Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading: Do You Know The Difference?
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
Oh relax, Woody. I'm sure Buzz's editing skills are out of this world!
I wrote a few blogs recently about how fellow writers should cherish the relationship we have with editors. Editors shape our writing. They make our articles look the way we meant them to be. They cover us from all angles by not only editing our work but also through proofreading and copy editing.
Contrary to what you may think, editing, copy editing, and proofreading do not mean the same thing. There is plenty of overlap between these three terms, and someone who is proficient at one will likely be just as good at the other two. But they are different.
So if you are going to hire someone – or even ask a friend from down the street – to help clean up your next article, manuscript, or book, you better be able to explain where you're at in the process and what you need from them.
After all, it pays to be on the same page. Below is a brief summary of each term:
When you ask someone to edit your work, you’re asking them to improve its overall quality and prepare it for publication. You’re giving them free rein, if need be, to rework entire sentences or paragraphs for improved flow, clarity, and readability. They’ll also do you a favor by catching pesky typos, style inconsistencies, and other obvious errors. Overall, an editor reads objectively to point out potential issues.
Think of a copy editor as quality control. They are just as proficient at editing and proofreading, but their primary job is to ensure the document they are looking at is factually accurate and stylistically consistent with the way certain things are done at whatever publication you are writing for. If you didn’t spell out University of North Texas on first reference, or you weren’t sure whether to spell out a number or leave it as a numeral, a copy editor is going to be able to catch these issues and fix them. They are pros at AP Style. They’ll also eliminate clichés and even watch out for word repetition.
Proofreading is taking an article that has been edited and considered “final” and providing a last-minute sweep for grammar and spelling errors. When I am proofreading documents for clients, I’m ensuring all punctuation is perfect and there are no misuses of words (did you mean Flyer or Flier?) or extra spaces between words. I’m making sure formatting is correct, and there is consistency throughout the document, such as with numbers or key statistics.
If you'd like to check out my previous blogs on the relationship between writers and editors, you can find those links below.
Thanks for reading!
*STEVE GAMEL is the Owner/President of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Along with being a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.