Copyediting vs. Proofreading
copyediting vs proofreading

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

This blog will help you understand the difference between copyediting and proofreading. They're both important to be a good writer.

Self-published authors don't get as much help with editing and often need to do this themselves.

Writers are their own worst enemy. They work hard to create the best story possible, but even when they use a spell checker and proofread carefully errors can slip through. Proofreading and copyediting are important steps in creating quality content that won't embarrass its author (even those who consider themselves grammar experts).

A professional editor may be able to help you produce copy that meets both industry standards as well as audience expectations for accuracy and clarity while still retaining your unique voice.

For writers who want to self-publish, today we are going to talk about the difference between copyediting and proofreading. They will need to look out for different things during the editing process of their book writing.

1. What is copyediting?

Copyediting is the first stage of editing and focuses on the grammar, sentence structure, and spelling in a manuscript or other text.

what is copyediting?

It also involves checking for consistency with style guidelines (such as APA) and facts within the text. It mustn't include adding/changing words or phrases to say something different from what was originally intended by the author.

In the example above, there are numerous spelling and punctuation mistakes (note also that it is missing a period at the end of the sentence). The copy editor would identify these errors and make corrections. Sometimes when writing, we automatically use words like “it's” instead of “its”. A good copy editor will know to look for this type of error and replace the incorrect words with the correct ones.

Note that a copy editor will not change anything without checking with you first, nor will they add/remove entire sentences or paragraphs without your permission. A good copy editor is also versed in grammar rules beyond the basics (such as knowing which form of “which” to use in each circumstance) and is able to make any necessary changes without impacting the meaning of what you've written.

2. What is proofreading?

Proofreading completes a round of editing by focusing on errors found in previous stages. The goal of proofreading is to find all types of mistakes, whether they be misspellings, grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, etc., but does not consider the larger focus of sentence structure, style guidelines, or facts contained in a text.

Proofreading is similar to reading through written material and finding mistakes carefully; this means taking your time when you proofread so you are not rushing through it leaving most errors uncaught.

When copyediting and proofreading are done on a manuscript, each task checks for different types of mistakes.

3. When should you use each one?

copyediting and proofreading

Because the focus of copyediting and proofreading are different, one would not traditionally follow the other; however, with a book (typically longer than an article or essay) it's good to proofread the draft before copyediting.

There may be more issues found need to be corrected before the copy editor can do their job.

You should never edit your own work, unless what you are writing is a blog post or something similarly short. Self-editing almost always results in far too many errors being missed, which is why many authors hire an editor.

4. Why is it important to have both types of editing done on your manuscript?

Some writers proofread their writing. But it's not uncommon for them to miss things they're used to catching when reading something other than their work.

This phenomenon is known as “reading fatigue.”

It's also extremely important that you not self-edit—it takes a trained eye to identify and correct each mistake. Hiring an editor is extremely important to get all the mistakes corrected. Self-editing can cause some errors , which is why you should hire a professional!

Remembering that editing is a service, an editor should only work on bringing your writing up to professional standards.; the final say in what stays or goes remains with you. 

5. The importance of a professional editor when publishing a book or article, etc.

A professional editor is always necessary when publishing a book (or article in publications such as The New Yorker) to ensure an error-free publication.

For example, if you submitted an article to The New Yorker and they published it without correcting the numerous errors (spelling mistakes, punctuation), their readership will lose respect for them. Their publication's reputation would be tarnished along with your own as well.

A professional editor is an eagle-eye that can go through each document with quick corrections and suggestions for improvement. A self-editing method may fix a small handful of mistakes, but it cannot comb through your entire work as quickly or efficiently as someone who has dedicated the time to do so full-time.

6. Common mistakes made by writers that cause them to need an editor in the first place (grammar, punctuation, spelling)

While writing, many common mistakes may happen. For example:

Bad grammar and punctuation.

No editor would be able to read through a text with improper grammar and not correct it. Sometimes, improper punctuation causes the meaning of a sentence to be misinterpreted. This is why professionals must find errors in writing.


Typos are one of the most common mistakes made by writers. The writer should proofread their work multiple times before publishing to ensure there aren't any typos.

Spelling mistakes.

When a writer self-edits, they can miss certain errors that can only be found in the published version of their work. This is particularly problematic for works with large word counts.

The writers make countless mistakes, such as reverse punctuation or misplaced commas. Short blog posts can be published without editing. But anything over 2,000 words should have an editor's eye over it. Do it before publishing to avoid any major issues with grammar and format.

Before you publish your work, hire an editor to proofread it. An editor will find errors that may get missed because of reading fatigue due to self-editing.

So pretty much…

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the difference between copy-editing and proofreading and their importance.

The benefits of self-editing are plentiful but might be missing out a lot if it's not done right. Editors have the upper hand when it comes to spotting errors because they're always looking out for them (and even things that need editing). When you edit your own work, there's no guarantee of catching every mistake.

For more helpful content in becoming a better author, check out my article on How to Start Writing a Book or visit our website today