Copy editing and proofreading are two of the most critical steps in publishing. But what exactly do they mean? And how are they different from each other? Here’s a quick rundown of the critical differences between a copy editor vs proofreader and some tips to help you choose the right one for your project.
Table of Contents
What is a copy editor?
A copy editor works with writers and other content creators to ensure their work is grammatically, stylistically, and factually sound.
A copy editor’s primary responsibility is to ensure the text reads well and is free of errors. This includes making sure the sentence structure makes sense, that any punctuation is correct (including commas and apostrophes), and that all facts are accurate.
A copy editor may also ensure that the content is on-brand for the company or organization it represents. This can include writing style guides or checking to ensure all brand names are spelled correctly throughout the piece.
What is a proofreader?
A proofreader reads a document to ensure it is correct, spelling and grammar-wise. Proofreaders check for typos and ensure the document has the correct format. They also look for tone, style, and formatting inconsistencies so that each document part seamlessly fits together.
Companies or individuals who want to ensure their documents are free of errors hire proofreaders before they publish or send them out. This can be helpful if you don’t have time to edit your work or don’t feel confident doing so but still want to make sure there aren’t any mistakes in your work before you send it out into the world!
Many proofreaders are editors, although they do not always perform the same tasks. An editor typically works with a writer to improve their work and ensure it meets specific standards.
On the other hand, a proofreader looks for mistakes and ensures everything has the correct format. Sometimes editors and proofreaders are one in the same person!
Copy Editor vs Proofreader: seven differences
There are a lot of similarities between an editor and a proofreader. However, there are also some crucial differences between them as well.
1. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: The writing they correct.
As you can see, there are a few key differences. Proofreaders focus on language and spelling errors. They correct grammar, punctuation, and typos but don’t check for consistency or style. Copy editors do this, but they also look for factual errors in the text (like misspellings of proper nouns).
Copy editors have a larger role than proofreaders because they must ensure that all of these are correct. They’re more concerned with your document’s overall structure and flow—how you begin your introduction paragraph is just as crucial to a copy editor as whether or not you use semicolons properly!
It’s important to note that copy editors aren’t the same as proofreaders. Proofreaders focus on language and spelling errors, while copy editors ensure that everything else is correct. A copy editor also has a larger role than proofreaders because they must ensure that all of these things are correct.
2. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: The extent to which they edit.
The degree of editing a copy editor performs on the work being done. For example, if you’re publishing a book or magazine, you’ll want to hire a proofreader specializing in this work.
A proofreader will ensure that your manuscript is grammatically correct and consistent and follows all the formatting guidelines set by the publisher. If you’re writing a business proposal or a book, it’s essential to ensure that your document follows the style guidelines set by your company and industry.
For example, if you work for an accounting firm and use Microsoft Word to create your documents, the company may have specific templates that you must adhere to. Hiring a proofreader would be less critical if this is the case because they wouldn’t know how to format your document correctly.
3. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: The time needed to correct a document.
Both copy editors and proofreaders take time to correct a document. The difference is that a copy editor will be more thorough and do more heavy lifting, whereas the proofreader may check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
The amount of time needed by each depends on your project’s size and complexity. If you have a 300-page manuscript that you need to edit from start to finish, it would likely take longer than if you had a 100-page manuscript with only minor edits (for example).
The time needed for a copy editor or proofreader will also vary depending on how much work they require. For example, if you have a manuscript that you need to edit from start to finish, it would likely take longer than if you had a 100-page manuscript with only minor edits (for example).
4. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: Their knowledge and expertise in editing.
Copy editors are more likely to be English majors who are grammar, punctuation, and style experts. Proofreaders are more likely to be experts in spelling and punctuation. A good copy editor will thoroughly understand the subject matter they are editing and can help you ensure that your content is accurate and well-written.
Both copy editors and proofreaders should be able to spot errors no matter how small they may seem at first glance. However, both types must do their jobs correctly before sending anything off for publication because even one misplaced comma can ultimately change the meaning of what you’re trying to say!
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide who will be the best fit for your project. A copy editor might be your best bet if you’re looking for someone with more writing techniques and style expertise. But if you’re looking for someone who can fix grammar and spelling errors without making other changes or interpretations, then perhaps a proofreader is suitable.
5. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: Their rates or charges.
Copy editors and proofreaders both charge based on the length of your document.
However, copy editing has a set price per word, while proofreading charges by the hour. This means that you have to determine how much each service will cost before deciding which one is right for you. However, it’s important to note that these prices can vary according to location and company policy.
