Proofreading and copyediting. Two terms that we’ve all heard bandied about, and two terms that a lot of us might assume mean the same thing. Perhaps we’ve never taken the trouble to find out the true meaning of either term, and perhaps we’ve never needed to, just assuming that they mean the same thing.
But now is the moment when you need to learn what each means because your work needs revising. It either requires editing or it requires proofreading – or it requires both editing and proofreading. One thing is for sure – it will require something.
In publishing, editing generally comes first, followed by proofreading and followed lastly by copyediting. But there is such a difference between proofreading and copyediting that you might not need the services of both. To save you time, money and confusion, let’s take a look at the difference between proofreading and copyediting services.
When we have finished a piece of writing, and once it’s been editing, it might be the case that we think it’s FINALLY done. We might believe that we can at least rest easy, send the work off to the publisher and pick up our cash.
But this is not the case. The work still needs to be proofread. Editing and proofreading are fundamental processes in getting the final draft right, but wheres editing focuses on things like structure, proofreading involves getting rid of all errors.
This includes grammatical errors, typos, as well as spelling errors. You might believe that you can do this yourself, but whereas your understanding of grammar might be basic or average at best, a professional proofreader knows grammar inside out.
They will be able to sniff out any nasty double negative, subject-verb agreements, tiny punctuation errors and so on, that you would otherwise miss. They basically have a remarkable eye for detail, firmly believing that the devil is always in those pesky details.
Proofreading and copyediting are fundamentally part of the same process, but whereas proofreading involves dissecting grammar and spelling, copyediting means examining style and making sure that it’s consistent.
A copyeditor is essentially a proofreader that does a bit more work. Whereas a proofreader identifies your grammar mistakes, a copyeditor works on them, rectifies them, as well as makes sure that your style is consistent throughout.
A proofreader will be able to highlight grammar issues, but it’s the job of a copyeditor to identify the style of copy that is required for the publication – and make sure that the copy in question meets this style. If the tone is incorrect, or the structure is amiss, the copywriter will sort these issues out.
Ultimately, as chichestercopywriter.co.uk points out, the difference between proofreading and copyediting is that proofreading is more concerned with spotting your fundamental grammar mistakes, whereas copyediting is more concerned with your substance. A proofreader won’t advise you on style, tone and structure, whereas a copyeditor will.