What do proofreaders and editors do, exactly?

It’s said that everyone has a book in them. That may be true, but not everyone has the time or the courage to sit down and write it.
So if you are writing a book, all strength to you!

As you write, you might be wondering if you will ever get it published, and if you do what that will involve.

The truth? Getting something published is complicated.

Even if you intend to publish the book yourself, just for circulation among your friends and family, there are some logistical things you’re going to have to get to grips with. An upfront question to think about is how it will be produced: electronically, or as a book on paper with a cover and binding?.

There’s a lot (and I mean a lot) of information on the web about self-publishing and writing, and about the book production process. I’m not here to reinvent that wheel – instead this is a quick guide to what editors and proofreaders do, as a starting point to understanding what it takes to produce a book.


This is the big picture part of the process. Editors can fulfil a variety of roles, but they will always be looking at the text as whole. They work though issues like these:
• Does the book flow well?
• Does it tell a coherent story?
• Are there any glaring inconsistencies in the timeline?
• Does the language used reflect the subject of the book?
• Does the grammar and punctuation and spelling work for this particular book and its readership?
• Are there parts that are unclear, and need rewriting?

Editors will typically work closely with the author, sending queries and suggestions as the process unfolds.


In traditional book publishing, proofreaders come into the picture once the book has been edited and once it has been translated into “proofs” – that is, laid out on pages that are the first draft of how the book will look when it is published. But even if your book is not going to be published in that way, a proofreader can still be enormously helpful.

Proofreaders look for small details:
• If there are pictures, are all the captions in the right place?
• Are there “typos”? This is a catch-all phrase for mistakes of various kinds: misspelled words, two “thes” in a row, two commas where there should be one.
• Are there horrible word breaks from one line to the next, and one page to the next?
• Is the typesetting consistent (is it all the same typeface and font size?)
• Are bold and italic styles applied consistently?

Good proofreaders will also correct or query anything that may have been missed in the editing process, and let the publisher, editor or author know.

In short, a book will always be better for having both an editor and a proofreader. Even if you are publishing electronically, having a second person work on your text will always (really – always) turn up problems that need resolving.

And you want those problems resolved because they will get in the way of your reader’s communion with your words. And since all writing is a form of communication, thinking about your reader is the best foundation stone for your book.

Main picture: César Viteri, Unsplash

The stuff that’s always at the bottom of blog posts….

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