Copy-editing can be light, moderate or heavy depending on the quality or writing. If the manuscript is reasonably well-written, but just needs a little smoothing out, then a light copy edit may be all that is required. Conversely, a laboriously written text with a heavy hand can often require a lot of rearrangement and correction (heavy copy-editing). For this service, I look at the following types of language issues:-
All previously described items that come under the heading of 'proofreading' (please follow the link if you have not yet read the page on proofreading services) will be included with a copy edit.
Excessive repetition of words; either synonyms or sentence rearrangement will be suggested as appropriate.
Run-on sentences, especially where an entire paragraph is one sentence.
Encouragement to use variable length sentences - too many long sentences and the reader will lose the thread, whilst text consisting entirely of short and succinct sentences may make you sound immature or excessively brusque.
Suggestions to avoid clichés and tautologies (repetitive overstatements, e.g. the sad man was unhappy), to make your writing clear, concise, correct, courteous, coherent, consistent, complete, and above all, credible!
A light hand for copy-editing will offer a minimal level of language improvement only where absolutely necessary and by its nature is the fastest copy-editing service. If you choose this level of service, I will only take note of obvious language errors and minor wording changes to help clarify and tighten the meaning of your text. It may include any special items you ask me to look at, but I will not re-work any awkward sentences, nor will I offer any substitutions for words if the ones you've chosen are adequate to get your meaning across. If any major items come up I will query them in my mark-up, but move on directly to enhance the speed of the process, leaving you to amend, research further, or choose to leave 'as is'.
This is the style of copy-editing you require if you want a moderate touch with a cleaner finish. For this level of copy-editing I will revise the language more and query it less. However, there will be no major re-writes of whole sections. Rather I will substitute words or rephrase sentences where appropriate. This takes a little longer to do as I will need to read and re-read your manuscript numerous times to ensure that I understand what you are trying to communicate and that any changes I make enhance the flow and the content. If you are confident in your writing, but don't have the time or inclination to labour long for the 'perfect' finish, this is probably your best choice of service, giving you the optimum balance between quality and time (which equates to price).
If you know what you want to say, but can't seem to get your ideas across quite as you intend, you probably need to request heavy copy-editing. At this level I will determine whether the author's ideas have been presented in the best way or whether significant re-wordings are required. I may suggest changing sentences into simple English, rather than relying on business jargon, or re-sequence whole segments if I feel your arguments in a thesis for example, do not flow logically. I will also check calculations, ensure dates, tabulations and summations are correct, and that graphs and figures match any values shown elsewhere in your document.
For scientific documentation, this level of copy-editing will border on substantive editing (also known as content editing) where I will ensure that the overall structure is set out in its best format, and that your writing is both clear and compelling, complete and logical.