These are the three main editorial stages of the book production process. Have a look at the traditional publishing process to find out where these three tasks fit in the bigger publishing picture.
Most of the work I do for clients is at the copyediting stage – even though many clients who are not from publishing houses often approach me asking for help with proofreading. That's because the word "proofreading" is often used to describe almost any editorial intervention and correction to a text.
Editing and proofreading are two very different tasks and are done by professionals with specific skills. Therefore, it's important for both the client and professional to understand which service the text needs.
For business clients, I do almost all of my work in the copyediting stage, working on materials such as website text, case studies, and video/podcast scripts.
I also do voice-overs for audio scripts if required.
The traditional publishing process
The initial thoughts and ideas might come from the author or from a commissioning editor at a publishing house.
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The first of the three editorial stages considers the big picture. Here we ensure that the book is marketable and meets the needs of the intended audience. A developmental edit doesn’t go into detail with the writing; it considers the overall look, feel, and structure of the book. It's also known as structural editing.
In a fiction book, this would focus on things such as narrative pace, structure of the book, characterisation, and plot.
I work on non-fiction books, so I will examine all the contents, consider the pace and structure, and decide whether pictures, tables, graphs, illustrations, indexes, glossaries, references, and bibliographies are appropriate or needed.
"Copy" is another word for the text that is to be published – a book, a case study, website text, a podcast script.
Most of the work I do for clients is at the copyediting stage. During this process, I will improve your text by ensuring it is logical and flowing, as well as clear, consistent, correct, and complete. This ensures a good writing style, where the language has been polished to a publishable standard, but where your voice can still be heard. Remember that pensato note!
If you don't already have a house style, I always create a style sheet to ensure consistency of things such as spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, italicisation, use of the serial/Oxford comma, number/date/time formats, reference styles, formats for figures and tables, UK/US English editorial conventions – not forgetting Canada, Australia, etc. because they are all different!
I normally use MS Word (for Mac) with track changes for editing. I understand the centrality of XML to the workflow used to produced books in various formats in publishing houses – for print, ebooks, etc. I can edit your Word template, adding styles and links that correspond directly to the structure of the XML file, and check/correct the existing coding and links of the XML file.
For more details about copyediting, see the CIEP website.
A "proof" is a draft of the final layout.
Proofreading is a final quality check before the material is published. Because a draft text may change quite a bit during the editing and typesetting stages, it is normal to find things that have been missed and need to be tidied up during the proofreading process. The proofreader makes sure the text is fit for purpose.
Proofreading focuses on correcting:
inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, italicisation, and punctuation
bad word breaks
incorrect headings, page numbers, and cross-references
missing and repeated text
wrongly placed or incorrect captions and annotations
These things are also done by the copyeditor – but are double checked by the proofreader.
Proofreading does not involve:
re-writing clumsy sentences
improving the writing style
reordering sections of text
These things are done by the copyeditor.
When proofreading for publishing houses, I normally use Adobe's built-in mark-up tools. I'm also proficient at using BSI proof-correction marks on paper, as well as working with the BSI stamps on Adobe for proof-collation work. Therefore, I can use these more traditional methods if required – and my buffer stocks of red pens are always full!
When proofreading for a business or an independent author, I use Word with track changes on. I make the necessary changes myself as these clients do not normally use a typesetter in the way that a publishing house would. If it is a final PDF version of, for example, a case study, I would use Adobe to mark-up any final tweaks that are necessary before sending the file off to the designer.
For more details about proofreading, see the CIEP website.