Interview with Lora Oliver

Hi everyone! Today on the blog, I am interviewing copy editor Lora Oliver. Lora is a recent graduate of UC San Diego’s Copyediting Certificate Program and is actively building her portfolio. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lora on one of my novellas and one of my short stories (check out the screen grabs below!!!) and thought it might be fun to dive into the craft from an editor’s perspective.


Amy Trent: Welcome, Lora! Thanks for being here. I thought it might be good to start our conversation by asking what is copy editing and how is it different from the other types of editing out there?


Lora Oliver: Thanks for having me, Amy! On the scope of editing, copyediting (or copy editing*) falls somewhere in the center, in terms of both scale of focus and where it rests on the publishing timeline. Whereas developmental editing should happen in the beginning and focus on the bigger picture (think character and plot development) and proofreading should happen at the end and catch indisputable errors (think misspellings and formatting issues), copyediting should take place in between and concentrate on grammar, punctuation, consistency, style adherence, congruence, clarity, conciseness, and the like. There are also other types of editing that might take place in between as well.

*A note that might interest exactly zero people besides me: according to Merriam-Webster, the preferred variants are copy editor and copyediting. But copyeditor and copy editing are also acceptable. English is weird and I love it.


AT: I can’t overstate how much copy edits have helped make my stories shine. What was/is it about copy editing that drew you in? What continues to excite you about the field?


LO: Before I started my copyediting program, I was sitting in a coffeeshop telling a friend about a book I had read that was an intriguing page-turner but that had enough errors and typos I couldn’t stay immersed. I offhandedly mentioned that I wished I could read and edit books for a living to help ensure that doesn’t happen and my friend said, “You can do that, Lora.” And thus began my copyediting journey.

So many things about copyediting draw me in, the most obvious being that I myself am an avid reader. Books have had an indescribable impact on my life and well-being, and I love helping authors impact others through their stories. I recognize how hard authors work to create their characters and worlds, and the opportunity to help make them shine is an honor. That’s the best part of the field by far.

The second-best part is that it will never be dull; there are always new books, new genre trends, new stories, and new characters. Every author’s voice is unique, and I will never tire of immersing myself in their stories.

(A screenshot from the copyediting Lora did on my novella. Copyediting is mind boggling. I love seeing all the red because it means my story is that much stronger.)

AT: I love that! So… dying to know. Are copy editors made or born? I sometimes wonder if there isn’t a grammar gene that people inherit, you know?


LO: Ooo, this might be my favorite question yet. I think it’s a combination—nature and nurture, if you will. I do think there might be an innate ability that exists in born-to-be-copyeditors—a natural tendency to catch what others might skim over, to look at a sentence or paragraph and sense that something isn’t quite right. But some good nurturing is vital; for me, part of this was what I learned—and unlearned—during my UC San Diego courses. I learned the rules. And then I learned how and when to break those rules.

Once they’ve been nurtured and … natured? … a good copy editor has to have the interest and motivation to do the work. I’ve had numerous people listen to me explain I do as a copy editor and ask, “But, like, you actually want to do that? Like, you chose that career?” They seem to have a hard time believing that it is, in fact, my dream job. J


AT: Sometimes in publishing it seems there are arbitrary boundaries. As in, that’s not for me, that’s for a trad author. Or that’s cool, but that author is way further ahead in their career. So I want to get super specific here. Who should consider copy editing and when should they consider copy editing?


LO: Of course I think copyediting is for everyone—I’m a copy editor after all! In all seriousness, I truly believe a copy editor can help any author make their stories shine, and anyone who is able to should work with a copy editor.

A few things that copy editors catch that might otherwise be overlooked include grammar and punctuation errors; wordiness and repetitiveness; character, timeline, and scene inconsistencies (a character’s blue eyes turn brown, it’s been a month since Christmas but it’s also April, or an open window is closed without a character having closed it); and language that might be deemed offensive, inaccurate, lacking inclusivity, or as perpetuating stereotypes (despite an author’s best and purest intentions).

Note: The Conscious Style Guide is a great source for writing conscious, inclusive language. I’ll also use this opportunity to make a plug for hiring sensitivity readers if the character(s) belong to a marginalized or minority group of which the author is not a part.

Copy editors can also help authors recognize habits that they can watch for while writing future books and can help them maintain credibility in the long run.


AT: Do copy editors specialize in certain genres and audiences or is the skill universally transferable to written communication? How does a writer know if a copy editor understands their genre conventions and audience expectations?


LO: Hmmm … I think there are skills that are universal and adaptable (following a style guide, forming a style sheet, understanding grammar conventions and usage changes, etc.) and I think it’s a field that benefits from specialization. A trained copy editor should be able to apply different conventions, styles, and rules, yet if a copy editor specializes in, say, science fiction and fantasy, they can (and should) stay up-to-date on trends and conventions in those genres in order to help authors stay competitive.

I take back my previous statement: the best part of the job might be curling up with a good book for the sake of research.

(A screenshot of the copy editing Lora did on my short story. Copy editors find more than just typos. They find inconsistencies with POV and stage action. They make stories shine!)

AT: Is copy editing a lifestyle? Do you find yourself doing it always or in unexpected places? Do you have to turn off your copy editor brain when you read for fun?


LO: I do sometimes have a hard time turning my copy editor brain off when I’m reading novels for fun. I think it’s a skill that takes practice, and I hope to get better at it with time. HOWEVER, I often have people ask me if I am secretly judging their grammar in their texts or speech and that answer is unequivocally no, for a number of reasons: being judgmental isn’t cool, casual text and speech falls into a totally different category, and quite frankly it sounds exhausting. Ha!


AT: How do copy editors help writers achieve their dreams?


LO: Every writer wants readers to fall in love with their stories and their characters, right? Copy editors can help authors make their stories shine and catch any potential distractions that could make readers consider setting the book down. A well-edited book ensures readers can focus just on the story you’ve formed and not on distracting inconsistencies or errors.

I previously mentioned the book that I couldn’t stay immersed in due to mistakes and typos. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds like an author’s nightmare: having someone consider putting their book down halfway through despite loving the story and characters they’ve created. A copy editor can help polish the book so that readers not only want to finish it but also want to recommend it to friends and pick up the author’s other books!


AT: Where can friends find you?


LO: Right now the best way to reach me is via email ( or LinkedIn (, but I’ll have some updates in this area soon!


AT: Lora Oliver, this has been so much fun. Thanks for spending time with me today!


LO: Thanks so much for having me, Amy!

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