Proofreading vs Copy Editing: Everything You Need to Know


16th May 2024

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The terms copy editing and proofreading are constantly used interchangeably. But you must know that both these terms differ from each other in the editorial world. Copy editing and proofreading are both significant processes in the editorial landscape. They aim to make written content error-free and high-quality. Numerous individuals get confused about these real meanings. If you are among these individuals, you must go through a detailed proofreading vs copy editing comparison. It will help you understand the difference between these editing processes.

In simple words, copy editing refers to the reviewing and correcting of the written content for errors related to spelling, grammar, style, consistency, punctuation, and grammar. It involves revising the text to enhance its readability and clarity. On the other hand, proofreading is the final step in the editing process of a text, which involves reading and editing for the final time to eliminate remaining errors like misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors. To understand the difference between proofreading and copy editing in detail, continue reading this article. We explain the difference between the two in detail to help you understand their importance.

What Is Proofreading?

Proofreading is the final step in the editing process. It involves checking the written work for remaining errors like grammatical mistakes, misspelled words and typos. The aim of proofreading is to identify errors that may have been overlooked during the copy-editing process. Some of the many tasks involved in proofreading are as follows.

  • Checking for typos and misspellings
  • Checking for grammatical errors
  • Checking for consistency in spelling, punctuation, and style
  • Ensuring accuracy of all numbers and dates
  • Checking the text’s overall appearance. It involves page numbers, headings, and margins.

Proofreading is usually the last step in the editing process. It is done after writers and editors complete their work to form the final draft. It is one of the most critical steps in the editing process to check the text one last time before submitting it further for distribution or publication. A well-proofread text is more understandable for the readers and clearly conveys the intended message to them. A proofreader needs to have a keen eye for detail. They must also possess a good understanding of grammar and style. These experts must invest time in proofreading the text. However, every minute spent on proofreading is essential to ensure error-free text.

What Does a Proofreader Do?

Proofreaders play a valuable role in the editing world. They significantly help writers and students to ensure the quality of their written documents, whether it is a magazine or a thesis. In simple words, the role of a proofreader is to ensure that the written material is free from errors in syntax, grammar, formatting, and punctuation. The main responsibilities of a proofreader are as follows.

  • Proofreading for errors- The first responsibility of a proofreader is to read the documents and identify errors in syntax, spelling, and grammar.
  • Cross-checking references and data used- Proofreaders are also responsible for verifying the accuracy of the data used in the content. They verify the facts included and also cross-check the references and citations. In some cases, proofreaders also maintain a log of sources and references.
  • Reviewing content for consistency- These professionals review the written content for consistency.
  • Collaborating with writers and other members of the editorial team- Proofreaders collaborate with writers and other team members of the editorial team to provide their editorial input and enhance the quality and accuracy of the documents.
  • Checking compliance with the style guide- The reviewing process by the proofreaders also involves checking the content’s compliance with the preferred style guide.

What is Copy Editing?

Copy editing involves reviewing and correcting text for spelling, grammar, consistency, style, and punctuation. Similar to proofreading, the goal of copy editing is to enhance the quality of written material. It aims to make the material clear, concise, and easily understandable. Copy editing involves the following tasks.

  • Checking text’s grammar, punctuation, and spellings
  • Ensuring consistency in tone, style, and language use
  • Ensuring the clarity of text to make it easily understandable
  • Checking the overall structure of the text and making suggestions for the writers to improve it
  • Making suggestions for reforming unclear sentences

Unlike proofreading, copy editing is the first step in the editing process. It is typically done before proofreading. Copy editing aims to identify and correct errors in the text. It improves the written material’s quality and readability. This process aims to make the content engaging for the readers while conveying the intended message effectively.

Copy editing is a comprehensive process with several steps. It requires the editors to have a keen eye for detail. Also, these professionals must have an excellent understanding of grammar. Read further to understand the responsibilities of a copy editor.

What Does a Copy Editor Do?

The role of a copy editor is crucial in the editing process. They receive the written documents right after the writer completes writing. Some of their responsibilities are as follows.

  • Reviewing and revising- The first responsibility of a copy editor is to check the content for its quality and accuracy. This includes checking for errors in punctuation, grammar, syntax, and spelling.
  • Ensuring tone- Copy editors are also responsible for checking the tone, clarity, flow, voice, and content structure.
  • Ensuring content’s adherence to style guide- These editors are also responsible for checking the written material’s adherence to specific style guides.

Proofreading vs Copy Editing

But what is the key difference between proofreading and copy editing?

Scope of work- Copy editing is a comprehensive process. It involves checking the text for grammar, punctuation, style, spelling, and consistency. On the other hand, proofreading refers to a focused process that checks the errors remaining after copy editing.

  • Timing- Copy editing is the first step in the editorial process. On the other hand, proofreading is the last step.
  • Goals- The goal of copy editing is to enhance the quality of the written material. It aims to make it more concise and error-free. Copy editing also improves the intended tone to make the content understandable. On the other hand, proofreading is a concise task. It involves checking errors that might have been missed during the copy editing process.


Writing a thesis or any other written document is an extensive process which involves several steps. Two of the most important of these steps are copy editing and proofreading. Although used interchangeably, these terms or processes are quite different from one another. Hopefully, now you have a clear understanding of the key difference between proofreading and copy editing. If you are looking for any of these services for your written documents, contact us today and make your documents error-free and meaningful. Our professional editors and proofreaders have the experience and skills required to make written content engaging, error-free, and compliant with style guides.