Source: Indiana University


As a writer, I’m often asked why I need an editor and a proofreader after I’ve written. My simple answer is this:

1. The writer writes – focus on research, distillation, content, development, story. The writer tells the story.

2. The editor edits – makes sure the language is not clumsy, redundancies are removed, obvious language errors are fixed. The editor makes sure the story is intelligible and readable. It may involve re-writing the writer’s work but not changing the style or story.

3. The proofreader proofs – makes sure that there are absolutely no errors of spelling, grammar and style. No editing is done.

However, I found this explanation by Dianne Stirpe to be very clear. So here I am posting it wholesale:

As an editor, I want to chime in here and clarify what seems to be only lightly touched on in this discussion and has been possibly reinforcing some confusion.

After a book’s content has been thoroughly decided upon and is in at least a close-to-final written form, a “copyeditor” is then hired to work with grammar and spelling and structure, to conform the material to a particular publisher’s style (such as Chicago, Associated Press, etc.), and can help reword areas that still seem clumsy — that sort of thing. Many authors who don’t need a substantive editor will still need a copyeditor to recheck their choices and make certain of mechanics and style, as well as the basics of misspellings and such. Copyeditors work on a manuscript before it has been given to a designer for final layout.

A “proofreader” is the person who reviews the final “proof” pages or “galleys” of a manuscript right before it goes to press. These are copies of the typeset, formatted, designed pages that look just like the final book will look. The proofreader is the final set of eyes to see the manuscript before it is printed or published. S/he checks for errors introduced during the design/layout process and tries to catch any tiny misspellings or other errors that might have been missed by the copyeditor (since no one is perfect and having another pair of eyes to review it is always better). At this stage there are hopefully few if any content or grammatical issues because proofreading is NEVER done before a book is in its final designed form.