Sentence-Level Edit (or Copyedit) – Part 4

When you think of editing, the sentence-level edit, or copyedit, is probably what comes to mind. And for good reason. At this stage, the editor, red pen in hand, is finally diving into the mechanics of the grammar and punctuation, and scrutinizing every aspect of the document to note inconsistencies, misspellings, formatting issues, and more. While the previous two stages of edit can help you form and refine your document from a higher level, the copyedit is where the real editing magic happens.

Copyediting requires the review of every aspect of the document, which can be daunting when you review and incorporate changes. The red pen scratches (or track changes) may seemingly over power the typewritten page, but it is important to remember that the editor’s goal is to make you look good. Depending on the editor’s style, they may provide revisions to sentences to improve the flow and grammar, they may provide explanations of changes in the margins to help you understand their approach, and they may ask questions or comments on specific changes or suggestions. Because the editor’s goal is to make you look good, it is also our goal to make sure we do not change your voice, style, or intended meaning. Our edits should clarify what you have provided on the page, not make drastic alterations to the meaning and intention.

As mentioned above, the services a copyeditor provides span the entire document from the punctuation to the format. Depending on time or budget, you may work with your editor to narrow their scope or to only focus on some of the services they could provide. The list of services at this level can include:

  • Review grammar and punctuation
  • Review consistency – word choice, spelling, formatting, parallel structure, voice, and tense
  • Fact-check
  • Check internal cross-references (to chapters, page numbers, figures, etc.)
  • Review headings, figures, appendices, and tables of contents
  • Check footnotes, endnotes, and citations based on the specific style guide
  • Clean up formatting, including spacing, fonts, page breaks, and notes on layout/presentation
  • Create a document-specific style sheet
  • Conform with a standard style guide like Chicago Manual of Style or others

As the author, it can be tough to step back and really see your document – find those inconsistencies or grammar mistakes – so bringing in an editor at this stage can help lessen the burden of revising, editing, and finalizing. The copyeditor sees the document’s nuts and bolts, understands the mechanics, and helps you make your document hum like a well-oiled machine.

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