is correcting a manuscript from the author. Proofreading
is correcting a print-ready document from the publisher.
Although the handwritten symbols used to perform copyediting
and proofreading are the same, they are used differently
and the tasks of the copyeditor are more complicated than
those of the proofreader. Frequently, people without training
use the word proofreading to refer to a light edit (correcting
only basic errors) and copyediting to refer to a heavy edit
(improving a manuscript's clarity and logic). Although these
are not the strict meaning of the terms, it is true that
proofreading is usually less intensive and takes less skill
than copyediting. For instance, many beginners start as
proofreaders and only later move on to copyediting.
are four kinds of copyediting: technical editing, style
editing, correlation editing, and substantive editing. Each
of these is described below.
Technical editing involves
such things as correcting misspellings, problems with subject-verb
agreement, incorrect verb tense, unnecessary or missing
commas, unmarked em-dashes and en-dashes, dangling or misplaced
modifiers, problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement, misused
words (e.g., effect for affect), split or fused sentences,
sentence fragments, faulty attempts at parallel construction,
figures that don't total in charts and tables, incorrect
dates, and omitted or repeated words.
Style editing involves
standardizing a text according to a particular style. There
are four main manuals of style: The Chicago Manual of
Style (for most academic texts), the Publication
Manual of the American Psychological Association (mostly
for the social sciences), the Modern Language Association
Style Manual (mostly for literary criticism), and the
Associated Press Stylebook (for newspapers). These
manuals are used for guidance in matters where there is
no right or wrong, yet material must appear consistently.
This includes standardizing words in heads, titles in bibliographies,
use of single or double quote marks, serial commas, numbers,
acronyms, compound words, extracts, italics, note numbers,
documentation style, references style, and illustrations.
Correlation editing involves
checking related parts of the manuscript against each other.
This is an extremely important step in academic copyediting
and a frequently overlooked one. Since novels or newspapers
do not have many related parts, copyeditors who work in
these fields frequently do not learn this copyediting task.
Copyeditors of academic articles or books, which have many
related parts, must do crosschecks. Correlation editing
includes checking cross-references to pages, tables or charts,
maps, captions, endnotes, subheads, as well as checking
all citations in the text with those in the references,
and all titles and authors with those in the table of contents.
(sometimes called content editing) involves improving logic
and clarity and addressing larger problems of structure
and organization. This includes replacing passive voice
with active voice, varying unintentionally repeated verbs,
adding dashes or parentheses to clarify subordinate material,
reducing strings of adjectives or doublings, replacing indefinite
pronouns with clear noun subjects, reducing the use of an
author's pet word or phrase, changing words with racist
and sexist connotations, defining special terms on first
appearance, cutting wordy sentences, making parallel ideas
appear in parallel forms, straightening out logic and connections,
noting awkward phrasing that could be improved, adding transitions
to improve the flow of argument, deleting irrelevant material
or putting it in the footnotes, moving incorrectly placed
paragraphs, deleting repeated paragraphs, providing subheads,
cutting excessively long footnotes, lengthening or shortening
titles for clarity, suggesting areas for additional citation
or research, suggesting additional illustrations, as well
as noting the absence of a real introduction or conclusion,
where a title does not match content, where the argument
is tangled or absent, where the argument could be made stronger
with additional proofs, and where citations appear without
involves marking or coding the manuscript for the layout
artist, so that it is clear which parts of the text are
heads, tables, footnote references, and so on, so that they
can be prepared for design. This includes marking or coding
heads; subheads; references in the text to tables, charts,
figures, maps, appendixes, and footnotes; dashes, both en
and em; ellipses; and specifying the placement of tables
Permissions involves asking
for permission to reprint tables, charts, graphs, and illustrations
that have previously appeared in print. If the manuscript
contains lengthy quotations from a published work that is
still under copyright, the copyeditor is expected to remind
the author to obtain permission to reprint the quotations.
Special rules pertain to the reproduction of unpublished
materials (e.g., diaries, letters).
need to find a freelance copyeditor, please see my copyediting
home page. I no longer copyedit myself nor do I answer email queries about copyediting.