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What is the Difference between Proofreading and Copy-Editing?

What is the Difference between Proofreading and Copy-Editing?

If you are a new author, or you are trying to become one, you might find yourself in a pool of new terms. Publication terms are really not as mainstream as terms from medicine or engineering. There are terms that many people think, have the same meaning but they usually do not. For example, many people think a thesis and a dissertation are the same thing, but they really aren’t; the difference between proofreading and copy editing, is much like that. For more info

Let’s take a look at the various definitions one can find for proofreading:

  •  “Proofreading is the process of reviewing the final draft of a piece of writing to ensure consistency and accuracy in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.”
  • “The process of finding and correcting mistakes in text before it is printed or put online”
  • “To read (printers' proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”
  • “In publishing, proofreading happens after the manuscript has been printed. A final copy of the manuscript, or proof, is then examined by a professional proofreader. The proofreader’s job is to check for quality before the book goes into mass production. He or she takes the original edited copy and compares it to the proof, making sure that there are no omissions or missing pages. The proofreader corrects awkward word or page breaks.”

From all the above quoted definitions, we know that proofreading involves marking errors and correcting the formatting of an essay or publication. The proofreaders job is to make sure that once published, whether on paper or online, the document has a uniform look to it without any major editing taking place.

On the other hand, this is how copy-editing is defined:

  • “Copyediting is the process of checking for mistakes, inconsistencies, and repetition. During this process, your manuscript is polished for publication.”
  • “Copy editors will check a piece of writing to see how it flows and make sure it is sensible and fair. They will also change the length of the text to make it acceptable to the publisher’s house-style of formatting.”
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From the above definitions of what copy editing is, we know that copy editors fix mistakes and problems that may occur throughout the document to ready it for publishing. I am sure by now you probably have a better idea of the differences between proofreading and copy editing, just to clarify it for once and for all – lets streamline these differences:

  1. Copy Editing comes before proofreading – In the publishing process, copy editing comes before proof-reading, and the copy editor is responsible for getting the formatting and any other grammatical and spelling mistakes out of the way before publishing. They are also supposed to put the document in publishing house’s formatting style. After they are done with the manuscript, the proofreader receives the document in the actual format it should be published in, so if it’s a book, they’ll receive a book or if it’s an online publication, then they’ll receive an epub or pdf. The proofreader will go through the document to check any inconsistencies in formatting, if there are too many other mistakes, the proofreader can send the document back to the copy-editor to fix it.
  2. Copyediting is more thorough – While Copy editing and proof reading, are both about looking for mistakes, and fixing them, copy editing is way more thorough than proofreading. Copy editors are typically required to:
    1. Check and fix grammar, spelling and nay other punctuation errors.
    2. Look for spelling consistencies, capitalization, hyphenation etc
    3. Check for continuity
    4. Fact check statements
    5. Keep an eye out for potential legal liability
    6. Check plot consistency within the story

The above mentioned is just to show you how thorough a copy editor’s job is, as they have to ensure that every element of the publication is on point. Copy editors are expected to be detail oriented and precise, even more so than editors.

  1. Proofreading as quality assurance – proofreading as compared to copy editing, is more of a quality assurance measure, since the copy editor has been through enough with their work, the proofreader needs to make sure that not only does the formatting look right in the publishing part, but also that nothing has slipped past the copy editor. As mentioned earlier, the proofreader’s role involves very minimal editing.
  2. Addressing typo blindness – When you go through a document several times, especially when you are typing it, you will get so caught up in your flow that you will notice certain typos that you have made. That is why when students are writing their thesis or essays, it is always a good idea to get some space before you start editing your own work. Because when you are typing it, and you have gone over it multiple times, your eyes will start skimming the text, instead of reading it, and that may cause you to miss out on a lot of things. Similarly, when an author is ready with their manuscript, they have probably spent so much time on this document alone, that they need the help of a copy editor to fix all the problems they might have made. Even though the copy editor is expected to pay a lot of attention to detail, and they probably are always able to get rid of any inconsistencies and mistakes, the proofreader is still a necessity.


While proof reading and copy editing are not similar jobs, they do work in sync to ensure the level of quality being produced by the publication house. Even as an online essay writing service, when you demand us to “write an essay for me” we do it and have it checked multiple times to ensure that you get nothing but quality from our end.

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waqar hafeez
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