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Jonathon Owen

The inability to separate copy editing from proofreading is one of the biggest problems we face where I work, I think. Proofreading here is basically just copy editing on a typeset page, which means that everyone feels free to make fairly substantial changes. It tends to draw out the typesetting process and introduce unnecessary errors fairly late in the process. So far my efforts to try to differentiate the two have been pretty fruitless.

Jacqueline Kathleen

When I was a copy editor, I was "promoted" to a hybrid copy/proof editor, and we did everything on the computer. This kind of notation is unusual to me because of that.
That was a heck of a lot of work for one person to do though, so it's good to see that traditional companies won't give me as much of a load of work when I find one to hire me.
Thanks for the blog post. I really thought it was just going to rehash what I already knew, but it's added to it instead.


I am also one of the hybrid variety, and recently my company decided that project management would be a nice complement to my editorial skills. Now I route things to myself, copy edit them, put them into production, and proofread them. It does cut down on arguments between the three people, but that line of differentiation you described so well has become even more fuzzy and I believe quality has suffered because of it. Your post may help me explain the problem to management.


I wanted to say that this is proofreading against copy. The only times I've proofread against copy have been the proofreading course I took and an interview test. The few proofreading jobs I've had (I'm more of a copy-editor) have been proofreading blind, and the proofs I've seen other that other people have read have been proofread blind as well.


As someone who has had to go through these tests, I'm glad reading this that I am not the only one who ever had an issue with proofreading tests!! :)

Sigrid Peterson

There is another distinction to be made in the age of ebooks. That is the kind of errors made by the electronic encoding of existing copy -- photographic process -- for translation of published books to the Amazon Kindle electronic format (Mobi). An existing book, that has been copy edited and proofread, is photographed by a camera. The images are then "understood" by a computer as text, using OCR, Optical Character Recognition. There are many errors that stem from the inability of the computer-linked camera to understand the language of the text. The process produces ludicrous and fairly frequent errors. It is apparently not very familiar to readers, who blame the author or the publisher of the original print book, judging from reviews of these botched books. It is sad, when a good author goes unread because the Kindle text is unreadable electronically, thought the Dead Tree Book was nicely produced.

I wind up buying the book twice, once in Kindle format, and once in its published version. As long as the published version is still in print, that is. Some of the errors of the eye are difficult for humans to pick up unless they are alert to the kind of mistakes made by the machine reader -- for example, "stlll" for "still," or, even easier for the machine to do, "fiill, from "full." Often this latter misreading becomes "fill" instead of "full."

I got two or three books like this in my first batch of Kindle reading, and compulsively went through them, using the tool for marking errors in the text "Report Content Error" which allows for the error to be called "Typo", "Formatting", "Image", or "Other." I used "Other" to indicate OCR mistakes. I gradually, for self-protection, checked the negative reviews for comments on "proofreading," and when in doubt downloaded only a sample. Unfortunately, sometimes only the samples are properly proofread against the printed versions.

Amazon is now issuing "updated editions" of some of these, as free replacements for those who bought the books with uncorrected OCR text. And a month ago they were advertising for copy editors/proofreaders. I doubt that there were errors on the same scale in the production of Nook pdb books, as I read many well-produced pdb editions obtained through Fictionwise.

Yes, there a good Kindle editions, as well. Some top publishers have good Kindle editions; a few do not. Books that have gone from publisher to publisher to Amazon's Kindle Division are most likely to be flawed in this way. At a guess, the typesetting was done once, and discarded.

Any insights here would be appreciated.


Nice patronising and stereotypical judgements about the younger generation there. Too bad your own article is published online and also has its own grammatical errors. Or is that errers? I'm just a young digital ideeot and totally inept at this sort of thing.

Carol Saller

Brighton, would you like to be more helpful and specific?

Caitlin Pyle

Great post :) I'm a proofreader myself, although in a past "life" I've hired employees and always required a test for grammar and spelling :) I did catch an error, though -- you have "rain" being changed to "reign" and it should actually be changed to "rein".

Carol Saller

Caitlin, thanks, but the mistake was intentional, to show how a proofreader would query the mistake. Please look at the third row in the third column of the table.

Mithila Akter


Mithila Akter

I was finding Wannabe Editors! Thanks for some good guides! In fact i got some better reviews of Proofreading Test from- http://proofreading-guide.org/

Sigal Cohen

Nice reading. I recently joined www.eangel.me it's an online proofreading service for emails mainly.

J Henry Harrison

Cool article, Carol! As displayed in some of your readers' comments, I can see there are always those who challenge someone who is the local authority on grammar and punctuation (often making their own mistakes in the process).

Try maintaining a relationship with someone who finds out you're in Mensa and then addresses you as "Mensa Boy" every time you make a mistake! Oy!


when i started blogging i had issues with proofreading until i came across a good proofreader fiver.com/anniewrites4u. she did a perfect job and i still use her till date. thanks for the write up

Cato Alexerratus

Thanks for getting this info out there! Proofreading is for verifying the final copy is ready to publish--nothing more!

If only this were conveyed in public school or otherwise made public knowledge.... It seems like such a small thing, but considering the excessive amount of time my grade school curriculum spent on English Proofreader's Marks, it should have been addressed.

Is there another way, besides informative blogs like this one, to reach more people? Maybe if all proofreaders gave Google feedback on its definitions for words like 'proofread'? And promoting such a collaborative effort on National Proofreading Day? What do you think, Carol?

Carol Saller

Cato, I appreciate your enthusiasm!

Daniel Brennan

This is a valuable insight into the editing process. I have recently finished my English degree, and I have always had the intention to become an Editor, yet I find myself with very little clue on how to go about it. I bought myself a few books, including Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies. I hope that these books will shed some light on the work involved in being an editor. I have even tried to take a few online tests. Is there any advice on how to have recognizable skills and how to look for work as an editor?

Professional Editing

thanks for sharing this
Professional Document Editing

Lisa Rinkus

Dear Carol,
I am a member of ACES and a huge fan of yours. One of my favorite books is "The Subversive Copy Editor." I am interested in proofreading tests and wasn't aware of any that compare a manuscript to the final layout, as you described in your blog. Can you recommend a test that would evaluate that? I can only find "cold" proofreading tests and multiple choice online. Any insight you have would be much appreciated! Thank you for your time.

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