Copyediting tips

Are you a writer? If so, you probably find yourself getting copyediting jobs from time to time, right?

Copyediting can be a great service to provide along with your writing. How do you set a price for copyediting?

I charge the same hourly rate as I do for copywriting. I figure that my time is worth a dollar amount, no matter what task I’m performing. Why? Because I could be doing project X instead of project Y during that time, so it makes sense to me to place a value on my time, rather than the project.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few tips for making copyediting jobs go smoothly.

Before agreeing to the project, spend some time correcting a portion of the document. You’ll get an idea of how bad the writing is, how much time it will take you to edit it, and whether to take the job at all.

When estimating your time, allow for a reading of the material before making any corrections. Copyediting is easier when you’ve had a chance to read the whole piece first.

During the initial reading, jot down trends you notice in the writing: Common punctuation problems, spaces after periods, capitalization patterns, spelling of proper names, serial commas (or lack of), and things like that. In other words, you’re creating a style sheet as you go.

When you begin to make corrections, keep adding to the style sheet. This helps you stay consistent throughout the document. It also helps you justify your changes to the author, and makes it easier for another editor to proofread the document.

As you build your copyediting portfolio, pay attention to your likes and dislikes. I’m finding that I don’t prefer editing long pieces like books. I tend to get bored halfway through, but I have to keep chugging along.

Can you think of anymore hints? Let me know.

Happy copyediting!

14 Responses to “Copyediting tips”

  1. Court says:

    Great tips about copyediting! I think I need to use them on myself. 🙂 I always check the sites out before I add them to the D-List, and yours is great! It will be an honor to have you on the list.

  2. Lisa says:

    Great tips! I have been asked to do some copyediting, but felt a bit out of my depth. This was very informative.

  3. Theda K. says:

    Court, thanks for the compliment! I’m glad to be on the D-List, allowing ‘follow’ for my commenters.

    Lisa, I’m glad I could help. Stay-tuned. I’ll have more copyediting tips…I’m currently working on a project, so it’s in the front of my mind right now. Good luck on your next project.

  4. Laurie says:

    Before you start the project, make sure you have all the terms of your agreement in writing, including when payment is due!

    Of course, I say that, and I fail to do that for my own business (yikes). I’ve paid for it, too.

  5. Great tips!

    Books are my favorite projects! And I’d better get back to one I’m supposed to be working on right now;-)

  6. Angelawd says:

    These are some great ideas – I especially like the idea of creating a stylesheet as you go along. It’s especially handy as you’re working on a lengthy document so that you remember the common edits you’ll need to make on each chapter. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Angelawd says:

    You inspired me to write a blog post today! You can read a response to your copyediting tips, as well as an invite for copyediting horror stories, at:

  8. Sindy says:

    I couldn’t agree more on the the value of my time! There is a certain amount I should demand for my services [as should all of you!]. Do not underestimate the value of what you do.

    Great advice!! Thank you for that reminder.

  9. Theda K. says:

    Laurie, good point about getting the agreement in writing. A less “formal” but still formal way of doing that is via email. You have a written record, but it sounds more conversational. I also charge half up-front for new customers and large projects.

    Lillie, I read your other post about book editing. You’ve inspired me to try to love them also. I’ll email you to talk more about how you get book editing projects.

    Angela, thanks for the mention on your site, and I’m glad I inspired you!

    Sindy, thanks for your comment. It’s hard to value ourselves sometimes, especially when clients seem to undervalue our services. But we have to keep at it. (Easier said than done; believe me!)

  10. Great post!

    Just to add that I get up to half of the total job fee up front to avoid getting burned (happened a few times in the past).

    And I won’t copyedit more than 250 words for free. I read recently about one person going from one copyeditor to another and asking each to do a trial copyedit of his manuscript. He ended up getting the whole lot done without paying anyone a cent. The cheek!


  11. Great article about copy writing. It is a time consuming process, and you should know that it will always take longer than expected, especially if you are anal like me.

  12. marge says:

    This post is doing the Lord’s work for most copywriters. As I’ve been a copywriter before I greatly appreciate this post. Like any other
    writing tips
    , these copyediting tips serve as useful guide for aspiring writers. Nice job!

  13. Good stuff. Copyediting is a field that present a lot of opportunities for those with a lot of attention to details.
    Eduard – People Skills Decoded´s last blog post ..How to Be Charismatic

  14. Sean says:

    “When estimating your time, allow for a reading of the material before making any corrections. Copyediting is easier when you’ve had a chance to read the whole piece first.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t account for this when taking on a job. I lost a good 2-3 hours of pay by not doing this.

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