Precision in presentation says so much about your business, so make sure your copy is beautifully constructed and correctly spelt and you’re halfway to making that critical first impression.
I’ve been copy editing and proofreading since the late 1990s, checking the work of publishers like John Murray, Cambridge University Press and Dynamo and brilliant design agencies such as Make it Clear, alongside dozens of individuals and businesses who have needed word-perfect customer-facing copy.
What’s the difference between proofreading and copy editing?
Copy editing is the process of taking raw copy and transforming it into a final state. That could mean applying a “house style” to the content or simply ensuring it’s grammatically correct. Often, the person who wrote the copy will be an expert in their field but might not have the time or the language skills to create polished, readable copy in the intended language.
The editor will ensure that gap is closed up. Editors also check that the structure of the work (e.g. heading levels, image placement, typography) obeys the chosen style and logic. Editing assumes a degree of creative licence to reach the desired end point, usually with plenty of communication with the author, publisher or designer.
Proofreading shares many of the skills of copy editing, but it is purely a quality control procedure. In its original sense, the “proof” refers to a single print of the typeset work that is made with the sole purpose of being checked for errors. The proofreader will either be checking pre-formatted copy to ensure it obeys the typographic rules (including spelling, grammar and punctuation); or she will be checking plain text for typos before it goes for final formatting.
Ideally, the proofreader will be among the last pairs of eyes to look at a work before it’s published, as errors sometimes enter text via the formatting process – although it’s not always possible for this to be the case.
Same but different
With all that said, the two terms are generally used interchangeably, and with proofreaders’ and copy editors’ jobs overlapping so much, it’s no wonder. That’s why I charge exactly the same rate for proofreading and copywriting. I’ve written a deeper blog post on the subject – please have a look.