In her post How to Hire a Good Copy Editor, Ann outlines what you can expect from the copy-editing process.
… the copy edit involves reading each word, each sentence, each paragraph, and interrogating their position, relevance and effect on meaning, rhythm and voice.
The copy editor must understand the writer’s intention for the work; otherwise their feedback is not well founded. The copy editor has to keep one eye on the structure so that their advice is true to the story.
So, if the copy editor has looked at your work this closely, do you need a proofread as well?
If you are publishing your own work: absolutely.
The copy editor is looking at your work from many perspectives. Up close we are examining voice, rhythm and meaning, as well as spelling, grammar and punctuation, and at the same we’re keeping an eye on pace, consistency and structure. Alongside this we carefully word suggestions for changes to ensure they are tactful and constructive. We create a style sheet to record spelling and style preferences and, if it’s nonfiction, we’ll check facts, if this part of the brief. That’s a lot of things to concentrate on, so mistakes do slip through.
A proofreader’s job is to focus on the detail, from grammar, spelling and punctuation, through to consistency of heading styles, captions and paragraphing. The proofreader has a number of techniques for ensuring they have checked everything. It’s quite a different process to copy editing.
Having said that, even though proofreading is highly technical, it also requires sensitivity towards the work. For example, if the narrator is a bit fast and loose with grammar, it’s not the proofreader’s job to correct it. If the narrator says ‘if I was rich’, the proofreader wouldn’t change it to ‘if I were rich’, which is technically correct but slipping out of fashion. If the proofreader weren’t sure that it was a deliberate choice, they would query it, but they wouldn’t change it in the text.
Proofreading is an essential part of the publishing process. It is the last check and it needs fresh eyes, ideally professional eyes. As a writer, you owe it to your work to dot the i’s and cross the t’s – in the right way! If you are self publishing or pitching to a publisher, proofreading is definitely worth factoring into your budget.
May your words pour onto the page,