What Copyeditors Do
Copyeditors always serve the needs of three constituencies:
the author (s)—the person (or people) who wrote or compiled the manuscript
the publisher—the person or company that is paying the cost of producing the printed material
the readers—the people for whom the material is being produced
All these parties share one basic desire: an error-free publication. To that end, the copyeditor acts as the author's second pair of eyes, pointing out—and usually correcting—mechanical errors and inconsistencies; errors or infelicities of grammar, usage, and syntax; and errors or inconsistencies in content. If you like alliterative mnemonic devices, you can conceive of a copyeditor's chief concerns as comprising the “4 Cs”—clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness—in service of the “Cardinal C”: communication.
Certain projects require the copyeditor to serve as more than a second set of eyes. Heavier intervention may be needed, for example, when the author does not have native or near-native fluency in English, when the author is a professional or a technical expert writing for a lay audience, or when the author has not been careful in preparing the manuscript.
Sometimes, too, copyeditors find themselves juggling the conflicting needs and desires of their constituencies. For example, the author may feel that the manuscript requires no more than a quick read-through to correct a handful of typographical errors, while the publisher, believing that a firmer