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Does This Project Need a Proofreader or a Copy Editor?

Photo of woman looking over a document, with text over the top of the image that says, "Proofreader or Copy Editor?"
Copy editors go the extra mile.

Do you understand the difference between a proofreader and a copy editor?

If not, don’t feel bad—most people don’t.

Even though they’re different, sometimes the names get used interchangeably, which just adds to the confusion.

Proofreaders and copy editors both check for typos and grammar mistakes. But copy editors go the extra mile by correcting more and making the writing stronger overall.

Here are six* things copy editors check for.

1. Logic

As William Zinsser wrote in On Writing Well, “Writing is thinking on paper.”

You want your thinking and your writing to be logical. Otherwise, you’ll probably confuse readers and lose their trust.

There’s also a great feedback loop that happens as you write and edit. You start with some ideas and put them on paper. While writing them down, you’ll probably realize that some ideas aren’t as logical as they seemed in your mind. This forces you to refine the ideas and try again.

2. Clarity

Even if you’re thinking logically, it won’t do much good if you don’t communicate clearly.

Many people overlook this, but writing clearly is a tough task.

When you’re writing something, the thoughts and ideas are much clearer in your own mind. So it’s easy to assume they’ll make sense to the reader. In reality, the reader doesn’t have the same context as the writer, so it takes effort to make it comprehensible.

Basically, you’re trying to take the reader through your ideas by explaining them as clearly as possible.

Don’t Miss: Proofreaders? Copy Editors? What’s the Difference? (And Why Should You Care?)

3. Consistency

You want to be consistent in your writing.

It’s confusing if something you wrote on one page conflicts with something on another page. That just confuses any reader who’s paying attention.

Consistencies are easy to miss when you’re so close to a project, which is why writers and authors sometimes miss them.

4. Style

The style and tone should match the audience and the project.

For example, the tone of a press release will usually be more professional than that of an advertisement.

However, regardless of the project, it’s generally safe to write in a straightforward and concise way.

5. Flow

Sometimes it’s tough to accomplish, but good writing should flow.

Have you ever been reading a book or article, and it felt effortless? It’s because the author is making a smooth transition from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph.

6. Loose Ends

If you have important details that haven’t been explained or clarified, it can feel incomplete to the reader.

You can tie up these loose ends by going into more detail, providing examples or using facts and statistics.

*Of course, copy editors check for more than these six things, but these are among the biggest tasks.

Which Do You Need?

There’s no right or wrong answer. It depends on the project you’re working on.

  • If you just need someone to check for typos, then a proofreader might be fine.
  • But if it’s a bigger project, you’ll probably need a copy editor.

Here at Super Copy Editors, we provide copy editing services, so we check for typos and grammar mistakes, as well as the topics listed above—and then some.

Our clients appreciate this because it gives them peace of mind. Sometimes they think they just need a little checking for typos, but we discover more serious errors.

In other words, we perform both proofreading and copy editing on all projects.

And with our smart hourly pricing, you won’t be paying for any extras. You pay only for what we fix. If your document has just a few small errors, it won’t take us as long to correct them. This approach ensures that you’re getting reliable copy editing at a fair price.

Contact us today to get a quick, free copy editing quote.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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