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A Beginners Guide to Copyediting in 2022

A-Beginners-Guide-to-Copyediting

Ewery great wrijer kkows the importnace of thorouhgly editing their work before publihsing them. I am a great writer (if I do say so myself), and I spend more hours editing my work than actually writing them. Just pardon that opening line. I used to write that way when I was in third grade before I mastered the craft of copyediting.

As a writer who spends the bulk of his working time thinking about improving manuscripts and copies so they do the work I created them to do, I am constantly looking for ways to up my game and get better at the art (or science) of writing.

My daily mantra is “write better today than you did yesterday,” and to achieve this, the voice in my head makes me believe, “edit better today than you did yesterday,” which has been my secret over the years. As a writer, if you fail to edit, you’d sound clumsy, and nobody would want to read what you got, regardless of how efficient your writing technique or story is.

The little foxes that spoil the writing vine are a few spelling errors here and a few grammatical inconsistencies here.

This guide will examine everything a beginner needs to know about editing their writings and making them easy to read and understand from a glance.

Table of Contents

What is Copyediting?

Beginners-Guide-to-Copyediting-

Copyediting is the stage in the writing process in which a piece of written material, the “copy,” is reviewed, rewritten, edited, and improved to enhance its readability.

During the copyediting process, you should ensure the style, tone, and other elements of your writing are consistent and that the text flows organically from one sentence to the next.

You should also check the manuscript for grammar, punctuation, and continuity, providing suggestions on how to convey the message to the reader best.

Dos and Don’ts of Copyediting

do's-and-don't-of-Copyediting

During the copyediting process, you should look for several technical issues with your writing. During your copyediting process, the first thing you should look at is your grammatical errors, spelling errors, punctuation errors, syntax, misaligned paragraphs, mismatched bullet points, inconsistent font style and type, and improper headings. I could go on and on, but I’ll instead show you than tell you at this point.

Some people still write copies and blog articles like it’s a Harry Potter novel – long paragraphs stretching from the left end of their screen to the right, tiny fonts, challenging the concentration abilities of their readers.

How funny, exciting, and engaging should your blog post be for your readers to hang in there even after they feel like they need to use a needle to trace and follow the lines? This is one massive block of text.

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Do your eyes hurt? Does your brain hurt? You want me to stop? Sure I should stop? Okay, I should stop? Some more? A little more, and a little more? Ok, LOL! I guess you get the point.

Now, how does this feel?

A lot better, right?

Yum! The sweet one-sentence paragraph!

It makes the copy easier to read and faster to understand.

Extended highlights like this are gentle to the eyes, like ice-cold thin slices of cucumber in Kim Kardashian’s favourite spa.

Of course not; I’m kidding. I’m not asking you to write in one-sentence paragraphs only. I’m not asking you to highlight/bolden very long lines of texts. You shouldn’t.

Please tone it down like this very paragraph because you often make the copy or article unnecessarily long when you hit the enter key too often. If users spot a scroll bar like the one below, they quickly lose interest, and everything stops being exciting.

Too many words can bog down a text and confuse the reader. A good writer will be able to eliminate redundant sentences and tighten phrasing to help streamline the writer’s story or message.

“I am a boy who loves tangerines, lemon, grapefruits, oranges, limes” could be replaced with “I love citrus fruits.”

In a nutshell, while editing, try as much as you can to avoid in your writing;
  • Bulky paragraphs (like the example above, the one that hurt your eyes)
  • Too many consecutive one-sentence paragraphs (the example that made you blink while reading)
  • Highlighting too much text to pass a message
  • Irrelevant spaces between paragraphs
  • Long sentences that are difficult to process visually
  • Hackneying exclamations, don’t!!!!!!
  • Overusing question marks?????
  • OVERUSING ALL CAPS
  • No space between individual bullet points
  • Mismatched bullet points
  • No images
  • Using too small font size (I’m so sorry you have to zoom or strain your eyes to read this.

Copy editing requires you to be detail-oriented. One of the main qualities of a great writer is the ability to comb through manuscripts to make sure these details are kept consistent, such as descriptions of settings and characters.

If a house is white in one chapter, then suddenly brown in the next, your brain and eyes are all you need during copy editing and a few tools that we will discuss shortly. 

No matter how vast you are about a topic, you’d always catch yourself looking for materials to bolster your points or quotes to cite. The writing process involves much research, primarily when editing nonfiction works. You’d need to verify dates and events, names, facts, and figures to maintain factual accuracy.

Practical Tips for Copyediting

While editing your writings, be it fiction, blog articles, or sales compies, be sure to do all of these at least three times before hitting the “submit” of publish button;

practical-tips-of-Copyediting

1. Read aloud

It’ll be almost impossible to miss your errors if you read aloud. Listen carefully; you will be able to correct any errors that you hear. Listen for vague phrases, sentences, ideas, and things that sound funny and unnatural.

2. Make changes on the spot

Pause a.nd edit any errors and inconsistencies as soon as you see them. These include errors in punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.  Scan the entire manuscript at a reasonable rate and make the corrections on the spot.

If you cannot, an alternative is highlighting or underlining the errors. Most word processors would automatically do this to your spelling errors but miss your punctuation, grammatical errors, and sentence structure. That’s why it’s never a great idea to rely solely on them for copyediting.

3. Allow time

Allow yourself some time between writing and editing.  Ideally, wait a day; this allows your brain to “get cold,” allowing you to notice the errors.

