A friendly approach to copyediting and proofreading
What’s the difference between copyediting and proofreading?
Copyediting takes place while the book is in manuscript form, while proofreading takes place after the book is designed and paginated. I offer both services, and I can provide a quote if your project falls somewhere on the spectrum between the two—for instance, an article or book proposal.
Copyediting: A deep read-through for sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, grammar, word usage, consistency in capitalization/hyphenation/spelling, consistency with Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, checking basic math on tables and charts, querying if a content issue is noticed, ensuring TOC and figures match text, and properly formatting bibliography and notes. This is done while your book is in manuscript form, i.e., in a Word document.
Proofreading: A light read-through for punctuation, spelling, and general grammar. It also includes a thorough check of all elements added in the book design process: ensuring table of contents and figures match text, adding page number locators if needed to TOC, etc., checking that page headers are correct, checking that page numbers are sequential, checking hyphens at ends of lines for proper word division, and correcting any errors inadvertently introduced during the book design process. This is the final step before publication and is usually done from a PDF of your designed book. It assumes your book has already been professionally copyedited.
I approach your writing with genuine enthusiasm and positivity. When you choose me to copyedit your writing, I am honored and delighted. You will never hear a stern word from me—just cheerful questions, positivity, and explanations for my proposed changes.
Even the best writers in the world need a good copyeditor. And yes, even those writers end up with a marked-up manuscript! Unless you are fascinated by memorizing thousands of rules, just enjoy focusing on the writing. No need to pause to look up some debatable rule—a rule that might vary from source to source or from year to year.
What I do
- Make writing consistent and polished
- Adhere to a set of professional guidelines (Chicago, AP, etc.)
- Make the content as clear as possible for a reader
- Query or explain in a friendly manner where necessary
What I don’t do*
- Gleefully embark on a red-pen power trip
- Scold or make snobby comments
- Water down your writing style
*I have never worked with a copyeditor who does these things. I’ve only read stories!
Relaxed but thorough copyediting
I have worked on the author’s side of the table. I know the copyediting process can feel like your writing is being judged. I know how it feels to think, “No! Why did the copyeditor change that? My way was better!”
I get it. That’s why I explain my suggestions and offer potential solutions in a way I would appreciate if I were the author. I love helping writers feel confident knowing their finished product isn’t riddled with inconsistencies or distractions—that it’s polished, professional, and clear.
I don’t rewrite your words or water down your writing style at all. If rewriting is necessary for sentence structure, I only rearrange what is necessary. If more modifications are needed, I will simply offer an idea for revising. If you disagree with a change I’ve proposed, no problem, unless it’s a rule your publisher must follow. I don’t change things just to change them. My copyediting approach is relaxed but thorough!
My copyediting process and tools
I read your book from beginning to end just like a reader. I get into the story you are telling. I laugh. I cry. (At the story, not the errors!) I don’t go chopping away at any material until I fully understand the context. I work with the forest first, the trees second.
The style guides are fantastic for creating some consistent rules we can consult. But if following a rule causes undue awkwardness, I will follow the number one rule—clarity. I use the most up-to-date Chicago Manual of Style for books and this year’s AP Stylebook for media and web, but I can work with any style guide and publisher’s house rules you prefer.
I also enjoy editing source citations. (A weird thing to enjoy, I know!) As long as all the information is there, I’ll standardize the formatting of your bibliography, endnotes or footnotes, and in-text citations to perfection, check cross-references, ensure notes correspond with the text, and properly harmonize the bibliography and notes.
I work in Word for ease of comments and revisions, but you are welcome to send the file to me in any format you like, including InDesign. I also have experience with basic HTML and CSS for text, so I can usually incorporate that if needed. (I also do indexing if you are in need!)
A copyeditor who knows the style guides
As you can see from my posts on this website, I enjoy studying and comparing the latest style guide rules and recommendations. I write quick guides to concisely round up the most frequently consulted rules in one place. I consult my posts often! I hope they come in handy for other writers and editors too.
Of course, if I’m your copyeditor, you don’t need to worry about those rules unless you’re especially interested. I’ll handle those details for you!
