Can you spot a misplaced comma from a mile away? Do your friends and family sometimes call you the grammar police?

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If you have a passion for accuracy in all things literary, then a career in copy editing may be a great choice for you!

What do copy editors do?

As a copy editor, you may be asked to perform either light, medium, or heavy editing, depending on the company’s needs.

Flaticon Icon Light copy editing involves correcting errors in spelling, grammar, writing mechanics, usage, and reference items such as graphs and tables.

In today’s market, fewer jobs require light editing because modern word processing programs have built-in spelling and grammar checkers that identify many of these mistakes.

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Medium copy editing includes all the tasks of light editing, as well as checking for consistent formatting and appropriate language use.

At this level, you will also flag content-related issues such as plot discrepancies and information that you know to be factually incorrect.

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Heavy copy editing includes all the tasks of light and medium editing. It also involves restructuring sentences and paragraphs for improved readability and ensuring a consistent tone.


Congratulations! You've landed your first job as a copy editor for a book publisher. Your manager has sent you a manuscript with directions to perform a medium level of copy editing. Which of the following should you focus on? Select all that apply.

What skills will I need for pursuing a career as a copy editor?

  • Superior knowledge of the language you’re working in

  • General knowledge for spotting factual errors

  • Critical thinking skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Openness and flexibility toward different writing styles

  • Interpersonal skills for working with authors and other members of the editing and publishing teams

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What education and experience do I need?

Flaticon Icon Many copy editors have degrees in journalism, communications, or the language they plan to work in, but if you don’t have a degree in one of these fields, don’t worry!

Flaticon Icon A number of universities and professional organizations offer online courses and certifications in copy editing, and some companies even offer internships and on-the-job training

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Based on the information provided, which of the following candidates would be the best fit for a job as a copy editor at a major publishing house in New York?

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James has a journalism degree from a prestigious university and knows the AP style guide by heart.

He's annoyed by writing styles that are overly casual and tends to feel that his way is the only right way.

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Luc has worked for the past five years as a copy editor at a major publishing house in Paris.

He’s been studying English for a couple of years now and would love a unique challenge in a new city!

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Breanna is a former English teacher who recently completed an online certification program in copy editing.

She feels that the problem-solving and communication skills that she developed as a teacher will translate well to a career in copy editing.

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Jennifer is a recent high school graduate who loves creative writing and wants to be a published author one day.

She plans to take a gap year before college and thinks that working as a copy editor would give her great insight into the publishing industry.


Select the candidate who would be the best fit for the job.

What employment opportunities will I find as a copy editor?

Copy editors may be full-time employees or freelance, contract workers. You can expect to find job opportunities at the following types of organizations:

  • Newspapers and magazines

  • Publishing companies

  • Colleges and universities

  • Non-profit organizations

  • For-profit businesses and corporations

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How much money can I expect to make?

As of August, 2023, the median salary for copy editors in the United States is $57,864.

In Canada, the median salary is $58,128.

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So is copy editing the right career choice for me?

You may love it if...

  • You're passionate about the written word and like to spend all day reading.

  • You're comfortable working alone at a computer for most of the day.

  • You enjoy the challenge of balancing accuracy with respect for each author's intentions and writing style.

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You may hate it if...

  • You want a job that allows you to be physically active.

  • You like to spend most of your time interacting with people.

  • You're concerned about the low pay relative to other jobs that require a similar level of education.

  • Long-term security is important to you and you worry about being replaced by AI (artificial intelligence).

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