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From a survey conducted by the American Society of News Editors, reported by Natascia Lypny in The King's Journalism Review (2013)


The process of correcting errors in a text and making it conform to an editorial style (also called house style), which includes spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

A person who prepares a text for publication by performing these tasks is called a copy editor (or in Britain, a sub editor).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Aims and Kinds of Copyediting
    "The main aims of copy-editing are to remove any obstacles between the reader and what the author wants to convey and to find and solve any problems before the book goes to the typesetter, so that production can go ahead without interruption or unnecessary expense. . . .

    "There are various kinds of editing.
    1. Substantive editing aims to improve the overall coverage and presentation of a piece of writing, its content, scope, level and organization. . . .
    2. Detailed editing for sense is concerned with whether each section expresses the author's meaning clearly, without gaps and contradictions.
    3. Checking for consistency is a mechanical but important task. . . . It involves checking such things as spelling and the use of single or double quotes, either according to a house style or according to the author's own style. . . .
      'Copy-editing' usually consists of 2 and 3, plus 4 below.
    4. Clear presentation of the material for the typesetter involves making sure that it is complete and that all the parts are clearly identified."
    (Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake, and Maureen Leach, Butcher's Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)

  • Copyeditor and copyediting have a curious history. Random House is my authority for using the one-word form. But Webster's agrees with Oxford on copy editor, although Webster's favors copyedit as a verb. They both sanction copyreader and copywriter, with verbs to match."
    (Elsie Myers Stainton, The Fine Art of Copyediting. Columbia University Press, 2002)

  • The Work of Copy Editors
    "Copy editors are the final gatekeepers before an article reaches you, the reader. To start with, they want to be sure that the spelling and grammar are correct, following our [New York Times] stylebook, of course. . . . They have great instincts for sniffing out suspicious or incorrect facts or things that just don't make sense in context. They are also our final line of protection against libel, unfairness and imbalance in an article. If they stumble over anything, they're going to work with the writer or the assigning editor (we call them backfield editors) to make adjustments so you don't stumble. That often involves intensive substantive work on an article. In addition, copy editors write the headlines, captions and other display elements for the articles, edit the article for the space available to it (that usually means trims, for the printed paper) and read the proofs of the printed pages in case something slipped by."
    (Merrill Perlman, "Talk to the Newsroom." The New York Times, Mar. 6, 2007)

  • The Decline of Copyediting
    "The brutal fact is that American newspapers, coping with drastically shrinking revenue, have drastically reduced the levels of editing, with a concomitant increase in errors, slipshod writing, and other defects. Copy editing, in particular, was seen at the corporate level as a cost center, an expensive frill, money wasted on people obsessing with commas. Copy desk staffs have been decimated, more than once, or eliminated outright with the work transferred to distant 'hubs,' where, unlike Cheers, nobody knows your name."
    (John McIntyre, "Gag Me With a Copy Editor." The Baltimore Sun, January 9, 2012)
Alternate Spellings: copy editing, copy-editing
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