What Does A Copy Editor Do?

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What Does a Copy Editor Do?

Since starting my business a few years ago, I have come to realize a lot of people don’t know or don’t understand what a copy editor does. Most people know what a book editor does, but what does a copy editor do?

When people find out I am a copy editor, I usually get one of two responses.

  1. I am the grammar police. I’m going to point out all of their grammar errors either verbal errors during a conversation or written errors in their text messages or emails.
  2. I am an expensive spellchecker and comma placement guru.

The Grammar Police

Let’s touch on the first assumption. Yes, I am going to notice your grammar errors. I can’t help it. I am trained to notice these things. It is what I do for a living. No, I am never going to point out your mistakes. That would be rude. We don’t always speak the way we write, so sometimes, we do not speak using correct grammar. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the words were out of my mouth before I thought about what I was actually saying.” We speak quickly. We don’t always take the time to make sure everything that comes out of our mouth is grammatically correct, and that’s ok. It is the art of casual conversation.

When it comes to text messages and emails, guess what? I make mistakes too. If I am in a hurry, I don’t take time to reread my message checking for errors. And, don’t get me started on autocorrect. Half the time, it is auto mistake. So, I promise I will not point out your mistakes as long as you don’t point out mine. Of course, when it comes to my work, I always take time to double check for mistakes.

The Expensive Spellchecker

Spellcheck is great. It catches many mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed. However, spellcheck has its limits and will not find every error. For example, it may not make the distinction between accept and except, or it may not differentiate between affect and effect. In this case, all of those words are spelled correctly because they are being used in the right context. If they are used incorrectly, spellcheck probably won’t notice. That’s where an editor comes in.

What Else Does an Editor Do?

As an editor, I do so much more than correct spelling mistakes and insert commas. Here is just a sampling of the things I do:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Use of hyphens
  • Consistency of capitalization
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Sentence structure
  • Wordiness
  • Clarity
  • Accuracy

If I’m editing your website, I check your contact information. Transposing letters in your email address or numbers in your phone number could be disastrous. I make sure all of the links in your site work. We want to be certain when customers click on your About Me page, they don’t get redirected to your Blog page. Additionally, I look for missing information. What do your customers need to know that may not be included?

As an editor, I work hard behind the scenes. I am a second set of eyes making sure your written communication is free of errors and is on target for your customers. You can find out more about what editors do in my blog What to Expect from Your Copy Editor.


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