Although a computer is a useful tool for the writer, it cannot read for sense, repetition or ambiguity. A spell checker won’t detect libel, errors of fact or misleading or potentially dangerous information. The copy-editing process has a pivotal role in the complexities of the production process. A copy editor will have good judgement to strike a balance between quality, cost and time.

What type of editing?

  • Substantive editing: aims to improve the overall coverage and presentation of a piece of writing, its content, scope, length, level and organisation. At this level, the editor will also look out for legal problems such as libel and plagiarism and for any quotations or illustrations that may need permission from the copyright owner.
  • Detailed editing for sense: is concerned with whether each section expresses the author’s meaning clearly, without gaps and contradictions.
  • Checking for consistency: involves both checking spelling and house rules and details like the numbering of illustrations, tables and notes, and any cross-references to them, and also the consistency of bibliographical references.
  • Clear presentation of the material: involves making sure that the material is complete and that all the parts are clearly identified.