Content Editing vs. Copy Editing vs. Proofreading

The Gnome Tree

This e-published book, a fantasy novel for the teen and young adult readers, is a collaboration between James Ross and Mark Graham Communications.

There is often a mistaken perspective in the world of publishing – and self-publishing in particular – that editing, copyediting, and proofreading are the same, or at least cut from the same cloth. They aren’t. The similarities are important; but the differences are even more so.

Let’s begin with an overview of editing.  At Mark Graham Communications, we have two levels of editing that we offer our clients: developmental editing and content editing.

In both cases, you are looking for someone who can review your material, but also make substantive changes to the text that are meant to improve the pace, flow, and the overall quality of your writing.  With both developmental editing and content editing, your editor is working directly on the language of your piece. He or she might massage the dialogue, remove redundancies, add or subtract descriptions, and manipulate the action. Developmental editing goes a step further with suggestions and/or comments on where you as the author might make additional changes.

The goal is to bring your work to the highest level of presentation. 

Proofreading is the process of examining the final draft of a document or text – after it has been edited – to ensure there are absolutely no errors. A proofreader will review for spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos, and correct word usage. The goal of the proofreader is the cleanest possible manuscript.  At Mark Graham Communications, our proofreaders redline your manuscript using Track Changes and then allow you to accept or reject these changes.

A copy editor has proofreading skills, but also has an eye for consistency of voice, tone, and style. Copy editors very often fact-check your manuscript and make sure that dates, times, and locations are consistent.

One thing that your editor, copy editor, and proofreader have in common is a desire to make your book the very best it can be. Good editors are also good communicators.  They don’t want to go off-track with their changes any more than you want them to.  They often make suggestions that are right on point; other times you may have questions; other times you may feel the need to push back. In all cases, the collaboration should be positive and creative.

Copy editing and proofreading don’t have the creative flare of content editing, but they are vital to a professionally published book. Never overlook them.