Proofreading vs Copyediting – What is the difference anyways?

So, you’ve spent days working on an article, and now you’re finally ready to gather your courage and have it marked up by an editing team. That’s fantastic. Submitting your work to editors for review may feel invasive at first, but once all is said and done, you will be one step closer to becoming a published author. The only trouble is, you can’t have your work looked over by just one specialist. Many people think that once their document has reached the maximum amount of words, it can be passed down to one individual (or team) who will rewrite the piece and fix all the spelling errors as well. This, unfortunately, is untrue. In order to ensure the purity of a document, it must be looked over by both a copyeditor and a proofreader. If your article is not looked over by both parties, it will not receive all the attention it needs in order to flourish; which is why you must know the difference between proofreading vs copyediting.


Copyediting is your first stop.

There are many types of editors. But copyeditors are the ones who continually get confused with proofreaders. This is understandable, as copyeditors do assume similar tasks as proofreaders, but only to a small extent. The job of a copyeditor, in basic terms, is to change the wording of an article, as well as its sentence structure, in order to make the piece more powerful. Some people call this “content editing” which may not be the professional terminology, but a term that is still accurate all the same. Before spelling and punctuation can be seriously taken into account, you have to make sure that the content is clear and interesting to read. A copyeditor is a perfect person to help you with this. Not only will they ensure that your content is clear, but they will perform fact-and consistency checks as well. If your article contains echo words (words that are used repeatedly), copyeditors will fix that too.

Once you are satisfied with the overall content, you can start focussing on spelling and formatting. That is where proofreaders come in.


Proofreading is the final stage in the game.

Unlike copyeditors, proofreaders are not responsible for reworking a writer’s content. Proofreaders are annotators, not editors, and as such, will never make direct adjustments to a document. Instead, they will mark errors that were missed in previous editorials, and add detailed side notes if necessary. Proofreaders are trained to meticulously scan and locate typos, double words, grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, as well as formatting issues. If a proofreader does find a glaring error in sentence structure, however, they may point it out to the author in a side-note. But for the most part, a proofreader will assume that the writer is already happy with the content, and focus solely on grammar, spelling and punctuation.


Why can’t copyedit and proofreading be done at the same time?

The answer is simple: people can’t do that much multitasking! Preparing a document for publishing is a painstaking task. There are so many duties involved, that accomplishing all of them at once just isn’t possible. If a copyeditor started looking over a document for spelling errors, they would miss faults in sentence structure. Just as a proofreader would miss glaring spelling errors if they started devoting time to correcting poor sentence structure. As a writer, you want to submit your best, most polished, work. If you submit a document that has only been polished half-way, you would not be leaving publishers with a great first impression of you.


There are some freelancers out there who offer both services, but they are doing their clients a huge disservice by doing so. Don’t let that get you down, though!  Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished overnight!


Still, not sure which service you require? No problem. Just visit my contact page and I will point you in the right direction.