Sometimes it’s hard seeing our own mistakes. If you can’t wait a day, go away and do something else for a while, shop, surf the internet, speak to a friend, walk your dog, anything. This gives you time to return to your work with a fresh mind and sparky eyes.

4. Edit sentence by sentence

Using a sheet of clean paper or your windows notepad, scan through each sentence carefully.  Does it sound and look correct?  Does it say what you want it to say?  Continue down the page in the same way.

5. Find recurring patterns of error

All writers make mistakes that are typical of their writing.  In case you always forget commas, check for commas. If you always have trouble with transitions, look for changes. If you work on wordiness, look for this. Know your grammar and punctuation rules, also keep a list of these recurring errors. With time, you’ll see yourself writing better.

If you have a writing handbook or handouts, keep them out when you write. Refer to them when you have questions as you write and edit.

6. Proofread

Proofreading, the final stage, focuses on random goofs. The final draft has been corrected, but sometimes, mistakes are still present because of basic computer errors, fatigue, carelessness, or oversight.  It is essential to go through the paper one last time to catch these random goofs.

7. Ignore yourself

Read the work as you would another writer’s work. Sit back, read and enjoy your work. What do you notice at the end?

8. Read backwards

Start at the bottom of the page on the right side. Look at the words from right to left, and check for spelling/typographical errors.

5 Copyediting Software Every Writer Should Befriend

1. Grammarly

grammarly-copyediting-tool

I like to think of Grammarly as my writing assistant. With this top-rated AI-powered software, writers and other professionals can proofread and edit their documents without hassle. It checks for more than 250 spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and it enhances vocabulary usage.

In contrast to traditional writing tools available through Word and email platforms, Grammarly has six different styles of writing that you can choose from business, academic, casual, technical, creative, and general. These styles cater to different audiences.

Depending on how many issues and errors are found in your document, Grammarly will give you an overall score that you can improve on.

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Following this, it guides you through possible grammatical problems one by one. The software provides a short explanation and a longer explanation for each issue that is identified.

In these explanations, examples of correct grammar are provided. Sometimes, the system suggests specific alternatives to the grammar.

There are no mandatory changes with Grammarly – the user can make specific changes as they see fit. If you disagree with the recommended changes, you can ignore possible problems.

A handy plagiarism checker is incorporated. This helps writers identify any inadvertently borrowed content. The system points out similar text that exists elsewhere and suggests citations that can be included to legitimize the text in question.

A synonym checker is also available to enable writers to choose optional wording and avoid repetition. Grammarly also provides explanations for suggested changes and information on what type of mistake you’ve made. Grammarly comes with a Chrome extension, Android keyboard, and desktop app to help you edit faster and on the go.

2. ProWritingAid

prowritingaid

This editing tool also serves as a plagiarism and grammar checker. It comes with a style editor for improving writing and English skills and generally acts as your personal writing coach so that your writings always come across as confident.

Like Grammarly, ProWritingAid works in Google Docs and other popular word processors and email providers. ProWritingAid software is used mainly by Fiction & Non-fiction Authors, Bloggers & Content writers, Students, Business writers, etc.

The software provides reports that include more than 20 different types of analysis for your writing, integrates with Microsoft suite, Google Chrome & Docs, Apache Open Office, Scrivener, etc.

It also features a contextual thesaurus report that suggests synonyms for each word in your text. It allows you to quickly explore different wordings and a word explorer for finding the right words from various dictionaries and detailed explanations to save your time.

3. Ginger

ginger-software

Ginger is an Israeli software that uses Natural Language Processing to improve your writing, develop English speaking skills, and generally boost writing productivity.

Through its grammar checker and punctuation tools that automatically detect and correct your grammar mistakes, you can improve your writing and make sure you achieve your set goals.

Moreover, it works on different platforms like a Mobile app for both Android and IOS devices, a desktop app for Mac and Windows, a web application, etc. The software helps you write unique text and enrich the reader with the help of the Sentence Rephraser tool.

For informal writing, you can express yourself with emojis, word prediction for the essence of speed while you are typing, and customizable themes for your mobile keyboard.

4. Hemingway App

hemingway-app-copyediting

This app, named after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway’ tightens up your work by removing the dead weight from your content by displaying wordy sentences in yellow and more egregious ones in red. It helps you keep your writing simple, with great clarity by highlighting adverbs, passive voices, and complicated sentences.

You can directly start writing in Hemingway editor for proofreading your writing and see where you need to focus more. The app can be used remotely from anywhere and doesn’t require any Internet connection.

5. WhiteSmoke

Whitesmoke-writing-tool

This tool is fully integrated and is the state-of-the-art English writing tool for detecting mistakes by improving user experience and knowledge enhancement.

Also, it uses Natural Language Processing with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and various algorithms to analyze texts, detect errors, and provide the best possible suggestions.

WhiteSmoke helps you detect errors, provides additional information on each error, and enables you to create flawless content with a Grammar checker, Spell-checker, Style checker, Punctuation checker, and Translator.

The Takeaway

Copyediting is a crucial part of the writing process and could mess your writing up if you don’t devote much time and effort to copyediting. This guide provides insight into the process, including dos and don’ts, best copyediting practices, and tools you should have in handy.

Let’s run a quick recap with these; anyone writer can be a great copyeditor;

  • Read aloud.
  • Make changes on the spot.
  • Allow time.
  • Edit sentence by sentence
  • Find recurring errors.
  • Ignore yourself.
  • Read backwards.

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