Copy editing vs. Proofreading

Small, cute and scruffy dog in a man's full sized, yellow and black striped tie. Lying down with paws on open book  as if he's reading it, and eyeglasses sitting to the side.
Photo by Sam Lion

What’s the difference between copy editing and proofreading?

Although these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are actually two very different steps in the content creation process. Here are the differences as nicely outlined by The Expert Editor website (

Copy editing

  • An important part of the revision process; the article or manuscript has not been finalised.
  • A proactive editor makes changes or suggestions that will improve the overall quality of the copy.
  • An editor improves use of language and corrects inconsistencies; ensures clarity
  • For example:
    • Consistent use of active vs. passive voice
    • Appropriate tone for intended audience
    • Make language more concise; remove extra, unnecessary words
  • More intensive than proofreading.


  • A final check of the finished article or manuscript just before publication.
  • Layout and design have been completed.
  • Proofreading perfects good writing.
  • It catches typographical inconsistencies and errors:
    • Removes spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors; “typos”
    • Ensures consistency in language and formatting
  • Less intensive than and not a substitute for editing.

As you can see, they are very different beasts. It’s always good to get a fresh pair of eyes on your writing–your dog doesn’t count–because you know how it’s supposed to look and what it’s supposed to say. Our minds can play tricks on us! For more, see my post, “Do I really need a proofreader?

Unlike wild bears, feeding the content creator is encouraged! 🙂

© 2021-2022 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.

Published by tracey copeland

Marketer, Creator, Coach | Brand Communications | Strategic Planning | Talented Leader of Diverse, Cross-functional Teams ― Tracey is an award-winning marketing and communications specialist with a passion for helping others define and reach their goals.

One thought on “Copy editing vs. Proofreading

  1. Oh yeah, the copyediting portion can be unnerving indeed, because sometimes you have to overhaul the entire story structure, and that means changing everything while keeping track of things. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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