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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Copyedit and Proofread

Why Copyediting is Important

Copyediting improves authors’ work by helping them get their ideas across to their audience. It involves checking:

  • spelling, grammar and syntax are correct
  • style is consistent throughout
  • the language used is suitable, understandable to readers and inclusive and bias-free
  • overall readability.

When adapting an existing textbook, copyediting can be useful:

  • to ensure new or rewritten text is consistent with the original textbook
  • if the original textbook was not copyedited or poorly copyedited.

Skipping copyediting can lower the overall quality of your textbook. It’s difficult for authors to edit their own work, so if you can, it’s best to hire a trained copyeditor.

Some of the benefits of working with copyeditors:

  • they aren’t subject matter experts and can read the textbook like a student
  • they can tell you if information is missing or concepts are unclear and recommend solutions such as adding textboxes or glossary entries to help clarify meaning
  • they’re skilled at working with authors to rewrite confusing or problematic text
  • they apply rules and decisions (such as those in the style guide or style sheet consistently throughout the textbook to avoid introducing errors or changing the author's intended meaning.

There are three levels of copyediting:

  • light
  • medium
  • heavy.

The level of editing determines how involved the copyeditor needs to get with the manuscript. For example, in a light edit a copyeditor may leave a comment for the author about sentence structure, while in a heavy edit the copyeditor may make the changes necessary to clarify the author's meaning.

Managing the Copyediting Process

It’s important to share your goals and expectations for copyediting when copyeditors first come on board. While copyeditors bring expertise to the writing process, it’s the author or project manager's responsibility to guide that expertise.

Here are some details you’ll need to clarify with your copyeditor:

  • the copyeditor’s role – just to check spelling, grammar, consistency, clarity and style and mark up errors or to make corrections as well?
  • the copyeditor’s key contact – author or project manager?
  • the copyediting schedule – chapter by chapter (problems can be identified and corrected early) or once the manuscript is complete (avoids scope and budget creep)?
  • which sections and elements of the textbook should be copyedited
  • who’s responsible for identifying and fixing technical issues
  • where the copyeditor should make comments or changes – in the manuscript using Track Changes or to the formatted text in the publishing platform (e.g. Pressbooks)? (Annotation tools such as the Hypothesis plugin can be helpful when the copyeditor wants to highlight and comment on issues or raise questions before making corrections)
  • whether the copyeditor needs training in using the platform and how you plan to provide this
  • the style guide, style sheet and any other references the copyeditor should use.

Ask the copyeditor to keep a list of issues the author should review, such as:

  • text that requires a significant rewrite
  • content-related questions.

Trust the copyeditor’s authority on these matters.

If the copyeditor notices problems with styling that are difficult to fix or repeated throughout the textbook, you can assign the correction to someone else on the publishing team (other than the author). For example:

  • in-text citations and accompanying reference list entries
  • attribution statements
  • figure and table numbering and captions
  • broken or incorrect links.

Try to avoid making any more rewrites to the text once it’s been copyedited as this can undo the copyeditor’s work.

Why Proofreading is Important

Proofreading is a lighter review than copyediting. Unlike copyediting, it involves checking for errors in the textbook’s formatting as well as the text. Proofreading usually happens towards the end of the publishing process, once writing, copyediting and formatting is complete. It’s the last opportunity to mould a textbook into a work that contains:

  • coherent writing
  • consistent styling and layout
  • correct grammar and spelling.

Copyeditors can act as proofreaders, however it’s a good idea to get someone else to proofread your textbook if you can as they may spot issues the copyeditor missed. As with copyediting, proofreading shouldn’t be done by the author.

It’s been said there’s lot less pressure to produce a ‘perfect’ product when creating an open textbook because it can easily be corrected later. However, relaxing standards can lead to a poor-quality textbook and deter potential adopters.

While an author may only request proofreading, it’s recommended proofreading be performed in conjunction with copyediting to ensure the textbook is as free of errors as possible. If you need to choose between copyediting and proofreading for budget reasons, prioritise copyediting.

Managing the Proofreading Process

The responsibilities of copyeditors and proofreaders often overlap, so to avoid confusion, make sure they each understand what’s expected of them.

Here are some details you’ll need to clarify with your proofreader:

  • the proofreader’s role – including whether they’re responsible for making changes or if this will be done by the copyeditor, author or project manager
  • the proofreader’s key contact – copyeditor, author or project manager?
  • how many times the textbook should be proofread – once, twice or until the book is as error free as possible?
  • when you need the proofreading done – once each chapter has been copyedited and formatted or the textbook is complete?
  • which sections and elements of the textbook should be proofread and what you want the proofreader to focus on
  • the platform the proofreader should work in and if training will be provided
  • the style guide and style sheet.

Try to avoid making changes to chapters once they’ve been proofread as this can undo the proofreader’s work.

Australian Copyediting and Proofreading Resources

The following reference books – written by professional editors – provide useful advice about the copyediting and proofreading processes:


Adapted from:

How to Copy Edit’, ‘How to Proofread’ and ‘Guideline for Copy Editors’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Why Editing is Important’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, based on ‘How to Copy Edit’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Editing Decisions’ and ‘Proofread’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.