Anneli Purchase talks about the importance of copyediting

Welcome to author and copyeditor, Anneli Purchase. I thought I’d ask Anneli if she would be kind enough to pass on some advice, gleaned from her time spent copyediting! So here are Anneli’s top tips for all those writers out there!

You’ve just spent many months working on your novel, re-writing, and re-writing. You’ve read it over carefully. Aunt Mary has read it over and found a couple of mistakes that are now corrected. Finally it’s ready to publish. Or is it?

Don’t be fooled. In spite of all your efforts, it’s highly likely that your wonderful novel is riddled with spelling, punctuation, word usage, and grammatical errors. How does this happen? It’s not as if you were new to writing.

Many of us assume that because we can tell a good story, we can write it flawlessly. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Even the best writers make mistakes and miss seeing them. As we read our work over, our brain tells us what we know the words should say and we gloss over mistakes as if they weren’t there. Reading the work aloud helps, but the best way to ensure error-free writing is to hire a qualified copyeditor.

Before doing that, you can help save the copyeditor time (and yourself, money) by doing a few basic checks of your manuscript. Turn on the option to see formatting marks such as tab marks, spaces, and paragraph marks. This will allow you to see and correct extra spaces and paragraph marks that could affect the look of your page, especially if it will be an e-book.

• You should have only one space between words and one space between sentences.

• There should be no space at the end of a paragraph just before the paragraph mark.

• There should be no tab mark at the beginning of your new paragraph. The indentation should be set up by using the setting in the paragraph window> special> first line> and the indent setting at 1.27 cm.” (or whatever you want your indent to be).

If you have done these three things, you will already have cleaned up your work considerably.

Next, check for the red or green wavy underlining that appears when you have a spelling or grammar mistake. Often the red lines will mark anything that isn’t in the dictionary, such as proper nouns. These you can ignore, if you’ve checked their spelling, or add to your dictionary so they won’t be marked each time. Be consistent with your use of British or American spellings. Depending on your settings, these words may also show up with red underlining. If you’re not sure of the spelling of a word, use your spell checker or a good dictionary.

The green lines that show grammar mistakes can more often be ignored because they also indicate non-conventional writing styles. Expressions that are not in full sentence style may be acceptable in the piece of writing even though they are not strictly grammatically correct. Still it is a helpful tool to alert us to things such as repeated or omitted words.

A few common mistakes to check for:

Misuse of pronouns – I often see pronouns misused. Here is an example: Her and Johnny went to town. If you’re not sure whether it should be “she” or “her,” try the sentence without Johnny. Would you say “Her went to town” or “She went to town”?

Incorrect Word usage – One of the most common mistakes I see involves the verbs to lie and to lay. Their misuse is so widespread that I would suggest you make a small chart of the conjugations of these two verbs. Pin it on your bulletin board near your desk. It is shocking how many authors use these verbs incorrectly, and yet it is so simple to overcome the problem with a small chart.

Cliches and slang – Unless they are part of dialogue, it is usually better to delete them and replace them with another expression.

Dialogue – If you haven’t brushed up on the correct punctuation for dialogue, do it before you submit your manuscript for copyediting, and for sure before publishing. Wrong way: “Check the punctuation.” She said. Right way: “Check the punctuation,” she said. Notice that the dialogue tag (she said) does not start a new sentence. Notice the comma before the closing quotation marks. Use of dialogue is a complex subject that needs to be studied and mastered if it is to be effective. The Internet is full of writing tips on dialogue, and many books on writing deal with this subject.

There are so many more tips I could list but they are beyond the scope of this blog. However, if you do a check for the things I have listed, it will be a good start.

Now for the important step. If you are serious about being a writer, skimping on the copyediting is a sure way to sabotage your own success as a credible author. The cost of copyediting is not small, but without copyediting, your work will almost surely be dismissed as not worthy of occupying bookshelf space beside the greats.

I am a copyeditor, but I am also an author. If you are looking for help with your writing, please check out my website for more information:

And by the way, after following all my own “first aid, cleanup” advice, I also hire a copyeditor for my own writing.

Here are all the links you need to find out more about my books!


Links for Orion’s Gift:



Links for The Wind Weeps:






Thank you Anneli for some great guidelines – as everyone runs off to check they’re doing things right…. I’m a great fan by the way! Absolutely LOVED The Wind Weeps and have Orion’s Gift ready and waiting on my Kindle!