The Difference Between Proofreading and Copyediting

Copyediting is an integral part of the writing and publication process. While writers will create raw material as a collection of their ideas, whether fictional or non-fictional, they often write as a stream-of-consciousness without too much thought about editing along the way. Writers read through rough drafts and make their changes, but often need a second set of eyes to ensure that it is error-free when released to the public or published to be sold.

But what is a copy editor? There are several aspects involved in copy editing, including checking any written material for grammatical issues, spelling or style mistakes, and punctuation issues. For some, a copy editor (although most often a line editor) is instructed by the writer to consider sentence structure and meaning throughout the text. While other types of editors exist, it sometimes comes down to the needs of the writer. These edits are known as revisions.

Sometimes, a writer can do most of their editing – the duties taken on by a copy editor – and they still require a glance-over by a second set of eyes. Proofreading is typically the service employed by this type of writer. A proofreader will read over a nearly finished product. Whether by the writer or someone else, the material will already have been edited, organized, and designed as it should be. Proofreaders do not make or discuss significant changes in the writing. Their services are purely typographical, and find minor grammatical errors and confirm its readiness for publication.

There is a significant difference between copyeditors and proofreaders: scope of work. Copy editors are going to be doing much more for your writing and can take much of the pressure from you and prevent embarrassing developmental and mechanical mistakes in the material. This nearly finished product is called a proof, and it works under the name of ‘finished product’ as it is read through line by line by a proofreader. Understand the type of material that you have, and your own ability to edit your work without bias before you decide whether you need an editor or proofreader.

Too often, these terms are used interchangeably. While obviously incorrect, it is essential for those looking for an editor to understand the differences between both. You do not want to submit a raw piece of material to a proofreader, as you are left with several changes still to be made. Copyeditors cost more to hire but can do much more for you as a writer looking to get well-polished work into the market.

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