Copyediting Vs. Proofreading

Human error, however non-intentional, is inevitable. In writing any content, be it formal as in a letter, theses, report, email, or corporate document to informal as in a book, journal, diary, etc., these errors will always be present. This is why editing isn’t just recommended; it’s an absolute necessity.

Now, understanding the different types of edits and knowing which type to apply at what point in the written piece is one of the most confusing parts of editing. Amongst these editing types are copyediting and proofreading. Copyediting and proofreading are often used interchangeably, especially by people who don’t know the difference. This piece is highlighting each editing type in a bid to understand what they entail. (Click here if you are looking for a proofreading service)


Let’s Start with Copyediting

This editing type is also called sub-editing in the UK and Australia. While some may say that copyediting is all about spell-checks, there are intricate details in every written work, and the copyeditor checks that each detail is in accordance with the structure of the work. Hence, copyediting is the editing process that involves checking and highlighting mistakes, grammatical and structural inconsistencies, and, most importantly, repetition to eliminate redundancy.

A copyeditor is expected to focus on the details while keeping the bigger picture in view. Here is the job description of a copyeditor.

A copyeditor;

  • Examines and corrects errors and inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and, most importantly, syntax.
  • Scrutinizes the written piece for technical inconsistencies in capitalization, font usage, hyphenation, numerals, and overlapping of English type, either American or British.
  • Ensures that factual statements are correct. This is tantamount to non-fiction pieces like memoirs and historical content. This includes checking that the dates and names in your piece are accurate.
  • Checks and highlights inconsistencies within the story from character description to setting and plot point. This is vital as inconsistencies in these areas can confuse the reader.
  • Reviews the piece for legal liabilities.

As highlighted, spell-checks is just a minute part of what a copyeditor does. Such an individual is required to possess a keen eye for details, precision for error-identification, and English proficiency.

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Now, What’s Proofreading?

Proofreading usually happens after a document or manuscript has been printed. However, this is in publishing. It is the process of examining the final draft of a written piece after it has been edited in a last bid to check for errors.

In theory, proofreading is a lot simpler than copyediting. Essentially, when an author, student, or individual is done with the written piece, he/she then sends it to the professional proofreader for examination. The sent copy is called the proof, hence, proofreading.

So, what then is the proofreader’s job? Well, it might not be as extensive as that of the copyeditor’s, but a proofreader is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the entire written piece to check its quality. In publication, this is the last step before the book goes in for mass production.

The proofreader might also indulge in light editing like correcting grammatical errors, inconsistent spelling, etc (Learn about common grammatical errors). However, the proofreader is not a copyeditor, and hence, if there are too many persistent errors, he/she may return the piece to be further copyedited.

Professional proofreading is required as the last quality assurance measure by publishers before mass production. Also, it is quite important. says that there will be a 4.25% increase in the employment of proofreaders in a few years. This shows the need for more proofreaders and their skills. (Do you need someone to check your paper?)

To Wrap It Up

Proofreading and copyediting are often misconstrued for each other or the same thing. However, as much as both editing types have little similarities, they are individually unique.

In summary, copyediting does the heavy lifting of the editing, while proofreading guarantees that the written piece’s quality is up to the required standard. Both editing types are necessary for all written pieces.

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By David Adewusi

David is a blog writer who likes writing about literature, English grammar, and editing methods. He has also worked as a copy editor and proofreader. He has written excellent blog posts for Scientific Editing.

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