Do You Need a Proofreader or Copyeditor?

Punctuation Mistake

What’s the difference between a proofreader and copyeditor? You’ve heard the terms, but which do you need?

I’ll admit, it can be quite confusing. And depending on your project, you may need both (gasp!).

The Proofreaders

These are the guys with the eagle eyes. The ones who will catch the missed periods or the typos where you meant to say, “and,” but really typed, “ad.”

Proofreaders scan your writing strictly for the purpose of making sure it’s flawless. They look for misspelled words, grammatical mistakes, tense agreement, typos, and so forth.

However, proofreaders do not edit for style or flow, and they will not make suggestions on how you can improve your writing.

The Copyeditors

Copyeditors do exactly as their title implies: edit copy. Proofreading may often be included in copyediting services, but that is not the copyeditor’s main job.

If you hire a copyeditor, he or she will look for structure, flow, style, and ways to improve your actual content. If your project is a whitepaper, the copyeditor may look for ways to simplify text or improve your marketing “hook.” If your project is a novel, the copyeditor may read for story arcs, dialogue, narration and voice.

Which should you hire: proofreader or copyeditor?

If you need someone to edit a 10- or 20-page report, or possibly even some website content, I might recommend hiring a copyeditor.

However, if you’re a self-published author, I suggest you invest in hiring BOTH. Why? The copyeditor will look for ways to improve your story, characters, plot line, narration, flow, voice, story arcs, etc. However, for a manuscript that’s 80,000 words long, you’ll want to hire a second pair of eagle eyes—a proofreader—to ensure your work is flawless before sending it out for the world to read.

Other than that, which type of editor you need really boils down to you:

  • Are you happy with the way your project sounds, but just need someone to scan it for mistakes? Hire a proofreader.
  • Do you need stylistic or structural help? Call a copyeditor.

What have been your experiences working with copyeditors and proofreaders? Do you have anything to add to this blog post?

Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


How Reading Critically Changed My (Writing) Life


If you’re like me (a writer), you probably love to read. Good books. Not crappy books. Crappy books bore me. They probably bore you, too.

Which is why, as a writer, I want to write those good books. You know, the ones everyone can’t stop talking about during lunch in the break room. I want to be that writer.

Call me a perfectionist. Call me arrogant.

But if I’m going to be a writer, I want to be one of the best. Not THE best, because in writing, there is no best.

Like Ernest Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

In order to become one of the best writers, I know I have to read. A lot. Which I started doing a few years ago, literally binge reading book after book. It helped. But it wasn’t enough.

You know what really made the difference?

Reading Critically

What exactly is this “reading critically?” Simple, really. Reading critically is picking up a novel and reading it, not just for enjoyment, but with the intent of picking it apart and learning from it.

  • Did the dialogue drag, or sing. Why?
  • How was the tension, the story arcs? If they were good, WHAT made them good?
  • What didn’t you like about the book, and why?

Think of yourself as an editor for a writer friend, and the novel you’re reading is her book. She asked for your feedback before sending it to a literary agent. What good, solid, critical feedback would you give?

THAT, my friends, is reading critically.

And once I began doing this, my writing started to fly. I soared from the minor leagues to the major leagues. Heck, this was a better education than any MFA program!

Am I the best writer, now? Well … duh … of course not. But I’m always competing against my younger self. And compared to that girl, oh man …


Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.