Technically speaking, copy editing (or copyediting) and line editing are two different things, but people tend to use them interchangeably. While copy editing and line editing share some of the same tasks, the primary focus of each is different. I prefer to combine copy editing and line editing unless the client prefers specific limits to be set.
Copy editing focuses on the technical aspects of your writing and hunts for errors that need to be fixed. After the manuscript is edited with regard to the plot, structure, and characters, it is time to take a closer look at every line and paragraph in the manuscript. A copy edit will look at:
- Sentence Structure
- Word choice
- POV (shifts, head-hopping)
- Fact checking
- This is very important. Fact checking not only affects plot, language, and details, but it affects your characters too. It’s not just about textbook facts. Anachronisms and pop culture can be very tricky because the devil is in the details. For example, what is wrong with this picture:
The year is 1960 and your character is drinking a Gatorade and eating Twinkies while sitting on the sofa and watching the NFL on TV.
(Need a hint? Glug! Glug!)
I do not claim to be an expert in everything, but if I know or suspect an error, I’ll point it out. A copy edit will point out inconsistencies and suggest slight rephrasing for the sake of clarity, but it does not include rewriting entire paragraphs or sections of text. That’s for the previous (developmental) editing stage.
A line edit focuses on style and language. This will include things like:
- Word choice
- Metaphor/simile construction
- Sentence/paragraph construction
For example, a line edit may point out an unintended mixed metaphor or how your repetitive use of declarative statements alters the tone and mood of a scene.