What Does It All Mean?

The Confusing World of Editing and Proofreading

Liz Dempsey~ By Liz Dempsey

For the new writer, understanding the function of the professionals involved in the process of readying your book for market, and the terminology used by the editing and proofreading world, can be daunting. It doesn’t help that often the same job comes with several different titles. To help you get your head around it all and decide which type of editor and proofreader you need, here is a quick guide.


These are all pretty much the same thing. This type of editor will help you sort out the book as a whole. They will look at details such as plot, character arc, structure, and genre points. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your story and characters as a whole, then this is the person you need. If you sign a contract with a publishing house, this is also the function of the editor you will have assigned to you.


A line editor will look at the way you use language to communicate your story to your reader. Their job is not to comb through your book looking for technical errors. They are looking at the creative content, writing style, pacing and language used at the sentence and paragraph level. They will check whether your language is clear, fluid, and enjoyable to read, and whether the words you’ve chosen convey a clear message, or are clichés and broad generalizations. If you want to ensure your story reads as well as it possibly can, in terms of language used and writing style, this is the editor you need.


This type of editor isn’t concerned with the overall story, character development or whether your book fits within the publishing house’s genres. This editor is concerned with flaws on a very technical level. They are interested in things such as appropriate word usage, consistency within the manuscript concerning story details andcharacter attributes, paragraphing and word choice, grammatical mistakes, spelling consistency, fact checking and general random mistakes. They will often make a style sheet for your work to ensure consistency. If you’re looking for someone with an eye for detail, who will take note of everything, including the colour of your characters’ hair and eyes and the spelling of your town’s name, to ensure they remain the same throughout your book, this is the editor for you.


A proofreader will read the final draft of your manuscript, after it has been through an editor. They will look at it with an eye towards grammatical correctness, consistent and correct spelling, spotting typos, accuracy in headings/footnotes/chapter and page numbers, and checking layout to ensure there are no extra gaps/lines or formatting errors. A proofreader is often the last person to look over your manuscript before it goes into mass production.

Typo checker

This person provides the extra service of reading your book in the same format as your reader, usually on an e-reader (such as a Kindle). A typo checker isn’t concerned with stylistic consistency or correct grammar. All they are looking for are mistakes, such as spelling errors and typos—the things that will jump out at a reader as incorrect when they read your finished work. They provide a final polish to ensure your book is as ready for your readers as it can possibly be.

What type of professional involvement you want in your work is up to you. You should go with what you are most comfortable using, what you feel your work most needs, and what your budget allows. The work I do mainly falls into the copy-editing, proofreading and typo checking categories.

I find that most writers, once they are happy with their overall storyline and comfortable with their style and use of language, work best with a Copy-Editor and then, as a final check, a read-through by a Typo Checker. With a bit of negotiation, a good Copy-Editor will be willing, and able, to catch most of the things that a proofreader would, but you will get more feedback for your money.

I hope this clarifies the process somewhat and helps you to choose the type of professional you need to work with to ensure you produce your best book possible. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Liz Dempsey (The Error Eliminator)

My name is Liz. I am a single mother of one wonderful daughter. I work part-time in education administration, and in my spare time I love to read!

As a self-confessed perfectionist, I pay attention to detail and I take great pride in my ability to spot mistakes in the books that I read. I have many years of experience working on fiction and corporate writing. Although I’m based in New Zealand, I am comfortable working with US/UK/AU/NZ spelling and grammar. If you would like to work with me, please get in touch with a sample of your work for a free quote.

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