The goal of the copyeditor is to enforce inviolable rules while respecting personal stylistic preferences. This can be difficult, as some authors will view grammatical revisions on the copyedited manuscript as a challenge to their intellectual ability or professional identity. For this reason, copy editors are encouraged to side with the author. If the author’s preference is at all acceptable, it should be respected. This practice is complicated further by constantly evolving language conventions as recorded by grammar and usage books. Additionally, the expert authors of these grammar and usage books often disagree.:333–337
Copyediting is the task of correcting a manuscript from an author by catching grammar and spelling errors, standardizing style and documentation, and improving clarity and flow, all while not introducing errors or changing the author's meaning. Unlike almost anything else in modern life, no machine can perform this complicated combination of tasks. The software program has not been invented that can make the hundreds of decisions an editor makes every minute (although spell check has been a godsend).
In case no one has yet noted this, the standard US dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate (11th, 2003), says that copy editor(s) is standard and so is the verb copyedit. The Concise OED (11th, 2008), "powered by the Oxford English Corpus" of two billion words, says the verb is copy-edit and its derivative noun is copy editor.
Yet, it is an unfortunate truth that many authors have misconceptions about how much copyediting costs and how long it takes. This section is an explanation of what authors should expect when hiring a copyeditor independently.
First, few academic copyeditors are going to charge an individual less than $30 an hour. Copyeditors in other fields are used to earning $40 to $100 an hour so you are getting a good deal if a copyeditor charges you anything under $40 an hour. (When I was still hiring myself out as a copyeditor--I don't anymore so please don't ask--I charged $75 an hour so you are lucky you don't have to hire me!)