JARGON-BUSTING: What’s the difference between editing, copy-editing and proofreading?

The first thing we ask our clients when they approach us is whether, as part of the publication process, they require editing, copy-editing or proofreading. The response is generally a helpless shrug, followed by a glazing over of the eyes. But it’s not that complicated! In this blog we explain the main differences between these three services, and which will suit you best.

The easiest way to view these three items is as a process. Your publication will go from the best draft you can produce, to editing (if needed), to copy-editing (if required), and then, after typesetting, to proofreading (which is essential).

Which of the three, or which combination of the three, you will need depends on:

  • the quality of the document (how much experience and time the writer has brought to the project);
  • the type of document (e.g. academic journalannual report, or briefing paper); and
  • the deadline (is this a time-sensitive job that needs to reach the public in the next few days, or do we have the luxury of time in which to perfect the language and double-check every issue presented?).

In short, the three elements of the publication process deal with the following:

Which of these do you need?

This very much also depends on the type of document.

  • An annual report, written by many people, will definitely need a copy-edit at the very least, and we would often suggest editing as well.
  • A research paper, written by a native/highly competent English speaker, may only need proofreading.
  • A briefing note, or short press release, should only need proofreading.

As a rule, we will not publish a document that has not been proofread by us, as we need to protect our reputation, and proofreading of any document is utterly essential.

What does it cost?

Our fees are structured to respond to our clients’ budgets, requirements and timeframes. Obviously, proofreading is the least expensive of the three elements, and copy-editing and editing are more expensive, due to the time and level of skill required for each. Our rates are competitive and reflect the superior quality of our work.

Has this blog helped you to demystify the concepts of editing, copy-editing and proofreading? If it is still all as clear as mud, if you would like a no-obligation quote from us, or just to chat through any publishing ideas you may have, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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