Copy Editor or Proofreader?

Why is it so important to have your content edited or proofread? Because typos, misspelled or misused words, poor punctuation, and – sorry to be so blunt – poor writing can leave a lasting impression on your audience (and it’s not usually a positive one). Once your words are printed or you hit “Send,” you typically have two choices: live with the error and its associated consequences, or pay someone to fix it. Working with a professional copy editor or proofreader can help you avoid having to make that difficult choice.

When hours are spent working on a project, it becomes difficult for even the most skilled writer to pick up on mistakes within their own writing, simply because they’re too close to it. Spelling and grammar checkers have come a long way, but these tools often miss extra/omitted words, incorrect usage of a word, or misspelled proper nouns (just to name a few). And let’s face it: some people just aren’t good at writing. It’s no different than not being good at math (raising my hand here) or public speaking (waving my hand wildly). The trick to being successful in business – in life, really – is to focus on the things you’re really good at, and to enlist help in the areas where you’re not so strong.

Okay, you say, I know my newsletter/website copy/article/manuscript/Instagram post/letter to my mother needs help. How do I know if I need a copy editor or a proofreader?

Great question. Let’s start with what a proofreader does.

Simply put, a proofreader fixes spelling and punctuation errors, typos, misused words (such as “there” instead of “their”), misplaced hyphens or bad line breaks and formatting errors. For both the creator and the proofreader, the desired outcome is the same: error-free writing which clearly conveys the intended meaning and generates a positive response.

On the other hand, a copy editor dives deeper into the text, which could involve significantly revising or cutting text, working with the writer to make sure the writing is clear, complete and accurate, and even restructuring an entire piece so that it makes more sense or tells its story more effectively.

To quote Heather Saunders, owner of Nova Arc Content Co. in Boston and a brilliant editor and proofreader:

When editing, ask: “Is this what the author meant to say and is it the best way to say it?”

When proofreading, ask: “Is that what the reader should see?”

If you’re still unsure whether you need a copy editor or a proofreader (or a stiff drink after reading all the way to this point), I’m here to help. Email me or fill out the contact form to ask a question or get a project estimate.

Print, digital, or job is too small for a proofreader.
Print, digital, or chalk…no job is too small.