Well, my friend can copyedit . . .

Recently someone said to me that she had copyedited a friend’s manuscript. She also said that she was the third copyeditor to do so. Hmmm . . . I didn’t know her to be a professional copyeditor. She’s smart, educated, and resourceful, but she’s not a copyeditor. And clearly, if the guy was on his third copyeditor, he wasn’t Spiral Galaxy Hubble Ultra Deep Fieldbothering to hire a professional one.

This anecdote perfectly illustrates why so many books go to print with tremendous errors in grammar, structure, syntax, and more. People who are very, very good at spotting typos and punctuation and spelling errors seem to think that this skill somehow qualifies them for copyediting. (I know; I used to think that, too.) Unfortunately, it makes my job as a copyeditor more difficult, as I find myself in the position of educating people about what copyediting actually entails as opposed to the “copyediting” that friends with English degrees do.

I certainly recommend having friends and family read your manuscript and give you feedback. They can even point out those pesky typos pretty easily. But copyediting, professional copyediting, involves so much more. For one thing, a copyeditor ensures that a word you’re using is being used properly or that it’s really the word you want to use to say what you mean.

One of my favorite examples is using the words “comprised” and “composed” correctly. Many of us grew up saying something is “comprised of” other things. This is incorrect. Nothing is EVER “comprised of.” You probably mean “composed of” when you’re tempted to use the former.

Here’s how you can remember the difference:

The parts compose the whole, but the whole comprises the parts.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. defines “compose” as:

To form by putting together: FASHION <a committee composed of three representatives>; to form the substance of: CONSTITUTE <composed of many ingredients>

M-W defines “comprise” as:

To be made up of <a vast installation, comprising fifty buildings>

So then we see:

Galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic space compose the universe. (Parts making up the whole) OR

The universe is composed of galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic space.


The universe comprises galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic space. (Whole made of its parts.)

There is no “of” after comprises. Ever.

That’s the kind of detail that copyeditors bring to the table. This is just one teeny, tiny example of how we elevate your manuscript, or any kind of writing, to a level of professionalism that you can be truly proud of. Leave the profession to the professionals. It will make a difference in your final product.