Copyediting of Manuscripts: An Author’s Guide

Wesleyan University Press

What Copyediting Entails

The copy editor uses The Chicago Manual of Style (CmoS), 14th edition, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition. She or he will supplement these with appropriate specialized dictionaries or style guides, including an authoritative grammar and usage guide.

The copy editor will take about 4 weeks to work on your manuscript, either on paper or on disk, and then send it to you for your review. She or he may call or e-mail you to clarify something during those 4 weeks, but usually you won’t hear anything until you get the MS back for review. The time to revise or correct anything on your MS is at that stage, when you get the MS back.

The copy editor will check the following:

  • Errors in compilation. Pages are numbered consecutively, and all parts of the manuscript are present and in the right order (figures, tables, illustrations, all the chapters, front and back matter).
  • Inconsistencies in titles. Chapter titles and part titles are the same in the table of contents as in the book; captions match the illustrations; spelling of authors’ names is consistent.
  • Nonstandard style in captions, tables of contents and illustrations, phrasing of permissions, order of elements in the manuscript; in structure of appendices, tables, extracts, epigraphs, epigraph sources, subheads, lists. 
  • Errors or inconsistencies of fact. The editor won’t check facts, but will query if something looks wrong.
  • Other inconsistencies, in heading, list, extract, citation, permissions, or caption style; in punctuation; in numbers and dates; in spelling or styling of names or terms. 
  • Gaps. In cross-references; missing names and elements, esp. in biblios or notes. 
  • Typos
  • Mistakes in grammar (e.g., dangling participles, subject-verb agreement) and punctuation (e.g., commas missing between coordinate clauses); mixed metaphors.
  • Capitalization and hyphenation errors. If you have a consistent system for capitalizing or lowercasing specific words (e.g., President, Act, Pope, Idea, Romanticism, Other, Black, gospel, marxism, kleenex) or hyphenating (e.g., truth-value, copy-editing, high-school student), we’ll point out the “standard” style and ask you which you prefer. 
  • Typographical errors in fonts, type style or size; letters for numbers; lack of or too many spaces between words.
  • Nonstandard usage (which/that distinction; different from; among/between distinction).
  • Sexist language (e.g., using he as the generic pronoun; only using males in examples; using women in demeaning or off-color roles).
  • Racist language (e.g., using minorities or foreign nationals in demeaning, stereotyped, or peculiar roles).
  • Poorly constructed sentences or paragraphs.
  • Repetitions of words, phrases, sections. 
  • Excessive emphasis—too much italicization, boldface, capitalization.
  • Notes. Endnotes are bundled at the end of book before the bibliography in the case of single-author books, at the end of each essay in multiauthor books. Footnotes are printed out separately. Note numbers are real numbers, full size, and on line, with period and space following. 
  • Illustrations. All are present; all have CMoS-style captions and credit lines, as needed, in the captions; each has a callout in the appropriate place in the text.
  • Head style. Heads are marked as A-, B-, or C-level heads. We check that styles are consistent and the stacking is logical; unless the book is technical and makes frequent cross-reference to sections, the heads shouldn’t be numbered.
  • Multiauthor books and anthologies. The different elements (editors’ preface, intros, notes; any scholarly apparatus such as endnotes, credits, bibliography, appendices, etc.; the essays or selections themselves) are clearly differentiated. Text elements such as heads, epigraphs, extracts, etc., are consistent. No other changes are made to previously published selections, except typos, unless specifically requested at the time the MS was submitted for assessment by the publisher. 
  • Part numbers are roman: part I, II, III, etc. Chapter numbers are arabic: chapter 1, 2, 3, etc. 
  • Parts of the book (front matter, back matter) are in the order and style laid out in CMoS.
  • Style sheet. The copy editor will create a style sheet listing all typemarking codes, unusual spellings, capitalizations or italicizations, abbreviations, date and number style, punctuation style, and anything else she or he needed to keep track of throughout the MS. You’ll get a copy when the edited MS is sent to you.


If you have any questions, at any point in the process, please feel free to ask!

Prepared for Wesleyan Univ. Press by Maura High
editing and editorial management
307 Blueridge Road, Carrboro, NC 27510