A common question that I am often asked is: “Are proofreaders and copy editors the same?” The quick answer is no. They are completely different roles and they have different importance for authors who are about to publish a book.

Proofreaders and copy editors are normally the last line of defense for those getting ready to publish and although they can cross over with some bits and pieces – they both should check spelling and grammar – they are very different in the overall work they do.

Let’s dive in and find out about them and the jobs they do.

Copy editor

A copy editor is used before the proofreader stage. They will go through the document to ensure it flows correctly, is formatted properly and they will check spellings if they are glaringly obvious.

A copy editor is there to make sure your book reads right and that readers will be able to understand it. They can help you to re-write sections, tell you if sentences do not make sense and what to change them too. They also help to do fact-checking and advise on research inaccuracies.

Most copy editors will also be on hand to check for any plagiarised content and do SEO checks if you’re writing non-fiction books. You will be made aware of any issues and they can help you figure out what went wrong and assist with the re-writes.

Some copy editors go above and beyond – they can help you realise timeframes, travel times and help plan issues your characters may have that you may have missed during other edits.

Using a copy editor is only going to help you achieve a book of the highest quality, use them wisely and make sure you know that they will only edit the book and they will not capture every proofreading error.


A proofreader is the last line of defence for those writing a book. They look for spelling mistakes and grammatical issues.

Proofreaders will read the entire document and make amendments as they go. They will make these corrections based on numerous processes that they have learned and honed over the years. By marking up the document, you will be able to see the changes they have suggested and it makes them easy to amend.

Some proofreaders like to use a printed document to proofread and make their changes, this is not as common anymore but is sometimes still used at publishing houses so the proofreader can easily see the formatting of the whole book.

A proofreader has a simple job on paper – check the document, mark the errors up and send it back. However, this can take time and there is a process where some proofreaders will use three or four different processes to make sure that they have covered anything. Some writers use two or three proofreaders to ensure they have a complete overview and all errors are caught.

A proofreader will not comment on formatting issues, they will not re-write your manuscript or provide insights into sentence structure. All of that should have been caught by the editors beforehand.

You can use proofreaders more than once, when you have amended any corrections, get them to look over it again and do a double-check that everything is as it should be.

Have faith in the process

Some people don’t want to use a proofreader or copyeditor due to the cost but they will be worth it, trust me! Your book will be read and recommended by more people if it is readable and everything is spelt correctly. This means you get more exposure and you’ll want to write more books!

Trust in the process. It’s there for a reason.

Do please contact me if you have any questions, or want to join one of my courses or mentoring programmes.

For more information on this topic, visit this post on Reedsy.


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