At all levels of copyediting—light, medium, or heavy—the editor corrects errors, queries the author about conflicting statements, requests advice when the means of resolving a problem are unclear, and prepares a style sheet. The editor may also incorporate the author’s replies to queries, known as cleanup editing.



A light copyedit does not involve interventions such as smoothing transitions or changing heads or text to ensure parallel structure. The editor checks content only to detect spots where copy is missing. Our aim is to make the least bit of changes and still maintain your unique voice. Duties often include the following

  • Correcting faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation

  • Correcting incorrect usage (such as can for may)

  • Checking specific cross-references (for example, “As Table 14-6 shows…”)

  • Ensuring consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization

  • Checking for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical order) in lists and other displayed material

  • Recording the first references to figures, tables, and other display elements


Duties often include the following

  • Performing all tasks for light copyediting

  • Changing text and headings to achieve parallel structure

  • Flagging inappropriate figures of speech

  • Ensuring that key terms are handled consistently and that vocabulary lists and the index contain all the terms that meet criteria specified by the publisher

  • Ensuring that previews, summaries, and end-of-chapter questions reflect content

  • Tracking the continuity of plot, setting, and character traits, and querying the discrepancies, in fiction manuscripts

  • Enforcing consistent style and tone in a multi-author manuscript

  • Changing passive voice to active voice, if requested

  • Flagging ambiguous or incorrect statements

  • Typemarking the manuscript


The key differences between heavy and medium copyedits are the levels of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copyedit, we will improve the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; and may establish a uniform level, tone, and focus if necessary. Duties often include the following

  • Performing all tasks for medium copyediting

  • Eliminating wordiness, triteness, and inappropriate jargon

  • Smoothing transitions and moving sentences to improve readability

  • Assigning new levels to heads to achieve logical structure

  • Suggesting—and sometimes implementing—additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level

The key differences between heavy and medium copyedits are the levels of judgment and rewriting involved. In a heavy copyedit, the editor improves the flow of text rather than simply ensuring correct usage and grammar; may suggest recasts rather than simply flagging problems; and may enforce a uniform level, tone, and focus as specified by the publisher or developmental editor.

Developmental editing can include consultation before the writing begins. The developmental editor may help plan the organization, features, and other aspects of the work, and prepare developmental reviews or analyses. Developmental editing may also involve altering the content to meet the recommendations of reviewers and determining the style and general content of the illustrations and/or diagrams. Duties often include the following

  • Suggesting formats to communicate the message

  • Rewriting and restructuring the text to fit the format

  • Moving entire paragraphs and sentences to improve flow

  • Ensuring consistent structure by adding or deleting headings

  • Identifying gaps in content, and supplying or describing the needed copy, so the author can resolve them

  • Deleting content that is outdated or that does not achieve the desired marketing focus or tone

  • Developing an effective system for handling trademarks and notes


The terms substantive editors, content editors, and line editors are often used interchangeably for editors who make significant changes to a manuscript, such as rewriting and reorganizing the text.

**(Sourced from Editorial Freelancers Association.)



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