The meat and potatoes

It is often thought that proofreading means the correction of a text to publishable or printable standards, but this process is actually called copy-editing.


In the traditional publishing process, proofreading is the next step, the 'quality control' phase, which focuses on small errors, typos and layout.


Copy-editing is more involved, and will cover the following:

  • Structure and repetition
  • Sense, clarity and accuracy
  • Punctuation, grammar and capitalisation
  • Style and consistency


Outside the traditional publishing context, however, the difference between proofreading and copy-editing is rather one of level of intervention in the text.


Like proofreading, copy-editing is not just reserved for bad writers. That's why a publishing house will automatically send a manuscript for copy-editing and/or proofreading, no matter how conscientious the author.


This applies to any material that will be read publicly, whether an annual report, a memo, a newsletter, a novel or a script. It's especially important for marketing material and websites. 


My copy-editing services are flexible and tailored to meet your requirements – you can choose the level of 'intervention' you need.


I edit in both UK and US English, on paper (traditional BSI symbols) and on screen.

The most common software used in copy-editing is Microsoft Word, using the Track Changes function, which allows you to see all changes made to the document. I use the Word Comments function for any queries. Once queries have been resolved, I will provide a final copy.


I offer three levels of copy-editing:


  1. Light editing 
  2. Medium editing
  3. Substantive editing


Pricing will naturally vary according to the level of intervention required.


Over the years I have had the pleasure of working on a variety of material, including film scripts, annual reports, sports articles, romance novels, popular science books, academic papers, student theses, speeches, industry press releases, art books, photography publications, legal magazines, contracts, peer review journals, farm equipment catalogues, HR correspondence and web content for a variety of sites, among others.

Copy-editing of French to English translations

A twist of French

Copy-editing translated material is a niche area in editing. It requires fluent knowledge of the source language and native knowledge of the target language.


Having spent the first nine years of my life in France, and with French parentage, I have an instinctive understanding of French. Although English is thus not technically my 'first' language (timeline-wise), it has become my mother tongue.


There are two levels of copy-editing for translated material:


  1. Blind – where knowledge of the source language comes in when something doesn't read fluently or a term isn't well translated.
  2. Against the source material – this means that the editor is expected to check the source for queries and use this to resolve them.


The second one takes more time, which is reflected in the price, but it can be worth it for the client in terms of saving time and effort.




The final polish

Proofreading is actually the last step in the traditional publishing process, designed to catch any final errors, typos, inconsistencies and formatting issues.


Outside the traditional publishing context, however, the difference between proofreading and copy-editing is rather one of level of intervention in the text.


If your copy is in very good condition or you only require a light check, then this is the service for you. 


But just because a text is in good shape doesn't mean that one should be complacent, because:


  1. Familiarity with a text builds blindness to errors.
  2. Last-minute changes is a classic reason for errors creeping in – you disturbed the sentence structure and failed to correct it.
  3. It's not realistic for anyone to be familiar with all the ins and outs of English usage and grammar – especially when it comes to the subtle stylistic differences between UK and US English. 


Proofreading is commonly carried out on paper, in Microsoft Word or on PDFs. For PDF files, I use PDF-Xchange Editor, through which I can either make the changes directly (not tracked) or post mark-up notes.


Proofreading naturally takes less time than copy-editing, and this is reflected in the price.

'Myriam Birch is valued member of the FQS editorial team, with a keen insight into what authors (especially non-native speakers) intend to express ... Her academic knowledge and background is highly relevant, allowing her to edit for content and logic as well as language ... She has a feel for the subtleties of the English language and produces high-quality copy ... Would not hesitate to recommend her.'

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© 2017 Myriam Birch