How much is copy editing per 1,000 words? September 2023


Copy editing is an important part of the writing process, helping to polish and refine a written work. However, many writers wonder how much they should expect to pay for professional copy editing services. This article’ll look at the factors influencing copy editing rates and provide a cost breakdown per 1,000 words.

What is Copy Editing?

Before looking at rates, it’s important to understand exactly what copy editing entails. Copy editing focuses on improving a written piece’s grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, and consistency. The copy editor reviews the document line by line, checking for errors and awkward phrasing.

The key functions of copy editing include:

  • Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors
  • Ensuring consistency of style and tone
  • Flagging factual errors or inconsistencies
  • Verifying sources and citations are complete
  • Suggesting structural or organizational changes for clarity
  • Ensuring the document meets style guidelines or standards
  • Querying the author about unclear passages
  • Performing fact-checking where needed
  • Ensuring proper formatting per genre conventions

Copy editors don’t make substantive changes or rewrite content. Their role is to polish and refine the author’s work. It requires close attention to detail, expert knowledge of grammar and style rules, and a meticulous approach.

What Impacts the Cost of Copy Editing?

Many factors influence what copy editors charge per word or project. Key considerations include:

  • Editor’s level of experience and expertise
  • Type of material and subject matter complexity
  • Amount of work required (light edit vs. heavy rewrite)
  • Turnaround time
  • Industry standards and norms
  • Editor’s geographical location

More experienced copy editors with subject matter expertise or niche skills will charge higher rates. Editing complex or technical documents also takes more time and effort, increasing costs. Rush orders requiring fast turnarounds also warrant higher fees.

Industry standards play a role too. Editors working for publishers may get paid an hourly wage or per-project fee rather than a per-word rate. Freelance editor rates vary based on location and demand for services. Publishing hubs like New York and major cities tend to have higher rates.

Determining an Appropriate Rate Per 1,000 Words

What exactly should you plan to pay for copy editing on a 1,000-word basis? As a baseline, here are typical rates:

  • $80 – $100 per 1,000 words for basic proofreading
  • $100 – $120 per 1,000 words for light copy editing
  • $120 – $150 per 1,000 words for heavy copy editing
  • $150 – $200+ per 1,000 words for substantive editing

Proofreading only checks for surface errors, while light copy editing offers a deeper review. Heavy copy editing requires significant rewriting for structure, clarity, and style. Substantive editing involves major reworking of the content itself. Remember that rates are usually based on the word count of the original document, not the length after editing.

Additional fees may apply:

  • The hourly fee is then prorated based on word count
  • Minimum fees per project, such as $50 – $100
  • Rush order fees for fast turnarounds, around 25% – 50%
  • Cancellation fees if the project is scrapped after beginning editing

So for a 10,000-word manuscript, basic proofreading could cost $800-$1,000. Heavy copy editing may run $1,500-$2,000 for the same length document.

Saving Money On Copy Editing

If your budget is tight, there are some ways to reduce copyediting costs:

  • Hire an editor with less experience who charges lower rates
  • Limit the scope only to cover the most critical issues
  • Book services in advance when editors may offer discounts
  • Request just a sample edit of a few pages first
  • See if your editor offers tiered packages for different levels of editing
  • Discuss ways to streamline the process and limit revisions

Another option is using software tools like Grammarly that provide basic grammar and spelling checks. However, programs need more nuance and skill of a professional editor.

The Importance of Quality Copy Edit

While it’s tempting to cut costs, quality copy editing pays off in the long run. First impressions matter, so a poorly edited book or article can hurt your brand and credibility. Readers are more likely to engage with clear, consistent, and error-free content. Professional editors have the expertise to polish writing and make it shine. Investing in copy editing helps ensure your work is publishable and represents you in the best possible light.

When researching rates, seek editors who have demonstrated experience and subject matter knowledge and have worked successfully with other authors in your genre. While price is a factor, the value of their editorial skills far outweighs trying to get by on the cheap. By understanding typical copy editing rates and leveraging editors’ services strategically, you can get quality results while maintaining your budget. Paying the going rate helps secure an editor who will diligently work through your manuscript and provide the quality polish your writing deserves.


Determining the right rate to pay for copy editing requires balancing quality against budget. While costs vary, the typical range runs $80-$150 per 1,000 words based on the editor’s level of service and expertise. Experience, subject matter complexity, turnaround time, and industry norms all influence pricing.

While finding the cheapest editor possible is tempting, quality should be the top priority. Professional copy editing elevates your work by eliminating errors and improving your writing. An experienced editor with expertise in your niche is worth the investment, providing value that outweighs trying to minimize costs. Paying a fair market rate for editing helps ensure your work accurately represents your brand and connects with readers.

Frequently Asked Question

Q: What is included in basic proofreading vs. copy edit?

Proofreading focuses only on fixing surface spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Copy editing goes deeper to check style, tone, structure, and factual inconsistencies.

Q: How much should I budget for copy editing a book?

For a 75,000-word manuscript, you may budget $9,000-$11,250 for basic copy editing. If extensive revisions are needed, that could reach $15,000 or beyond.

Q: Do editors charge by the hour or per word?

Most freelancers charge per word, around $80-$150 per 1,000 words. Editors working for publishers may receive a salary or fees based on project scope.

Q: Can I negotiate the rate if I have a tight budget?

You can discuss options like limiting revisions or editing sample pages, but dramatically underpaying may affect quality.

Q: Should I tip my copy editor?

Tipping isn’t expected or required, but if you were very pleased with their work, you might offer a 5-15% gratuity.


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