Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Importance of Copyediting for Writers

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

“We just published a similar article.”

“The subject doesn’t meet our editorial needs.”

“This article is not a good fit for our publication.”

Those are phrases you often hear from editors as you submit manuscripts to their publications. But the one thing you don’t want to hear from an editor is, “Your manuscript is not well-edited so we will have to pass.”

Just getting started writing? Did you know that you have not only become a writer, but you have also become an editor. Once you have a completed a project, you don’t just breathe a sigh of relief. You give your writing time to sit for a few days then go back to work on it, this time to edit what you have written.

Many beginning writers get types of editing confused. There are proofreaders, editors and copyeditors. The last two are very similar.

Proofreading is a less detailed form of editing which includes grammar, spelling, spacing, consistency, information layout, and minor items. It is always good to request a proofread after your book has been typeset. Often minor errors occur during typesetting that need to be fixed.

Copyediting is more in-depth. Not only does it include the items above, copyediting includes making the writing clearer, checks and fixed facts, looks for inconsistencies, points out and changes redundancies, and makes the writing cohesive and more lively.

How do you learn to edit?

Several practices will increase your knowledge of editing and your editing skills. The best way to do that is to edit. Practice on everything you write and keep the style sheet and Chicago Manual of Style handy. When I first started editing, I did so with the newest edition of Chicago Manual of Style in my lap! As you are learning, you want to make sure you are learning the most recent rules since that is what publishing professionals will use.

If you have a writer friend, offer to swap work for editing. The more you can practice, the better editor you will become. Ask your friend to have a short discussion about articles he or she edits so you can learn from the corrections. If your “editor” prefers, notes can be included in the margins of your manuscripts where you can read and reread them as you learn.

When you receive a rejection from a publishing house professional and the editor has made some suggestions, take note of those and apply them to your next project. Learn from every comment made about your work. Read widely about how to edit. Look for lists that will tell you the most common editing mistakes and use those to tighten up your work.

Remember nothing you write is ever wasted. Either it is good practice as you grow your writing or it is a good lesson as you are learning how to make your writing the best it can be. Is there a specific comment you have received from an editor that has made you realize the importance of editing? Share it with us in the comments.


Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of communicating with excellence. In the midst of all the busyness, Linda’s favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!


  1. I know it took me awhile to grasp what the difference was between a proofreader and a copy editor. Thanks for sharing. I think of all the editorials I sent to my local paper as a columnist decades ago that had I had better editing skills the paper's editor's job would have been so much easier.

  2. YESSSS!!!! As managing editor for an online publication, I can't tell you how many submissions I receive that have not been properly edited. Or that don't follow our very specific writers guidelines. When we submit anything, it should be letter-perfect. It should fit within that publisher's guidelines. Anything less just comes off as unprofessional. And leaves a bad taste in any editor's mouth. We are shooting ourselves in the foot!

  3. Thanks for clarifying the meanings of different editing. Your information is so helpful. Thank you for passing it on to us.

  4. "Remember nothing you write is ever wasted." Such wisdom in this statement!

  5. Editing is so important. I once sent a fb post that called attention to people's misuse of the word "too" (such as this has gone to far). However, due to speed typing and speed reading, I failed to notice a typo in my post. Gulp! Thanks to a friend, I corrected it right away--but not before a snarky comment arrived from a young reader. I had it coming.

  6. Thank you for all the comments. So good to hear from folks who share my love of good, clean editing. And, yes, good editing is so important. It will make your work stand out from the slush pile!