Copy Editing vs Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

Copy editing and proofreading are the final two types of the six different types of editing. They’re like peanut butter and jelly — they go great together, but each has its merits and is delicious on its own.

What Is the Difference between Proofreading and Copy Editing?

In short, copy editing makes sure that content follows style guides, including proper punctuation, tone, and clarity, while proofreading is the final step, looking for errors and inconsistencies in copy as well as layout.

In most publishing processes, copy editing and proofreading are done simultaneously. Most editors will proofread a piece before copy editing to catch as many errors as possible and not to be distracted while copy editing to bring the document in line with brand guidelines.

What Is Copy Editing?

Copy editing is a trained skill that involves editing content to fit a specified style or brief.

Copy editing in traditional publishing or academic writing ensures the document aligns with provided editorial guidelines. These guidelines can be extremely in-depth or broad, but most commonly include at a minimum:

  • grammar,
  • tone,
  • logo usage,
  • colors,
  • visuals,
  • word usage,
  • point of view,
  • capitalization and punctuation,
  • and more

Copy editors review a document for adherence to guidelines before it is published (or sent to publishing in a more traditional publishing house).

In the digital world, where most of EditorNinja’s customers exist and do business, copy editing tends to be more fluid. For example, correcting for capitalization in headings is less important when content is published online, as website stylesheets typically handle this automatically. That said, agencies sending content to clients via Google Docs (or similar cloud-based systems) often want to clean up their documents so that internal stakeholders at the client are more likely to approve it with fewer substantial revision requests.

Producing content for clients, or working with internal stakeholders to sign off on content, and needing a hand with editing and finalizing it? Schedule an intro call to learn more about how EditorNinja works.

What Is Proofreading?

Proofreading is most often the final editing step in a publishing process, though as mentioned above it often happens a few times throughout the entire process so that editors can focus on the substance of their editing and not be distracted by errors.

Proofreading, while seemingly easy to do, is a time-consuming process that also can’t be ignored. When customers hire EditorNinja to proofread their documents, they’re admitting that their time is too valuable to spend proofreading.

Proofreading is best thought of as a final read-through of a document to catch any remaining typos or grammatical errors. A misplaced comma can cost a business a lot of money, so catching these sorts of errors and correcting them is important.

Proofreading’s history goes back to the beginning of mass publishing, where a machine would be type set using wooden blocks with metal letters. A “proof” would be created and then read, so that errors could be caught before mass production started.

In our digital age, a proofread is simply used to catch errors before content is published. The proofreading step is much more important for digital documents that are more permanent, such as press releases that are sent via a newswire or marketing materials downloaded by prospects and customers. Studies show that at least 59% of respondents to a UK poll would be less likely to buy from a brand whose product copy has errors.

Proofreading may seem like a luxury, but skipping this step can cost your business very real money.

Copy Editing vs Proofreading – What Do They Have In Common?

While copy editing and proofreading do differ, they also have similarities. The main differences are when it occurs in the creation process and the depth at which it looks at the subject and content.

Both copyediting and proofreading contain these as well:

  1. Consistency
  2. Cross-references
  3. Spelling
  4. Punctuation
  5. Capitalization
  6. Typos

Every document returned to you through EditorNinja will have been scanned for each of these.

Is A Copy Editor A Proofreader?

Copy editors can be proofreaders and often are when they are editing content. Copy editing looks at the more technical aspects of grammar, writing, and style, while proofreading is more concerned with typos and correctness of spellings.

Think about it like this: not all copy editors are proofreaders, and not all proofreaders are copy editors, but one person can do both.

Copy editors will also usually proofread a document after all copy edits have been made and accepted.

Need Copy Editing and Proofreading?

Here at EditorNinja, we’re a team of professional editors who love making good copy great and ensuring it’s as well-positioned as possible to convert website visitors to leads and customers.

Schedule an Intro Call today to learn more.