What happens during a copyedit?

September 9th, 2020 by Jane Turner

What happens during a copyedit? Every editor is different, but here I want to lay out my process for you.

An editor’s job is to refine and polish your work. To highlight any holes or inconsistencies. To be the pickiest reader you’ve ever had and suggest changes accordingly.

With that in mind, send your manuscript off to your editor. Then sit back and relax. (Or, at least, try to!)

Here’s what your editor will be doing while you’re relaxing on your ‘Celebrating Completion’ holiday.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels

What happens during a copyedit? What exactly are you doing to my manuscript?

The first thing I do on receiving your manuscript is check the language and make sure it’s consistent – if you’ve started in UK English, you should finish in UK English; not switch to US English halfway through.

Then, I’ll make sure your manuscript is double spaced. It makes it easier to read and lets us both see changes more easily.

Thirdly, I’ll turn Track Changes on. This makes sure you can see exactly what I’m doing from this point forward.

Now, I’ll look for formatting already in place:

  • How have you changed chapters?
  • How do you change paragraphs? Have you indented or tabbed?
  • Are Word Styles in place?
  • Do you double-space after a full stop/period?

There are standards the industry expects, and I adjust your manuscript to adhere to these. All of these formatting changes make your manuscript more acceptable to agents, publishers and typesetters – the less work they have to do on your manuscript, the better!

After these basic formatting checks, I run your manuscript through PerfectIt editing software, which catches changes in spelling, extra spaces, inconsistent abbreviations, etc. It’s an incredibly useful tool and saves editors an enormous amount of page-flipping. Depending on the word count, a PerfectIt run can take up to an hour.

Just these things can take hours. If your manuscript has a hefty word count but short chapters, it will take even longer.

All that is first? When do you get to the actual words?

After these checks, I (finally!) start looking at the text itself – the ‘proper’ editing work!

I’ll be making sure your language clear, concise and conforms to your preferred Style Guide. I’m also checking your language use, punctuation, grammar and the flow; making tweaks where appropriate. I’m commenting on anything I’m unsure of; ambiguity is not welcomed by a reader.

I’m reviewing your text sentence by sentence. Line by line. Sometimes, even phrase by phrase.

This takes time. Lots of time.

My personal editing speed is between 1,200 and 1,700 words per hour – which is a good guide if you’re wondering how long an edit will take. (A 100,000 word manuscript will take around 67 hours, maybe longer.)

Remember though; editing requires intense concentration, so you won’t find many editors who work 8 hour days on a manuscript. Most will edit 4-6 hrs per day. It’s just plain exhausting to do it for longer than that. Editing is a job, requiring training, experience and resources; just like any other.

While referring to Style Guides, dictionaries and other reference materials, and changing formatting as I go, I am working to make your manuscript flow smoothly, be understandable and clear, be correct and consistent. I’m also creating your Style Sheet, listing all the decisions made and citing sources.

And, many hours later, when I reach the end of the document, I’ll run it through PerfectIt again to ensure I’ve not caused any typos, formatting mishaps or errors.

Then, and only then, do you get your manuscript back.

Will you be in touch while this is going on?

Not usually, no – though I may send an email or two if I have a query that needs an answer before I move forward.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard from me. I’m head down over your manuscript.

It’s always best just to get into an edit with no interruptions, but do drop me a line if you have any concerns.

So, what comes back to me?

You’ll get two copies of the manuscript itself. A Markup copy, which shows each and every change I’ve made, and a Clean copy, which only shows the Comments I’ve inserted.

You’ll also a Style Sheet, or an updated Style Sheet if you sent one with the manuscript.

I recommend you look at the Clean copy first, reviewing and responding to my Comments as you go. Go to the Markup copy if you want to see exactly what I changed in any specific paragraph.

Do you review it again, after I’ve answered your comments and made any revisions?

Yes, I’ll do a final read-through – as long as it comes to me within one month. Any longer than that and it will have gone out of my mind, I won’t remember it clearly. I may request an additional fee as it will take longer to review.

I hope you now understand what happens during your edit. Your manuscript is in safe hands. Honest.

And you, as author, have final say over any adjustments I may make.

Do get in touch for a sample edit, and judge for yourself how much I can help. And check out my Testimonials.

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