Many people think that copy editing and proofreading are the same thing but they are not.
OK, they are similar and both require patience and skill but they are different.
Yes, they are both part of the writing process, which involves revising, editing, changing and altering your writing but simply put, copy editing comes first, then you proofread.
The clue is in the name. Copy editors edit copy. They read through what’s been written and make changes as needed. This will include corrections to spelling and grammar but might also include check the logical flow of ideas, the length of the work and any other writing issues that might pop up. Copy editors will make changes to your original work – checking facts and figures, correcting grammar, ensuring that the work is readable and preventing glaring errors. We can do this but prefer not to as you should really be happy with your work before you send it to us.
See also Society of Proofreaders and Copy Editors.
‘A copy-editor makes sure that an author’s raw text, or copy, is correct in terms of spelling and grammar and is easy to read so that readers can grasp his or her ideas. A copy-editor also tries to prevent embarrassing errors of fact, alert the publisher to any possible legal problems and ensure that the typesetter can do a good job.’
Proofreading is usually the last part of the writing process. After your work is finished, checked, copy edited etc. the final proofread checks spelling, grammar, layout and consistency with bold, italics and the like. There is no re-writing done at this stage – it’s just simply checking that the content is correct.
‘The proofreader reads the copy for consistency in usage and layout, for accuracy in the text and references and for typesetting errors. The proofreader, however, is only acting as a quality check, making sure that the copy-editor or typesetter has not missed something. He or she is not responsible for overall consistency and accuracy.’