• A. Hampton

Proofreading vs. Copyediting


Although proofreading and copyediting intertwine, the two differ in skill sets, as well as depth and sophistication of error correction. Proofreaders generally engage in light editing of surface errors that does not include rewriting. Copy editors check for the same errors as proofreaders in addition to sentence structure, phrasing, and word choice, which involves some degree of rewriting. Basically, when hiring a proofreader, you already have a good grasp of grammar, language usage and organization. Your document has a solid structure and does not need major revisions.


On the other hand, if you have trouble expressing your thoughts or organizing your paragraphs, and your writing exhibits numerous errors, then copyediting will require more extensive correction and revision. In the freelance world, copy editors generally charge more than proofreaders, because editing requires more effort. The following lists are not exhaustive, but offer a good idea of the differences between proofreading and copyediting.


What Do Proofreaders Check?

  • Capitalization

  • Formatting

  • Grammar

  • Mechanics

  • Numbers

  • Punctuation

  • Spelling and usage

  • Visual images

What Do Copy Editors Check?

  • Everything that proofreaders check

  • Adherence to guidelines

  • Capitalization

  • Clarity of writing

  • Coherence of organization

  • Concise language usage

  • Economy/Efficiency of words

  • Formatting: (e.g. spacing, font size, captions, headers, footers)

  • Grammar

  • Mechanics

  • Numbers

  • Punctuation

  • Sentence structure

  • Spelling and usage

  • Structure of writing

  • Visual images

  • Word count

For more detailed information and exercises on how to become a better proofreader, get the book, “Proofreading Power: Skills & Drills,” by Ashan R. Hampton.


Enroll in the “Proofreading Power: Become an Effective Proofreader” online class to sharpen your proofing skills.

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