What’s in a line edit or a copyedit?

What’s in a line edit or a copyedit?

decorative image: text with red corrections

Line and copyediting are where you can get the most use out of me 🙂 Different editors may define each differently but here’s what you can expect if you work with me.

What is line editing? And how is it different from copyediting? If you already know both terms, you are well ahead of me when I started!

Different editors may define each somewhat differently, so it’s a good idea to check with whomever you work with—and also to know what kind of help you want. The more specific you can be, the better your editor will be able to help you.

(Also check how editing differs from proofreading.)

Both copyediting and line editing are about fine-tuning the text so it’s ready for submission or to be sent to design. (Here’s a summary of the different stages of editing and proofreading.)

Traditionally, copyediting is about cleaning up the surface of a manuscript (“technical” copyediting) whereas line editing looks to refine the paragraphs and sentences.

What you will be asked

These are some of the questions you (and your text) will be asked when you work with me:

An example of copyediting vs. line editing

To illustrate, here’s the work I do for two clients.


When I copyedit for VoxEU.org, I make sure that the references follow the VoxEU.org style, the spelling is UK with -ise/-sation, subheadings are in sentence case (minimum case; “This is sentence case”), and so on.

I of course look at syntax, grammar, spelling, and punctuation too but keep my edits to a minimum.

Line editing

I do more line editing for UNITAR. Here, I look more at the sentences and paragraphs in detail to make sure they are correct and clear.

I suggest moving some paragraphs and sentences around or deleting them to improve the logic and flow.

On top of that, I check that the documents follow the United Nations Editorial Manual in terms of spelling, use of capitalizations, and proper names (like country names)—that’s the copyediting part.

What you can expect from me

Especially in a line edit, my goal is to help your messages come through clearly through your paragraphs and sentences.

Think of me as a sample reader—you get to test your document on me and adjust it before it goes out to a wider audience 🙂

So if I do come across anything that may be ambiguous,

  • I will check with you for clarification.
copyedit deep edit example clarification
I will ask you for clarification if I don’t understand.
  • I will make concrete suggestions and offer options if possible. For example, I might say “If you mean xxx, then you might insert a line like ‘xyz is abc’ here for clarity. OR if you meant bbb, you could say ‘aaa’ in the next para.”)

And always remember: anything I suggest are just proposals. The final decision is always yours 🙂

Recent copyediting & proofing work

It’s important to me that your experience of being edited will be satisfying—not aggravating! You and your writing will be treated respectfully and gently through the editing stages.

You can go to my editing page to see what kinds of titles I’ve worked on.

Get in touch to discuss whether we might be a good fit for your scholarly or international development writing project!

Cover image credit: Nic McPhee via Flickr

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