An Editor’s Favorite Tools for Productivity

Working from home can be quite the challenge at times (especially if, like me, your bed is situated fewer than five steps from your desk), so it’s important to have tools to help keep you on track. In this post, I share my top five favorite productivity apps.


Meditation is part of my daily morning routine, and I've been using Calm for about eight months now. Calm is a simple mindfulness meditation app that provides both guided and unguided mediation sessions. You can start off with a free version, but I ended up liking it so much that I opted to pay for the yearly subscription ($39.99, which works out to be $3.33 per month). The app offers specific guided meditation sessions (e.g., Calming Anxiety, Deep Concentration, Emergency Calm), timed or open-ended unguided meditation sessions, and multiday programs (e.g., 7 Days of Focus, 7 Days of Managing Stress, 7 Days of Gratitude). I normally do a guided meditation centered on focus or deep concentration in the morning to get myself ready for the day, and sometimes I add another session later in the day if I find that I'm losing focus. The guided meditations are usually about ten to twelve minutes long and are great for everyone, whether you are new to meditation or already have it as part of your daily routine.


I was introduced to Noisli at the 2016 EFA National Conference in August, and it has been a great addition to my productivity toolbox. Noisli is a customizable background noise generator. It has preset sound combos, categorized as "Random," "Productivity," and "Relax," or you can make your own combos and save them for future use. Some of the nature sounds are rain, thunderstorm, wind, and seaside, and others include fireplace, fan, train, and white/pink/brown noise. There is even a coffee shop sound if you want to replicate the feeling of being at Starbucks without actually leaving your home office (it's one of my favorite sounds). You can listen to the sounds individually or layer different sounds and change the volume of each (e.g., one of the ones I created is called Rainy Day Coffee Shop and is a mixture of a lot of thunderstorm and a little bit of coffee shop). It's free and easy to use via Noisli's website or as a Chrome extension. Get creative!


Spotify is a digital music service that gives you access to tons of music. You can search for a specific artist, song, or album; check out the latest charts and new releases; or discover new music once a week with a personalized playlist. Spotify has a radio option, too, in case you just want to sit back and relax to some good tunes without having to put in the work searching. I cannot listen to music with lyrics while I edit (unless I am editing endnotes or references, in which case I'll blast some Britney from time to time), so I generally opt for an instrumental playlist. Some of my favorite playlists for productivity are: Deep Focus, Productive Morning (thanks, Barbie!), Atmospheric Calm, and Mellow Beats, all of which were put together by Spotify. I switch between Noisli and Spotify, as needed, to keep me engaged, and I love having the two options. I have Spotify Premium ($9.99 per month), but there is a free version you can try out first to see how it works for you.

Strict Workflow

This is by far my favorite new app, which I also heard about for the first time at the EFA conference this year (thanks, Sarah!). Strict Workflow is a time management extension for Chrome that enforces a workflow of twenty-five minutes followed by a five-minute break, otherwise known as the Pomodoro Technique. Once you've installed the extension, click the red tomato icon in the upper-right corner of your Chrome browser to start the first twenty-five-minute timer. The app is set up to block popular distracting websites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) during your workflow and will only allow you to access those sites after the work timer is up and you've started the break timer (this is accomplished by clicking the green tomato icon in the upper-right corner of your browser). You can tailor the list of blocked sites according to what distracts you, but I've found that the basic list has worked fine for me. Repeat the timers as needed until you get the job done! Super easy (and free)!


Toggl is a time-tracking app and is really easy (and free!) to use. This app not only keeps me organized but also keeps me on task. I use Toggl alongside my Strict Workflow app, and it acts as another layer to keep me engaged (mainly because I don't want to stop and restart the timer a million times). Toggl allows you to keep track of all your hours worked, all in one place, and it works both online and offline (if you use it offline, it will sync those hours the next time you're back online). For more on Toggl's organizational features, click here. You can read an excellent and thorough review of Toggl here.

