“I need an editor.” “I need a copy-editor.” “I need a proof reader.” “Oh, I need someone to review my work.”   Who or what exactly do you need?

Some people use these words inter-changeably, with the assumption that one cannot be that different from the other.

Let’s try dissecting the two.

Editing and proofreading both require making some changes on a written work, but that is as far as the similarity goes.


An editor in this case sees to the internal consistency of a work.  A very quick and simple example:  if it is ‘Vivian’ in page two, it should still be ‘Vivian’ and not ‘Vivienne’ in page ten.

An editor ensures there is no ambiguity of any kind, and thatthe meaning is the same to everyone who picks up the work.  In other words, editors see to the clarity of an author’s message.

Editors also ensure continuity of storyline in the case of novels or other narrative works. Chapter one should not talk about a certain Mr. James and his gang who robbed two banks in a day and then he and his gang are not to be mentioned or linked to the rest of the story. So why were they in the story in the first place? There must be something taking the reader back to that incident.

In a nutshell, editors make a work clearer and more understandable This is why they are expected to have the requisite knowledgeon the subject of any work; fiction or non-fiction, which enables them remove, reconstruct or re-write entire sentences or paragraphs. Yes, they enjoy that liberty by reason of their craft.

So, we can see that an editor’s work can be simple or compound, depending on the experience of the author.


A proof reader comes in after the editor is done with his part of the work.  They deal with the final draft but do not necessarily have to have expert knowledge of subject of work.

Basically, a proof reader has no business with content, as they are not paid to make any major changes, even if the work sucks. They can, of course, point out certain parts of the work for revision or even make suggestions, but that is as far as they can go. They do not enjoy the liberty an editor enjoys in that regard.

A proof reader takes care of spellings, grammatical and typographical errors.

A proof reader takes care of other things like page numbering, footnotes, page margins, style format, etc, things that an editor may have overlooked or not have the time for.

In a nutshell, a proof reader formats. They see to it that the manuscript is ready for the print.

So, when next you ask for help, know exactly what you want and be ready to pay for it!

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