Copyediting Services

How Can I Help You?

Dean - headshot 10.17.15Whether you’re writing a book you intend to publish yourself, updating your website content, creating a brochure or advertising flyer, composing a letter to your clients or customers, or drafting a cover letter for a job application, you may need a copyeditor. Tell me what you’re doing and I’ll let you know if and how I can help. Estimates for my services are free and there is no obligation. It is probably easier and more affordable than you think!

(Scroll down for more specifics on the copyediting process.)

Use the following form to write me a short message. (I promise to keep your information, including your email address, completely confidential.)

The Copyediting Process

home-office-336377_960_720A copyeditor’s job is to take an author’s written document and ensure that it is clear, concise, coherent, and correct. I often say that a good copyeditor will make an author’s piece shine a little brighter (and in some cases a lot brighter!).

Here are the three basic steps I typically take in copyediting a piece of writing for a client:

1. Provide the author with a cost estimate based on reviewing—and possibly editing a sample of—a portion of the material the author sends me via email (e.g., book manuscript, article, essay, letter, thesis, website content, etc.). The estimate will be based on two things: the number of words and the amount of copyediting involved, whether basic or heavy. The rule of thumb in the industry is that 250 words of text equals one manuscript page. So, for example, a 60,000-word document equals 240 manuscript pages,[1] and that goes into the cost-estimate formula. (See the second bullet under #2 below for more information about estimating fees.)

2. Write an MOU (memorandum of understanding) that lays out the following:

  • My understanding of what the client wants me to do, and what I will actually be doing for the client. This usually entails a minimum of two complete passes of the document, reading the text line by line, editing as needed, querying in the margin where warranted. Then I return the document to the author (via email), with the changes clearly marked using Track Changes in Microsoft Word,[2] and ask the author to review my suggested revisions, accepting or rejecting each of them. The author will return the document to me for a third and (usually) final pass.
  • My estimate of the cost for the entire project and approximately how long it will take. My fee normally averages $4–$5 per 250 words, a very competitive fee compared with industry professionals nationwide. A minimum charge of $25 will apply for short (less than 1,000 words), one-time projects.

With mutual expectations spelled out in advance, surprises for both parties are minimized.

3. Copyedit the document. Here are the main categories of things I look for when I copyedit a document, all of which will be visible in Microsoft Word’s Track Changes mode:

  • Style – Making sure the overall style conforms to an appropriate style guide, such as Chicago, MLA, APA, or AP. If none is specified, I will use the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.
  • Grammar – Ensuring that the material is grammatically correct, according to widely accepted conventions of Standard Written English (SWE).
  • Punctuation – Including the proper use of commas, semicolons, quotation marks, periods, apostrophes, dashes, hyphens, parentheses, ellipsis points, etc.
  • Usage – Including word choice and vocabulary—to ensure that the best words and expressions are used—querying the author where needed.
  • Spelling – Not relying on spell-check, but checking for spelling consistency, variants, homonyms, etc.
  • Syntax – I call this the “readability factor.” How are sentences and paragraphs organized? Are they as clear and concise as possible, with a minimum of cumbersome structuring and clunky phrasing?
  • Capitalization – Making sure words that should be capitalized are and those that shouldn’t aren’t.
  • Formatting – Of footnotes, the bibliography, numbers, lists, tables, front matter, back matter, word and line spacing, etc., as requested by the author.
  • Point of view – Checking for consistency and appropriateness.
  • Conciseness – I know how to minimize the wordiness and maximize your message. This is especially important when it comes to website content.
  • Factual errors – The heaviest burden of fact checking falls on the author’s shoulders, but where glaring or obvious errors occur, I will query the author.
  • Legal requirements – Ensuring, to the best of my knowledge, that sources are properly cited and that permissions are secured for copyrighted materials used. The final responsibility for these things lies with the author and publisher.

What I generally do not do when copyediting:

  • Rewrite or change the text substantively without querying the author. Typically, I will not suggest substantive changes unless in my view it is absolutely needed to aid the reader’s understanding or enjoyment of the text.
  • Question the writer’s freedom to use words and write content of his or her choice. (Although I do reserve the right to turn down projects that run strongly counter to my personal values.)
  • Suggest topics to include or exclude from the document (it is the author’s document, not mine).
  • Point out holes in the plot or suggest ways to improve the story (when copyediting fiction—and I do copyedit fiction, including entire novels.) Unless glaringly strange or deficient, I will generally leave well enough alone.

When the entire project is done to the satisfaction of my client, I send an invoice (again, usually by email) requesting final payment, due upon receipt.

Please contact me with any questions or for a no-obligation estimate regarding copyediting your material. It’s a cliché but it’s true: no job is too big or too small.


[1] In this example, 60,000 words divided by 250 = 240 “manuscript pages” for the purposes of copyediting.

[2] For a brief explanation on how to use Track Changes, check out Copyediting Process and Track Changes (PDF doc).


If You Write Anything for Your Business or Organization, This Is for You

A good copyeditor will be an ally for your business or organization who helps you put your best foot forward.

pexels-photo-mediumProspective customers, clients, and patrons judge your business or organization by the impression you make in print and web-based materials. It may not be a conscious thing, but they do.

If you are trying to build your client base or nurture existing clients, you have something important to say. A good copyeditor can help you say it more effectively. He or she will ensure that your text (i.e., copy) is clear, coherent, consistent, and correct, all for the purpose of effective communication.

But not everyone is convinced they need this service. Here are common objections:

  • “I don’t need it. I’ll just ask the office manager or my webmaster to look over the website copy—they’re pretty good with language and words.” Far be it from me to say they aren’t. But often, “pretty good” isn’t good enough. If you rely on a webmaster to clean up your copy, keep in mind that expertise in graphic design and SEO optimization does not imply expertise in Standard Written English.
  • “I’m not too concerned about polished, ‘professional’ content because I want to present myself as ‘down to earth.’” I understand that. But a good copyeditor will not change your written “voice” so that it sounds like a professor wrote it—formal, stuffy, and pretentious (apologies to my professor friends).  I’m talking about helping you put your best foot forward in print and online. Who doesn’t care about that?
  • “It will be too expensive.” It’s true that like anything else you get what you pay for, and good copyeditors charge more than minimum wage. But the flip side is to ask yourself if you can afford to turn off prospective customers or frustrate existing clients with less-than-perfect or unclear written communications.

How can a copyeditor help your business? A professional copyeditor will ensure the copy you put “out there” for public consumption (e.g., your website, advertising flyers and brochures, etc.) is easily readable, makes sense, flows well, and makes the important points of your messages clear.

A good copyeditor will be an ally for your business or organization who helps you put your best foot forward.


Copyediting Your Book Manuscript

I’ve copyedited numerous full-length book manuscripts  over the past six years and would be happy to consider copyediting yours. Whether your writing goal is to self-publish or submit your manuscript to a publishing house for consideration, I will help you put the polish on it and make it ready.

Track ChangesUsing Microsoft Word’s Track Changes, I will carefully read your entire manuscript more than once, line-by-line, word-by-word, making suggested revisions in accordance with Standard Written English. I specialize in mechanical edits (i.e., grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and much more) and word usage (i.e., whether you are using the best words to express your meaning).

Contact me for a no-obligation estimate.

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