Difference Between Proofreading and Copy Editing (with examples)

As long as publishing is concerned, proofreading and copy editing will always be important. They come in handy when writers try to get their work ready for the public. Copy editing and proofreading might both mean that a book is getting ready to be released. Nonetheless, they are very different. This is regardless of the fact that people seem to be able to tell the difference between proofreading and copy editing.

The average person might not pay much attention to the difference between proofreading and copy editing. However, if you must be successful as a writer, it is important that you know the difference between these two activities.

So, in this article, I am going to talk about the difference between proofreading and copy editing. Read on to find out how proofreading and copyediting differ.

What is Copy Editing

Before going on to tell what the difference between proofreading and copy editing is, it is important that you know exactly what copy editing is all about.

Copy editing is a procedure in preparing a written material for its audience. This process is one that ensures the material contains the right semantics, terminology, formatting, punctuation, jargon, grammar, and spelling. Furthermore, it is the process through which a writer ensures that they pass out a clear message. Copy editing ensures that the publisher is aware of any legal issues that the book could raise and that the book contains the right facts.

 Duty of a Copy Editor

As a copy editor, it is your duty to look through a piece of writing to ensure it has the right flow. You should also ensure it is fair and sensible. That’s not all. If the length of the text does not suit the formatting style of the publishing house, you will need to alter it.

Additionally, it is a copy editors duty to add photo captions, footnotes, headlines, and headers.

Also, read How to Use a Semicolon: An Understanding of How It Works?

Copy editing is really a tedious process and requires some skills to be done properly. Some of these skills are a perfect command of the language a text is written in, critical thinking ability, an interest in detail, and the ability to spot errors in facts. Additionally, copy editors will do well if they have interpersonal skills. This makes it easy for them to communicate with the publishers.

In as much as there is a lot that copy editing involves, different employers have different requirements for copy editors. The implication of this is some employers might expect a copy editor to do everything already mentioned above. Others, on the other hand, will require copy editors to do just some of the things mentioned.

Example of Copyediting 


He reluctantly stepped out of the car and patiently waited for the policeman to give him back his driver’s license. He felt a lot calmer as the policeman finished checking his license after two minutes and handed it back to him.


He was reluctant to step out of the car and felt a lot calmer as the policeman completed his search and gave him back his driver’s license two minutes later.

What is Proofreading?

Now that you know what copy editing is, it is important that you know what proofreading is. If you fail to do this, it will be impossible to distinguish between copy editing and proofreading.

Also, read Freelance Writing Job: 8 Top Magazines that Pay Writers $100+

Proofreading is a stage just after copy editing. It is the process of going through a piece of writing for the last time. This is done to ensure the right formatting, punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Proofreading is the last thing done to a document before it gets published online or shared with an audience.

In as much as proofreading is the last step in getting a piece of writing ready for publishing, it still involves looking out for errors. The reason for this is errors could be introduced during the copy editing process. Also, some errors could be missed. Proofreading involves looking out for issues with subject-verb agreement, choice of words, the wrong use of punctuation, etc. Additionally, it goes a long way in ensuring the piece of writing follows the right style guide.

Duty of a Proofreader

Proofreading has a lot of roles to play in getting a piece of writing ready for an audience. It generally brings about an increase in the general professionalism associated with a document. This is important if publishers, as well as readers will give you the attention you seek. If a book is not proofread properly, it is only natural for audience to assume the author was not interested in investing in their work before putting it out for public consumption. So, if the author did not consider their work important enough to invest in it, then, there is no point spending money in getting the book.

Also, read Book Editing: Follow These 10 Easy Steps and Edit Your Manuscript

As a proofreader, a lot is dependent on you. Some of the things you will need to do are ensuring every image in a piece of writing has the right caption. You will also need to ensure that the document is in accordance with style guide chosen by the author. Furthermore, you should ensure that the web links direct readers to the right page.

Example of proofreading


In this article we look at the relationship between the nation’s academic sector and  productive, economic, and social growth.


