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Copyediting may seem straightforward, but it isn’t. As more people enter the field (some who are untrained), it’s important to know what a copyeditor is, what a copyeditor does – and what a copyeditor does not do. Here are the five biggest myths about copyeditors, debunked.

MYTH: Copyeditors don’t need to know style guides.

If you hire a copyeditor that isn’t familiar with style guides, you are essentially hiring a proofreader. Knowing the nuances between, say, The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook is what separates serious, professional copyeditors from dilettantes and amateurs.

MYTH: We don’t need a style guide.

A style guide or style sheet is an essential tool for a copyeditor – and for writers. It ensures consistency throughout documents and for entire projects. It’s important to choose a house style guide or create one for communications, and to note deviations that relate to different projects on style sheets that may or may not be incorporated into the style guide at a later date.

MYTH: Copyeditors will rewrite the document.

Copyeditors make simple revisions and note changes to make manuscripts grammatically correct and consistent. However, they do not substantively edit manuscripts or rewrite text line by line. For substantive editing, you’ll need to hire a professional editor who has experience with that kind of editing.

MYTH: Copyeditors work fast.

Copyediting, by its very nature, is a slow process. To copyedit properly, the copyeditor needs time. Most copyeditors prefer to give documents a read-through before they start, dive into the documents and copyedit, and then give the document a last pass, particularly if it’s a long, complex document. This doesn’t apply to quick edits and proofreads of news stories, but it does apply for more technical documents and for anything that isn’t time-intensive. The rule of thumb is, the more important it is, the more time a client should allow for copyediting.

MYTH: Copyeditors will catch everything.

No matter how thorough a copyeditor is, some errors will still slip through the cracks. That’s because no one can catch every error in every document. Good copyeditors should catch almost everything in a manuscript. If it’s a mission-critical piece, clients are better off hiring two people to review the document or manuscript: a copyeditor for mechanical and content issues and a proofreader for punctuation and other errors that the copyeditor might have missed.