What Exactly Is a Copy Editor?

At times it is almost impossible to write an article without any grammatical mistakes hence the need for a copy editor. A mistake in a publication lowers the credibility of the whole company and takes a long time to regain the trust and credibility. Copy editors are people who go through a written material to correct any errors whether they are grammatical, punctuation or spelling. Some publications may have a particular style in which they want their articles to be written and copy editors go through the materials to make sure all the rules have been followed.

A copy refers to the written material, whether handwritten or typed. In news publications, a copy editor also looks for mistakes that could them in trouble like defamatory statement and errors regarding facts.  Depending on the publication policies, the copy editor can rewrite what they feel does not conform to the organization’s guidelines.

Some, however, prefer to return the copy to the editor who had assigned the work rather than rewrite it.

Many people do not distinguish between copy editing and line editing. Line editing involves looks at the creativity, and the language used to in writing and do not necessarily focus on spelling and grammar.

So What Exactly Does a Copy Editor Do?

A good copy editor should have a command of language so that they can effectively point out the mistakes in a copy.

  • A copy editor corrects grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Corrects wrong usage of word or phrases
  • Changes passive voices to active voices if there is the need to do so.
  • Gets rid of unnecessary words and inappropriate jargon in a copy.
  • Removes redundancy in a copy.

Common Tools Used by Copy Editors

The most important tools for copy editor are a reference book.  Among the reference books a copy editor should have a dictionary to guide them.

In organizations which have their own set guidelines, the copy editor should have access to the guide book containing the guiding rules that the company follows. Always use those resources to improve your work.

  • Notebooks: Copy editors need notebooks to write down important notes. It could be some of the most common mistakes they find in written materials or any good ideas from the materials.
  • Copyediting newsletter: A newsletter helps a copy editor to know the changes that are happening in the copy editing industry. The newsletter will help them keep up with the day to day updates about copy editing.
  • Style guides: Style guides are essential for copy editors to know how to correctly format text and what grammar to correct.

Other online tools that are important in copy editing include:

  • Grammarly: This tool checks for any grammar mistakes.  The tool points out the errors and gives suggestions and explanations for the errors.
  • ProWritingAid: The tool shows areas where certain words have been overused, the length of sentences in a paragraph and repeated words or phrases.
  • editMinion: The tool points out areas where the writer has used passive phrases and wrongly placed adverbs.
  • SmartEdit: This tool is very useful to a copy editor since it highlights spelling mistakes, repeated phrases, and adverbs.


Common Errrors Identified by Copy Editors

When going through a story, there are common things that might seem obvious can but actually, be problematic.

  • Always check the spelling of well-known people’s names if they are used in the story. Some of these people have names that are hard to write and it is, therefore, good to double check the spelling just to be sure the word is correctly spelled.
  • In cases where a writer talks about a recent event that occurred whether it is a crime or any other major occurrence, always refer to earlier stories to see if the facts match. In case the facts do not match to those on another story; check other publications to see which facts are consistent.
  • As a copywriter, you may be unfamiliar with some of the issues tackled in a story. Do not assume them. Check related publications to bring you up to speed with the issues.
  • If the writer has used a quote, confirm from the writer of the quote to make sure that it is quoted as it appears.
  • In some stories, writers may refer to someone as ‘the late’. As a copy editor, it is your duty to check whether the person is actually dead. Such a mistake can lead to a lawsuit.

What to Look out for When Hiring a Copy Editor

Look for an experienced person in the field of copywriting. The number of years a person has worked may determine how good the person is at the job. An experienced copy editor will also perform the task with ease and efficiently.

  1. A person who pays attention to details. In copy editing some of the grammar mistakes cannot easily be identified is a person is not keen and attentive during copy editing.
  2. A curious person. Curiosity with the surrounding is a plus since the person will know what is going on within their surrounding and therefore when editing a copy, everything does not seem new to them.
  1. Have a basic training in copyediting. As an organization, you should look for a person who has some training in grammar, scripting and news writing skills.
  1. Passionate about what they do. A person may have all the necessary qualifications in a job but lack passion for the job. Meaning they do not enjoy what they do. Such a person may not perform the assigned task to the satisfaction or may even find it hard to meet deadlines.
  • If you want to become a good copy editor, you should be a reader.
  • Reading ensures that you are up to date with what is happening and it, therefore, becomes easy to point out mistakes in a copy.
  • Be a critical thinker. This is a person who can recognize good writing and are able to improve a bad copy instead of doing away with the whole copy.


Copy editors are important in any organization since they help you avoid the shame of publishing a copy that is full of grammatical errors. Copy editors help you improve the quality of content in your publication.

This post was proofread by Grammarly. Try it - it's FREE!

Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.


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