Copyediting vs. Proofreading: What You Need to Know

In this article, we are covering the similarities and differences between academic copyediting and proofreading. To read about these processes in detail click here and here.

The other steps of the production process are:
language editing
copyediting
typesetting (known also as technical editing)
proofreading
XML publication (academic publishing only).

What is copyediting and how does it differ from proofreading?

Academic publishing involves multiple types of editing, all of which refine the writing into a clear and error-free version of the record. These include:

  • developmental editing – this step helps to improve the structure and content of your work. It is typically applied early in the writing process before any copyediting or proofreading is done.
  • copyediting – checks whether the text is correct, consistent, and accurate. The process removes any inconsistencies, mistakes, and repetition, and ensures that your work meets the standards that are expected in high-quality scholarly publishing.
  • proofreading – the final quality step before publication.

Similarities between copyediting and proofreading

Copyediting and proofreading take place after the manuscript has been created. They have a similar overall goal to ensure that the published work is as good as it can be.

Editing of a finished book

Both processes involve detailed reading of a manuscript to improve the writing and remove similar types of grammatical and spelling errors. Whilst the overall objectives of copyediting and proofreading are similar, their focus and timing are not the same.

Proofreading versus copyediting

Many people think that proofreading and editing are the same service. There is however a big difference between those two procedures.

Copyediting takes place at the beginning of the production process and is usually performed together with language correction. It verifies the overall structure of the paper, including the order of ideas, the transition between paragraphs, and the development of the argument. A copyeditor will:

  • take a highly detailed look at the structure and the coherence of the content
  • tidy the work up so that the statements and ideas within it are delivered clearly to the readers.
  • ensure that manuscript is in line with the publication’s style rules.
Copyditor checking the article copy

In contrast, proofreading will:

  • remove remaining errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • verify type and format issues, and inconsistencies
  • identify mistakes that could appear during the technical editing phase.

Proofreading is applied on an already typeset document, whereas copyediting takes place when the paper is still in its source format.

Copyediting and proofreading options

When publishing, it is possible to copyedit and proofread your own work. However, this will be very time-consuming and difficult for you to do effectively. The end product may not be high impact and may not meet the standards required for academic publication.

Professional copyeditors and proofreaders are highly skilled and trained and are able to identify opportunities to significantly improve your manuscript. They usually discuss the required level of support before taking on the job to provide an accurate quote.

Making the right decision when considering copyediting and proofreading can make all the difference.

What you need to know

In simple words:

  • copyediting boosts the overall quality of writing in your manuscript
  • proofreading gives a final polish to the text readying it for publication.
Instructions for the proofreader

Both tasks are essential in academic publishing. They are typically completed by different editors, even though there are some overlapping objectives and elements. When working with these professionals, it is important to recognize this to get the best publishing result for your academic research.

You can read more about the differences between copyediting and proofreading, and the standards of professionalism with which copyeditors and proofreaders work to at the website of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

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