As an example, here are some average costs below:
- A 200-page book could cost between $1 – $2 per word for copy editing, while proofreading costs around $0.20-$0.25 per page (or 1/4th of a cent per word). Based on these figures alone, 5,000 words in your book would cost anywhere from $5k-$10k for copy editing and about ¼th of that amount for proofreading services!
- If you were looking at paying someone more than $100/hour, they might be offering services beyond what would be considered “proofreading.”
Another thing to consider is that the services offered by copy editors and proofreaders are very different. A copy editor will focus on making sure your book reads well and makes sense, while a proofreader will concentrate on catching typos and correcting minor errors in grammar.
6. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: How they work with authors.
Proofreaders and copy editors work in tandem to ensure the books they publish are of high quality. Proofreaders check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and consistency issues before publishing a book.
Copy editors focus on larger-scale issues such as tone and style. Unlike proofreaders, who may be called upon to correct errors made by authors (who often make mistakes when writing), copy editors usually do not work directly with authors but instead communicate through their publishers or agents.
Regarding the publishing process, proofreading and copyediting are two sides of the same coin—or rather, two jobs that happen simultaneously during publication. Some authors prefer one over another; others leave it up to their publisher or agent which editor they use (though this is more common in traditional book publishing).
In the end, it’s important to remember that proofreading and copyediting are crucial parts of the publishing process. No matter how good your book is or how much time you spend on it, it will never be perfect. Proofreaders and copy editors help authors get as close to perfection as possible before publication.
7. Copy Editor vs Proofreader: How they communicate with publishers.
The most crucial difference between a proofreader and copy editor is that the latter communicates directly with their clients (authors), whereas the former does not. A proofreader only communicates with publishers, who will pass comments back to the author.
For this reason, it’s common for authors (or their agents) to work closely with copy editors throughout the publishing process rather than relying on other staff at publishing companies, such as editorial assistants or publicists.
Copy editors also have a more significant role in the editing process than proofreaders, who do not generally suggest changing a sentence or paragraph. However, this is not always the case; some proofreaders may have more experience in English grammar and style than others.
Copy Editor vs Proofreader: six tips to help you choose
If you’re looking for an editor or proofreader, it’s essential to make sure you hire the right person. There are many different types of editors and proofreaders out there, each with other skills and experiences. Here are some things you should consider.
1. Check their offer.
The first thing you should do is read through their offer to see if it’s clear what sort of editing services you want. If not, ask for clarification.
In addition to asking for a sample of the person’s work and a list of their qualifications, it can also be helpful to ask them about their background. What types of projects have they worked on? Will they be familiar with your industry or field?
If any concerns arise during this process, you must address them before committing.
If you’re satisfied with the answers, it’s time to decide on a price. It can be tempting to give editors a lower rate than they deserve just because they are new or unknown. However, this will only hurt your business as many editors charge more for their services when working with clients who do not know them well.
2. Look at what’s in the contract.
If you’re having trouble deciding between a copy editor and proofreader, you must ensure that whatever you are paying for is clear. A good contract will explain the services being provided and the cost. Reading through an agreement should also help you understand what they need to do to meet your goals.
If something in your contract isn’t clear, ask questions! Don’t sign on the dotted line before making sure everything is spelled out. Don’t feel bad about asking questions if something isn’t clear.
After all, it’s not their fault if they haven’t explained something well enough for you to understand it without asking questions first!
If parts of your contract raise some red flags (such as vague descriptions or unreasonable expectations), don’t hesitate to remove them from the deal before signing on the dotted line!
Also, remember: if something isn’t listed in writing within your agreement with another party involved with completing work (i.e., editors/proofreaders), then there may not be an obligation on their part regarding whether they follow through with doing so or not.
3. Compare the person’s training and experience to your needs.
Now that you know the difference between copy editors and proofreaders, it’s time to figure out which suits your needs. An excellent place to start is with their training and experience.
A copy editor will have many years of experience in both editing and writing. They will be able to spot grammar issues, spelling mistakes, and inconsistencies in tone. This kind of person works well if you want someone who can look at your work from an outside perspective; they’ll be able to see things that might not jump out at you because you’re too close to the project.
A proofreader has similar skills but also looks at punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice during their work on a manuscript.
Since this type of editor doesn’t need any extra training beyond their knowledge of the English language (which many people already have), they tend to be cheaper than a copy editor. However, they may not catch as many errors as someone explicitly trained for this job.
