Difference between Copyediting and Proofreading

What is the difference between editing and proofreading? Do their functions overlap or do they serve completely different roles? More to the point, is there even a difference between them and does it matter? Hopefully, the following points will highlight the difference between two equally important job roles in publication and help you decide which service to opt for.

Copyeditor:

  • Has subject matter expertise (preferably)
  • Corrects grammatical errors, spellings, etc.
  • Rewrites sentences for structure, logic, and cohesiveness
  • Improves the tone of writing and flow of ideas

Proofreader:

  • Checks for grammar mistakes, punctuations, spellings, etc.
  • Ensures basic facts are accurate
  • Checks for consistency in formatting

An editor goes beyond the surface of your writing deep into the subject matter and looks at it from a reader’s perspective. In addition to the functionalities mentioned above, the editor often makes qualitative suggestions that could significantly enhance the writing, pointing out inconsistencies or gaps in logic that the author may have missed out on.

It is always ideal to have your work proofread after it has been edited and not before. This is because an editor is mainly focused on improving the writing that they may have missed out or even introduced some basic grammar errors like spellings and punctuations. This is where proofreading comes in. You might think why MS Word’s inbuilt spellchecker couldn’t do the same job much faster and for free? Because in contrast to the non-reliability of a machine-coded program, a real proofreader will go through your work with all the finesse of a fine-tooth comb. For example, the auto spellchecker will not point out that you have used their when you meant they’re since they are both spelled correctly. While it is true that a proofreader will only look at your work superficially, making minor changes where required, it is also assumed your work has been thoroughly edited and/or well written. Hence, proofreading is a very important stage in publication as it the last step to make your piece of writing ready for the public.

As a case in point, former Vice President Dan Quayle, who led a spelling bee contest in a New Jersey elementary school, corrected a contestant for missing out the “e” in potato. He later blamed the flashcard that had misspelled it as potatoe; however, the damage was done and no amount of explanation could rescue the situation.

Though copyediting and proofreading may be used interchangeably by many, they fulfil different functions in the publication process. Customers reportedly doubt your credibility if they find too many spelling mistakes and grammar errors in your website/article/blog. Therefore, knowing the difference between copyediting and proofreading is important so you can choose the appropriate service you need depending on your writing skills, timeline, and budget.