10 Ways a Copy Editor Can Improve Your Writing

Dec.12, 2022

Copy editing (which isn’t the same as copy writing, by the way) is a pivotal part of the editing process. A copy editor’s goal is to ensure correctness, accuracy, consistency, and completeness.  Words are their jam.  Editors are skilled at making sure your words are as correct as possible.  


So how can a copy editor take your writing up a notch?  Here’s a quick overview of what a copy editor can offer:


1.    Spelling - In addition to catching routine spelling errors, your editor will help you select between Canadian, British, orAmerican spelling (based on intended audience or publisher preference).  Dictionary preference is another choice to be made.  Will you go with Merriam Webster or Oxford?  Whichever you choose, your dictionary will give you the preferred spelling for words with more than one one.


2.    Grammar – Is it who or whom?  Do your subjects agree with your verbs?  Does your tense jump from past to present without warning?  Editors are well-versed in these rules of grammar and can correct any errors that have surfaced.


3.    Punctuation – No comma splice, run-on sentence, or fragment will go unchecked with a copy editor around.  They’ll deduce whether you’re a fan of the Oxford comma (a style decision) so that its use will be consistent throughout the material.


4.    Capitalization - Points on a compass are lowercase, but if we’re referring to Western Canada we capitalize.  Editors are practiced at recognizing these errors before your material is published.


5.    Treatment of Numbers – The Chicago Manual recommends spelling out whole numbers from one through one hundred, but if your material is full of numbers that might not make sense for you.  Every project is unique.  Inconsistencies can distract the reader and hurt the quality of your publication; a copy editor can help you adopt a set of rules to follow during the editing process to prevent this.


6.    Fact Checking - A copy editor will check the accuracy of all facts and general information in your material. We're all human, and make mistakes. Sometimes the hippo in the first chapter is 10 years old and shows up later in the book as a 5 year old. It's an editor's job to catch that error.


7.    Hyphens and Dashes - Em dash or en dash?  Or is a hyphen called for?  Call a copy editor.  They know all three very well and recognize a misplaced dash when they see one.


8.    Citations, Footnotes, and References - Whether you’re following APA or Chicago Style, you’ll want to apply an appropriate system for organizing citations, footnotes, and references.  A good editor will go the extra mile to make sure your words are consistent throughout.


9.    Structural Problems - Although identifying structural flaws in the material isn’t a copy editor’s role, a good copy editor will still flag them.  This allows you to rectify issues before you move forward in the editing process.


10.  Gaps and Repetition – Editors are critical readers.  They will pore over your sentences to catch errors before your reader does, like missing words or a repeated word (they happen more often than you think).  



If you’d like to learn more about copy editing, or the general editing process, reach out to us at today.