Both are part of the editing process and both are equally important. But what exactly IS the difference between copy editing and proofreading? Many professional editing companies offer these services separately, allowing customers the opportunity to pick the level of editing that best suits their needs. While there are a number of similarities between the two, such as mark-ups on pages, attention to grammatical and spelling errors, etc., there are also a number of differences.
The end goal of the document or manuscript will very often dictate which of the services is more appropriate, and the author must take into consideration what writing phase they are currently in.
In most cases, copy editing is an in-depth examination of your document that covers all issues with spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, semantics, syntax, consistency, and flow. The copy editor conducting this assessment of your document will also format your document to your requested style, such as APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc. Copy editing is commonly used for documents or manuscripts that are being written for publication and require specific style formatting. These documents or manuscripts also tend to include a high volume of cited material and a list of references or a bibliography. In addition to a specific manual style, a house style that is unique to a publisher may also need to be followed for proper formatting of your document. Copy editors will review in-text citations and references to ensure there is consistency. If your document will be submitted for publication, it is highly recommended that it goes through a round of copy editing before submission as the copy editor will ensure that your manuscript is concise and presents the overarching themes appropriately.
Proofreading is commonly used for business or planning documents that typically do not require specific formatting or references. Proofreading provides a review of your document that will optimize its accuracy and readability and really make your content shine. These services ensure that your message is communicated in the clearest way possible to your readers. To complete a proofreading assessment, many proofreaders will look at your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage, and ensure that there are no errors. It is recommended that you use these services once your document has been finalized and copy edited as a “final check,” so that you can be sure that no typos remain in your text and that nothing has been accidentally deleted in the editing process.
When using any professional editing service, it is important to understand that a professional editor is an unbiased audience to your writing, and it is their job to review your document and offer their expertise for maximizing the readability and clarity of your message. When sending your document for professional editing, always make sure you are supplying any formatting guides or other requirements at the beginning and your professional editor can do a much more thorough job for your document. The final decision to accept any changes or recommendations in your document should always be yours.
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