copy editor and proofreader, what's the difference

Copyeditor and Proofreader – What’s the Difference?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

What’s the difference between a copyeditor and a proofreader?

Although people sometimes use the terms interchangeably, there is a big difference between a copyeditor and proofreader.

Each help you perfect your manuscript, but in very different ways.

Copyeditors improve the text, while proofreaders ensure that mistakes don’t make it into the finished product.

The copyeditor

You need a copyeditor to “clean up” your finished writing and make certain that it observes the conventions of good writing: appropriate grammar, accurate word choice, smooth syntax, and correct punctuation.

A good copyeditor will also point out any gaps in information or lapses in logic, identify repetitious material, ask questions when information and explanations are unclear, and may suggest cuts.

Copyediting, in short, is about revising/improving your manuscript in order to bring it up to publishable standards. Since it is impossible to be totally objective about your own writing, a talented copyeditor is absolutely essential.

Once your manuscript has been copyedited and all of the copyeditor’s queries have been addressed, it goes to a proofreader, who will look for typos, misspelled words, and grammatical mistakes.

Here is an example of copyedited text taken from Janemac, which has been “helping writers polish and perfect their prose since 2007.”

Janemac - copyediting example

The proofreader

Proofreaders also ensure uniformity in font, type size, and heading styles, and see that captions match their diagrams or photographs.

Proofreading, then, is about looking for mistakes in the manuscript and ensuring that they don’t end up in the finished work.

It’s usually necessary to proof a manuscript twice: once before submitting it to the publisher and then again when you receive the galley proofs. (Somehow, plenty of mistakes—sometimes new ones—manage to appear in the proofs!)

Below is an example of proofread text from Academic Proofreading.

Academic Proofreading - after sample

Copyeditor or Proofreader?

A good copy-editor and a talented proofreader both play invaluable roles in the production of a book that is polished, professional, and a pleasure to read.

Skimping at this point in the process is a critical mistake that can erode your authority, devalue your message, and severely undercut the impact of your book.

Which do you need? A copyeditor or proofreader?

Using both is best.


what's the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader?

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