Editorial services: Proofreading, Proof-Editing, Copyediting and Line Editing

Editing and proofreading are the essential services used to apply polish and accuracy in written copy, either for print or online publication. They are, however, frequently misused or misunderstood terms and there is a functional distinction between them. People often ask for proofreading services when it’s actually copyediting that they need, and vice versa, and there are different types and levels of editing. So, what’s the difference?

Proofreading is the final quality check and tidy-up of written material such as a book manuscript, a journal article, an essay, a blog post or an official report. It happens at the very end of the publication process and is the last chance to fix any errors before printing or online publication. It will ensure the copy is as accurate and distraction-free for the intended reader as possible.

Proofreaders check for errors that have snuck past the author, editor, copyeditor or typesetter (or all of them!) and mark them up to be fixed as well as flagging unresolved issues or raising queries. We read (and re-read) texts thoroughly to check for remaining spelling, grammar and punctuation snafus and we identify inconsistencies in usage and presentation, layout and images and other formatting or typographical issues. We do all this as minimally as possible to reduce extra amendment costs at final publication stage.

When working for publishers and organisations, we use their house style guides and create style sheets to ensure we’re following their preferred writing conventions, otherwise we agree style matters individually with clients as appropriate.

Proof-Editing is a minimal editing process that includes all the functions of standard proofreading but moves beyond this into limited editorial amendments and interventions according to the client’s need.  It’s a half-way house between proofreading and copyediting with a light touch.

Copyediting is the process of preparing written material for publication. In traditional publishing, it’s the stage before typesetting and proofreading and it’s where the material is received after structural or developmental editing, if needed, then formatted and revised to improve readability and fitness for purpose for its intended audience. 

Copyediting involves formatting the manuscript and ensuring the material is free of spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. It also includes addressing any factual errors or descriptive inconsistencies likely to cause distraction or confusion within the text as well as standardising typography and applying consistency to issues such as hyphenation. In many genres it can involve the proper insertion and formatting of additional material such as tables, illustrations and figures. It often involves working with a typesetter and/or designer who are preparing the visual display elements of the text for final publication. Good copyediting is invisible work.

Line Editing is often used interchangeably with copyediting, but it’s a specific form of copy-editing with a more creative focus. Line editing addresses the style, tone and flow of a text more particularly than standard copyediting does. Copyediting will consider word choice, point of view and sentence structure for grammar and clarity, but line editing concentrates entirely on this to help the text communicate its story as best as possible.

What I Do

I do proofreading, proof-editing, copyediting and line editing. I can also provide feedback for written copy and manuscripts intended for print or online publication.

I work mostly with fiction (literary, general, YA), memoir, nature and culture writing, Scots Language writing, poetry, short stories, and short-form prose such as web copy and articles. I occasionally work with song lyrics and narrative non-fiction or material on Scottish subjects.

I can mark-up paper manuscripts with BSI symbols, or use Track Changes in Word for .doc and .docx files or use the mark-up tools or proofreading stamps in Adobe Reader DC to amend PDFs. I can proofread blind or from copy. 

I work with entire documents or manuscripts rather than portions or chapters, as context and consistency are vital. That doesn’t apply to sample edits or proofreads, which would be done for the purposes of a quote or to indicate a good client match.

Some people charge by the page or per thousand words, depending on the clients or genres they work with – each editorial professional has their own way of working. I charge by the hour. For me, a lot can happen on the page and it’s dictated by the complexity, word-density and genre of the text so I find an hourly rate is appropriate.


The Chartered Institute for Editors and Proofreaders have a list of suggested minimum rates for editorial freelancers. My prices are subject to negotiation depending on the project and clients’ needs, but generally fall slightly below this and start at £17 per hour for proofreading and £20 per hour for copyediting.

Terms and Conditions

These can be found here.

Qualifications and Experience

I completed Introduction to Proofreading with Publishing Scotland in 2017 and subsequently passed the Publishing Training Centre’s comprehensive Basic Proofreading course. I’ve also completed Essential Grammar, Digital Copywriting and Introduction to Publishing courses and continue to invest in further training and professional development.

I joined the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (formerly the Society for Editors and Proofreaders) in 2017 and am currently an Intermediate Member.

I’ve worked with Picador (Macmillan), Polygon (Birlinn), Profile, Tapsalteerie, Lumphanan Press, Far Off Places, Harbour Design and Autumn Voices.