Copy Editing vs. Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: March 01, 2015

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Copy editing and proofreading tend to be thought of as the same thing, and although the two often go hand in hand, there are some significant differences. 

In the old days, most manuscripts were reviewed by two people separately – first by a copy editor and a then a proof-reader. With the advent of computers, however, the whole process has become far simpler and it’s now common for both editing and proofreading to be done by the same person. 

If you’re interested in working as a professional copyeditor and proof-reader, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what might be expected of you in each role, so here is a quick look at how these skills vary from one another. 

Copy editing

Aside from ensuring that the writing conforms to the desired style guide, it is the copy editor’s job to bring the first draft of an article or manuscript up to par by making and suggesting edits to cut down on wordiness, fix awkward phrasing and eliminate repetition. 

Sometimes, the copy editor will also be expected to check the accuracy of dates, names, places and other facts mentioned, and in the case of fiction writing, he or she may work to ensure the consistency of characters and clarify any confusing scenes. 

The copy editor may also want to make changes to titles, subheadings and chapter titles or reorganize portions of content so that it appears in a more logical order. 

Such changes will rarely be made without the writer’s knowledge, and a good copy editor works together with the writer to ensure they are both on the same page. With this in mind, he or she often goes over the same draft multiple times.


Proofreaders deal with the final version of a manuscript before it is published and unlike copy editors, they aren’t expected to make any revisions to the content or style. 

Their job is to check for any typos or missing punctuation marks, remove any repeated words or paragraphs, and catch aesthetic issues that may have been introduced during production, such as words that have been accidentally broken into two or a sentence that finishes at the top of a new column rather than at the end of the previous one. 

Proof-readers also check for consistency. For instance, they may check that the captions placed under photos, images and graphs actually match the content and that the same font type and size have been used throughout the whole document. 

Overall, proofreading tends to be a much quicker process since the editor/proof-reader will be dealing with a draft or manuscript that has already been edited by one or more people.


Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger

is a journalist and education writer for Open Colleges with over four years of experience in writing for publications, online resources and blogs in the education industry. She believes that online education is the way of the future and is passionate about promoting online learning tools and the use of new technologies in the classroom.

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