The primary job of the copy-editor is to ensure that the manuscript is free from any errors and that writing style, details, and formatting remain consistent throughout the document. She may also make minor stylistic suggestions. For example, a copy-editor will keep track of each character's description in a novel to make sure that they always have the same-coloured eyes and hair.

A copy-editor also flags any plot discrepancies and ensures that the story is always understandable. In a non-fiction manuscript, copy-editing may include checking that the desired tone is maintained throughout the document, that awkward repetition does not occur, and that formatting is always clean and attractive. 

What a copy-editor does:

  • Makes minor changes to word choice and sentence structure to avoid inelegant wording and confusion
  • Makes sure the plot flows logically from one event to the next
  • Finds and highlights any "plot holes" (e.g., the hero suddenly appears inside the locked tower – with no explanation of how he got past the guards and the bolted door)
  • Makes sure characters, places, and objects remain consistent and believable (e.g., the heroine's green dress on one page isn't violet on the next)
  • Flags any changes in writing style that are distracting or inconsistent with the rest of the document
  • Communicates with the author about these changes, particularly where the overall plot is affected (such as with plot holes)
  • Ensures that any illustrations fit in with the text, and have appropriate captions and sub-headings
  • Checks references, quotes, and facts are accurate and properly cited

For a more cursory clean-up of your manuscript, please see our proofreading page.

If you require more intensive editing for your manuscript, such as major stylistic or structural changes, please see our developmental editing page.

Give your book a chance with a free copy-editing sample.

Contact me today for a free 200-word copy-editing trial. Send me your manuscript (of any length) via email, and I’ll return it to you with the first 200 words edited. It only takes a moment – take the first step in making your manuscript the best it can be.

For more information on the editing process, see How the Process Works.
For prices, see Editing and Proofreading Prices.


August Editorial, 25-27 Eaton Place, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1EG, T: 07771 767300