For more information on the difference between proofreading and copyediting, have a look at this guide from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).
Strictly speaking, proofreading is the last check of a text in its final paper ‘proof’ form prior to publishing/printing. It is the last chance to catch mistakes and prevent errors from being published. Incorrect spelling, misleading punctuation and poor grammar are obvious targets. However, spotting inconsistencies of content, whether text or graphic, formatting and language are also important. The number of corrections required for a published book will usually be few because it will have been edited previously. Traditionally, proofreaders used a set of ‘proofreaders’ marks’ which are concise and unambiguous and so enable efficient instruction for typesetters but different methods are often used now that publishers’ proofs are often digital PDFs.
It isn’t just publishers who need proofreaders, though. This BBC report demonstrates just how important it is for businesses to avoid errors in their written communications with customers and clients. While publishers will have professionally edited their titles prior to final proofreading, thus eradicating most errors, many businesses and organisations produce written copy for use online and for print with few if any checks. Errors may be damaging to their brand and their professional image, impacting on customer confidence and reducing sales.
The thing to remember when considering the service you need is that proofreading is the final check. It isn’t intended to improve the quality of the writing, its flow or readability; it is intended to catch the important errors that matter.
Text (copy) requiring a higher degree of intervention, including elimination of errors but perhaps also adjustments to improve its clarity, flow and sense needs to be copyedited.
There are many levels of editing. Copyediting includes all of the checks of spelling, punctation, typos, consistency etc. that you would expect from proofreading. However, copyediting also includes amending wording to improve the clarity, flow and presentation of the text. Copyeditors are skilled at achieving what the author intended to write, amending the copy so that the author’s message is conveyed in their own voice, but without the wrinkles, errors, ambiguities and repetition they might not have noticed. The copyeditor invisibly eliminates problems so that the author’s voice is clearer, and comes through more strongly and effectively.
The level of editing depends on the client’s needs so it is very variable. Some text needs to be reorganised as well as amended for wording; some just needs a light touch to ensure it is clear, concise and consistent.
For more information about what you might expect from a proofreading service, please visit the CIEP’s Standards in Proofreading page.
If you are uncertain which service you need, please get in touch for a chat. I will be happy to discuss your options with you.