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A handy guide to copy editing and proofreading for stand-out writing

15 May 2017 12:40


Are you a writer bursting with ideas, but just need that little confidence boost to show your work to the world?

Or perhaps you create content but know you need a competent third eye to make sure it’s bang on the button?

Or maybe it’s peace of mind you’re after – assurance that your website copy shows you and your business off to your best advantage?

Professional proofreading and/or copy editing isn’t just the sweet red cherry on a wordy cake. It’s a key ingredient in the mix, ensuring that your book, ebook, website or blog shares its message crisply, concisely – and really rather enticingly.

Why? Because the editorial sweep allows your words to shine. Our published words are constantly sparring for attention with other people’s. So ‘shining’ is important.

  • It makes an impact.
  • It gets you noticed.
  • It builds readership.
  • It grows your customer base.

Technical writer and editorial professional, John Espirian, explains it beautifully, with some facts and figures thrown in.

How many customers did you miss out on today?

So - proofreading and copy editing: what are they and what’s the difference?

To fully appreciate the value of a good editorial service, perhaps the first step is to identify what your words need.

Are you looking for the polish - the finishing touch?

Or do you need something more in depth?

Perhaps your writing could do with a bit of moulding; some structural help to sentences and content to give a smoothness (or a sharpness, depending on the message), an easy-to-read flow.

It's a simple fact that errors jar, word repetitions can be annoying, and timeline discrepancies downright confusing.

The wrongness that slips through undoes the rightness.

It can even lead readers or prospective customers to feel irritated and not to trust you, your book or your business. Worse - they might give up on your words altogether...

But there’s a whole eager bank of editorial professionals out there, just falling over themselves to help! They love working with words. Many have spent a wealth of highly focused hours training to get the very best out of other people’s writing.

So, where’s the harm in just having a little explore – getting clear in your mind exactly what form of editorial assistance you think you need and what you want it to achieve?

What is the difference between copy editing and proofreading?

Copy editor or proofreader, which one do you need?

What’s the difference between proofreading and copy editing?

why does professional proofreading matter?

You’ve got this writing lark – haven’t you? You’ve read your words through and they sound good. Your Aunty Rosy, who’s never without a book in her hand, has glanced through them too and given you a hearty pat on the back. Surely that means you’re ready to publish. After all, do the odd one or two slips really matter that much anyway? You could save money on proofreading and invest it in some fancy artwork instead… right?

Sorry. Wrong…

Why proofreaders are worth their weight in… books

Editing is just using spellcheck, right?

Does proofreading matter?

5 ways a professional proofreader will help make your stand-out copy outstanding

How much do professional editorial services cost?

If you need a job doing well, by someone who has the right tools and the proper expertise, the chances are you’ll call in a professional: a builder, an electrician, a mechanic. You realise there’ll be a bill to pay when the work is complete, but you should also have the satisfaction of knowing your problem is solved and all is now in good working order.

Using a professional copy editor/proofreader to scrutinise and help shape your writing does undoubtedly cost. But the investment is worth it when you realise how your words can be honed and polished, lifting you, your book, blog, business or website to a new level of competence.

Who can make my writing better?

What am I paying for?

How can I make my writing better?

Advice to writers that you’ve probably seen often is: read a lot and write as often as you can. Write about anything and everything. Don’t hold back, just let the words flow – the idea being that through observation and analysis (reading), and the constant practice of writing yourself, your writerly skills can only improve.

It’s good advice, but there’s a wealth of other tips available, too, to help you further develop your craft and your content. From less is more, to losing repetition, to checking your tenses, to getting the punctuation right – can you improve your writing skills? Oh, yes, you can…

7 smart ways to tighten your writing

How to write well

11 smart tips for brilliant writing

True writing is re-writing

What’s a style sheet and how do I create one?

Can I proofread my own writing?

Does it matter if it’s not perfect? You’ve probably got it by now – YES, it matters. Mistakes are amateurish and distracting, and the message they send out is that your book or your business is also likely to be amateurish and not hitting the mark.

Copy editing and proofreading undertaken by trained professionals are crucial, pre-publication steps that are not to be missed.

But that’s not to say you can’t help your own words along before handing them over. There are checks you can make and simple errors you can correct when you know what to look for. And if you can save your chosen professional time, you’ll also save yourself some money.

10 consistency checks to help smooth your copy

How do I proofread my own book?

Top 10 proofreading tips

Get your eagle eye on: 10 tips for proofreading your own work

Making the most of your writer-editor collaboration

From the writer’s point of view, it might be encouraging to know that the editorial process isn’t a one-way learning spree. Editors and proofreaders who also write, or simply as they put themselves in the shoes of their clients, can constantly grow their skills through the projects that land on their desks.

A writer’s perspective on editing

What’s important to remember, as you wend your way through the writing maze, is that the whole cycle of write-copyedit-proofread-publish is a partnership between writer and copy editor/proofreader. Your editorial professional is as passionate about achieving the best outcome for your words as you are.

And that’s the ultimate joy of writers and editorial pros working together – they work with each other. They both want the same thing: stand-out writing that vibrantly proclaims a stand-out message.

When it’s your writing that creates the first impression – don’t let it be the last.

Have a look here for ways to get the most out of your editorial experience:

21 top tips to make the most of your freelance copy editor or proofreader


I am an experienced copy editor and proofreader, a professional member of The Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and have trained in proofreading through The Publishing Training Centre. If you’d like to work with me on a project, please get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote.


Visit for more information

You’ll also find me on Twitter @AlexaTewkesbury

I’d love to hear from you. Together, we can make your words fly.