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 physical book publishing or ebook 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 ebooks, this means checking the book in full-text format; with physical book publishing, it means checking the typeset pages, often in PDF form.
My 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 always best to get as many fresh eyes as possible on a manuscript before it’s published.
What I Do
So what do I do when I copyedit a book or short story manuscript, or a draft of a blog post, website page, or newsletter? I perform copyediting and light line editing, and I usually prepare a style sheet for myself and often 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:
Copyediting services generally include correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation; correcting for better syntax; checking for usage consistency and clarity; applying specific format, style-sheet, and style-guide requirements; checking for storyline, character, and setting consistency; and creating a style sheet (see below).
Line editing is getting increasingly popular as a service in the editing world. It’s what some people refer to when they talk about editing beyond the basics. It expands on some of the services listed above, primarily to make sentences and sometimes paragraphs a bit tighter. I can do that.
But a complete line edit can also include editing for emotion — suggestions for making the sentences, or even the storyline, snappier, scarier, more heartfelt, or more esoteric. I don’t do that. That’s why I say I perform light line editing.
If you’re looking for someone to help punch up your manuscript, look for someone who specializes in line editing, or a writing coach or a developmental editor, and ask for that type of service. Remember, not all editors define these terms the same way. You can also look for writing workshops and read-and-critique groups that might aid you in your quest.
Now, back to what I do. All my editing is done using Word’s Track Changes tool, so that you will always see every change I suggest, and you will always have the opportunity to accept or reject each proposed edit. If you aren’t familiar with Track Changes, please do your best to learn about it and get comfortable with how to use it. Reviewing an edited manuscript can be stressful for an author; knowing how to use this tool will reduce some of that stress.
Copyediting or Editorial Pass
This is another term whose definition may vary between editors, but in my business, a copyediting pass means a meticulous review of the entire manuscript. My copyediting service usually includes two editorial passes, which means I’ll review the complete manuscript twice before I consider the copyedit complete. The only time I’ll not conduct two passes is for a second round of copyediting (see next entry).
Again, the definition varies between editors, but for me, copyediting a manuscript starts with a first-round copyedit. All of my first-round copyedits include two copyediting passes (see above). After the author reviews the first-round copyedit, accepts and rejects my proposed edits, and perhaps makes additional changes, the author will sometimes return the manuscript to me for a second copyediting round. The second-round copyedit usually only includes one editorial pass. Sometimes the second round is only a partial edit, where I review only any new writing or major revisions the author has made and has tracked via Track Changes. Other times, the second-round copyedit is a full review of the entire manuscript, but again, it’s generally only a single-editorial-pass copyedit.
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 all people (it isn’t). There are a variety of general style guides available, the most popular in the US being The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook. Some publishers, publications, websites, and self-publishing authors have their own style guides.
Often created and updated during copyediting, a style sheet is a page (or sometimes several pages) 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 ebook and tangible book production, the style sheet is a consistency aid for everyone involved, from author to designer to formatter to proofreader. For blogs, newsletters, email blasts, and other fan or potential-fan communications, the style sheet helps ensure consistency and branding across all communications, underscoring your professionalism as a writer.
The style sheet that I create for you is yours to keep for your reference in your current and future books or other writing, or I can create an entirely new style sheet, listing all your new choices, for each of your new projects.