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Professional Editorial Standards: D. Standards for Copy Editing

D. Standards for Copy Editing

Copy editing is editing to ensure correctness, accuracy, consistency, and completeness.

A professional copy editor demonstrates a mastery of Part A: The Fundamentals of Editing and meets the following standards.


D1  Understand English grammar and correct errors (e.g., lack of subject–verb agreement, misplaced modifiers, incorrect pronoun case).

D2  Understand the principles of punctuation and correct errors (e.g., comma splices, misplaced colons, incorrect apostrophes). Know when exceptions can be made (e.g., in fiction or advertising copy).

D3  Correct errors in spelling (e.g., typographical errors, errors arising from homonyms and similar-sounding words).

D4  Correct errors in usage (e.g., words commonly confused, such as imply/infer; incorrect idioms and phrases, such as hone in).


D5  Identify and either correct or query general information that should be checked for accuracy (e.g., historical details, narrative timelines, calculations, quotations, URLs) using standard research methods and tools (e.g., dictionaries, atlases, calculator, search engines).

D6  Review visual material (e.g., labels, cross-references, callouts on illustrations) and organizational information (e.g., table of contents, menus and links in online documents) to ensure they are accurate and correct, or query as required.

D7  Identify and either correct or query errors in material containing statistics, mathematics, and numerals (e.g., incorrect imperial/metric conversions, incorrect totals in tables).


D8  Identify and consistently apply editorial style (e.g., abbreviations, treatment of numbers, Canadian/British/American spelling, URLs).

D9  Develop a style sheet, or follow one that is provided, to track editorial style and apply it consistently.

D10  Understand methods for documenting sources (e.g., reference list, footnotes, links) and consistently apply an editorial style (e.g., APA, Chicago) appropriate to the material or as directed.

D11  Identify and either query or correct arbitrary and confusing shifts and variations in terminology, logic, and mechanics (e.g., metaphors, characterization, spelling, numbers, abbreviations).

D12  Ensure all tables, visual elements, and multimedia are consistent with surrounding text and are consistently presented (e.g., heading and caption styles, numbering).

D13  Understand the issues related to using other languages, especially French, in an English context (e.g., capitalization, italicization, diacritical marks) and edit for consistency.


D14  Ensure material is complete and, as appropriate, query or supply missing elements (e.g., captions and headings, web links, contact information).

D15  Recognize and flag places where citations are needed (e.g., quotations without sources, unsupported generalizations in academic work, tables without sources). 

D16  Recognize elements that require copyright acknowledgement and permission to reproduce (e.g., quotations, multimedia, visual elements). If necessary, prepare acknowledgements and obtain permissions or bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate person.


D17  When working onscreen, use an agreed-upon markup system (e.g., track changes, PDF markup tools). When working on paper, mark clearly and use standard copy editing marks unless another system has been agreed upon.

D18  Use judgment about when to query the appropriate person (e.g., author, client, other team member) and when to resolve problems without consultation.

D19  Write clear, coherent, and diplomatic queries and notes for the appropriate person (e.g., author, client, other team members).