I hope you find these apps helpful! Let me know in the comments section below if you have any favorites that aren't on this list or if you enjoy any of these apps already!

Book Review: My So-Called Freelance Life

Michelle Goodman’s My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire was the first book I purchased after making the decision to pursue a freelance career. It came highly recommended by two editor friends, and I was excited to read it based on what they had shared with me. Almost five years later, I still reference this book from time to time, and I always recommend it to other freelancers.

This 221-page how-to book is entertaining and packed full of useful information on starting (and growing) your freelance business, from writing a simple business plan and calculating your rates, to choosing clients and marketing yourself, to figuring out tax stuff and what to do when a client doesn’t pay you.

If you are considering a freelance career or are an established creative professional who would like to pick up a few pointers, I highly recommend snagging this book. In the meantime, read on for a few of my favorite takeaways.

Writing your business plan.

Goodman suggests simply getting a few freelance goals on paper, along with ideas for how you will achieve those goals, what she calls a “business plan to go.” Many new freelancers start off without a plan, and then end up lacking direction and jump on every opportunity that lands in their lap. If you have your goals in black and white, it’ll be easier to efficiently decide whether a new project will align with your goals or if you should pass on it to pursue something that will. It’s easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, especially as a new freelancer, but it pays to have a plan. I make a list of business goals each year (usually in December) for the following year and try to check in at least quarterly to see how I’m doing.

Setting up your freelance space.

Goodman talks about the importance of marking your territory, should you decide to work from home. This includes setting up a space where you can be productive, a space with enough room for your projects and preferably one that is not located in your relaxing/sleeping quarters. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with your roommates/significant other; it’s easy to get off task when you work and live in the same space. If you can set up in a separate room with a door that closes, great, but as a new freelancer you might need to find a corner of your living room to set up shop—and that's okay. Check out your local cafés for a change in scenery when needed, but try not to make it an everyday event—the money spent on those extra coffees and snacks adds up!

Naming your price.

In an early chapter, Goodman instructs readers to make a personal budget, and later, in chapter 6, she gets into the nitty-gritty of determining freelance rates. Goodman suggests having two separate budgets (business and personal, which has worked really well for me) to avoid confusion when it comes time for tax time. Then, she provides a few simple equations for naming your price (after accounting for taxes, expenses, and desired vacation time). Later in the book, she discusses negotiating your project terms and rate, as well as the pros and cons to billing per hour or as a flat rate.

These items just scratch the surface of all the great advice Goodman has to offer. Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments section below!

Just Breathe

After a particularly stressful week, I thought I'd share some tried-and-true ways to relax. The reality is, we live in a busy world, especially as freelancers, and it can be a bit overwhelming at times. No matter how superhuman we think we are, we must learn to take breaks.

Relaxation Technique #1: Meditation

When your mind is racing and you need a break, try to find a quiet environment to spend a few minutes. If this is not possible, throw in some earbuds and listen to calming music to drown out the noise (I love the "Deep Focus" playlist on Spotify). Start by finding a comfortable seated position. Sit up nice and tall, rest your hands on your thighs, and close your eyes. Take a minute or two to notice what's going on in your mind, what's going on with your breath. Don't attach any judgment, just notice. Take a few deep breaths and focus only on that—breathing. After a few minutes of mindful breathing, think about one thing that makes you happy or one thing you want to accomplish and focus on that for a few minutes. As outside thoughts come in, acknowledge them, then let them pass and come back to your intention. When you're ready to move on with your day, gently bring your awareness back to the room and open your eyes. I use the Calm app for meditation, and I absolutely love it!

Relaxation Technique #2: Massage

In an effort to bring a little balance into my life, I schedule a one-hour massage once a month. Working in front of a computer is really hard on your body, so it's important to take care of yourself, and one way to do that is with regular massage. To help with the cost, I signed up for a massage membership.

