Difference Between Copy Editing and Proofreading

The Editing Process

The editing process is made up of a number of steps to bring your writing from first thought to final publication. These steps depend on the genre of writing and the preferred style guide you’ll be using. A fiction novel is edited differently than poetry and academic writing, and business writing is edited differently than a memoir or science fiction. But there are some basic elements of editing that are used almost universally, regardless of the genre or style guide being used.

There is a standard progression of levels of editing across most genres of writing, starting with the most in-depth, which is the content or developmental edit, and concluding with the final copy edit or proofread, which happens just before publication.

In this article, we’ll discuss the editing procedure for nonfiction writing, specifically the final stages before publication, and learn about the differences between copy editing and proofreading.

Read on to discover what you can expect during this phase of editing when hiring a professional editor for your nonfiction manuscript.

Levels of Editing

As you’ll see on the Nonfiction Editing page of FirstEditing.com, there are a number of levels of editing available for your nonfiction manuscript. The best way to determine which level of editing you need is to provide a portion of your manuscript for a free editing sample and let one of their staff editors recommend the level of editing you need.

If you’re just finishing the first draft of your nonfiction manuscript, you’ll want either the Content Edit or Book Coaching Edit. (Book Coaching is the preferred editing level for ESL writers.) This level of editing includes fixing grammar errors, but more importantly, it provides an overview of your writing’s clarity, comprehension, structure, or purpose, with suggestions for improvement in the margin of the manuscript.
Nowadays, your work will be edited online using MS Word’s Track Changes feature, giving you control over which revisions are accepted and rejected. (But if you’ve gone through the trouble of hiring a reputable editor, you’ll want to think twice before rejecting their revisions.)

Once you and your editor are confident that your manuscript’s content is sound, a line edit would be the next step in the editing process. This level of editing prepares the manuscript for the publisher, beta readers, or peer review. It includes grammar revisions, as well as eliminates jargon and corrects sentence structure.
Now it’s time for the copy edit. Let’s take a closer look at what this entails.

Characteristics of Copy Editing

Copy Editing is usually the final step in the editing process before sending your manuscript to a publishing house or agent, and before formatting and publishing. You’re either a seasoned writer that makes very few mistakes, or you’ve already gone through several rounds of editing, starting with developmental or content editing, fine-tuning the manuscript with line editing, and now your manuscript is almost ready to be published.

There will probably be only one revision needed per page, if that, at the copy editing level.

Characteristics of Proofreading

Proofreading happens after all the other editing steps have been completed; developmental, line, and copy editing. Previously, the publishing house would have staff on hand to do the proofreading for you. In this modern age of self-publishing, writers can’t rely on an in-house proofreading department anymore. This is where a professional editing service, such as FirstEditing.com, can step in to fill the gap.

Once your manuscript needs no further grammar or content revisions, your proofreader will check for inconsistencies in font and formatting and make note of them, preparing your manuscript for printing. They’ll usually run a spell-check as well, but as we all know, artificial intelligence can’t catch every typo, so you still need a human to double-check your manuscript for errors.

Many companies offer a separate formatting package after copy editing or proofreading, where no further revisions are made, it’s just straight manuscript preparation for either print or eBook publication.

Similarities and Differences Between Copy Editing and Proofreading

Since the terms copy editing and proofreading are often used interchangeably by those unfamiliar with the publishing process, it will be helpful to highlight the similarities and differences between these two final stages of preparing a manuscript for publication.

Similarities between copy editing and proofreading

  • Both copy editing and proofreading are done after content and line editing
  • A professional editor should be used for both copy editing and proofreading
  • Formatting is often considered a separate item

Differences between copy editing and proofreading

  • Copy editing is done before formatting
  • Proofreading is done after formatting
  • Copy editing is done before sending the manuscript to beta readers
  • Proofreading is done after peer review and just before publication

Now that you know the differences between copy editing and proofreading, you’ll know which to ask for when hiring a professional editor, such as those at FirstEditing.com. Some writers like to work with the same editor from idea conception to publication, while others prefer one editor for their content edit and another for their line or copy edit.

Once you’ve worked with an editor you feel comfortable with, you can always request them as your preferred editor at FirstEditing.com and if they’re available, you can expect them to give you the very best copy edit or proofread possible, helping you go from writer to author as painlessly as possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

First Editing is equipped to edit ANY type of document you can write! Over the past 10 years, we’ve perfected tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, ebooks, theses, dissertations, essays, letters, websites, articles, scripts, business proposals, poetry, and more! Let us transform your draft into a perfectly edited masterpiece! Click HERE for a FREE sample edit and price quote…
Projects less than 50 pages are completed in just 2-3 business days. Longer documents (manuscripts, dissertations, etc.) require 7-10 business days depending on their length. If you order multiple documents totaling 50+ pages, they can all still be completed in the standard 3 day timeframe since each document may be assigned to a different editing team simultaneously. Additionally, 1-2 day rush services are also available. See our order form for more details.
Professional editors of successfully published books, journals, articles, and more are working around the clock to ensure your editing is letter-perfect and delivered according to your deadline. Each editor has a minimum of TEN years worth of professional writing & editing experience. Show us some of YOUR writing and we’ll send YOU a FREE editing sample!
First Editing is one of the very few online editing services that GUARANTEES client satisfaction! If there is ANYTHING about our work with which you are not 100% satisfied, we will correct it at no additional charge. First Editing is also the ONLY service of its kind to GUARANTEE on-time completion. We NEVER miss a deadline…EVER!! Read more about our Editing Satisfaction Guarantee.
Our basic rates vary from just 1 U.S. cent per word to just over 3 U.S. cents per word. Most basic copy editing that does not require rush delivery costs between $0.0097 and $0.013 USD per word (approximately one cent per word). Larger orders often cost even less. Factors influencing your total price are document type, length of manuscript, turnaround time required, & level of editing required. For a free, no-obligation price quote, CLICK HERE.

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