How Does a Professional Copyeditor Work With You?

 In Editing

It can be difficult for writers to give their manuscript to a professional copyeditor. You’ve often spent months finishing your work and sending it to a stranger can seem foolhardy. I thought it might help put your mind at rest if I tell you my process for each professional copyediting project.


I never begin a new project without consultation with the writer. For some projects, such as grants or short articles, I usually only need a little information in an email – for example, what you are trying to achieve with the piece, who the audience will be, or whether you are following a style guide.

Other projects, such as manuscripts, require more consultation. I’ve been working with one client for over a year because his large manuscript required a structural edit. Before he hired me, we met for over an hour and talked about his needs and my cost estimates. We’ve met twice since then. When I’m in the same city as such a client, I’d rather meet face-to-face at least once so I can get a feel for your voice and so you can get to know me. After all, you’re trusting me with a valuable document. When face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, a Skype or phone call work just as well. The goal is for you to learn how I work and for me to learn about you and your project.

Structural Read

Before I begin editing, I quickly read short articles from the perspective of your audience. At this point, I make notes about structure and questions that come up as I read.

I handle the first reading of long manuscripts much differently. I first read the Table of Contents and the Introductory chapter. Next, I read the first and last pages of each chapter to get a feel for the direction or your argument. I then read the conclusion. Throughout the process, I take quick notes that remind me of points to consider in the next reading.


The second reading is where I do the bulk of the editing. For short pieces, this takes little time and is generally the final edit.

Manuscripts can take many hours to edit. I first address any structural issues I noticed in my initial reading. If you’ve only hired me for copyediting, then I simply make notes of the issues or questions and send them on to you – I don’t include suggestions in the manuscript.

The next step depends on the level of copy editing you’ve hired me to do. For all stages of editing, I read for consistency in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. I also make sure no pages are missing, footnotes are numbered consecutively, and your references are consistent.

If you want a light copyedit, I correct grammar and syntax but don’t comment on wordiness or awkwardly phrased sentences. However, a heavy copyedit includes rewriting sentences to improve their flow or make them more concise. I’ll write a future post about what to expect from the various levels of editing.

Final Steps

At this point, I return the manuscript to you with suggestions and queries. Look for a video tutorial on my website in the near future that shows you how to handle a marked manuscript. Once you incorporate my suggestions, you need to decide whether the manuscript needs another round of editing.

The choice to get further editing depends on two things: your budget and the number of changes in the first edit. If your original manuscript was fairly clean, you likely won’t require a second edit. However, if you make significant changes, it may be in your best interest to hire an editor for a light copyedit prior to sending your manuscript to your agent or publisher.


Every copyeditor has their own process. Before committing to professional copyediting, talk to prospective editors and make sure they are the best fit for you. After all, you must hire someone you trust to look after your manuscript. If you’re wondering about the editing principles I follow, check out this post.

Your Turn

If you have any questions or comments about copyediting, ask them in the comments section.

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