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SOCW 4800: Student Peer Review, Editing, and Journal Publishing

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Introduction (Copy-Editing)

Once your papers have gone through peer-review, it is time for copy-editing. This is the final stage of editing and review that a paper goes through. Some important elements of copy-editing are:

  • Consistency and repetition
  • Style and syntax
  • Grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Formatting

Don't worry: you don't have to be a grammar expert to copy-edit! The checklist below will help you catch the most essential pieces, and you can consult the resources on this page to brush up if you need to. Don't limit yourself to only checking for the elements in these lists; they are here to guide you. If you notice other errors or inconsistencies in the paper, mark those as well.

If you are confident in your grammar and editing abilities, skim through this guide to make sure you will catch everything you need to and dive right in!

Checklist: What to Look For (Copy-Editing)

  • Are any points, words, sentences, etc. repeated?
  • Are acronyms defined the first time they are used?
  • Is the point of view consistent?
    • If the author is referred to, it should be consistent throughout, not switching between "I," "we," "the author," etc.
  • Are there suitable transitions between paragraphs and sentences?
    • One paragraph should lead into the other; it does not have to be stated outright ("next, I will talk about..."), but it should be clear how they relate to one another.
    • See the resources box for a list of transitional words and phrases.
  • Are quotations integrated into the body of the essay?
  • Passive voice: the active voice is usually preferred. Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb, instead of the subject taking the action. Not every instance of the passive voice must be changed, but active voice is generally preferred.
    • Passive: "The study was written to demonstrate..." (The study was written by someone)
    • Active: "The authors wrote the study to demonstrate..."
    • Passive: "A social work journal is being started by students at TRU." (the journal is not doing the starting, the students are)
    • Active: "This paper is going to discuss..." (In this case, the paper is doing the action, so this is active voice)
  • If the focus of your sentence is on the object (the thing being acted on), or if you don't know the subject (the person/thing doing the action), use passive voice.
    • The passive voice can be used in certain cases. (the focus is on the passive voice here, not on the person who can use passive voice)
    • Henry was murdered. (the focus is on Henry, the victim, not on the unknown murderer)


  • Wordiness: is there one verb or adjective that can say the same thing as one long phrase?
    • Wordy: There is a tendency among many writers who display certain signs of lack of confidence that their sentences will be overloaded with relative clauses and other words which are generally useless in function.
    • Improved: Many writers lacking confidence overload their sentences with relative clauses and other useless words.
    • This example from
  • Does each sentence make sense? Do long sentences need to be broken down?
  • General word choice: can certain words be replaced by better ones? For example:
    • Replace "really good" with "excellent"
    • Replace "made a big difference to the social work field" with "greatly impacted the social work field"

These are examples of common errors that you should check for.

Sentence Structure

  • Run-on sentences: if a sentence is trying to say too much, break it up into a few smaller sentences.
    • Incorrect: Home care has been expanding tremendously over the past decade partly due to technological advances that enable treatments to be a part of the home setting which at one time could only be performed within the hospital environment.
    • Correct: Home care has expanded tremendously over the past decade. This increase is partly due to technological advances that now make more treatments possible in the home rather than the hospital environment.
    • This example from:
  • Sentence fragments: each sentence should have a subject and a verb, and it should not start with a conjunction.
    • Incorrect: "I have an idea. About how awesome the library is. I think we should go to the library. And we should check out books."
    • Correct: "I have an idea about how awesome the library is. I think we should go to the library and check out books."
  • Comma splices: two complete sentences should not be joined by just a comma. Use a semi-colon or conjunction instead.
    • Incorrect: "We should ask the librarian for help, our professor said she is not scary at all."
    • Correct: "We should ask the librarian for help; our professor said she is not scary at all."
    • Correct: "We should ask the librarian for help because our professor said she is not scary at all."

For ways to edit the three above points, see the tab "Ways to improve sentences."


Verb Agreement

  • Verb tenses: generally, you should use the same tense (present, past, future, etc.) throughout the whole paper. If you need to use a different tense to get an idea across, make sure this is clear in the text of the sentences.
    • Inconsistent: John Smith was a pioneer in the social work field. He works with single parents and develops a framework for helping children.
    • Consistent: John Smith was a pioneer in the social work field. He worked with single parents and develops a framework for helping children.
  • Verb agreement: the verb should agree with the subject of the sentence.
    • Incorrect: Grammar lessons is boring. One of the worst things about them are...
    • Correct: Grammar lessons are boring. One of the worst things about them is...


  • Is there a period at the end of every sentence?
  • Does each sentence start with a capital letter? Are proper nouns capitalized?
  • Are there any spelling errors? Don't just rely on spell-check!
  • Are any words missing that make the sentence unclear?
  • Are adjectives used when adverbs are required? Don't use an adjective to describe a verb or adverb.
    • Incorrect: Make sure you edit careful.
    • Correct: Make sure you edit carefully.
  • Headings: are headings consistent? Do they follow APA guidelines?
    • See the resources box for the APA headings rules.
  • Are in-text citations formatted correctly?
    • (Author, year) or (Author, year, p. #) for direct quotations
  • Is the paper double-spaced, paragraphs indented, references starting on a new page, etc.?
  • (complete sentence), (and/or/but) (related complete sentence)
  • (complete sentence); (related complete sentence)
  • (complete sentence); (transitional word or phrase) (related complete sentence)
  • (Subordinating conjunction) (complete sentence), (related complete sentence)
  • (complete sentence) (subordinating conjunction) (related complete sentence)

Subordinating conjunctions: although, since, when, because, if, unless, before, after, until, while, where, etc.

See the resources box for a list of transitional words and phrases.


A Step-by-Step Guide (Copy-Editing)

The list above may seem overwhelming; give yourself enough time to consider these points. This step-by-step process is merely a suggestion to how you can go through the paper. Depending on how you work, you may prefer to go over the paper one time for each item on the checklist, or go through it only two times but very slowly.

  1. First read-through: use the "consistency and repetition" checklist.
    1. Here, you also want to make sure that everything makes sense. Content issues should have been caught with peer-review, but you want to make sure that nothing else needs addressing before you start editing grammar.
    2. If you notice errors that are obvious to you on this read-through, address them now.
  2. Second read-through: use the "style and syntax" checklist.
  3. Third read-through: use the "grammar, spelling, and punctuation" and "formatting" checklists.

Giving Your Feedback (Copy-Editing)

I don't recommend editing the paper in Microsoft Word without indicating what you have changed. It's the author's final say about which changes are incorporated into the final product. These are some ways you can make it clear what your edits were:

  1. Use "Track Changes" in Microsoft Word. This is under the "Review" tab, and lets others see exactly what you changed. You can also add comments to the document from this tab.
  2. Use Google Docs. Share the document with the author and mark your edits; they will be able to see different versions and what you modified.
  3. Print out the essay and mark your edits on the paper. With this method, make sure it is clear what your suggestions are; avoid using symbols or abbreviations.

Just like with the peer-review feedback, any comments you write should be polite and constructive.

Resources (Copy-Editing)

Microsoft Word -- Check for Style

Microsoft Word can check for style as well as for grammar and spelling. To set this up, follow these steps:

  1. Click on "File" in the top left of Microsoft Word.
  2. Select "Options."
  3. Select "Proofing."
  4. In the dropdown next to "Writing Style," select "Grammar & Style."

This will turn on blue underlining under style elements like passive voice, wordiness, and word choices. Just like with the default spell checker, this is just a tool to help you out, not a foolproof way to finish your copy-editing.


Screenshot of Microsoft Word Options and where to make this change