Session 8 – Overview of copy-editing and basic principles (26.11.15)

Lianne Slavin, from MUP, had her first session with us on copy-editing. She introduced us to the basic principles and making the distinctions between copy-editing and proofreading. Copy-editing comes before the typeset and is involved with the general cohesiveness and clarity of the writing, whereas proofreading comes after and checks for quality.
Slavin then gave us the main reasons to copyedit:
* To help the reader understand the book.
* To save author from embarrassing errors.
* To make sure everything is clear for the typesetter.
* Making sure story/argument is cohesive.
* Referencing errors are common (academic).
* Misspelt names, fact editing.
* Coding – lining up heading types etc
* Copy-editor is author’s ambassador.

There are Seven C’s of copy-editing, according to The Society for Editors and Proofreaders:
* Clear
* Correct
* Coherent
* Complete
* Concise
* Consistent
* Credible

After then talking about the skills needed for copy-editing, Slavin discussed the style sheet. This is a guide to what to look out for in the editing process such as spelling, referencing, objectively understandable, italicised and bold errors whilst also making judgement calls in what to change, what to leave, and what to query with the author if something is not definitely wrong. As Slavin says, this is important because you shouldn’t change something unless it needs changing, otherwise you risk adding to mistakes instead of eradicating them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The last thing Slavin discussed was Substantive Editing. This is a heavy copy-edit as it is a re-write and re-change of large sections. In a heavy copy-edit, the editor improves the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; may suggest recasts rather than simply flagging problems. (Editors Forum). This led on to Slavin outlining the levels of copy-editing: light, medium, and heavy.

This session was interesting as I had not considered the complex and detailed areas involved in copy-editing. I now feel that I have a great basic knowledge of what copy-editing and look forward to next week. To improve, I will try and contribute more to discussion.


The Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Available at [accessed on 27 November 2015].

Editors Forum. Available at [accessed on 27 November 2015].

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