Format Editor vs. Copy Editor – What’s the Difference?

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Format editing and copy editing are essential tasks in the publishing industry. They ensure that your book, magazine, or any piece of writing is polished and prepared for publication. But they’re often easily mixed up, so I’m going to break down the difference between the two for you.

Check out the difference between a format editor vs. copy editor in this post. I’ll show you a detailed comparison of their tasks, responsibilities, and the writing aspects they cover.

What is a Format Editor?

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A format editor is a kind of editor that fixes a piece of writing’s formatting aspect. This type of editor calms the reader’s obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding the book’s spacing, margins, and font style.

For example, I use a format editor for my books. She makes sure all my fonts are consistent, my line spacing and paragraph spacing are how I like it, etc. 

Format editing requires extensive knowledge of paragraph rules. For example, they know the definitions of “widow” and “orphan.” A widow exists when the last paragraph line cannot fit at the bottom of the page. Orphans exist at the bottom of the page.

Some format editors are also experts in citation styles. They can fix errors in your reference lists, such as incorrectly italicized research articles and missing DOIs.

Other tasks of the format editor include numbering your pages, using page breaks, and indenting paragraphs.

What is a Copy Editor?

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A copy editor also focuses on the piece of writing’s technical aspects. But it has to do more with the content. They look at every sentence of your writing and fix errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation.

Some copy editors can also fix poor word choices, subject-specific terms, and factual information. The task of copy editing also includes following style guides. They should know the biggest style manuals, including MLA, Chicago, APA, and AP.

A copy editor may offer extra services for proofreading. That means they take one final look at the whole document before publishing it.

Key Difference Between a Format Editor and Copy Editor

Copy and format editors both work toward the end of the editing process I strongly believe both are needed for professional writing and publishing. Working with these types of editors has changed the quality of my books immensely. Instead of focusing on the “big picture,” they concentrate on minor details like the format, spelling, and word choice.

While both editing stages prioritize accuracy and precision, format editors are responsible for the “external” aspect of the manuscript. Meanwhile, copy editors are in charge of the “internal” part of the writing.

External factors include the content’s format. Format editing is essential because it shows that the writer is professional, consistent, and can follow instructions. Many advisers and professors set these high standards for research papers, theses, books, and essays.

The internal aspect managed by the copy editor is all about correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They ensure that the reader will understand the main message and its supporting details.

Who Needs a Format Editor?

You need a format editor if you are a researcher who needs help fixing long pages of a bibliography. Academic writers who struggle with diagrams, tables, and figures also require a format editor.

Book and magazine authors need format editors for page sizes, alignment settings, and spacing. Format editors will also aid in creating the table of contents through different software programs.

Who Needs a Copy Editor?

All types of writers will somehow need a copy editor since everyone creates typos, grammar slip-ups, and punctuation mistakes.

Book writers might need help using the correct punctuation mark for dialogues. Meanwhile, business writers should hire copy editors to make their business letters and proposals concise and formal. You might also be interested in reading our post on a copywriter vs. copy editor or trying your hand on our copy editing quiz.

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Format Editors and Copy Editors Differ From Each Other

This article shows the difference between a format editor and copy editor. Note that format editors fix your font, paragraph spacing, citations, and alignment. Copy editors correct inaccuracies in your spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

If you’re unsure about which type of editor to get, why not hire an all-in-one editor package? Look for one who offers line, format, and copy editing services for any writing form.