Copyediting vs. Proofreading: What Does Your Content Need?

Copyediting vs. Proofreading: What Does Your Content Need?


Before you publish your digital content, it needs to go through an editing and proofreading phase. Along with the writer themselves, the editors and proofreaders work towards a common goal. That goal is to create content that is easy to read and understand by your target reader demographic. 

The copyediting vs. proofreading debate is an old one but is relatively easy to dispel by someone who knows what sets the two jobs apart.

Essentially, it’s the copy editor’s job to check for any structural or other error within the copy they receive from the writer. A proofreader then looks for any issues that a copy editor might have missed within that copy. Basically, these jobs always come one after the other when checking a document. 

Let’s have an in-depth look at the type of work that copyeditors and proofreaders are required to perform. 

Copyediting: What Does It Involve?

To put it simply, copyediting refers to the all-important task of ensuring that your content copy is free of any errors. That includes identifying and fixing spelling and grammatical errors and checking in-depth for narrative flow and other complex issues before sending the various types of content you produce for publishing. 

Let’s look at a few everyday tasks that are required of a copyeditor.

Correcting Grammatical Issues and Spelling Errors

The first job, and the ones they are associated with the most, is identifying and fixing any spelling errors or grammatical issues that a writer missed in their documents. This task often overlaps with the one improving readability, as many spelling errors are due to the difference between the various spelling formats used around the world.

US vs. UK English spellings are often misused, and it’s a copyeditor’s job to find out any inconsistencies and fix them.

Evaluating Content According to Company Style Guide

Another important job for a copyeditor is to evaluate if the content follows the approved style guide of that brand. A style guide ensures that every piece of content your company produces follows the same content style, from punctuation to how certain words and phrases are written. 

For book-style content meant to tell a story, the Chicago Manual of Style is the go-to option for many. This style of content combines related words describing something into a compound adjective using hyphens. Moreover, it differentiates the primary object of the action from the rest of the sentence by making it italic. 

Suppose you want to describe an age demographic that plays a specific game. Your phrase would look something like this.

Fifteen-year-olds are pretty fond of the game Fortnite

However, you would generally use the Associated Press or AP Style Guide for a serious magazine or newspaper article. This particular style uses quotes to identify the object of the sentence and spells out any number below nine, rather than using digits for it. For example:

15-year-olds are pretty fond of the game “Fortnite.”

Sometimes, your content might not adhere to a single style of formatting. In such instances, copyeditors are required to develop their style guides to help the writers create content accordingly. 

Improving Readability

An essential job for a copyeditor is to ensure that your content is easy to read and understand. They usually identify the areas for the writers that could be improved to make the content easier to read and understand. This helps your content makes a better impact on the reader.

A copyeditor looks for repetition within your content, corrects capitalizations, and identifies phrases that could be made simpler in your document. 

Writers often hate copyeditors, believing that their edits and suggestions will end up decimating the impact of their original content. However, an experienced and professional copyeditor knows how to work around and with a writer’s unique voice to help it be heard far better than before. 

The Purpose of Proofreading

Traditionally, proofreading is usually performed just before the manuscript is sent for printing. Even today, e-books and other digital publications are proofread before they are published online for consumers. 

It allows you to find and correct any issue that might have missed the gaze of the editor before your content reaches the discerning eyes of your reader. While the proofreading mode differs between physical and digital content, the purpose is the same – to ensure that a high-quality and error-free piece of content is published for the readers. 

Let’s look at a few tasks that a proofreader commonly performs.

Proofreading – What does it entail?

It’s a proofreader’s job to check if the copyeditor has missed an issue in the document. They also need to identify if any new problems have cropped up after editing during the design phase. These errors include, but are not limited to:

  • Common typos
  • Incorrect page numbers
  • Text or images that are misaligned
  • Missing or unnecessary whitespaces between the content
  • Mistakes in structuring the content
  • Fact-checking and referencing

These are just a few things that a proofreader checks before sending the manuscript to the printer for publishing. 

Now that you have an idea about each of these two jobs’ duties, let’s find out which point you would need a professional when deciding to publish your content.

Copyediting Comes After You Finish Structuring Your Content

A copyeditor needs your writer to finish the manuscript before they can check for inconsistencies. As they will focus on every detail on each line of every paragraph, the writer needs to be completely satisfied with their manuscript before submitting it to the copyeditor. Hiring copywriters experienced in editing documents is a good idea. That makes it easier for the actual editors to identify any obscure errors, once the basic and simple issues are corrected. 

If you are still on the fence about adding or removing a few passages or even entire chapters, hold off on engaging a copyeditor just yet. Once you finish your manuscript, only then should it go to a professional to check for any issues or edits. 

Get Someone Besides Your Editor to Proofread Your Content

A few companies tend to ask their editors to proofread the work they’ve edited. But that is usually counterproductive. A professional proofreader’s job is to find any issues in the document that an editor missed or was introduced by a designer. The entire purpose of that exercise is to ensure that the content passes before a set of fresh eyes.

If the editor proofread their document, chances are they will still miss the issues that didn’t register during the editing phase. No writer, editor, or even proofreader is infallible. Getting someone else to check the document before publishing will help you develop high-quality copies to maximize the ROI for your content marketing strategy.  

Once your proofreader gives the go-ahead, you are now ready to publish your piece of content, digital or otherwise. And by going through the editing and proofreading stage, you will be sure that all critical and the majority of minor issues are identified and addressed. 

To Summarize

To conclude, although copyediting and proofreading might look similar at a glance, they both serve a distinct purpose. Moreover, when combined, they help you create high-quality and error-free content every time. 

Companies with ample budgets and regular content needs usually hire in-house copyeditors and proofreaders. Individual writers, on the other hand, tend to contract professionals on a case-by-case basis.

No matter your preferred method of hiring your proofreaders and copyeditors, without them, you increase the likelihood that your readers will find errors within your content. It reduces your credibility with the reader and reduces the chances that the reader will return to your content in the future. 

Author Bio:  

Amtul Rafay is a content marketer at renowned content writing agency – eContentSol. She loves to explore futuristic trends in the tech industry while believing in the influential power of research-backed opinions. Being passionate about blogging, she writes on a variety of topics including digital marketing, graphic designing, branding, and social media. Besides that, she is also fond of traveling & an avid reader by heart.