What is…?


Copyediting is preparing a text for the typesetter/designer – that is, for the way it will read and look when it is published, whether as a book or downloadable PDF or online.

What does a copyeditor do?

Projects vary considerably, depending on their size, purpose, the medium in which they are to be published, and the experience of the writer or writers and the extent to which they have addressed how the text is written. So, what follows is a guide to the kinds of tasks the editor might undertake. The precise details will be discussed and agreed with you.

As a minimum, where you are confident that the text requires few changes, this involves:

  • checking copy for accuracy and consistency – e.g. of spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, structure, headings – and making amendments as necessary
  • informing you of anything that will affect the credibility and effectiveness of the publication – e.g. ambiguities, copyright issues, omissions
  • marking the text up for the typesetter/designer.

At the other end of the spectrum, you may, for example, have a text to which several people have contributed. You are satisfied that the content is sound but they have written in significantly different styles that create difficulties for the reader. Or, perhaps, someone inexperienced in writing for publication has provided the content.

In situations like these, copyediting may additionally involve:

  • reorganizing the structure of the text
  • rewriting some or all of the content.

And somewhere in between the extremes, you may want to incorporate tasks such as:

  • ensuring the text is consistent with your, or a publisher’s, style guide
  • checking that web links are current.

Whatever level of editing you require, and whether the work is done online or in hard copy, you will be able to review, accept or reject any changes made.


The copyeditor and typesetter have done their work, and the proofs – impressions of what the published text will look like – have to be checked before they go to print or online publication to ensure that neither the copyeditor nor the typesetter have made any mistakes in the text itself or in the layout. Ideally, there will be none. However, particularly in longer pieces of work, this is unusual, though they should be small in number.

Managing publications projects

You may have a project in mind but do not have the capacity or relevant experience in your organization to make it happen. These are the kinds of tasks that may be involved:

  • establishing needs – engaging with subject experts, people who would have an interest in the product – e.g. academics, professionals, policymakers, the intended audience
  • scoping – working with a representative group to map out what topics the publication should include, the media for publication, how the content should be structured
  • identifying, approaching and recruiting suitable authors
  • script development – working with subject experts, scriptwriter and film director to develop treatments and scripts for films
  • steering the project – working with subject experts who provide critical feedback on the materials being developed
  • liaising with authors – channelling feedback on content; providing a house style for written materials and editorial guidance
  • piloting – arranging for people from the intended audience to provide critical feedback or, if appropriate, try the materials out
  • design – briefing and liaising with designers
  • copyediting and proofreading
  • marketing – writing copy for promotional material; identifying relevant individuals and organizations within the intended audience.