Copyediting vs. Proofreading: Which one do you need?
Potential clients will often tell me that they need proofreading for their document when what they need is copyediting. Perhaps the word “proofreading” is more familiar to people as a kind of catch-all term that covers all the editing bases. Conversely, “copyediting” may seem like more than what they need, as if it indicates a complete overhaul of the document. Here are basic definitions of both to help you to determine what you need:
Proofreading is essentially a last look you (or your editor give your document before it goes out into the world. An editor will “proof” your document and correct any little errors that may have slipped by you, your editor, or your grammar-/spell-check during the copyediting process, such as missing and/or incorrect punctuation, misspellings, extra spaces, missing capitalization, or company style-guide mistakes. In this mode, it’s the little things that count.
Copyediting is a process that covers not only spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but also includes syntax (the way words and phrases are put together), checks for accuracy, readability, and inconsistencies. In addition, the process will ensure the that document, as a whole, stays on-point and clearly gets across what the author is trying say.