A copy-editor makes sure that an author's text (copy) is ready for publication, removing obstacles between the reader and what the author wants to convey, and making sure that money is not wasted on alterations once the text is typeset. The level of copy-editing required may be light, normal, or heavy, depending on the text.
This is normally used in new editions of previously published material, and includes:
- Correcting errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax;
- Ensuring consistency of style in spellings, hyphenation, dates, headings, capitalisation, etc, in accordance with a house style (or constructing a new style sheet if necessary);
- Correcting errors in cross-references;
- Checking numbering of figures, tables, references, and footnotes;
- Checking the table of contents for completeness and comparing with text headings;
- Checking indexes for inconsistencies and errors.
This is the level of edit that will be applied to most new text that is submitted for publication. As well as the services listed above it includes:
- Editing to conform with the client's house style, or construction of a new style sheet if none exists;
- Ensuring consistency in use of abbreviations, italic/bold type, units, etc;
- Improving choice of language to ensure overall clarity, consistency, and readability;
- Ensuring that the style and language of the text is suitable for the intended audience;
- Keeping sentence and paragraph length within sensible bounds;
- Checking that headings are placed appropriately and used sensibly to divide the text;
- Ensuring consistency of presentation of quoted material;
- Determining whether footnotes are required, or whether the material could be placed in the text or in an appendix;
- Ensuring consistency between illustrations and tables and the text;
- Checking for accuracy of facts, dates, proper names, etc, as far as this is reasonable;
- Raising questions about possible legal issues, such as breach of copyright, libel, obscenity, and incitement to racial hatred;
- Ensuring that all artwork is supplied and suitable for reproduction;
- Organising artwork, supplying captions and labels if necessary, and marking their placement in the text;
- Raising questions with the author about incomplete references, inconsistencies that can not be solved obviously, and any other matter that requires consultation;
- Editing the index;
- Preparing preliminary material (title page, table of contents, list of illustrations, etc) if this does not exist.
This is the level of edit applied when extensive rewriting of the text is required. It is often necessary for authors who are not native English speakers, and can be helpful for academic authors writing for a wider audience. As well as the services listed above it includes:
- Rewriting to remove repetition, non sequiturs, excessive jargon, ambiguous statements, clumsy phrasing, and wordiness;
- Suggesting amendments such as expansions, deletions, and re-ordering to provide a more coherent and logical organisation;
- Supplying missing information (where possible).