Relaxation Technique #3: Lavender and Sea Salt Bath

I love to do this right before bed, and I find I sleep better on nights when I make time to soak. All you need to do is draw a warm bath and add a cup of sea salt and about ten drops of lavender essential oil. You can also look for a bath salt that already has lavender in it (I use this one). Light a candle (or six) and grab a book!

Relaxation Technique #4: Yoga

Yoga has changed my life when it comes to handling stress and learning to let go. I normally prefer to practice in the evening for relaxation, but morning yoga classes are a great way to get focused. Just do what works best for you. Yoga is a great form of exercise for the mind and body. If you don't belong to a gym that provides yoga classes or have a yoga studio nearby, there are many good yoga DVDs out there (let me know in the comment section if you'd like recommendations!). Eagle pose, or Garudasana, is particularly good to release tension in the upper back and shoulders.

Relaxation Technique #5: Reach Out

Sometimes, we just need someone to listen to our frustrations and tell us that it’s going to be OK. When I’m stressed, confused, or upset about something, I call or message a friend. Talking it out usually ends in one of two situations: (a) you find that you might have been overreacting or (b) you were rightfully pissed off and can then discuss your next course of action with someone you trust.

Bonus! Check out this TED talk on looking at stress in a different way, and feel free to share your relaxation techniques in the comments section below!

Keeping Perfectionism in Check

I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I've cried over "B" grades, my concept of "messy" doesn't match the norm, and I've been known to completely tear myself apart at times after receiving "constructive criticism."

Common traits of a perfectionist are:

  • You are eager to please.
  • You are a procrastinator.
  • You take everything personally.
  • You obsess over every little mistake.
  • You get extremely defensive when criticized.
  • You are exceedingly critical of others.

It's obviously okay, and encouraged, to want to excel, but chasing perfection can negatively affect your well-being, which in turn can negatively affect your business. So what do we do about it?

Dr. Edmund Bourne, who has specialized in the treatment of anxiety and other related disorders for the past twenty years, suggests the following guidelines for keeping perfectionism in check:

  • Let go of the idea that your worth is determined by your achievements.
  • Recognize and overcome perfectionist thinking styles (instead of “I should be able to do this right,” “I will do my very best”).
  • Stop magnifying the importance of small errors.
  • Focus on positives.
  • Work on goals that are realistic.
  • Cultivate more pleasure and recreation in your life.
  • Develop a process orientation (“the journey is more important than the destination”).

It’s okay to set high standards, but they must be realistic. If not, you'll be forever reaching for something that is unattainable, setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Perfectionism is an "all-or-nothing attitude" that can increase stress and put a damper on productivity, creativity, and, ultimately, profitability. Don't let it! 

Start Your Workweek on Sunday

Weekends—we love them and we hate that they never seem to last long enough. So how can we get the most out of our precious two days of freedom? While it is so important to decompress from the previous week and recharge for the week ahead, I find that a weekend of sleeping in and avoiding responsibility has a negative impact on my productivity during the following week. Without a little balance and productivity during the weekend, I feel as if I am spending most of my Monday getting a kick-start on the week, which can set my whole week off balance.

Like most things in life, balance is key. You don’t have to go so far as to set an agenda for every waking moment of your weekend, but it’s good to have an overall game plan to ensure you get yourself set up for the coming week. Aside from relaxation, here are some ways you can make the most of your weekend:

Clean the house (or have it cleaned for you if you are so fortunate). While doing the dishes and laundry aren’t my favorite weekend activities, I find that having a clean house to start the week makes a big difference on my mood and productivity. I can start the week knowing that my husband has at least five clean work shirts to wear, all the towels are clean for the bathrooms and kitchen, and everything is back in its proper place, making 6:30 a.m. a lot easier to stomach come Monday morning. Do a few chores each day during the week so you don’t have to spend your whole weekend catching up.

