What is copy editing?
Copy editing mainly looks at issues to do with syntax – the rules and principles that dictate the structure of sentences. They include word order and clause structure. They also include awkward or poorly-written sentences, repetition and unnecessary wordiness.
When an editor edits a paper, (s)he will also check whether it is well-organised, that the transitions between paragraphs are smooth and that the evidence backs up the arguments. This process is necessary to make the document more readable and coherent. Its numerous revisions help to show that the writer has thought seriously about the thesis and overall organisation of the paper.
The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes that proofreading and editing are separate processes. “Although many people use the terms interchangeably,” it observes, “proofreading and editing are two different stages of the revision process … editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft.”
In academic writing, copy editing is an important function in ensuring the consistency and accuracy of a thesis. The main aim of copy editing is to eliminate any barriers between the reader and what the writer wants to convey. It locates and resolves any issues in the writing before the thesis is submitted.
These issues take many forms. Typically, the editor will make dozens of changes for every page he or she proofreads and edits. Where there are tables or illustrations in the thesis, we check that the information they present is consistent with the relevant text and any summaries of the data in them. We improve the overall content and presentation of a manuscript, and suggest specific ways in which the author can make further improvements to it. Where necessary, we carefully rearrange sentences to make them clearer and have greater impact.
Therefore, we deliver a clearer and vastly more readable version of the original. We also check for plagiarism using the writing software tool Grammarly.com. This tool is no substitute for the work an editor does. As Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders points out, “Although the computer is a useful tool for the copy-editor, it cannot read for sense, repetition or ambiguity. It will not pick up libel, errors of fact or misleading or potentially dangerous information. The copy-editor is the reader’s advocate and the author’s ambassador, and in this electronic age has a more pivotal role than ever before…” However, Grammarly is a useful resource to check for superficial errors and overly long sentences, and to suggest better word choices.
Ultimately, expressing the writer’s meaning with sufficient clarity is the core responsibility of an editor. It brings about a transformation of the writer’s ideas. There is always a significant difference between the writer’s version and our completed version. Our skill lies in seeing what the writer is trying to say, and saying it better.