Copy-editors and proofreaders ensure that material is clear and consistent, complete and credible, and that text is well written, grammatically correct and accessible.

They work on a range of publications, including:

  • books;
  • journals;
  • newspapers;
  • websites;
  • other electronic resources.

They may be required to correct spelling, grammar and layout (proofreading), or check content, impose consistent styles and reword or rewrite (copy-editing). This depends on the project, the employer or the client and their own specialist experience. Many copy-editors/proofreaders perform both functions in tandem.

They’re employed by publishers, businesses and public bodies but increasingly on a freelance basis, so it’s common for them to have several clients at the same time. Many people retrain for editorial work as a second or third career.


Work activities depend on experience and whether you work in-house or freelance. They may include:

    • correcting spelling mistakes and grammatical errors;
    • sub-editing text written by a number of authors to ensure consistent house style;
    • working with IT-based publishing systems and databases, as well as via the internet, CD-ROMs or from paper manuscripts;
    • liaising regularly with authors and publishers by phone and email;
    • checking that authors have provided all the required materials and paperwork;
    • resolving queries directly with the author, e.g. style and text inconsistencies;
    • coding manuscripts for design features, such as hierarchy of headings, to instruct the production team;
    • creating artwork briefs to detail the content of illustrations;
    • ensuring that illustrations are correctly captioned and referred to in the text;
    • producing or working to a style checklist to ensure consistency in hyphenation, capitalisation, formatting of references, etc;
    • maintaining awareness of new words or phrases coming into popular usage with a view to ensuring they’re appropriate for the readership;
    • discussing and resolving any potentially libellous sections with the commissioning editor and author;
    • retrieving articles from archives and rearranging within publications;
    • preparing preliminary pages for the title, contents and preface of a publication;
    • overseeing the work of indexers, typesetters and designers;
    • (increasingly for freelancers) typesetting and designing layout;
    • ensuring that publications are prepared on budget and to schedule;
  • (for those who are self-employed) managing marketing and business activities.