What Is Copy Editing?
  • 6-minute read
  • 22nd September 2023

What Is Copy Editing?

Copy editing is a stage in the editing process that focuses on the mechanical elements of writing, such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling. But there are misconceptions about what exactly copy editing is and how it differs from other types of editing and proofreading. This blog explores what goes into copy editing, how it’s different from proofreading, and why it’s an important step in the process.  

What Is Copy Editing?

Copy editing is the process of correcting written material for clarity, accuracy, and consistency. Copy editors ensure that content is free from grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors and flows smoothly. Their primary goal is to improve the overall quality and readability of a text because, as you know, quality writing makes for happy clients. Copy editing comes after structural/developmental and line editing but before formatting and proofreading.

What Goes into Copy Editing?

Some people think that copy editing is essentially the same as running a spell check on your document. While spell checks do cover some of the aspects that copy editors cover, copy editing is much more involved than any spell check could be.

Correcting Grammar and Punctuation Errors

Copy editors ensure that sentences are grammatically correct and that punctuation is used appropriately, removing any common mistakes and those that are more subtle. They make sure that you don’t talk about eating your grandma.

Let’s eat grandma versus Let’s eat, grandma.

Checking Spelling and Typos

Copy editors identify and rectify spelling mistakes and typographical errors throughout the text.

Ensuring Adherence to Style Guides

Most of the time, copy editors will follow a specific style guide or manual at the request of their clients. The most popular style guides are The Associate Press (AP) Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, but there are many style guides you can choose from, or you can create your own. Copy editors will make sure that all your content meets the standards set out in the guide.

Reviewing Consistency

Copy editors make sure that you use terminology and style choices, including capitalization, hyphenation, and abbreviations, consistently throughout the writing. This is where a style guides are particularly helpful

Improving Readability

Some copy editors will also suggest ways to improve the overall flow and clarity, which may involve restructuring sentences and eliminating jargon and overly complex language. This overlaps with a type of editing known as line editing.

What’s the Difference Between Copy Editing and Proofreading?

You may have read the above and wondered what the difference is between copy editing and proofreading. On the surface, they appear to be the same service, but there are differences between these two services. Both focus on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but copy editing can make major changes to the flow and structure of a document, while, in theory, proofreaders should only be making minimal changes to the text to erase any errors that have slipped through the copy editing stage. They do not make any major revisions to the text. Both are necessary stages in the content creation process if you want to produce accurate and correct copy. 

Why Is Copy Editing So Important?

Copy editing is a vital step in any content creation process, whether it’s the creation of newspapers, blogs, websites, academic papers, business documents, or novels, for several reasons:

Prevent Errors

One of the primary functions of copy editing is to catch and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Writing that is riddled with errors does not fill the reader with confidence that the creator knows what they are talking about. Web copy must build trust with your readers, or it is failing in its purpose. Copy editing prevents these errors slipping through and embarrassing you.

Aid Clarity and Readability

Clarity is essential to communicate your message to your customers. Copy editors help improve a text’s clarity and readability, ensuring the sentences are well-structured, that ideas flow logically, and the language is clear and concise. This will change depending on who your audience is, so it is helpful if an editor reads through this to check your tone.

Maintain Consistency

As content creators, you are probably already very aware of how important consistency is, especially in branding. Copy editors enforce consistency in writing style and language use. They help writers maintain a professional and cohesive tone throughout their content. This is especially helpful in longer pieces of text, where there is more chance that you will change your tone.

Engage Your Audience

Well-edited content is more engaging and enjoyable for consumers to read. It helps capture and hold the reader’s attention and can aid comprehension and retention of the information. Producing content that puts the consumer first is essential to engaging your audience.

Control Quality

In the publishing industry, copy editing is a standard practice to ensure that books, magazines, newspapers, and websites meet the high standard of quality that these companies set to maintain their reputation. Even if you are not a major publishing company, you should include copy editing in your quality assurance process to protect your reputation.

Build Credibility

Accurate and error-free content enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of the author or organization that is producing the content. Edited content is a pivotal part in building trust and credibility with your audience because they are more likely to trust and respect information if you present it in a polished and professional way.

Save Time and Money

It can be tempting to push content out as quickly as possible, skipping vital steps in the process, but as the proverb goes, “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” By catching errors before they reach print (or screen), you can avoid extensive revisions and corrections later on, saving you time and money. 


Copy editing sits between more interventionist editing (developmental/structural and line editing) and proofreading. It corrects grammar and punctuation errors, checks spelling, reviews consistency, improves readability, and ensures adherence to the chosen style guides. It has many benefits, including preventing errors, aiding clarity and readability, maintaining consistency, engaging your audience, controlling the content’s quality, building your credibility, and saving you time and money. It is a vital stage in the content creation process, so we don’t recommend skipping it. 

Why not take the stress out of editing by hiring professional copy editors? Proofed’s team of expert copy editors can help you create accurate, correct, and engaging content. When you are ready to see what Proofed can do for you, schedule a call with our team to learn more.

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