In this article, we look at the relationship between the nation’s academic sector and the productive, economics, and social growth.

How is Proofreading Different from Copy editing

proofreading and copy editing

Picture Source: Slidetodoc

Proofreading and copy editing might seem very similar. However, they are targeted at different areas of writing. Let’s walk through the various ways in which the difference between proofreading and copy editing is pronounced.

Proofreading in itself is basically about looking through a piece of writing to ensure there are no issues with punctuation marks, grammatical errors, spellings, etc.  It also ensures the right spacing, italics, underscore, and fonts are used.

Copy editing, on the other hand is not something that is done on the surface. It involves carrying out all the checks that are done in proofreading and ensuring that the text is revised to improve structure and flow.

Proofreaders lookout for the Mistake of the Copy Editor

With proofreading, all that should be done is go through the document and look out for any form of inconsistency. Proofreading involves looking through the article to ensure that the copy editor did not miss anything of importance. It is not the duty of the proofreader to ensure that the content is accurate and consistent. Also, the proofreader does not have to do any rewriting. If any form of rearrangement or rewriting needs to be done, it is the duty of the copy editor.

Also, read Write for Us – 15 Websites to Get Paid to Write Guest Posts

When a copy editor comes in contact with a piece of writing, they ensure the finished content adheres to the author’s rules on grammar and spelling. They also ensure the document is readable. That’s not all. A copy editor also works towards ensuring that all the facts in the article are right. He gets the attention of the author if there are wrong facts. They also let the author know the likelihood of any legal issues because of the content of a document.

Proofreaders have no business revising a Content

A piece of writing might have the right content. However, it might not meet the standards required for a document to be considered well written. It is the duty of a copy editor to ensure that a document is regarded as well written. This means they must ensure that the right vocabulary and grammar are used.

The proofreader on the other hand is not saddled with the responsibility of making revision. They simply need to carry out a couple of corrections.

Which of them do you need? Copy editing or Proofreading 

At this point, I believe you already know the difference between proofreading and copy editing. The next thing is to know which one you need.

Every author that is looking to publish a book with an established publishing house might not need to worry about proofreading and copy editing. However, if you are an indie author, you will need to get in touch with proofreaders and copy editors that can make your book look professionally edited. Although proofreaders and copy editors are important to authors, lots of independent authors face the challenge of knowing if they need a proofreader or copy editor at a particular time.

If you have the challenge of knowing when you need a proofreader or copy editor, read on to find out  when to look for the services of a proofreader, as well as when to pay for the services of a copy editor.

Also, read Book Editing: 16 Genuine Websites to Hire a Book Editor

You Need a Copy Editor when Your Structure is Concluded

As an author, you need to satisfy your mind as regards the structure of your book. This is vital since every copy editor will give a lot of attention to the paragraphs, as well as sentences in your book. If for any reason you add a new chapter, take your time and edit the chapter properly. If you can do that perfectly, then, you are not ready for the services of a copy editor.

You Will Need a Proofreader After a Copy editor is done with their work

A proofreader is supposed to work after a copy editor is done reviewing your document.  While it is okay to simply go for the services of a fresh editor, you can decide to make use of the same person in copy editing and proofreading your work. This is possible as some copy editors also work as proofreaders. Nonetheless, if you want things to work perfectly, getting fresh eyes is best. This is because the likelihood of a proofreader seeing the mistake of another copy editor is higher than letting one person do the copy editing and proofreading.

As soon as you are done proofreading your book, it is time to make some money from it. That’s because it is time to let the world see it. At this point, your book is believed to be perfect and there will be no need to get it scrutinized again.

The Takeaway

There is a handful of difference between proofreading and copy editing. An understanding of this will go a long way in making you a much better writer. Remember the more you write, the more you get better.

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Hi, I'm Benedict. The founder of Bennyselfpublishing Academy. A platform designed to teach people how to write and publish their books online and offline from the comfort of their homes. When I am not writing, I am outside playing football or watching my favorite team Chelsea play.

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