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What is the difference between proofreading and copy-editing?

It is easy to confuse proofreading with copy-editing, especially as proofreading is the lowest level of copy-editing. However, copy-editing can be much much more.

In summary, the main difference between a simple proofreading service and copy-editing is that

  • Proofreading is to correct proven mistakes.
  • Copy-editing is both to correct mistakes and to revise content.

Proofreaders will only correct mistakes that can be proven to be wrong. For example, breaking laws of grammar, misspelling compared to a specified dictionary or the contravening rules of a styled guide.

However, copy-editing involves further steps, to suggest corrections or revision of content that may be technically grammatical and spelled correctly. For example, to restructure, summarise, reword and improve text to better meet the needs of its audience.

A copy-editor may also check for legality, trademark and copyright complications, factual accuracy, cliche use, globalisation and more.

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