Copyediting and editorial proofreading

The biggest misconception that most people have about these corrective methods is thinking that copyediting and editorial proofreading are the same.  While they are similar, they are also very different.

Proofreading is done after a body of work is completed, but before it goes to publication or is distributed.  It’s the final step taken in the completion of a work.  A proofreader’s job is to scan the piece for grammar, syntax, and punctuation errors. The meanings of words and terminology are not important to a proofreader.  Their main job is to focus on accuracy in a body of work that is otherwise finished and ready to go “out the door”.

While proofreaders concentrate on the final and overall presentation of the body of work, copyeditors concentrate on the details and terminology in a manuscript or draft.  They perform fact checking, question sentences that raise doubt or seem non-plausible, and ensure that there is consistency throughout the piece.  Although copyeditors don’t always implement the changes they are recommending, they always note them for the author to consider.  Like proofreaders,  they also check for  spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, but  in a text that hasn’t been formatted

There are three types of copyediting:  baseline (light), medium, and substantial (heavy).

Baseline Copyediting:

In this type of editing, you will:

  • Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Correct incorrect usage of words and verify cross-references
  • Make sure that spelling, grammar, capitalizations, and abbreviations are consistent
  • Make sure that lists are in the proper sequence, such as in alphabetical order
  • Make note of the first references to figures and tables
  • Check content to detect spots where copy is missing or inaccurate, such as misspellings or misuse.  You do not rewrite or add text to accomplish smoother transitions or to help with structure.

Medium Copyediting:

In this type of editing, you will do everything listed for baseline editing plus:

  • Change the text and headers for parallel structure (parallel structure is expressing similar ideas in similar ways).  The following sentence is an example of parallel structure:   She liked to dance, sing, and act. The next sentence is not parallel structure.  She liked to dance, sing and acting.
  • Make note of inappropriate figures of speech
  • Check that previews or summaries match the main content
  • Make sure the plot progresses and check for consistency in character traits and story lines (Fiction Manuscripts.)
  • Enforce style and tone throughout an entire body of work
  • Change passive voice to active voice when required
  • Make note of incorrect statements

Substantive Copyediting:

In this type of editing you will do everything listed for baseline and medium plus:

  • Improve the flow of text and contribute to the overall quality of the writing
  • Suggest actual changes rather than just pointing out problems
  • Enforce a tone if the author or publisher requests it
  • Remove wordiness
  • Make transitions smoother and rearrange sentences to make the text easier to read.
  • Suggest additions and deletions at the sentence and paragraph level
  • Participate in the actual re-writing of the text, if author and publisher agree.