Services and Definitions

Copyediting and Proofreading

Not all copyediting and proofreading terms mean the same things to the same people. Proofreading, in fact, is one of those terms. Proofreading is not interchangeable with copyediting.

For those involved in either traditional book publishing or e-book publishing, proofreading is defined as checking the final form of a book before publishing–checking the “proofs”–and it takes place after copyediting and after formatting. With e-books, this means checking the book in full-text format; in traditional publishing, it means checking the typeset pages.

My primary focus is copyediting, though in certain circumstances I also provide proofreading as a separate service. I will not, as a rule, proofread a manuscript that I have copyedited; it’s generally best to get as many fresh eyes as possible on a manuscript before it is finally published.

What I Do

So what do I do when I copyedit a book manuscript, or a draft of an essay, blog post, or website page?  I perform mechanical, language, and content editing, and usually prepare a style sheet for the author. To make sure we’re on the same page – feel free to roll your eyes at that – here are my definitions for those (and a few related) terms:

Mechanical/basic/light editing

This is the level of copyediting with which most people are familiar. Light editing services generally include correcting spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation, and creating a style sheet (see below).

Language/line/medium editing

Medium editing services generally include light editing tasks, plus checking for consistency and clarity, applying specific format and style guide requirements, and giving style and content notes.

Content/substantive/heavy editing

Substantive editing services generally include light and medium editing tasks, plus shifting and polishing the provided words and thoughts until they are in their best order, tense, and voice, just as you the author had always intended, ensuring a flowing and distraction-free experience for your readers while preserving your unique writer’s voice.

All editing is performed using Word’s Track Changes tool, so that you will always see every correction or suggestion I make, and you will always have the opportunity to accept or reject each proposed edit.

Style guide

A style guide is a tool that helps ensure consistency in usage. Usage, as opposed to grammar, covers issues like how and when italics, hyphens, and commas are used; whether or not certain terms are capitalized; and if it’s acceptable to always use he as a generic pronoun when referring to both men and women (it isn’t). There are a variety of general style guides available, the most popular in the U.S. being the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook. Some publishers, publications, websites, and self-publishing authors have their own style guides.

Style sheet

Created and updated during copyediting, a style sheet is a page (or more often, several) which notes all the editorial choices made by the author and the copy editor about such matters as spelling, punctuation, format, and abbreviations within the manuscript or draft. It also includes the spelling of all names and unusual words, and in the case of fiction manuscripts, it can include descriptions of the characters and their relationships to each other.

In e-book and traditional book production, the style sheet is a consistency aid for everyone involved, from author to designer to formatter. For bloggers, the style sheet can be continually updated with choices made in new posts; it helps ensure consistency and branding for the blog, and is a helpful resource for any guest contributors on your site.

The style sheet that I create for you is yours to keep for your reference in your current and future books or posts, or I can create an entirely new style sheet, listing all your new choices, for each of your new projects.

Questions? Contact me by filling out the form below, or email me at