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Copy / line editing

After you are confident that you have resolved the book's big-picture issues, and that the overall story is as strong and cohesive as possible, the next step is line and/or copy editing. Line editing and copy editing are often interchangeable terms, but they do not always mean the same thing – always be sure to clarify with your editor exactly what their definition of copy/line editing involves.

Both line and copy editing focus on the writing rather than the story. In most cases, line editing focuses specifically on the style and flow of your prose. Since it’s about style rather than mechanics, it is also referred to as "stylistic editing."

Line editing provides suggestions on strengthening the prose, and considers elements such as word usage, sentence structure, and the effectiveness of your language and expression. Although it is more in-depth, line editing still falls under the general category of copy editing.

The task of a copy editor is to elevate the author's completed manuscript to a higher level of professionalism. A copy edit improves clarity, coherence, consistency, and correctness, resulting in the most readable version of your book. The objective is to close gaps between the reader's comprehension and the author's intention.

The following elements of your work are examined and corrected by a copy editor:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Word usage
  • Repetition
  • Dialogue tags
  • Consistency (e.g. capitalisation of certain words; usage of numbers or numerals etc.)
  • POV/tense (e.g. correcting unintentional shifts)
  • Descriptive inconsistencies (e.g. character descriptions, locations, blocking, etc.)

If you frequently misuse dialogue tags or misspell words, it can be highly distracting to your reader. Copy editing corrects errors like these, ensuring that your writing is as strong as possible and that the reader remains focused on the story.

A line and/or copy editor can also assist you in ensuring that your manuscript uses inclusive language and appropriate terminology.