Line editing. Copy-editing. What’s the difference?

When you hire a copy-editor, what type of service do you expect?

  • Editing that will address the style and flow of your words?
  • Editing that will deal with the mechanics of grammar, spelling & punctuation?
  • Both?

There are professionals in the editing community who will provide both, under the service: line editing/ copy-editing, using the terms interchangeably. But there are also those who may offer it as two separate edits: Line editing or Copy-editing. So it’s always good to clarify what is included in the service.

That being said, when distinguished as two separate services, what is Line editing? What is Copy-editing?

The Job of a Line Editor

A line editor is attentive to style, showing interest in how words are used at the sentence level to reflect and bring out the tone of the passage. It is also the job of a line editor to address questions about the writer’s purpose and determine if the language clearly conveys that purpose. A line editor will also look at how words are arranged to create sentences which contribute to the overall pacing of the story, and ensures that there is a logical flow, clearing up any redundancies and tightening dialogue.

The Job of a Copy-editor

Like the line editor, a copy-editor is also interested in how words are used at the sentence level, looking closely at the mechanics: grammar, spelling, punctuation. He/she will address such issues as:

  • Does the writer maintain consistency with regards to his/her choice in using British or American spelling?
  • Is the writing in accordance with industry standards and style guides?
  • Are acronyms used appropriately?
  • Are there any internal inconsistencies about character detail?

To understand better what line editors and copy-editors do, read the sentences below and see how it will be approached by a line editor and copy-editor.

It was late evening and Marianne stood on the porch looking out at the blazing sun in the sky. It was her favourite time of day, looking out at the warm colors in the sky.

A line editor will question whether ‘blazing sun’ is appropriate for the time of day which is ‘late evening’. Also, he/she will note that, in referring to the sun, the words ‘in the sky’ which follow, appear redundant.

A copy-editor will spot that there are commas missing after ‘evening’ and ‘porch’. As well as British spelling is used for ‘favourite’, but American spelling is used for ‘color’. The copy-editor will also note that ‘looking out’ and ‘in the sky’ are repeated.

What do you think? Feel free to share other ways the sentences may be edited. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

What type of service does Idle Sky offer?

As some copy-editors do, I offer both the services of line and copy-editing as one. If you would like to work together, leave a comment or visit the contact page here.

What are your thoughts on line editing and copy editing. Do you think there should be a difference? Or should both services be offered as one?

4 thoughts on “Line editing. Copy-editing. What’s the difference?

  1. Very true but the work is too heavy and sometimes on curation the essence is lost.. so I feel we need to be very careful. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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