No matter how many times a writer checks their work, it’s likely they will still miss minor errors. Scientific studies have shown it’s difficult to spot your own mistakes because of the way the human brain works. When writing, the focus is on the high-level task of turning words and sentences into complex ideas. Our chief attention is on interpretation rather than considering the technical appearance of letters and words on a page.

Errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies are all barriers to readers’ interpretation and trust in written content. Therefore, where credibility and reputation are on the line, editorial teams and proofreading services are essential for all major publications.

Globally, the book publishing industry is massive and its market revenue increasing. In New Zealand, publishing also makes a major contribution to the national economy with content exported around the world. The New Zealand Institute of Business Studies Proofreading and Editing study course provides an introduction to how the industry works and assists students to acquire the skills required to be a copyeditor and proofreader.

In traditional publishing, there are generally four stages of editing and proofreading: content editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Each step is delivered separately by professionals with specialised skills. Book editors work most closely with authors and are typically in charge of acquisitions and high-level development editing. Copyeditors and proofreaders are usually involved in line-editing at the detail level of grammar and paragraphs, after content is confirmed.

For texts that don’t require formatting for mass publication, e.g. self-published literature, technical reports, academic dissertations, business communications, there can be more overlap between stages. Some editorial services may combine copy editing and proofreading into a single phase, where grammar, syntax and style are addressed at the same time as minor spelling and punctuation errors.

Whether an extended or compressed version of this stepped approach is used, the goal is the same, that is, to ensure writing is clear and most errors are fixed before final publication.

Copyediting involves smoothing, correcting and polishing individual sentences to enhance reader engagement. Although copy editors don’t change the content of a text, if a sentence or paragraph is ambiguous or awkward, they work with the author to improve it.

Proofreading is the final quality-control stage with careful checking for any remaining errors, such as misspelled words, misplaced punctuation, and stylistic inconsistencies. Proofreaders may also be responsible for checking that layout and formatting matches the client’s brief.

No matter the genre, readers make value judgements based on the quality of writing. Therefore, writers and publishers interested in making writing memorable and satisfying for readers need to ensure proofreaders and copyeditors are an essential part of their publishing process. If you are interested in expanding your general writing and editing capabilities, NZIBS has a range of courses that may fit the bill.

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