A well-edited content is a compelling content. Content that does not go through proofreading and editing is often messy, unorganized, hard to follow, and does not deliver the results you want for your business or company. Hence, if you want to provide the best content to your readers and create an impact with them, each piece of content you publish must be proofread and edited with care.
This article will explore the differences between proofreading vs copy editing. Both are important, but it is still beneficial to understand how they differ from each other.
Copy editing vs proofreading
So, what are the main differences between proofing and copyediting processes? Before we examine the differences, let us define each role.
Definition of proofreader
A proofreader’s job is to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. More than just a spellchecker, the proofreader’s responsibility is to make sure a text is technically consistent, including boldface, italics, headers, and spacing, which all fall under formatting.
The use of particular headers, italics, and quotation marks may not seem like a big deal. How many readers even pay attention to these details, right? The answer is a lot, whether they know it or not. The layout of content significantly impacts its readability and the reader’s overall experience. Messy and unorganized content can deter a reader from a blog post or landing page, even if they do not know why.
Ultimately, the proofreader oversees the technical quality of the text. Without proofreading, a text might get published with careless errors, which negatively impacts its performance on search engines. The proofreader makes sure that a text has no errors. As such, they can be said to clean up a body of text before it is published.
Copyediting involves proofreading and more. Copy editors typically work for companies or brands and ensure that all published content aligns with the brand’s tone. Copy editors can also work in fiction. They edit, change, and restructure text that does not effectively convey the brand’s style or the writer’s ideas.
A copy editor diligently examines the content and checks for spelling, formatting, and grammar errors like a proofreader. They check for continuity errors, such as British and American spelling in a single text (color vs. colour, organize vs. organise, etc.) or the use of hyphens (antiwar vs. anti-war).
The copy editor serves as a fact-checker when reviewing nonfiction content. They examine the text for factually incorrect statements and ask the writer to correct them or correct the mistakes themselves. As a brand, it is vitally important to get your facts correct. There is no room for false statements. If a reader sees you use false statements, you will likely lose their trust, and lost trust is the fastest way to lose a potential customer or subscriber.
Fiction copy editors examine a text for consistency. They cover technical issues such as grammar, spelling, and syntax and make sure that the story itself is consistent. Do the characters in the story behave in alignment with their character descriptions? Do the writer’s word choices work with the theme and setting of the book? Ultimately, does the story make sense?
Proofreading vs copyediting differences
While both proofreading and copyediting share similarities, they are not the same job. They each focus on different aspects of writing and occur at various stages of the publishing process. Hence, it is important to know their differences so you know which one you need at a certain stage of your writing process.
1. Stage of publishing
Proofreaders closely examine a text for errors, from spelling and grammar to syntax and layout. Proofreading focuses on the final draft after the copy editor has made the changes they see fit. It is usually the last step before publishing the text or content.
Copyeditors have much more control over the content of the text than a proofreader, and the former’s work takes place before the latter. The proofreader corrects errors but cannot change the text in any other way. On the other hand, the copyeditor can change the text. They can re-write, change the layout, and even change the type of document initially used. The proofreader only reviews the content to correct errors in the final edit after the copy editor has edited the text as they see fit.
3. Fixed vs ongoing role
Copyediting is an ongoing role. There is a back and forth between copy editor and writer in cases where the writer is responsible for making the changes and edits that the copy editor has highlighted. A copy editor may choose to make those changes themselves, but when a copy editor works for a brand, company, or writing agency, they likely have several drafts to oversee and require writers to work with them in a team effort to improve the content.
A professional proofreader does not work with the writer. They have no creative influence over the text and only approach it after the copy editor reviews and edits the content. If a text is passed to a proofreader before the copy editor, there may be too many errors to fix, and it will have to come back to the proofreader again after the copy editor reviews and edits it. Proofreading is a ‘fixed‘ role, and it only happens once (though a professional proofreader will check the text several times).
Copyediting is an ‘ongoing‘ role where the text may move between the writer and copy editor several times before it gets to the proofreader. Ultimately, the proofreader is the ‘last stop‘ before publishing the content.
Proofreading vs Copy Editing: Conclusion
In conclusion, proofreading and copyediting both check for language errors, but the main difference is that copyediting is a more in-depth process. A copy editor is responsible for ensuring that the content aligns with its overall purpose, whether a consistent fictional narrative or an impactful landing page or blog post for marketing purposes. The proofreader takes on a text after the copyediting process and takes a zero-tolerance approach to grammatical and other technical errors.