Answer from Rachel Deter
Yes, copyediting is something everybody can learn to do. A little passion for writing or a little perfectionism doesn’t hurt, but it is definitely an easy skill to start learning.
Definition of copyediting
It’s not just crossing T’s and dotting I’s, but rather looking at a piece of writing for consistency, checking spelling and grammar, and making sure that the message is clear to the audience.
Copyediting is something very accessible to beginners. Here are some basic copyediting steps:
- Walk away from what you’re writing. Give it a day or two, and then come back with fresh eyes for it.
- Don’t skim when you’re trying to edit. You’re going to probably need to look over it more than once, so if you’re too tired to read closely, repeat step one. Avoid overwhelming yourself, because that leads to sloppy editing.
- Read it once, all the way through, without doing any editing.
- On your second reading, make sure that all of your information is serving a purpose. How does it inform the reader? Is it necessary?
- Consider how your sentences are structured. Don’t be afraid to read it out loud if something sounds off, it’s the best way to pinpoint how best to reword the sentence.
- When it comes to mechanical editing, be careful. Mechanical errors damage your credibility and make your ideas hard to understand.
- Ask a friend or colleague to read your writing, and have them tell you if something sounds weird, or if a certain idea is unclear.
Isn’t a spellchecker enough?
No, it’s not. Spellcheckers work on a word-by-word basis and are very limited in sentence recognition, so a spellchecker just isn’t enough if you really want to convey a clear message to your reader. A spellchecker doesn’t read sentences and ensure they can be understood, and that is only something that can be done with editing.
The internet, blogs, and forums
The internet is also a bountiful resource for editing. If you don’t know something, look it up. A little research goes a long way.
For More Information
Rachel Deter is a Junior Writing Major at Texas Christian University. She loves editing, art, and cats.