Copyeditors In The Workplace


This final assignment for the course involved creating a visual aid, recording a narration that lasted around five minutes pertaining to a specific career field, and providing a transcript. We learned about accessibility in this course so the transcript was necessary for that reason. I chose to focus on copyediting, as I am very interested in copyediting and had a copyediting course during the semester. Below you will find my recorded video of my Prezi and narration along with a transcript for accessibility and a link to the original Prezi.

Completed Assignment

My final presentation for my online course.

Link to Prezi.


Hello, all. My name is Ari Lentini and my project focuses on copyediting and what copyeditors do in the workplace. Most of us have heard of copyediting and copyeditor positions but I’m sure many aren’t aware of what that actually means to be a copyeditor, so let’s get right into it.

I start with the most common question: What does a copyeditor do? It may seem like copyeditors simply correct misspellings and grammar like your word document already does automatically but that’s far from all that copyeditors do. Copyeditors are responsible for ensuring proper punctuation. They are responsible for usage and syntax. They are responsible for making sure the structure of the manuscript or even a single sentence is correct. They’re responsible for tone and voice. They’re responsible that the manuscript is clear and coherent. They’re responsible for words being consistent and the style of the manuscript. They’re charged with the responsibility of fact checking and can even be project managers at times. The biggest responsibility that copyeditors do not have and are actually told not to do is to rewrite whole sentences.

The next pressing question is how do they correct a given manuscript? They do something called “editing passes”. The first editing pass they will just read through a document and create a style sheet. Now, I want to focus in on the style sheet for just a second, as it’s a very important part of completing an editing pass. A style sheet is a list that helps keep a given manuscript consistent. A good rule of thumb for copyeditors is to use the Chicago Manual of Style, CMS for short, if their workplace doesn’t have a “house style.” Consistency is a key factor for a copyeditor and looks unprofessional if inconsistencies are found. For example, if you didn’t have a style sheet, would you write the c in “city of Los Angeles” as a capital c or lowercase c? It’s little things like this that make life a little tricky for copyeditors.

The first passthrough is a painstaking process. Copyeditors have to take notes, query, and continuously start and stop again. The second passthrough allows them to actually read the manuscript and pinpoint anything that doesn’t quite make sense or review any flags they’ve marked previously. The second passthrough can shed light on certain queries they had and help make sense of the queries. Now that you have a decent understanding of what copyeditors do, I’m gonna go ahead and jump into what it takes to actually become a copyeditor.

Most places will require a degree in journalism, English, or something similar. Copyeditors have to have knowledge of syntax, story logic, and the many different types of writing styles. Copyeditors should be very comfortable with computers, as we are in a digital age where most copyeditors don’t mark up hard copies anymore. Pagination and design are also good skills to have, where pagination is the sequence of numbers assigned to pages and the process of dividing a document into pages. No surprise here but it’s also necessary to be extremely detailed when it comes to copyediting. Copyeditors also have to be deadline driven in order for the author to have enough time for revisions and to reach the publishing deadline. Copyeditors also need to be able to proofread extremely well and have the ability to fact check.

Now, the act of copyediting isn’t a blanket statement of fact checking, revising and more. There are actual “levels”, so to speak, when it comes to copyediting. There are three level: light, medium, and heavy. All three require the manuscript to be consistent in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, hyphenation, abbreviations, formats and more. All three require the copyeditor to check pages against chapters, check the numbering of footnotes, tables, etc. and to check the alphabetization of the bibliography if there is one. From there, each level separates into various degrees of copyediting. The light copyediting requires the copyeditor to point out wordy paragraphs but not to revise. They also have to ignore minor wordy patches throughout the manuscript. Light copyedits allow for queries pertaining to factual inconsistencies and allow the copyeditor to ask for clarification when necessary.

The medium copyedit has the copyeditor correct all grammar and syntax, point out wordy patches unlike light copyediting, ask for or supply definitions which I emphasize because I mentioned earlier that copyeditors typically cannot rewrite sentences so it’s important to note when they can actually add something themselves. They are charged with querying facts and faulty organization as well.

The heavy copyedit has the copyeditor correct all grammar and felicities in grammar and syntax. It has the copyeditor actually rewrite wordy patches. Much like the medium copyedit, heavy copyedits allow the copyeditor to ask or even supply definitions. They can also verify and revise incorrect facts if necessary in a heavy copyedit.

Copyeditors sometimes have other things to do outside of actually copyediting a manuscript. One of the things a copyeditor may have to do is create a design memo. A design memo allows the copyeditor to talk directly to the author about the manuscript at hand. It allows for a rundown of what was done, what should be fixed, and any questions the copyeditor has. They also allow the copyeditor to check in on the author and keep them up to date on what’s going on with the manuscript. Throughout my research, I’ve noticed that many copyeditors break up the revision requests with a lot of positivity so that the author doesn’t get discouraged. Copyeditors may also write a memo report, which is a memo that is 10 pages or longer. The thing to remember about these memos is that the copyeditor is only writing to one audience: the author. Other minor forms of writing that a copyeditor may have to do would be writing emails and progress reports.

If you’re at all interested in copyediting, you may be wondering “where do I start?” Well, it isn’t that simple to get into a copyediting position. Something I’ve learned from research is to seek out a managing editor or current copyeditor and request an informational interview. Now, this interview wouldn’t be a job interview and the last thing you want to do is come off as competition towards them. Most managing editors or current copy editors are more than happy to share advice. Another thing to get familiar with if you want to become a copyeditor is the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s a lot of reading but well worth it if you’re serious about copyediting. Most copyeditor positions require a few years of experience, so it would be useful to look into job openings for small newspapers or to try internships and entry-level jobs for positions like an editorial assistant. Something to keep in mind is that copyediting is very competitive and takes a lot of time and experience. It’s important to remain patient as that experience won’t come to you overnight. The final point is to remember that, as a copyeditor, you need to be prepared to learn for your entire life. The English dictionary is always being added to and is always changing. Plus, there will always be things that you didn’t know prior.

Copyediting isn’t easy but it can be rewarding if you put in the time and energy. This project has made me realize how much effort I will have to give if I choose this career path but honestly, that’s okay with me. It’s something I think I’ll really enjoy doing and I really hope I can gain more experience and knowledge in the field. We’ve reached the end of my presentation and I hope you have a better grasp of copyediting and everything it entails. At the end of my Prezi, you’ll find a works cited slide as you can see so feel free to look through any of these incredibly useful websites for more information. Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoyed and have a wonderful day.

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