Copyediting improves authors’ work by helping them get their ideas across to their audience. It involves checking:
When adapting an existing textbook, copyediting can be useful:
Skipping copyediting can lower the overall quality of your textbook. It’s difficult for authors to edit their own work, so if you can, it’s best to hire a trained copyeditor.
Some of the benefits of working with copyeditors:
There are three levels of copyediting:
The level of editing determines how involved the copyeditor needs to get with the manuscript. For example, in a light edit a copyeditor may leave a comment for the author about sentence structure, while in a heavy edit the copyeditor may make the changes necessary to clarify the author's meaning.
It’s important to share your goals and expectations for copyediting when copyeditors first come on board. While copyeditors bring expertise to the writing process, it’s the author or project manager's responsibility to guide that expertise.
Here are some details you’ll need to clarify with your copyeditor:
Ask the copyeditor to keep a list of issues the author should review, such as:
Trust the copyeditor’s authority on these matters.
If the copyeditor notices problems with styling that are difficult to fix or repeated throughout the textbook, you can assign the correction to someone else on the publishing team (other than the author). For example:
Try to avoid making any more rewrites to the text once it’s been copyedited as this can undo the copyeditor’s work.
Proofreading is a lighter review than copyediting. Unlike copyediting, it involves checking for errors in the textbook’s formatting as well as the text. Proofreading usually happens towards the end of the publishing process, once writing, copyediting and formatting is complete. It’s the last opportunity to mould a textbook into a work that contains:
Copyeditors can act as proofreaders, however it’s a good idea to get someone else to proofread your textbook if you can as they may spot issues the copyeditor missed. As with copyediting, proofreading shouldn’t be done by the author.
It’s been said there’s lot less pressure to produce a ‘perfect’ product when creating an open textbook because it can easily be corrected later. However, relaxing standards can lead to a poor-quality textbook and deter potential adopters.
While an author may only request proofreading, it’s recommended proofreading be performed in conjunction with copyediting to ensure the textbook is as free of errors as possible. If you need to choose between copyediting and proofreading for budget reasons, prioritise copyediting.
The responsibilities of copyeditors and proofreaders often overlap, so to avoid confusion, make sure they each understand what’s expected of them.
Here are some details you’ll need to clarify with your proofreader:
Try to avoid making changes to chapters once they’ve been proofread as this can undo the proofreader’s work.
The following reference books – written by professional editors – provide useful advice about the copyediting and proofreading processes:
‘Why Editing is Important’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, based on ‘How to Copy Edit’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.