The look of confusion is written all over this cat’s face, and sometimes, when my clients come to me, I can just imagine this is what they look like when I ask them if they want a copy-edit or a proofread.

Sometimes, proofreading and copy-editing your project can be the last thing on your to-do list.  You put that final full stop in your work, sit back in your chair and exhale with relief. Then to think about proofreading and copy-editing…the very idea of it can seem extremely daunting!

This guide is designed to help all you potentially confused clients out there to decipher what you need from me as your proofreader and copy-editor, and what I need from you to complete your edit.  

When a client contacts me and asks for a proofread, the first thing I do is always outline the difference between a proofread and a copy-edit.  In 50% of cases, the client then comes back and tells me they actually need a copy-edit, not a proofread.  This is not an issue for me at all; however, if a client can understand the difference before they come to me, it can speed the whole process up, which is beneficial for all parties involved!  


So firstly, what is a proofread?  A proofread is a much more minor task, hence the lower price.  It is a final sweep of the text, fixing typos and anything that the copy-editor missed.  The proofreader is never in a position to complete an overhaul of the text; it is not their role. They are the final stage, a place to correct any gigantic and blazing errors that simply cannot be included in the final project.  Following is an example of some of the errors and changes that a proofreader would make to your text:

Pretty straightforward, right? The blazing errors were corrected, the typos were amended and the text now reads correctly and clearly. This may be all your text needs.  Now I admit, I wrote this paragraph with very obvious errors, and your errors may be a little more discrete.  For example, form for from, thorough for through; these errors will not register as such on your computer because both words are spelt correctly! It is not wrong to think that your text needs a proofread and not a copy-edit; it just shows that you have faith in your work, and that is amazing! I love to see that!


Now, what is a copy-edit?  Think of a copy-edit as a minor renovation of your work. It checks for inconsistencies, maybe puts a more effective synonym in place of the word you have chosen and it also delves a little deeper into your punctuation choices.  It is something that my foreign language clients would ask me for much more than my English speaking clients. If English is not your first language, a copy-edit may be for you.  

REMEMBER…I am NOT the writer of your project, just the editor.  A copy-edit is NOT a rewrite…I am definitely not in that business! Your ideas remain the same, they may just be presented in a clearer way.  So here is an example below:

See the difference? 

It can be difficult to get your head around the differences between a proofreader and a copy-editor; what are their roles? How do I know which one I will need? Hopefully, this simple demonstration will highlight what the difference is between the two services (please note that these paragraphs were purely written for explanation purposes and are not a true reflection of my writing capabilities!). As mentioned in the track changes paragraph, here at Pickering Editorial we do offer a proofread and copy-edit within your copy-edit price as we do not want to have you paying twice! 

The definitions for proofread and copy-edit can be rather ambiguous. Some publishers ask you to complete a proofread on a project; however, their definition of a proofread sounds more like the specification for a copy-edit, so please ensure that you check with other freelancers what they determine to be a proofread/copy-edit before asking them to edit your work.

We trust this little short guide has been beneficial and it will help you decipher what service you need. Here at Pickering Editorial, we understand that getting your project completed can be very stressful, and we are here to make the next step a little easier.  Any questions, get in touch with us!