I’m often asked about the difference between proofreading and copy editing. Definitions vary and there can be confusion about the scope of each discipline, but my favourite explanation for clarity, simplicity and most closely fitting how I work comes courtesy of the fabulous Oxbridge Proofreading and Editing Resource Blog…
Many people remain confused about the boundaries between these two editing services, but in fact the answer is actually quite straightforward.
Proofreading is the process of carefully combing through a text and correcting any errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Along with these superficial mistakes, and picking up on any typos, a proofreader will also check such details as the formatting and layout of a text, the referencing, and the layout and labelling of any tables and diagrams.
A proofreading job involves thoroughly and meticulously correcting any mistakes at all in the text, but does not go further than that. A proofreader will not drastically alter the text itself, removing or restructuring to any great degree, nor will they make any stylistic alterations to improve the flow of the document or how well it reads. A professional proofreader’s job is simply to correct mistakes, not to alter the text.
A copy editor may often carry out some of the responsibilities of a proofreader by correcting minor errors such as typos and spelling mistakes, indeed these aspects are often included in a professional copy editing service. However the job of the copy editor goes deeper than that of a proofreader, as a copy editor also analyses the quality and flow of the text itself and seeks to improve it.
A copy editor may achieve this by dramatically restructuring the text, altering format or suggesting entire sections they feel should be removed or completely rewritten. They may also make stylistic alterations and suggest changes to the text where they feel they are necessary to improve its tone and fully achieve its intended impact.
A copy editor is therefore more stylistically involved with the development of the text itself, whilst a proofreader’s job is confined to a technical edit to remove mistakes.
In both disciplines, I always aim to intervene as little as possible; you are the author, the creator of your work and the expert in your topic. If you’d like to know more about how I can help you produce clear, accurate and powerful written work, get in touch.