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Proofreading vs. Copy-editing: Understanding the Services You Need for Your Documents


Proofreading and copy-editing are both necessary for ensuring that a document is fit for publishing. Not many people understand what proofreading and copy-editing is all about, and sometimes, situations cause these two to overlap in application. Traditionally, proofreading is required to correct errors in typesetting or formatting of the final document, whereas copy-editing is more on drafting information, correcting grammar and word usage, as well as ensuring that the document is in line with English rules. Copy editors also weigh the consistency, feel, and look of the document.

Proofreading and copy-editing are two different things, and they are done at different levels. Proofreaders and copy editors require different skill sets and experience in handling different types of materials for different audiences.

proofreading vs copyediting

Levels of Proofreading

Basically, proofreading is the late-stage correction of materials that have already been typed or encoded. It literally means “checking ant a marked-up draft. They have to go through it word for word and identify errors that need correction. They also sift through documents for typographical errors and correct style and simple word repetitions.

Editorial proofreaders, on the other hand, check documents and materials for errors in word usage, subject-verb agreement, and proper hyphenation. They may also check for grammar problems and recommend changes when they find inappropriate word choices or punctuation. This level of proofreading is usually done on documents or materials which has already been reformatted and edited.

Different Types of Copy-editing

Copy editors are the ones who review the finished copy of the documents for grammar, consistency, format, and spelling. Copy-editing is like an exam that runs in a cycle as proofreader’s knowledge on grammar, spelling, punctuation, proper word usage, and syntax is continuously being tired out.

All throughout the stages of copy-editing, editors are required to correct the errors found, discuss conflicting lines to the author, and even seek for advise when an issue cannot easily be resolved. Copy editors work in a cycle to fix anything that is confusing, inappropriate, incorrect, and ambiguous.

There are three levels of copy-editing that are usually applied: light or baseline, medium or standard, and heavy. Currently, there is also a level of copy-editing that is applied for documents or materials that are likely to be translated to different languages.

Baseline copy-editing is quite similar to an editorial proofreading; however, copy editors are more thorough when checking for grammar. For standard copy-editing, copy editors are required to check for consistency in style and relationship of the text to the drawings and graphics in the document. In standard copy-editing, entries in the Table of Contents and organization issues of the material are also checked and corrected.

proofreading vs copyediting

Substantive copy-editing focuses more on the higher level of judgment, with rewriting involved. Copy editors work on improving the flow of text and rewrite portions to achieve a more uniform tone, level, and focus. Passive voices are turned into active voices, and missing articles such as “a”, “an”, or “the” are added. Copy editors are more involved in the material as they work on rearranging sentences to improve readability especially in explaining technical notes to nontechnical audiences.

In the global arena, copy editors are also faced with international and cultural issues. Being able to understand and apply certain grammar or language rules will eliminate ambiguity and will enable the translation of the material to another language without any technical problems. Copy editors handling these kinds of jobs should also be knowledgeable about international publishing rules, words that have no counterpart in other languages, and those that have multiple meanings.

Proofreading vs. Copy-editing

Copy-editing is a much harder job than proofreading. Proofreaders may easily get away with their lack of grammatical knowledge, but copy editors must be competent in allaspects of the English language. Copy editors should also have great interpersonal skills to better communicate and forge a good working relationship with the author. This is to avoid the impression that they are criticizing the author’s work.

Copy-editing and proofreading are valuable services to ensure the quality of the documents and materials that are for publishing. Copy editors will ensure that your message is clear to your target audience, while a proofreader will ensure that errors do not make it to the final copy.

proofreading vs copyediting

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