Step 3: Are the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed?
Copyediting is the final step before you submit your writing to a larger audience (an agent, a publisher, a professor). Copyediting keeps you from being embarrassed by your spell checker or grammar checker’s “corrections.” I correct punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. I ensure you are using the correct homophone (what I learned to call a homonym in gradeschool: the words “they’re,” “there,” and “their” are an example). I fix spacing issues, ensure you are following the manuscript formatting of your choice, and ensure your chapter numbers are in order. In short, I look out for all the nitpicky stuff.
Copyediting will not improve your story or your writing style; it just keeps you from being rejected because of technical mistakes. Do a copyedit when you are confident your story and writing are as strong as they can be and you can no longer see your own mistakes because you are too familiar with the work.