Often, however, the work shades into . . .

The Medium and Heavy Edit

Even though you and I will have agreed on the need to have your writing “put to rights” at the level of correctness and consistency, I am likely to also recommend alterations in how you say things.  Some refer to copyediting at levels beyond the mechanical as substantive editing.  So . . . a medium edit will include a light edit, but also look at the following:

Clarity.  Clear writing gets right to the point, but achieving this noble goal is sometimes tricky. And even though that point is clear enough to you, your reader may, alas, have fallen off the track.  I will spot these problems and work with you until the confusion is gone.

Language.  Your words must please me—I am the stand-in for your future readers!  I track down the old bugaboos of wordiness, repetition, cliché, mixed metaphor, offensive language, jargon, misuse of dialogue or passive voice, overuse of a pet phrase or device, awkward punctuation or phrasing—things that can put a barrier between you and your audience.  I will look at your sentences and your paragraphs and strive for pleasing structure, organization, and length. In pursuit of your excellence, I tend to follow the tried and true rule "eliminate unnecessary words," targeting anything that does not contribute to your goal.  You may find my cutting of deadwood harsh at first, but your readers will thank you.

“Good Writing.” You are the author, and you know more than a few things already, but as your editor, I’m likely to give you miscellaneous suggestions under the heading of Good Writing in which I do things like suggest places to “show, not tell” and comment on your use (or overuse) of adjectives and adverbs.   

And maybe even more! I call it heavy editing when it seems clear that significant intervention (rewriting) at the sentence and paragraph level is needed. I am a good ghostwriter and can seamlessly integrate my words with yours.

After you have had a chance to respond to my medium to heavy editing changes, I will put on my light copy editor's hat one last time, and your manuscript is good to go!  

That's copyediting.  

Unless Your Big Picture Needs More Focusing . . .

. . . before ANY copyediting happens! Sometimes after review of a manuscript, I recommend a developmental process, having realized that the piece needs improvement in areas such as organization, pacing, or plot development before a copy edit is even worth your investment. You could simply take my initial recommendations to your studio and get back to work, or you could, in addition, consider allowing me to put on my developmental editor’s hat and evaluate your document as a whole for its ability to lead the reader happily along to a satisfying conclusion.  I’ll make recommendations regarding such things as theme, structure, logic, and narrative arc, and give you general comments on overall tone and effectiveness. We can collaborate/brainstorm on your manuscript from the draft stage, through multiple revisions, editing, and even final proofreading, until you are truly ready to publish. The particulars of how I am compensated for this work are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.  

* * *

It’s all part of an interactive process—
and the final decision on my level of involvement is always your call.

   I cannot guarantee that my work will make your manuscript sell, 
but I will have significantly improved its chances.

So . . . let's make the magic happen!!!




Yes, I do that too.  Proofreading takes place only at the level of mechanics, and by definition is for provisionally final text—manuscripts that are already thoroughly edited, perhaps even typeset, and need only a final review against a standard prior to publication. This is why I rarely even mention the word proofreading in a discussion of editing.  It's what comes at the very end of the review process.  But if that's where you are with your project, I would be happy to help out. What a shame to let your carefully crafted content be discounted just because of a silly tpyo typo!