Copy Edit or Copyedit – Which is Correct?


Forget the use of the serial comma. Many professional editors still get confused about the million-dollar question: Is it copy edit or copyedit? Does one word mean the other?

Let’s talk about which word is the correct spelling. Find out when to use the one-word or two-word form in your sentences.

Is Copyedit One or Two Words?

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If you’re a professional editor, you have to constantly perform the questioning of spelling, grammar, and punctuation of different words. That includes your job. Is it copyediting or copy editing?

Copyedit can be one or two words. Most compound words usually start as two words. As they get more common, they become recognized as one word.

Some stylebooks prefer the hyphenated term copy-edit when they can’t pick between copy edit and copyedit.

Does Copy Edit Have a Hyphen?

Some people prefer the hyphenated version of the word copy-edit because they can’t pick between copy edit or copyedit. It’s also recommended by Oxford English Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

Aside from copy-edit, dictionaries also use the job title copy-editor with the hyphen. That means you can start becoming a copy-editor and copy-edit different pieces of work.

However, the hyphenated word is much less common than copyedit and copy-edit. Some dictionaries recognize the one-word and two-word forms but not the hyphenated version.

What Does it Mean to Copy Edit?

Copyediting or copy editing is the act of reviewing a piece of writing to make sure it sounds professional and looks error-free. While developmental and substantive editors look at the bigger picture, the copyeditor checks your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. ‘

If English is your second language, a copyeditor will make your writing sound more native by observing fluency and consistency.

A copyeditor doesn’t change anything about the structure and meaning of your work. They might make a few sentence rewrites to make it more concise, but they won’t change your whole thought.

Copyeditors need several skills, such as identifying errors through their sharp attention to detail. They also need to have an excellent command of language. Some copy editors perform fact-checking and look for inconsistencies in their work.

But these professionals should also have excellent interpersonal skills when providing feedback to writers. They need to communicate clearly with writers so they may exceed their expectations.

Is it Copy Editor or Copyeditor in the Chicago Manual of Style?

The Chicago Manual of Style prefers copy editor as the correct spelling. This stylebook states that copyeditor is still a variant of the word copy editor.

The Chicago Manual of Style prefers the one-word form, copyedit for the verb. That means a copy editor copyedits written works.

Is it Copy Editor or Copyeditor in the AP Stylebook?

According to the AP Stylebook, a copy editor is two words like associate editor or book editor. More Google Search and Google News result also use copy editor instead of copyeditor.

For the verb, copy edit is the correct form.

Is it Copy Editor or Copyeditor in the United States?

An editor who corrects a writer’s spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes is a copy editor in American English. The two-word form is also preferred in Canada. Its plural form is copy editors.

However, many Americans also use copyeditor, as the Associated Press Stylebook recommended.

Is it Copy Editor or Copyeditor in the United Kingdom?

British English uses copy editor more often than copyeditor. But other people also write copy editor, as recommended by the Chicago Manual of Style and the APA.

The Noun—Copyeditor or Copy Editor?

The noun copy editor can take on different spellings (copyeditor/copy-editor/copy editor).

Both copyeditor and copy editor are correct variant spellings of the noun which means an editor who reviews the text that writers produce. They check writing pieces for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

Here are the dictionaries and style guides that prefer one-word spelling, copyeditor:

  • The Associated Press Stylebook.
  • Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary/Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Meanwhile, here are the dictionaries and dictionaries whose preferred spelling is the two-word form, copy editor:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

These stylebooks consider the job as two words, like a business editor or managing editor.

The Verb—Copyedit, Copy Edit, or Copy-edit?

Now, let’s have a spelling discussion of the verb. The verb copyedit, copy edit, or copy-edit is the act of editing a written document in terms of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

The more popular form of words in most official dictionaries and style guides are always the one-word forms. In this case, it’s copyedit. This word is preferred by

  • The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

But copy edit is also a popular verb form used by the Associated Press Stylebook and fellow editors.

A compromise between the polarised one- or two-word forms is hyphenated form, copy-edit. This verb is used by the house dictionary Oxford English Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

Some dictionaries recognize more than one spelling. For instance, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language considers both copyedit and copy-edit correct.

Google Ngram shows that copyedit is the most commonly used term, followed by copy edit, then copy-edit.

copyedit copy edit copy edit ngram
Popularity of copyedit spelling over time

So, Is It Copyedit or Copy Edit?

Both copyedit and copy edit are correct spellings of the verb, which means reviewing a piece of work for spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. Copyeditor and copy editor are also correct spellings of the job title.

No matter which dictionary and style guide you follow, observe consistent spelling. If you use the one-word form, use it all throughout your essay. But if you use the open compound word, use the same word throughout your paper.

Alternatively, you can also use the hyphenated words copy-editor and copy-edit.



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