Copy Editing Services

Not all copy editing is the same. It's important to know the details of what a provider will offer you because the term is as generic as megapixels are to cameras. Will an 18mp camera produce better images than a 14mp camera? Not necessarily because the results also depend on other factors such as the quality of the lens and distortion.

3 kinds of copy editing

There are three core levels of copy editing. Each level delivers a different depth of editing service.

Level 1 - Proofreading

Proofreaders will check grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, verb tense, and pronouns. They also ensure consistency with spacing, headers, and formatting. Don't expect drastic changes to your writing. People who need proofreading have usually already used the services of an editor. Think of proofreading as a final check before you share your paper with the world.

The most common mistake people make is to confuse proofreading with copy editing.

Level 2 - Copy editing

This is the generally-accepted interpretation of copy editing. This is what our service offers.

In addition to the proofreading services in Level 1, copy editing focuses on the five Cs of writing:

  1. Clear
  2. Correct
  3. Concise
  4. Complete
  5. Consistent

Editors will adjust sentence and paragraph structure, eliminate redundant words, replace repetitive words with synonyms, and substitute weak words, phrases, and sentences with alternatives that deliver more impact or are more relevant to your subject matter. Experienced editors will always make sure your original tone remains intact. Expect noticeable change to your original paper. Be prepared to reread your entire paper and review these changes afterwards.

Professional editors should always use a tracking system such as Microsoft Word's Track Changes feature. This allows you to easily see and accept or reject changes to your paper on an edit-by-edit basis.

Level 3 - Substantive editing

Expect drastic changes to your original writing with this level of editing. Editors serve more as consultants and counselors who will take the freedom to rewrite major portions of your document if needed. Most people who need this level of service want help writing, and not just editing, their paper. Many people for whom English is a second language will need this level of service.

Substantive editing is often also called developmental editing; the editor rewrites your document with the intent of educating you on how to write in a grammatically correct way. New content is added if the editor feels arguments made in your original writing lack substance or need further support. Lengthy paragraphs may be split into multiple smaller paragraphs that retain clear focus on a singular message.

Substantive editing is time-consuming and can be expensive. Billing for this level of service is often on a per-hour basis.

One question to ask every editor

"Which level of copy editing will you use with my writing?"

Run away (fast) if an editor responds with, "What do you mean?" or, "We do all kinds."

One of the most important editing decisions is to decide which level of editing to apply for a project. For example, a paper is written by someone for whom English is a second language may require Substantive Editing. Not every project, however, requires this heavy-handed approach.

The editor and author (you) must match expectations so you know the types of edits that will be applied. Will the editor stop at proofreading punctuation, spelling, and grammar? Will they replace weak words with more powerful terms? Will they rearrange content for logical flow? Do you want more complexity in your writing for a professional audience, or do you want to replace complex words with simple words?

Understanding the different levels of copy editing can help avoid revision-shock when you get your edited paper back.

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