There are several instances when a copyedit could mean the difference between a good piece of writing and a stellar one. Putting out a novel as an indie author, for one. Submitting a report to a national reviewing committee, for another. When applying for MFA programs or submitting to competitions also top the list.
When allowed to indulge in my grammar and punctuation preferences, I am rather old-fashioned. I herald the serial/Oxford comma, and I believe “too” (as in “also”) should be set off with commas. Back in my early teens when I should have been revolting, I instead sneaked off to the downtown library to read books about grammar. I’m not joking—I was a word geek. I still am.
Copyediting is more than correct use of commas, however. In a copyedit, I examine the manuscript for clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness—the 4 “Cs” of copyediting. I fix spelling and punctuation errors. I query when meaning is unclear or when a fact needs checking. When working on nonfiction projects, I also bring the prose in line with a particular style manual. If another style is not indicated, I use the Chicago Manual of Style.
Of course, a copyeditor’s respect for authorial and character voice, her ear for language, and her familiarity with a writer’s personal style are just as important as a style manual (my style manual of choice: Chicago) when making decisions about what to change or query in a manuscript. I strive to help a writer hone her or his style, not run it into the ground with rules.
Copyediting is different from developmental editing. When copyediting, I do not examine and make substantive suggestions for strengthening characters, plot, structure, argument, and theme. I do not offer advice on writing techniques that you can apply in revision. If those tasks describe your needs better, please visit my pages on developing nonfiction, developing long fiction, or developing short fiction and nonfiction.
Querying for Copyediting Services
The fee for copyediting depends on:
What type of copyediting is desired: light, medium, or heavy (i.e., to what extent am I given permission to adjust the prose, line by line, for clarity or for style).
The fee will also depend on whether the manuscript is a standard text (like a novel) or a difficult text with many footnotes and other materials (like most academic books).
The fee will reflect the time needed to do three complete passes of the manuscript (two copyediting passes + one proofing pass).
For further information or an estimate, please send the complete manuscript as an electronic manuscript in Microsoft Word. When you do, please share with me your plans for the manuscript (indie publishing, traditional publishing, etc.) because, in my experience, copyediting is not something everyone needs. You want to make sure this is the right service for you since copyediting can be expensive due to its technical nature.