4. Talk to others who have used that person’s services.
Asking around is a great way to get feedback on your potential editor’s quality. Ask other people who have used that person’s services, especially if they are in your genre or market. Request references and testimonials from previous clients.
These should be easy to find on the editing website’s homepage and in their online portfolio. Also, ask for samples of the person’s work, so you can get an idea of how their writing style will match yours.
You may want to ask for examples of previous work done for a particular type of book (e-book vs print publication) or genre (fiction vs non-fiction). A good sample will tell you how much research the editor did so far without giving away any spoilers about plot twists or endings!
You can also ask for references outside of the publishing industry, too. If your potential editor is a professor or teacher, call their school and ask about their experience working with students. If they are a retired professional in another field (such as law or medicine), try to find out what kind of work they did and how well-respected they were.
5. Make sure there’s no conflict of interest.
Make sure they are not likely to be distracted by a conflict of interest, such as editing a manuscript by a friend or someone close to you. If you use an editor who is acquainted with your work and its subject matter, they may find it difficult or impossible to be objective about it. This is because they might feel awkward about criticizing an author’s writing style and advice on publishing, especially if they know the writer personally.
A proofreader should never have any personal connections with the author. The proofreader must be able to provide unbiased feedback on any errors found, regardless of whether the author made them intentionally. If a proofreader has connections with the author, it may be difficult to provide objective feedback on the manuscript.
6. Do a trial run if you’re unsure.
If you’re unsure whether a copy editor or proofreader is the right choice for your business, take advantage of free trial offers on many freelance websites.
A good test project should be about 500 words or fewer. You can also ask the freelancer if they can send you a sample of their work before deciding whether or not to hire them. This will give you an idea of what kind of quality they produce and how they handle deadlines, among other things.
If the work done by your new proofreader/copyeditor isn’t what you were expecting, consider hiring another freelancer instead—or taking on these tasks yourself!
Frequently asked questions
This will answer some common questions about a copy editor vs a proofreader.
What are the common mistakes when hiring a copy editor?
Hiring a copy editor is not as simple as you might think. While there are many things you can do to ensure you’re hiring the right person, there are also some common mistakes that new authors make when selecting their copy editor. Here are some of the most common ones:
- You pick someone who doesn’t have experience in the field or subject matter of your book
- You pick someone who isn’t reliable or trustworthy
- You don’t take into account how much money it’ll cost you
When picking a copy editor for your book, ensure they have experience in your book’s field and subject matter. The last thing you want is for them to miss something important because they don’t know what they’re doing!
Also, be sure to use someone reliable and trustworthy; what will happen if something goes wrong with one of their projects (for example)? How will this affect your project? Finally – price does play a role in all of this, too, so keep track accordingly!
What are the common mistakes when hiring a proofreader?
The most common mistakes when hiring a proofreader are:
- Not knowing the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader. The two roles are quite different.
- Hiring someone not experienced in the project at hand, regardless of their résumé or portfolio. This can result in a lot of wasted time and money spent on revisions later down the line.
- Thinking that all proofreaders are also editors, writers, publishers, artists (and other types of specialists mentioned above) because they do some or all of those tasks many times throughout their careers—but not necessarily as part of their work as a proofreader!
- Not understanding the difference between a proofreader and an editor. Proofreaders ensure that the text is correct, but not necessarily the content itself. An editor will read through a manuscript and make changes based on what’s written and their knowledge of grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc.
Do you always need to proofread your book?
Yes. You will always need to have your book proofread.
Proofreading is a separate process after copy editing: reviewing the manuscript for language edits. A professional proofreader should read through your book and identify any errors not caught by spellcheck, grammar check, or another automated tool.
Proofreading is also independent of copy editing; it should be done by someone who did not work on the manuscript (or at least not in its current form). This ensures that mistakes aren’t missed because they were made during the first edit.
Do you always need to copy edit your book?
Yes, you always need to copy edit your book.
Copy editing is more than just fixing typos and misspellings—it’s also a process of reviewing your text for consistency, clarity, and style. You wouldn’t want to publish an article with three punctuation styles in one paragraph or have a character called someone by their first name on page 17 but by their last name on page 29.
Readers will not only notice those inconsistencies but can also be distracted when reading your book or article. Copy editors are trained to detect these issues so that you don’t have to worry about them while writing your content.
There are many differences between copy editors and proofreaders, but both perform an essential role in ensuring that your content is of the highest quality. Both types of editors provide that your work is grammatically correct and consistent, but they have different levels of expertise in editing. The most important thing for any writer to remember is that you need to find someone who can understand your writing style and provide feedback on how it can be improved before publication.