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, headlines, 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.
During my work I may contact you to discuss details, to clarify what you intend with a certain passage or to explain the usage of a word or an expression. You can, of course, contact me to ask about anything that you need explained.
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.