Monday, December 16, 2019

The Skills Required to Copyedit and Proofread

Copyediting Basics

Not Fiction But Everything Else

The world of writing is more than just fiction writers, it includes professional writers such as freelance writers, copywriters, technical writers, and business writers.  Writing is the lifeblood of  many of these writers, after studying long and hard for years, gaining degrees from prestigious universities and colleges.

Many professionals take for granted the fact their occupation is based in and around writing.  Writing important reports and documents meticulously day in day out.

If writing is part of your profession you probably don't give it a second thought, it's second nature and part of what you do.  In order to become efficient, productive, and effective at what you do you need to understand your own personal behaviours. 

The Non-Fiction Writer

Non-fiction writing covers a vast number of different writers, including those in business, and academia.  Amazon's list of non-fiction includes 42 categories, everything from true crime to antiques, with subcategories that include family and relationships.

Professional writers have two things in common with other non-fiction writers:

1. A hunger to advise, direct, and persuade people to make a specific move.
2. The ability to copyedit and proofread your work before it's published.

Copyediting and proofreading is the part of writing most writers hate.  Many writers are able to pay for someone else to look over their work and correct it.

Being able to do your own copyediting and proofreading will help make you a proficient and efficient writer.  You just need to master some basic skills, and tools.

Copyediting and proofreading and skills that need to be mastered, and will turn your writing life around.  

The Power It Takes to Proofread and Copyedit

Editing your own writing can seem uneventful and unexciting at the best of times.  Writing your draft, then itching to get it out into the world.  All it needs is one more read through and spellcheck, and presto! It's ready.


You need to start developing your self-editing skills in these four fields:

1. Concentration and stamina
2. Technique
3. Mindset
4. Tools

At the end of the day you need the resources to be a good copyeditor.

Let's take a peek at these four areas:


Staying focused while you write is part of the writing process, and has the ability to translate your thoughts to a logical conclusion.  Building structured sentences that are easy-to-read, and allowing your ideas to flow from one paragraph to the next. These ideas often come so fast you write without thinking.  To edit and proofread really well you need a more determined approach.


Sitting for hours under intense, prolonged concentration requires strength and endurance.  Having fresh eyes, and your brain fully oxygenated, limbs upright,  this comes from years of practice, and writing for long hours.

Technique and Tools

This is the knowledge to utilise the tools you have efficiently, instead of poking around wasting time.

Writers have dozens of tools at their fingertips, and shouldn't just rely on MS Word to polish their work.  Most of these tools are free and some require payment, but most reduce the arduous task of editing.  Making your writing more organised and efficient.


Even if you can afford to pay someone else to edit for you, you should have the ability to know what you're looking at.  Whatever the project is, your reader needs to be guided, informed, and persuaded. Not finding themselves stumbling over grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

The Right Mindset


The established set of attitudes held by someone.
Oxford English Dictionary

This is your perception of the world and how you respond to whatever comes your way. 

Self-discipline and perseverance are two characteristics of the mindset of a writer.  A deep-rooted part of the attitude of a writer is the need to direct, request, inform and persuade people through their writing.  Regardless of any criticism, self-doubt, and distractions that hound you every time you sit down to write.  Even deadlines don't phase you, and you still manage to get the job done.

Producing the best possible work you can is always in the forefront, and that means a 'clean copy'.  In the 'old days' of publishing houses, typos never existed.  Fast forward to the twenty-first century and the advent of the self-publishing age and typos are everywhere.  From newspapers, books, ebooks, and magazines.

Times are tough, and few of us can afford to hire a professional editor at the best of times. 

But 'fear not' with the right mindset you can acquire the same editing and proofreading skills as any professional.  The more practice you have, the more skilled you'll become. 

Why You Should Copyedit Your Work

Writing is a craft that needs to be honed.  Copyediting is part of that process, and writing is the key foundation on which your intellect, knowledge and work is judged.  The natural assumption is that writing well makes you highly intellectual, and therefore your ideas are worth hearing.  Sadly this isn't reality, because none of us are perfect and you'll always find typos, grammatical errors and irregularities in whatever you write.  This shows the reader you're not thinking carefully. 

At the end of the day, whatever you publish, whether it's a menu, report, book, or email, its a reflection of you.  Any mistakes fall on your head and no one else's.  People find typos, grammatical errors and inconsistencies annoying.  This means any information you feel worth writing about is nothing more than nonsensical and not worth any thought.  Which is why any more than two or three errors and you risk losing sales on any publication you're trying to sell. 

Here's an amusing example of a typo.

Let's eat grandma.
Let's eat, grandma.

One comma is a difference between eating your own, or caring for your offspring. 

The Oxford comma is a favourite of a lot of people, some writers like to use it, others tend to use it more sparingly to make a point.

At the end of the day copyediting and proofreading matter to all writers, and time needs to be taken to learn those skills.

Let me know your thoughts on copyediting and proofreading in the comments below.
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