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Before selecting an editor, an author must first decide exactly what level of editing he wants. For instance, the author may want someone who will simply proofread the document, searching for typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies in punctuation or capitalization, and factual errors. A good proofreader will be familiar with the standard professional proofreader’s marks, will be familiar with at least one style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, and will have a keen eye for detail.

Just beyond the level of proofreader is copy editor, and sometimes the line between these two types of editors can be blurred. Generally, though, a copy editor will not only proofread, but will also make sure that the writing is consistent with whatever style is required, such as AP style or the Chicago Manual of Style. For instance, the editor will need to know whether the preferred style uses commas after the second item in a serial (i.e., “butter, jam, and jelly” versus “butter, jam and jelly”). The copy editor is also required to follow the style book’s rules on such things as punctuation and capitalization. Furthermore, good proofreaders and copyeditors will both take the initiative to check facts for accuracy when possible, including hyperlinks to the Internet.

Finally, substantive editing can be used when an author needs minimal to substantial restructuring in a particular work. For instance, a great editor can help a novelist transform a good work of fiction into a great work by suggesting changes in how the story is structured. It is important when selecting an editor to specify exactly what level of editing is needed so that the author and the editor understand how much or how little freedom the editor is given to tinker with the author’s work.

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