The Difference Between Copyeditors, Proofreaders, and Editors: A Short Refresher

I hear the question each time I tell someone what I do. “What’s a copyeditor? Is that the same as a proofreader?” Sometimes the person asks me to review the structure of their novel.

Here’s the difference between editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders:

Editor – In this context, the editor is the one who helps with big picture items. Sometimes called a developmental or content editor, this editor’s job is to make sure the best story is being told. The editor judges if structure, voice, pacing, and characterization are working correctly, and if not, suggests changes.

The term editor can also refer to an editor-in-chief of a publication, or an acquisition editor for a press or publication. 

Copyeditor – Sometimes called a line-level editor, the copyeditor looks at every line, paragraph, section, and chapter to make sure the word usage, spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, verb tense, modifiers, and more are all correct and working in service to the story. That last bit is the important part. The copyeditor makes the story cleaner and clearer.

Proofreader – The proofreader is the last set of eyes on a book or story before being published. The proofreader looks for typos, misused words, weird spacing, anything that detracts from the book’s readiness for publication.

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2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Copyeditors, Proofreaders, and Editors: A Short Refresher

  1. This is a good description of the three. It clarifies things. I am a book formatter and I also do proofreading sometimes. I always make it clear that it consists of correcting spelling and grammar errors only to make sure that people know what they are getting. Many people seem to get them confused. Great post!

  2. Thanks. I often see people looking for a single person to do all three, and while that’s not impossible, I don’t recommend it. As many different eyes as you can get on a piece the better.

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