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

Lianne Slavin, from MUP, introduced us to the basic principles of copy-editing and making the distinctions between this 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

Slavin then discussed the style sheet. This is a guide of what to look out for in the editing process such as spelling, referencing, sense, 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 basic knowledge of 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].

Session 9 – Analysis of copy-editing -03.12.15

Today’s session on copy-editing was a more in depth overview of what copy-editing is and what processes are involved. An important, and relatively unheard of concept, is that of ‘house style’. The house style is more concerned with the structuring and layout of headings and content. For example, Slavin discussed how in MUP the headings after the first word are not capitalised. Other Presses, particularly Academic and Education Presses, do not adhere to this. Mark Nichol observes that ‘the copy editor’s task is to finesse a writer’s prose so that it observes all the conventions of good writing’ (1). This goes beyond just making grammatical sense but also assessing its consistency and ‘smoothness’ as Nichol alludes to.
Slavin summarised the responsibilities of copy-editors:
* Editing for sense – Does the writing make sense? This entails checking for misspelling, punctuation accuracy, credibility of writing, and coherency.
* Checking for consistency – Does the author write in the same style throughout? Do they repeat facts and sources unnecessarily? Are there contradictions in their argument?
* Coding/styling up – Structuring work in a house style. For academic publishing, contents and index pages need to be accurate too, as does the referencing since each referencing system is different. Even font needs to be considered. For example, italicising and underlining at the right times.

The copy-editor’s job, if done well, should eliminate the majority of the errors. However, there will be things the copy-editor has missed, hence the need for proofreaders. The next stage is to pass the work on to the typesetters and production editors.


1) Nichol, Mark. (2011) The Difference Between Copyediting and Proofreading. [accessed 26 December 2015)

Session 10 – Summary and Exam – (10.12.15)

For the first hour or so of our final copy-editing session Lianne Slavin went over what we had learnt over the past 2 weeks and afterwards I felt that I had gained a solid understanding and working knowledge of what copy-editing is all about and felt prepared for the exam which took place in the final hour. Using Microsoft Word for the exam, I was able to navigate my way through the text and administering the necessary changes with the ‘Track Changes’ icon in the tools table. Overall, I am happy with my development through this semester and now have a sound knowledge of both commissioning editing and copy-editing.

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