Per the Random House Word Menu copyediting is:

  • Publishing – copyeditor: person who corrects and revises grammatical, stylistic, and factual elements of book
  • Journalism – copyeditor: person who corrects and revises grammatical, factual, and stylistic aspects of written news story

So much for the easy part, the definition, but there is much more to copyediting than just a definition of what copyediting is.

First, you must answer the following questions honestly:

  • Why do you want to be a copyeditor?
  • What skills do you have to be a copyeditor?
  • Do you like to read?
  • Do you like doing research?
  • Do you like doing fact checking?
  • Are you willing to intern to learn the required skills of a copyeditor?

Second, you must have a passion for reading, well versed in grammar, punctuation, research, and love to read various genres. If the passion to do your best work possible is there, go for it. If the passion to do the best work possible is not there, the work you submit to the printer will reflect it, and you will not get other assignments.

Third, unless you have a reputation for quality work, you will have to market yourself and prove yourself repeatedly until you build your reputation of quality work so clients will search out you out instead of your having to find clients for your copyediting business.

Fourth, you will need a website, understand the use of social media, have a blog, and willing to put in the time and dedication it takes to become a copyeditor. You will need some form of online presence, advertising, and marketing. Marketing and advertising without being spammy is essential if you want clients to find you.

Fifth, you need a portfolio of your work as a copyeditor, and testimonials about the quality of your work. You need to post these online so you can refer clients to bodies of work to show that you do good work.

Copyediting can be a rewarding career for a person with the right psychological make-up, and someone willing to constantly challenge themselves to improve.

Robert Medak

Freelance writer/Editor/Reviewer