Monday, March 27, 2017

The Inside Scoop on Copyediting from an Expert

Have you ever wondered what a copy editor does?  And do you know the difference between copyediting, content editing, and proofreading? If yes, great.  If no, or not sure, then you're in luck.  Leslie Hoffman has taken the time to educate us.  Here is an interview with Leslie:

1. How did you decide to become a copy editor, and are you local to the Bay Area?
The truth is that I never made a conscious decision to work as a copy editor. Copyediting chose me. As a member of Saratoga High School’s first graduating class of 1962, English and Typing were my favorite classes.

2. How long have you been a copy editor?
In 1961, Sherman Miller, Owner-Publisher, hired me to type The Saratoga News. That’s right; I “typed” the weekly newspaper on an IBM Executive, while simultaneously proofreading the copy, prior to the text being typeset for printing.

3. What training did you need to be ready for working as a copy editor?
I worked as an executive assistant for several years prior to earning a degree in civil engineering technology, with a minor in technical writing. Living in Sonoma County at the time inspired me to follow through with my desire to write something more creative than business letters and technical reports, so I joined a local writing group. During the late ’90s, PenHouseInk solicited submissions and published annual anthologies. This was my first experience working closely with authors. I’d finally discovered my niche. Then in 2003, I moved to Las Vegas to live near my grandchildren where I joined the Henderson Writers’ Group. One night after our critique session, a few of the members suggested that I begin working as a proofreader and copy editor. The thought of getting paid for what I loved doing inspired a next-day order of business cards.

4. How do you promote yourself, and do you copyedit for anybody besides authors?
I’m fortunate in that the Henderson Writers were a captive group of authors. At the time, there were few freelance editors in Las Vegas and even fewer who edited fiction. Most of my new clients continue to be Southern Nevada referrals, but I’ve worked for two members of the South Bay Writers. And yes, I continue to edit letters and documents for businesses and non-profit groups.

5. Do you copy edit both fiction and nonfiction?
I work with fiction and nonfiction. The editing of fiction, however, I consider a continuous learning process. Grammatical rules [and my personal opinions] aside, guidelines for the writing of fiction are often subjective, as “style” is unique to the author.

6. Can you give us the names of some of the authors you have copyedited for?
I’d be proud to share all of my authors with your readers, but the following are a few recent publications authored by return clients:

Tamburlaine (2017), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes
The Middle Man (2015), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes, Winner: 2016 San
          Francisco Book Festival - Gay Fiction  
Alabama Blue (2016), a memoir by Toni Pacini
Beware of Memories (2016), a novel by Darlien C. Breeze
Mission in Berlin, JJ Bennett: Junior Spy (2016), YA novel by Alba Arango
Writer’s Bloc V-VII, Las Vegas Valley Author’s Showcase (2014-16)
Caesura 2015, The Journal of Poetry Center San Jose—Co-Editor
Flying Without A Net (2012 & 2016), a memoir by Vital Germaine
7. What's the difference between proofreading, copyediting, and content editing?
Authors who seek traditional publishing need to meet the editing standards of their chosen publisher or literary agent and adhere to their submission guidelines. The editing process is equally important when self-publishing. A published book will only be as clean as the skill level of its editor/proofreader and the author’s ability or willingness to accept and correctly transfer those edits onto the formatted manuscript prior to printing.

Before hiring an editor, decide which type of edit you require—content, copy/line, or proof. These can be separate people or combined, but few can do all three skills well, especially not simultaneously.

Substantive/Content Development: For fiction or nonfiction, but especially for novels, this type of editor is consulted first. A substantive editor critiques your writing with emphasis on content, style, technique, organization, and presentation of the complete text.

Copy/Line: Consult this editor next to do a line-by-line proof. A copy editor looks for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammatical errors, clarity, flow, and consistency of text. If extensive rewrites are necessary, repeat this process prior to submission.

Proofread: Prior to final printing, a proofreader reviews the galley for typos, misspellings, and punctuation, grammatical, and semantic errors.

Once an editor is selected, a Standard Editorial Agreement (contract) is advisable for both client and editor that specifies editorial tasks, deadline(s), method of payment, and any special requests.

“An editor neither selects nor impels. An editor can only suggest; the story belongs to the writer.”   ~ Author Unknown

Leslie E. Hoffman, Copy Editor


  1. Interesting post. I'm guessing editors aren't paid nearly what they're worth!

  2. Speaking of what editors are paid, I hesitated to include suggested editing fees in this interview because of the inherent variables, but first-time authors deserve a heads-up. As noted in the EFA's quote below, their suggested rates "should be used only as a rough guideline." (Click on link.) I assure you that this copy editor's fees are not at the higher end of the EFA's suggested rates.

    Editorial Freelancers Association
    "Common editorial rates —regardless of whether a project is flat rate or hourly— tend to fall within the ranges indicated below. These should be used only as a rough guideline; rates vary considerably depending on the nature of the work, the time frame of the assignment, the degree of special expertise required, and other factors. The industry standard for a manuscript page, however, is a firm 250 words."

  3. That sounds like a tedious job to me but, as a reader, I'm so glad there are people who do it. Poorly edited work drives me crazy!

    1. I totally agree. Every mistake smacks me in the face.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Great interview! I like copyediting and proofreading! So much more fun than writing things myself! ;)