The Difference Between Copyediting and Line Editing

copyediting and line editing

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This blog discusses the difference between copy-editing and line editing. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

Most researchers do not fully comprehend the main difference between line editing and copyediting. Although there are some similarities between these two services (e.g., both take full note of the use of a manuscript’s language and involve improvements of the content, overall structure, and quality of the paper), there are still important differences between them. Both line editing and copyediting have entirely different processes and require a different set of skills during the writing process. 

copyediting line editing
Both line editing and copyediting have entirely different processes and required a different set of skills.

Line Editing vs. Copyediting

Line editing focuses on writing style, creative content, and language use at the sentence and paragraph levels. That is, it focuses on the language used by the author to establish communication between the story and the reader instead of combing through the paper for errors. Line editing checks the following points: Is the language of the manuscript clear, smooth, and readable to the readers? Is the meaning of the words correct?

Working with a line editor would improve the quality of the manuscript and give the author the creative instruments to become a better writer for potential employment. Copyediting, on the other hand, focuses on errors from a technical standpoint to ensure the manuscript follows the business standards. They consider this type of work as high-level proofreading or editing.

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The purpose of a copyediting is to focus on errors on a very technical basis

In this sense, copyediting corrects all errors in grammar, typography, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript. It ensures consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization, tracking macro issues such as internal consistency. An academic manuscript should have internal consistency in terms of meaning. The setting, plot, or characters of the study should have no discrepancies throughout the work. 

For instance, if in section 2, you write: the participants of the study from a rural area in South Africa, and then write in section 4:  the participants of the study from the urban area in South Africa, it is the copy editor’s job to correct this if both renditions are meant to refer to one and the same thing. 

Overlap Between Copyediting and Editing

Of course, there will be some convergence between editing and copyediting. As mentioned before, the primary purpose of editing is to address technical errors or logical inconsistencies because the leading role of our editors is to polish up your manuscript. However, it is not the specific aim of line editing to screen the manuscript, correct the errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling, or change behaviour to behavior just because the targeted journal is for the United States.

This is a copyediting task and requires technical comprehension skills of English usage (either British or American) that general editing does not possess. In this sense, copyediting involves checking the citation style- a set of rules on how to properly cite a source in an academic manuscript. Hence, editing services may not offer to check the APA style or Harvard style, but copyediting might.

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Copyediting should always be done after line editing

Which comes first?

The other main difference between copyediting and line editing is that copyediting should always be done after line editing, never at the same time. So, copyediting is the last task before the manuscript goes into publication. A regular editor or line editor should check errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript before copyediting.

As a consequence, the main role of editing or proofreading is to make your paper stand out and help you to produce writing of increasingly better quality while the main role of copyediting is to correct all grammatical, spelling, or punctuation flaws to make sure the document is error-free.

Authors should keep in mind that companies providing editing, proofreading, copyediting or line editing services cannot ever guarantee a client’s manuscript will be accepted for publication because peer-review journals do not only look at these types of errors but also at the scientific or literary quality of the content- a matter for which a copy editor or a line editor cannot be held responsible.

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Copyediting is mostly the last task before the manuscript goes into publication

Editing vs. Proofreading

The purpose of proofreading is to correct all errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript. When the authors wish to see whether the final version of their manuscripts includes any minor errors, they need is a proofreading service, not an editing service. However, editing services require more effort from an editor than do proofreading services. An editing service improves the academic quality of the paper. Thus, editing comprises improvements of the content and overall structure of the manuscript. 

Editing services mostly make essential revisions to improve the standard of the academic writing of a document. In this sense, an editor sometimes re-writes parts of the paper. This is especially important because the purpose of editing is to ensure that the manuscript’s purpose is met. 

Editing also covers checking documents to see whether they have any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors to ensure the paper is error-free. Thus, an editor will correct all errors in grammar, typography, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript. In this sense, editing services cover proofreading services as well (Click here to read about the difference between editing and proofreading).


If you need professional help for editing, proofreading, line editing, or copyediting, please visit our service page.

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