Top 5 Skills Required for Copy Editing

If you ever intend on becoming a copy editor, then you need to know what you are actually doing. Many of us get involved in things like copy editing and improving our work without really knowing for sure if we are making the right calls. That is problematic, and it can often lead to making changes that actually worsen the content as opposed to improve it. (Also Read Top 5 Common Copy Editing Mistakes)

So, if you wish to get involved in copy editing as a career path, what major skills are needed? Here we describe the top 5 skills required for copy editing.

#d man walking on book

Attention to detail

One thing you absolutely will need is a clear and obvious attention to detail. This means being able to focus heavily on the mistakes in the writing in terms of tense, language use, and even the kind of English being used in the writing.

Attention to detail plays a huge role in making sure you spot a problem that might simply fly over the head of someone less attentive. Trust us when we say that attention to detail is a vital skill for any copy editor; spotting a ‘ instead of a “ is a detail-oriented attribute!

Research skills

A common mistake that you can have when it comes to copy editing is dealing with the research skills that you require to become a success. This means looking through every fact and figure to find a source, backing up every little detail mentioned, and ensuring that the copy is telling the truth.

From adding in attributions to where facts have come from to simply adding in a bit more detail where it was previously lacking, you can find it much easier to improve your content with some time committed to copy editing through added research and analysis.

An eye for trouble

While not a major thing in most forms of copy editing, if you are editing content that might be published then you need to look for potentially legal issues. From slander and libel to comments made that are not backed up by facts, you always should be looking for signs that whatever you have said could lead to some form of trouble or dispute.

In copy editing, it is often about trying to create a system that keeps the writing safe and factual ahead of anything else. So, try to focus on that moving forward when editing.


A major skill for any copy editor, though, is patience. You will be spending time going through articles word for word, looking for the smallest of mistakes. This means making sure that you have the time commitment to not simply start skimming and skipping through pieces of content. Keep that in mind, as having the patience that you require to simply make some important decisions about changes is essential.

If you are someone who tends to start cutting corners, then it might be wise to instead think about hiring a proofreader to help you out.

Passion for detail

The final but arguably most important skill for a copy editor is to have a passion for detail. Do you mind having to look through a thesaurus to double-check a word is being used right? Are you someone who has fun looking for smaller facts and figures online to prove a throwaway point?

To be a good copy editor, you need to actually enjoy the process and be willing to contribute your time and energy to the role. For that reason, you should definitely look to hire a copy editor if you lack any or all of these skills. They are essential to good copy editing!

Scientific Editing blog post

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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