Traditionally, proofreading is performed on a PDF and is the final check before a piece of writing is published.
It is purely intended to catch the little mistakes that have ‘slipped through the net’ and, in traditional publishing, any issues that might have been introduced during the typesetting process.
Hopefully, the document has been through various rounds of editing before landing in front of the proofreader, so mistakes should be minimal and the proofreader can work quickly.
Proofreading is a very useful process, but it’s not really intended to highlight fundamental issues with flow and form or to offer any re-writes (unless something is clearly non-sensical).
This is usually the step before proofreading and is the main field in which I’m trained.
On a basic level, the writing is assessed for correct and consistent spelling, punctuation and grammar. While on a more complex level, we dive into factual and stylistic consistency, flow, presentation of ideas in clear and logical forms, and whether the language and approach are suitable for the target audience – this is crucial and one of the areas in which my journalistic experience comes in very useful.
There are various rules in writing, but there are many subjective areas when it comes to the English language and how we present it. And, of course, there is the whole issue of which English variation you want to use. I work with British and American English (this website is written in British English, in case you're wondering).
A skilled copyeditor will be sensitive to each writer’s voice and message, and they’ll work closely with the writer to preserve their unique style – while also ensuring the words are being conveyed in a way that is smooth, easy to understand and, of course, professional.
This is a hybrid term that is gaining in popularity (probably as publishing becomes more diverse). It combines proofreading and copyediting to catch the small stuff while also working on more complex issues. It is particularly useful for a writer who is operating outside traditional publishing circles and, perhaps, on a limited budget. Or for shorter forms of writing – like adverts, blogs or social media posts.