What is the difference between an Editor, a Proofreader and Copy Editor?

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Many people use the words editor, copy editor and proofreader interchangeably, but these roles are incredibly different.  Here is an overview of the difference between an

When hiring a professional editor, copy editor or proofreader, it is important you are clear about what kind of editor you are looking for.  Here is an overview of the difference between an editor, a copy editor and a proofreader, as well as where you should be spending your money.

An Editor

An editor’s role may be defined in many ways.

A editor is the person who is in charge of the final content of a newspaper, magazine, or multi-author book.  This editor will determine the scope and tone of the final piece and perform curatorial tasks in terms of positioning articles, determining the final layout and content before the collection, magazine or newspaper goes to print.

A fiction editor is the person who works closely with the writer to edit, structure, redefine, finish and bring a work of fiction into it’s best possible form.  An editor is responsible for helping the writer inprove the overall quality of the text.  This might include doing structural edits, line edits, copy edits and proofreading.

Structural editing is the act of looking at the flow, structure, story and progression of a piece of writing to ensure it is as clear and coherent as possible.  Structural edits also look at the overall tone and style of the writing to make sure it fits together cohesively.

As editors are required to have input on the content and style of the text, they are often hired because of their own individual style or specialization in a particular subject area.

An editor has the most intimate relationship with the writer, therefore it is important that both the writer and editor work well together, respect each others professional opinions and have the same expectations about the text they are working on.

Editor – $$$ Having a good editor that you work will with is priceless.  The writer / editor relationship can last a lifetime if you treat each other well and give each other the respect you deserve.  Most of the time this ‘respect’ will come in money form.

A Copy Editor

Copy Editing is a verb.  Copyediting is the actual work that an editor does to improve the style, formatting, presentation, readability and accuracy of a text.  Copy editing is different from general editing in that copy editing may not involve changing the content of the text being edited.

A copy editor will be able to pick up inconsistencies in grammar and different styles of writing.  Some measures of consistency include making sure names, locations and dates are always treated the same way.

A good copy editor will also have knowledge in different styles of writing, such as the difference between marketing text, professional manuals, medical writing, and fiction and creative writing.

An editor and a copy editor will likely perform both roles during their career.

Copyeditor – $$ – A copy editor is a skilled profession, and a good copy editor will come with a lot of experience, knowledge, and style advice that will lift your writing.

A Proof Reader

A proofreader probably has the most detailed and precise job of all the editors.  A proofreader will be one of the last people to read through a text before publication. is the reading of a galley

It is the proofreader’s job to detect and correct production error, tiny mistakes, typos and errors in grammar before the final print.

Proofreader – $ While a wonderful proofreader will cost you a lot of money, here is probably where you can afford to spend a little less, as the relationship between a writer and proofreader does not need to be a personal one.  What you are really looking for a person with a keen grasp of language and an eye for detail.


What has been your experience with editors, proofreaders and copy editors?  Share below.


by Meg

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