20 Copyedit and Proofread

Why Copyediting is Important

Copyediting improves authors’ work by helping them get their ideas across to their audience. It involves checking:

  • spelling, grammar and syntax are correct
  • style is consistent throughout
  • the language used is suitable, understandable to readers and inclusive and bias-free
  • overall readability.

When adapting an existing open text, copyediting can be useful:

  • to ensure new or rewritten text is consistent with the original book
  • if the original book was not copyedited or poorly copyedited.

Skipping copyediting can lower the overall quality of your open text. It’s difficult for authors to edit their own work, so if you have funding, it’s best to hire a trained copyeditor.

Some of the benefits of working with copyeditors:

  • they are not subject matter experts and can read your open text like a student
  • they can tell you if information is missing or concepts are unclear and recommend solutions such as adding textboxes or glossary entries to help clarify meaning
  • they are skilled at working with authors to rewrite confusing or problematic text
  • they apply rules and decisions (such as those in the style guide or style sheet consistently throughout the open text to avoid introducing errors or changing the author’s intended meaning.

There are three levels of copyediting:

  • light
  • medium
  • heavy.

The level of editing determines how involved the copyeditor needs to get with the manuscript. For example, in a light edit, a copyeditor may leave a comment for the author about sentence structure, while in a heavy edit, the copyeditor may make the changes necessary to clarify the author’s meaning.

Why Proofreading is Important

Proofreading is a lighter review than copyediting. Unlike copyediting, it involves checking for errors in the open text’s formatting as well as the text. Proofreading usually happens towards the end of the publishing process, once writing, copyediting and formatting are complete. It’s the last opportunity to mould your open text into a work that contains:

  • coherent writing
  • consistent styling and layout
  • correct grammar and spelling.

Copyeditors can act as proofreaders, however, it’s a good idea to get someone else to proofread your open text if you can as they may spot issues the copyeditor missed. As with copyediting, proofreading should not be done by the author.

It’s been said there’s a lot less pressure to produce a ‘perfect’ product when creating an open text because it can easily be corrected later. However, relaxing standards can lead to a poor-quality book and deter potential adopters.

While an author may only request proofreading, it’s recommended proofreading be performed in conjunction with copyediting to ensure your open text is as free of errors as possible. If you need to choose between copyediting and proofreading for budget reasons, prioritise copyediting.

Use your Style Guide

Remember to refer back to your style guide and use it to keep track of the editorial decisions you make.

Resource – Editing Software

Sites like Grammarly (there’s a free version that connects to the Pressbook’s text editor) or the Hemingway Editor can help identify mistakes and suggest alternatives that’ll make your writing clearer and more engaging.

Note: These editing programs aren’t always correct. It’s best to employ a copyeditor if you have the funding.

Chapter Attribution

This chapter has been adapted in parts from:


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Open Publishing Guide for Authors Copyright © 2023 by University of Southern Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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