Copyediting (mechanical editing, line editing) is the final editing for a completed manuscript prior to the design stage. Copyediting pertains to sentence editing, not story or content editing, and focuses on sentence structure. Considered by some editors to be line editing, copyediting scrutinizes the relationship among lines for structure, flow, organization, and pacing. Copyediting results in consistency of style, voice, and language.
Copyediting results in a marked-up manuscript and is most beneficial after a rewrite following developmental or substantive editing. The manuscript is marked for accuracy of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word usage. A specific style manual appropriate for the work will be followed. I use the Chicago Manual of Style, unless the author specifies another preference.
Copyediting often includes the development of a style sheet for a project The style sheet contains: 1) a word and spelling list and capitalization guide for technical terms or words commonly used throughout the manuscript, such as people names and place names; 2) conventions for punctuation usage, such as serial commas, em dashes, and hyphens; and 3) style notations for chapter and section headings, charts and tables, captions and notes.
Conventional publishers assign a copy editor for your work. However, it is advisable to copyedit a manuscript prior to sending it to the publisher to ensure that the work is in top shape. The publisher’s copy editor prepares the document for publication. The copy editor and publisher have the final word on the finished draft, and they may be surprisingly assertive in their decisions. The copy editor scrutinizes your manuscript as closely as you have and will be well prepared to let you know if there is something you still need to work on.
Proofreading is the final check of the manuscript (preferably a proof copy) after it is designed and before it goes to publication. Typographical mistakes and other errors overlooked in copyediting or those introduced during the design process will be noted. Consistency in design elements such as font, heading styles, and paging will be checked. During the proofing process any design elements that may interfere with ease of reading will be noted.