What is the difference between a copy edit and a proofread?

What is the difference between a copy edit and a proofread?

Copy editing and proofreading are two sides of the same coin, both important parts of the editing process that are essential to producing a polished manuscript.

Copy editing is the first step in the editing process.  The copy editor often completes several readings of a manuscript, checking for typographical, grammatical, and punctuation errors, but more importantly, making corrections to and comments about the content.  The job of the copy editor is to attend to the “5 C’s”, making certain that the manuscript is clear, correct, concise, consistent, and comprehensible. 

When asked to copy edit a manuscript, I often spend a good deal of time checking historical accuracy, ensuring the consistency of characters, clarifying confusing sentences or even confusing scenes.  I do NOT make stylistic changes or usurp the artistic integrity of the author.  A great copy editor works alongside the author, not dictating but suggesting.

Proofreading is the final step in the editing process. It is the proofreader’s job to complete a final reading of the manuscript, correcting typographical, grammatical and punctuation errors.  By the time the manuscript is ready for the final proof, it has been read several times by several different people and needs nothing more than a final careful check before publication.

If you are e-publishing your manuscript, you may find that after your novel has been formatted, one more read-through is needed to correct “scanning errors” that come about as a computer program readies the document for e-readers.  I call this a “quick clean-up” and offer this service to many of my e-publishing clients.

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