The editing process can be a bit confusing. It is often hard to know what comes next in your journey toward publication. It doesn’t help that editing is often thought of as an all-inclusive service when, in fact, editing is split into many stages. Most writers use either copyediting or proofreading services. However, these are very different and it is important to seek the right person and service for your piece of writing.
The Editing Process
A manuscript goes through many editing stages before it is ready to be published. During the writing process, a writer might note down ideas, do some research and expand. They might then reorder, rewrite and further expand until they’re happy. Likewise, editors might perform a structural edit, style edit, technical edit, fact check, copyedit and a proofread. But the process is often simplified to include only copyediting, proofreading or both because of financial or time constraints.
In this case, copyediting is the first step in the editing process. Its purpose is to take the unpolished copy and find errors at the sentence level. An editor considers a manuscript ready for copyediting once it is in overall good shape. This means the writer has self-edited for flow, cohesiveness and topic. This stage of editing corrects for:
A copyedit often requires rewriting at the sentence level, restructuring and many tracked changes to spelling and punctuation. When the copyeditor is finished, the copy should not contain many errors, should flow well, be cohesive, be factually correct and, overall, be well written. Keep in mind that it’s not possible for an editor to find 100 per cent of errors in one read-through. This is why there are often many editing stages and various editors involved.
The next editing stage is proofreading. This is a final check to remove any remaining errors before publication. A proofreader will look at the manuscript as a whole to find issues with:
- missing images
- misplaced tables
- incorrect captions
This is a quick read and doesn’t involve delving deeply into the content. It’s more of a holistic look at the whole document (which has usually been typeset) to find any obvious errors that have been missed or introduced during typesetting.
Do Copyediting and Proofreading Cost the Same?
The differences between proofreading and copyediting mean the latter is more expensive, but it does provide a lot of value to the writer. A manuscript can’t be proofread if it hasn’t been copyedited, as there will be too many errors. The time needed to edit depends on the quality of the writing. Heavy copyediting is perfect for foreign English speakers who are still learning the language. Whereas, light copyediting suits an experienced writer who is skilled in grammar and punctuation. Proofreading is much less time consuming and is, therefore, cheaper.
Should I Use a Copyeditor or Proofreader?
If your piece of writing will be published somewhere with a large following and is important to your business, studies or bank account, I would always recommend getting it copyedited and proofread. If it’s for family and friends and you can be a little more relaxed, then a copyedit is the best option.
Remember, if you have not hired an editor yet, then you will need a copyediting service. If you just need a final polish, then proofreading is the way to go.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the importance of editing. Comment below about your experiences with copyediting or proofreading and whether you feel the service is valuable.