Copy Editing is checking a document for typographical errors, spelling, punctuation, verb tense issues, and other grammatical errors. Though word-processing software has its own spellcheck program, professional copy editing catches English-language nuances that a computer cannot.
Example 1: As lily hung up her goat in the closet, she knocks down all the hangars.
Corrected: As Lily hung up her coat in the closet, she knocked down all the hangers.
Though “goat” and “hangar” are contextually incorrect and illogical, spellcheck would not flag them because they are grammatically correct.
“Lily” is usually a flower but a female’s name in this case. Spellcheck would not make that distinction, so the word would not be marked for capitalization.
And as the dependent clause is in the past tense, the independent clause after the comma should also be in the past tense, changing the verb from “knocks” to “knocked.”
Content Editing (also called developmental or substantive editing) involves a thorough review of your content. It checks for consistency, unity, and development in the following ways:
- In a work of nonfiction, it checks for factual errors, contradictions, inconsistencies, and otherwise confusing or unclear sections.
- In a work of fiction, it checks for plot discrepancies, character consistency and development, the use and effectiveness of subplots, problematic dialogue, confusing themes, and other issues.
Content editing also addresses subtler content issues such as offensive or outdated language and gender bias.
Example: If a doctor feels his patient is not getting better fast enough, he should just do more stuff. If she is okay with that.
Corrected: Assuming patient consent, doctors should have the freedom to explore additional treatment options.
Content editing ensures that the author’s intent is reflected in the document—that what the author writes is what the author means. Content editing, therefore, requires multiple reads of the manuscript and feedback from the author and is far more thorough than copy editing.
So which service do you need?
Most writers would benefit from a content edit, especially for their first draft. Even experienced writers and professional editors use content editors for their work. But for writers who have already used a content editor or are in the final stages of the editing process, a copy edit should be sufficient.