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Lesson 4: A Copyeditor’s Job


  • To provide a short introduction to copyediting
  • To enumerate the different tasks and responsibilities of a copyeditor
  • To enumerate the different limitations of a copyeditor’s job
  • To differentiate copyediting from proofreading

Quick Navigation through the Lesson 4:

In our previous lesson, we were able to discuss the scope and limitations of a proofreader’s job. Here we’ll be talking about what copyediting does and doesn’t entail—we’ll begin our lesson by differentiating between proofreading and copyediting.

Whereas both are modes of quality content, their scope differs slightly. Proofreaders are, as we established previously, mainly concerned with content. On the other hand, copyeditors are concerned with the overall quality of the product. Professionally (especially in the publishing industry), the proofreaders are often headed by a copyeditor. Among other differences, copyeditors are allowed to make direct changes to the final output and also lend a hand in the lay outing of the written output (as with books, magazines, newspapers and websites).

The other roles of copyeditors are detailed in the points below:

Formatting Concerns

Copyeditors need to be very stringent with format. Whereas proofreaders may have some leeway ignore certain things about the text, copyeditors need to be alert and very well-versed in the format of the text that they’re working on. In the book industry, copyeditors are usually responsible for coming up with a mockup of the layout and format of the entire book—thus, requiring them to come up with the text that needs to be included in the copyright page, the format required for the Table of Contents and so on and so forth. In the corporate setting, copyeditors are typically in charge of the overall direction of marketing collateral like brochures, posters and manuals.

Overall Flow

To a certain extent, copyeditors can be seen as the collectors of the information which the proofreaders correct. Once the final drafts are passed by the proofreaders, the copyeditors check them and make corrections for the sake of cohesion. In instances where there is voluminous text involved, different chapters may be given to different proofreaders for quality control. Because of this, each of the chapters may have their own feel and the entire project may, as a whole, lack a degree of congruence and flow. It is the copyeditor’s responsibility to make the necessary changes to ensure the united nature of the project as well as to ensure fidelity to the project (e.g. when checking a product description, the copyeditor asks is this an accurate description of the product? ).

Style & Layout

In the absence of a Creative Director, copyeditors are also in charge of style and layout. They are tasked with making at least the preliminary guide which the printers will follow—should the orientation of the book be portrait or landscape? Which will best contain the content? Is the order in which the different parts of the work appear sufficient? One of the perks of being a copyeditor is the ability to have the creative freedom to do affect the project you’re working on in a tangible way.


One of the things that should be included in the guide which the copyeditors come up with to be passed to the printers is a pagination guide—what information is found on which pages? Should the page numbers appear on the upper corners? Should the page numbers appear on the lower center part of the page? The copyeditor, closely working with the content, should be able to make sound decisions when it comes to these concerns.


While being a copyeditor does allow one a lot of liberty when it comes to the creative freedom of the work, there are also limits to the job: for one, if the copyeditor is different from the author of the work, then it is his responsibility to inform the writer of the changes which have been made to the work. Also, if there is time, the copyeditor should refrain from making major changes to the work directly and should instead inform the writer of his or her suggestions. Furthermore, while the copyeditor is in charge of making the guide, the printing is often also subject to the limitations of the press or printing establishment and unless the printer and the copyeditor are one and the same, this falls outside one’s jurisdiction.

[WpProQuiz 215]
In this lesson, we were able to discuss the copyeditor’s job description. We were able to set boundaries for their responsibilities as well as flesh out the different parts of writing which fall under the copyeditor’s jurisdiction. Now that we know these things, we’ll be able to form realistic and well-informed expectations about copyediting.

Try Our Exercise And and Prep Yourself for the Real Thing

Next up we’ll be looking at different techniques that we can use when proofreading. We’ll be enumerating the different methods we can put into action so that we are able to proofread efficiently and effectively.




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