How Has Copyediting and Proofreading Changed in the Digital Age?

Today’s technology allows copy editors and proofreaders to edit documents digitally without marking up hard copy pages.

It is difficult to imagine life before the Internet with its instantaneous search results for practically any subject you can imagine. It is even harder to fathom life without computers or smartphones. The thought of using a typewriter seems archaic and oh-so time-consuming now. Back when I started in publishing, we did have computers, but we used hard copy proofs to review and mark up pages that were to be printed…. Yes, I realize that I’m dating myself!   

Technological advancements have made our lives easier in many ways. Today’s technology includes voice navigation systems that “talk” to us while we are driving, giving us different routes that avoid construction or traffic to reach our destination faster. Similarly, desktop and laptop computers save us valuable time by allowing us to send documents immediately via email or file transfer apps or programs. Likewise, the advent of the digital age with computers and the World Wide Web has changed the way copy editors and proofreaders perform their jobs. For example, instead of referring to the physical book version of The Chicago Manual of Style, the latest edition can be found online at

According to Wikipedia, copyediting is “the process of revising written material (copy) to improve readability and fitness, as well as ensuring that text is free of grammatical and factual errors.” Proofreading is typically a ‘lighter’ edit, ensuring that any changes were implemented correctly and the page is final and fit for publication. Editing directly in an electronic document versus an actual paper proof saves so much time compared to marking up the page with a red pen and then having to transfer those edits ‘on-screen.’ In some cases, a copy editor may work in Microsoft Word using Track Changes so the author can approve them, or they may be making their edits directly within the document. A proofreader often reviews pages via PDF mark-up, which means they are looking at a more ‘final’ version of the document, in which the graphics such as art or photos are placed. By ‘seeing’ the layout and not just the text, they are better able to get the whole picture, so to speak, and fix text that has been cut off or is missing, as well as ensure page numbers are in the correct order, adequate spacing between words, etc. In addition, fact-checking has been made easier in many ways thanks to the Internet. Finding online sources to confirm a fact can be done in a matter of minutes, as opposed to hours of combing through hard copy resources.  

Nowadays, most educational publishers produce both print and digital versions of their products, regardless if it is a decodable book, ancillary, teacher guide, or assessment for students. Digital components often include hyperlinks to sources or sites, which may involve HTML coding. The copy editor or proofreader often is tasked with checking these and confirming they are correct. Software or apps such as Grammarly are designed to help make sure grammar is intact and are yet more examples of technological innovation. Most publishing programs, such as Microsoft Word, are equipped with spell check features, which may catch simple typos. However, these programs can only do so much, and that is why copy editors and proofreaders are still a necessity. Professional copy editors and proofreaders are capable of rational and complex thought, unlike a computer program, and will ensure that content is clear, concise, and accurate. 

Templated documents can be ideal when producing a large volume of editorial content, especially with regard to keeping style/formatting consistent, such as headlines and subheads. Using Google docs and Google Drive allows authors and editors to access/view the most recent version of a document, and it saves all changes automatically, which avoids ‘losing’ any edits, misplacing, or accidentally deleting a file. Ultimately, there is nothing like a ‘fresh set of eyes’ on a piece of work before it goes to print or across the Web. In addition to producing grammatically correct content and curriculum, it is important to craft engaging content as well. To be noticed in a highly competitive environment these days, it is essential to grab the reader’s attention with every word.

At CSA Education, we take pride in offering a comprehensive Editorial Services team for a wide variety of client needs, from copyediting, proofreading, fact-checking, cold reads, and indexing. We utilize our Team CSA freelancers with experience in all subject areas for K–12, many of whom are former teachers. Thanks to video apps as well as email, we communicate with them on a regular basis. Depending on the type of project, this communication could involve a training call demonstrating the latest software or processes to improve efficiency. We also present slides, checklists, schedules, and links to set them up for a successful project. Contact us to learn how we can make your content the highest quality and stand out above the rest!