The majority of my work has been with nonfiction books and university presses—formal scholarly writing. But a less formal style and tone can be perfect when the medium calls for it—this page, for instance. I am comfortable copyediting writing that falls anywhere on the informal-to-formal spectrum.
An easy-to-work-with copyeditor
I can work with publishers or directly with authors. When working with a publisher, I always introduce myself to the author via email and make myself available for any questions. I adhere to the deadlines of the schedule we’ve agreed on beforehand.
I live in Kansas City, Missouri, but I work virtually with authors and publishers all over the U.S., communicating by email, phone, and mail.
1. When I’m finished copyediting, I will email you the Word files. If you are hesitant about working with Word’s revision tracking system, I created a good how-to with screenshots that might be helpful.
2. When you have made all your revisions, either email or ship it back to me.
3. If you have questions on the revisions, I will respond to those.
4. I will clean up the files and send them on to the publisher or to you.
5. If it’s a book, you’ll likely get one more chance to proofread it during the indexing phase. (I also do indexing if you’re looking for someone!)
Copyediting is $5 per every 250 words, plus $1/ image, and $5/map, chart, and table. Verifying all name/place spellings can be added for $1 per every 250 words.* If you don’t plan to send it back to me after your review, subtract $1 per every 250 words.
– The copyediting stage is done while the book is still in manuscript form.
– Please provide the manuscript in a Word document. I will use Word’s track changes system to communicate my suggested changes to you.
– This includes medium-level copyediting, sent to you for a 3-4 week review, AND full cleanup after your review. Cleanup includes editing any additions you’ve made, responding to your queries, making your requested changes, identifying and fixing any lingering issues, and cleaning up all the markup so it’s ready to send to the press.
– Medium-level copyediting includes a deep read-through for sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, consistency in capitalization/hyphenation/spelling, consistency with Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, checking basic math on tables and charts, querying if a content issue is noticed, ensuring TOC and figures match text, and properly formatting bibliography and notes.
– It does not include fact checking, offering subject matter expertise, story restructuring, developmental editing, or checking permissions.
– *Verifying all name/place spellings is usually considered author responsibility and is not included in copyediting, but I’ve developed a good method, and I generally find a number of misspelled names in even the most conscientious authors’ works. My method takes a couple of extra days of work, though, so I charge a little extra for this service.
– During your 3-4 week review, it will be your final chance to make changes to the content of your book. After this stage, only small errors can be fixed.
– If you add new text during your review phase, I word count it and bill it at the $5 rate since I will be editing it as well.
– Billing is done in two phases—partial for the edit (about two-thirds), and partial for the second round/cleanup (about one-third). All services are itemized.
Proofreading is $2.50 per every 250 words. Verifying all name/place spellings can be added for $1 per every 250 words.
– This takes place at the final proof stage—after the book has been copyedited and designed/typeset, but before the final copy is sent to be printed. All errors found at this stage will need to be small enough that pagination is not affected. You or your publisher would typically provide me with a PDF of the proofs, but I can also take an InDesign file if preferred.
– The proofreading rate assumes that it has been professionally copyedited. If not, a more thorough edit may be needed. Please provide me a sample chapter so I can quote you properly.
– If you are providing a Word document and not a fully designed book (e.g., for print-on-demand), please provide me a sample chapter so I can see the level of proofreading it will require. If it hasn’t been professionally copyedited, it will require a custom quote, likely closer to the copyediting rate.
– It includes a light read-through for punctuation, spelling, and general grammar, and also a thorough check of all elements added in the book design process: ensuring table of contents and figures match text, adding page number locators if needed to TOC, etc., checking that page headers are correct, checking that page numbers are sequential, checking hyphens at ends of lines for proper word division, and correcting any errors inadvertently introduced during the book design process.
– It does not include sentence structure, content issues, consistency in capitalization/hyphenation/spelling, or anything not normally offered in my copyediting services.
Not sure whether you need copyediting or proofreading?
Need something in between copyediting and proofreading, perhaps for an academic paper or article? I can take a look at it and determine where it falls on the proofreading-to-copyediting spectrum and offer a quote!