Copyediting and Proofreading in Spanish and English

These Are the Goods

There are a few steps in the editing process and while developmental editing is not quite yet a part of my skill set, it is good to explain that part of the editing process.


Developmental editing refers to editing that aims to improve the content and overall structure of a manuscript. Developmental editing is very different from the steps that follow it, copyediting and proofreading, types of editing that ensure that a manuscript’s grammar, punctuation and spelling are in accordance with rules codified in reference books such as the Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook.  

In contrast, developmental editing takes on topics such as pacing, plot, characterization and setting. There are no set rules to abide by. Instead, the developmental editor draws upon his/her instincts, experience, and love of reading, and hence, good editing, to help a manuscript reach its fullest potential.

Most published books go through at least one round of developmental editing. It is not for the fainthearted, though, since it can lead to major changes in a book. Characters can be changed or merged, entire plots can be tossed out, settings can change and so forth. But, in the end, it’s all worth it. Books that haven’t gone through developmental editing can seem unwieldy and lack focus. 

After the developmental edit has been completed, that is where my steps, copyediting and proofreading, come in — sometimes combined into one step. 

I gained valuable experience using these skills when I decided to not only translate from English to Spanish the three novels I have worked on, but also to do all the research and investigating of the text, and then the copyediting and proofreading of the translated text.

As well, I have copyedited or proofread numerous novels for independent authors — the links for some of which you can see on this page — with many more to come, in English and Spanish!

Copyediting       Proofreading       Style guides

Copyediting — Proofreading

The copyeditor’s job is not just to check grammar and spelling. We need to ensure that all elements of the manuscript are consistent, cohesive and complete. 

Copyediting consists of:

  • Checking for and correcting errors in grammar, spelling, syntax and punctuation.
  • Maintaining a style sheet of decisions on spellings, hyphenation, italics, capitals, units of measurement, how quotations are presented and more.  
  • Checking for technical consistency in spelling, capitalization, font usage, numerals and hyphenation. For example, is the term “e-mail” used on one page but spelled “email” on the next page? Or, are both British and American English spelling variations used interchangeably, such as “favourite” versus “favorite”?
  • Watching out for inconsistency within the story line. This includes character description, plot points and setting. Questions we copyeditors need to ask ourselves are whether or not the characters stay true to their descriptions throughout the story and are there conflicting descriptions of the background. For example, has the setting been described as “a red-brick home” on one page but “a dilapidated wooden house” further on in the manuscript? 
  • Understanding information chunking. This depends on the readership, the material and the means of access (e.g. book, comic, PC, tablet, advertisement), but usually sentences should be short and straightforward with paragraphs to introduce new ideas and break up the page. If appropriate, headings also break up text and make it more digestible. 
  • Checking for factually incorrect statements. We copyeditors must check if the facts in your manuscript are accurate and if the names and dates are correct.

Copyediting can be heavy, medium or light depending on the amount of work or the needs of the manuscript.

Heavy copyediting may stray into the realm of light substantive editing when it involves changes to structure. This can happen while working with any author, but is especially true when working on manuscripts authored by non-native, non-fluent English writers. In such cases, the content might be brilliant from a developmental perspective but sentences are cumbersome, paragraphs need better organization and word choices are not optimal. 

Medium and light copyediting do not require structural changes. They focus on improvements like correcting wordiness, punctuation, subject-verb agreement and others from the above list. 

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In a traditional editorial department, when the manuscript is nearly a finished product — meaning it has been edited, laid out and designed — the proofreader searches for typographical errors, makes sure there are no omissions or missing pages, corrects awkward page or word breaks and checks to make sure all chapter titles and headings are consistent. The proofreader works with a facsimile of a finished product, or a proof (hence the term proofreading). 

Proofreaders don’t suggest major changes to the text. Rather, we look for minor text and formatting errors and confirm the material is ready for publication. 

While we may do light editing such as the aforementioned correcting of inconsistent spellings or hyphenations, professional proofreaders are not copyeditors. If too many errors are cited, we may return the proof for further copyediting.  

Proofreading is required by traditional publishers, one last set of eyes, as a quality-assurance measure before printing off a mass quantity of books. 

Many self-publishing authors who have had their manuscript professionally developmentally edited and then copyedited skip the proofread step. This is a mistake since there can still be mistakes and inconsistencies. It is always good to hire a proofreader to have one more look at your work before it goes to press.

Some self-publishing authors might believe they can skip the editing process altogether. While it is true that they might have great writing skills, having that other set of eyes to look over the manuscript, at least to be proofread, is essential because it can be difficult to see one’s own typos

At times it does seem like each company has a different definition of the functions of the copyeditor and proofreader, and tasks can overlap. Before starting a project, it is essential to find out exactly what the client wants and needs, as well as being sure of what the project manager of the self-publishing company is looking for.

A well-informed team is a happy and productive team!

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Copy editors have style!

Style guides

Different projects can require different styles guides.

The English-language style guides I use are:

  • Chicago Manual of Style (novels)
  • Associated Press Stylebook (website and journalism work)
  • MLA Handbook or the APA Publication Manual (scholastic works)

As well, I use the collegiate version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.   

My go-to style guides for the Spanish language are:

  • Ortografía de la lengua española 
  • The website for the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, (the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) 
  • Diccionario de la lengua española 

Having a copy of the Spanish adaptation of the Chicago manual of style, the Manual de estilo Chicago-Deusto is also a great help. 


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Some of the works I have helped with

Novels I have translated and published