Copyediting is a separate step—one of those that you may consider hiring editor to produce after a Substantive Edit. It is a cleanup edit to prepare for submission with queries or publication. It focuses on line-edits, consistency or correctness of spelling and usage, checks cross-references, or enforces parallelism in running text. Each level of copyediting adds specificity to the edit.

Light Copyediting (baseline editing): Content has met the substantive requirements for characterization, point of view consistency, setting development, plot organization, sub-plot resolution, tension, pacing, transitions from scene to scene and chapter to chapter, and so forth. Now your manuscript needs attention and correction for basic English punctuation, grammar, spelling, and tense, as well as typographical errors. This is light copyediting in a nutshell:
Corrects faulty spelling, grammar such as split infinitives and punctuation
Corrects typos, misnumbering, mislabeling
Corrects word usage (such as imminent for eminent)
Corrects tense
Checks cross-referenced materials for accuracy (for example, “As Table 10-4 shows…”)
Checks for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical order) in lists
Flagging inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization
Uses the track changes or other tools to typemark the manuscript

Medium Copyediting: Includes all tasks for light copyediting in addition to more complex tasks, which is one reason to consider a second pair of eyes on the document (i.e. second editor)
Recommends text changes and heading revisions to achieve parallel structure
Flags inappropriate figures of speech, subject-verb disagreement
Ensures key terms are handled consistently
Ensures vocabulary lists and the index meet criteria specified by the publisher
Ensures previews, summaries, and end-of-chapter questions accurately reflect content
Tracks the continuity of plot, setting, and character traits, querying the discrepancies
Recommends changes as needed from passive voice to active voice
Flags ambiguous or incorrect statements

Heavy Copyediting:  Includes all tasks for light and medium copyediting. A bare step below Substantive Editing.
Eliminates wordiness, triteness, cliches, and inappropriate jargon.

Smooths transitions and move sentences to improve readability
Assigns new levels to headings to achieve logical structure (NF)
Suggests additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level to improve the plot, pacing, transitions, character development, and settings
Ensures consistency in style, voice, and point of view


The key differences between heavy and medium copyediting are the levels of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copyedit, the editor improves the flow of text and not simply ensures correct usage and grammar; suggests recasts and not simply flagging problems, and may enforce a uniform level, tone, and focus as specified by the publisher.

Copyediting – Digital Media: Same as heavy copyediting plus: Length, formatting, keyword density, and SEO appropriateness

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