Before you send a manuscript to me, read my instructions here. When I get your text (or copy, as it is also called), I survey it to check that it has all relevant parts. For a research paper this would include author name(s) and affiliation(s), abstract, keywords, headlines, sections, figures, tables, reference list and, when applicable, appendices. I make sure the word count of the abstract, the keywords as well as of the manuscript as a whole does not exceed the publisher’s limit.
I print out the reference list, which I then use to tick off all references in the text.
I make a note of your preferred version of English (see this page) in order to confirm that you are consistent in your language use. In the case of a paper, I study the journal’s style guide or instructions for authors.
I then begin a detailed scrutiny of your text, using the Track changes function in Microsoft Word. The following are the main points:
- Check that the text is in accordance with the style guide of the publisher.
- Check errors in spelling and grammar, morphology (word forms), syntax (sentence structure), punctuation, etc.
- Check the logic of every sentence as well as the continuity and flow of the text.
- Shorten complex sentences and delete superfluous words.
- Check use of idioms and jargon.
- Check consistency in vocabulary, spelling, font usage, figure and table captions, table layouts, etc.
- Check factual information like technical terms, abbreviations, acronyms, names, dates, etc.
- Check that all references are correctly presented in the text, that they are all included in the literature list and that all entries in the list are consistent in style.
A copyeditor must have a thorough knowledge of the English language and an ability to devote meticulous attention to detail. I believe I have both.
What I don’t do
While I scrutinise all your tables and figures, I do not check statistical formulas or equations (common in economics texts) – after all, there is a limit to my abilities!
A good introduction to how a copyeditor works can be found in this text, written by Wendy Belcher, who worked as a copyeditor for many years and has been the managing editor of a peer-reviewed journal.