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What is the difference between proofreading and editing?

Imagine this: you have finished writing your manuscript, and before publishing it, you want to ensure there are no glaring errors that your readers can tumble over. Do you hire a proofreader or an editor? And if you need an editor, what type do you need? There are a lot of different editing professionals out there; this post will help you choose the right one for you. (You can find some useful links at the end of this article.)

In short, proofreading vs editing:

What does a proofreader do?

A proofreader checks your final edited draft and ensures it's ready for publishing. During the proofreading process, your proofreader looks for any remaining punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors so your manuscript is as clean as possible when it goes to the press. They will also check for formatting errors; for example, they will flag widows or orphans. (A widow or orphan is a term used for a single line of a paragraph on either the top or bottom of a page.)

A proofreader is often the last person to check your manuscript.

What does a copyeditor do?

Like a proofreader, a copyeditor checks for punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors. Among other things, they check for consistency in a character's appearance, whether basic facts make sense and are plausible, and whether your story's timeline adds up. They ensure your language is inclusive and your narrative voice remains consistent.

A copyeditor is often the second person to check your manuscript. However, some writers tend to skip the developmental editor in favour of feedback from beta readers. Their first point of call is often a copyeditor.

What does a developmental editor do?

A developmental editor does not focus on sentence line issues, such as punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors; they focus on the bigger picture. A developmental editor will read your manuscript and highlight, for example, plot, character, and structure areas for improvement. They will guide you and help you create an even more compelling manuscript.

A developmental editor is often the first person to check your manuscript.

Are you ready to find an editorial professional? Here are a few useful links:

Here, you can find a list of professional members of the CIEP (UK organisation).

Here, you can find a list of members of EFA (US organisation).

Reedsy is an excellent platform for writers. You can not only write your manuscript using their online writing tool, but you can also find and hire editors and designers to work on it.

Upwork and Fiverr can be great for finding editorial professionals who may not be part of an editorial organisation or those who are but have yet to make it onto the directories.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section or email

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