Plan your meals. My husband and I always spend part of our Sunday preparing meals for the week. Packing your lunch is a great way to ensure that you are eating healthy, balanced meals while you’re at the office (or working from home), and saving some cash is always a plus! I also find that organizing meals on Sunday makes dinner prep during the week much easier. At the very least, set yourself up by making a list of possible dinner choices for the week and make sure you have all necessary ingredients on hand.

Mark the calendar. I always use a bit of time on Sunday to take a look at my calendar. What deadlines, appointments, events, and/or travel do I have scheduled? Is there anything that needs to be added/updated on the calendar? Prioritize work projects and take a few minutes to mentally prepare for the week. Most importantly, make sure your week is balanced between work and play. If you’re seeing mostly deadlines and meetings, schedule a massage, a happy hour, or just a window of time to do absolutely nothing.

Set the alarm. Yes, I know. Saturdays and Sundays are your days to “catch up” from a week of waking up before the sun comes up—I get it. But research has shown that sleeping in on the weekends can do more damage to your sleep routine than good and often makes waking up on Monday much harder than it has to be. The best method is to try to go to sleep around the same time and wake up around the same time every day—weekends included.


I hope you can use a few of these tips this coming Sunday! Any other favorite ways to organize yourself for the week?

Sleep Well for Increased Productivity

One of the many great things about being your own boss is having a flexible schedule. There's no one to tell you when to start work in the morning or when to end the day (except you). This can be both amazing and useless, depending on how you manage your time. I find that sticking to a schedule helps me be most productive, and that starts with getting good sleep. I try to go to sleep around the same time every night and wake up around the same time each morning—for me, around 10:30-11 p.m. and 6:30-7 a.m works best.

Sleep doesn't come easy for some, but it is so important for our health and well-being. On the nights you find yourself tossing and turning, try some of these “get sleepy” tips:

Make yourself comfortable. Being comfortable is one of the most important things for getting a good night’s sleep, and although it seems obvious, many people’s sleeping arrangements are not suitable for relaxation. For example, I choose not to bring work into my bedroom or have a desk in there. The last thing I want to look at while I’m trying to fall asleep is that five-hundred-page manuscript I’m currently editing and need to start again as soon as I wake up. Additionally, when decorating your bedroom, choose a calming, neutral color scheme. Check your thermostat, too. Ours is programmed to drop a few degrees at night.

Keep a schedule. It’s best for our bodies if we fall asleep and wake up at or around the same time every day—even on weekends. While I realize that this isn’t always possible, try to create a schedule for yourself based on when you naturally feel tired and when you naturally wake up, that is, if your work schedule allows. Check out this article by Lifehacker on how to find your perfect bedtime.

Turn off electronics. Research has shown that it’s best to turn off electronic devices one to two hours before bed. Studies illustrate that the “glow” from electronic devices keeps our brains stimulated and delays the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. So instead of scrolling through Instagram or checking your Twitter feed for the hundredth time, try reading a book instead (and no, not on your Kindle—an actual book). If you find yourself burning the midnight oil, try an app called f.lux, which makes the color of your screen's display adapt to the time of day to be easier on your eyes.

Wind down. Once you’ve turned off your electronics for the night, try a lavender and sea salt bath (one of my favorites), read a book, and/or meditate. Lavender essential oil is most commonly used for relaxation, so it’s perfect right before bed. If you aren’t up for a bath, you can rub the oil directly onto your skin (temples, feet, and wrists are common places) or use a lavender pillow spray.

Keep it dark. If you find that you’re having trouble sleeping, check out your lighting situation. I live in an apartment in a pretty busy area, and there are always lights on outside, some of which shine through my upper windows at night. Keep blinds closed and curtains pulled, and if you find that it’s still not dark enough for you, try an eye mask.

Do you have other tips for getting a restful night's sleep? Leave them in the comments below!

Thirty Days of Motivation


Happy first day of June! I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine—I’ve actually taken my “office” outside a few days this week (one of the many perks of working from home). As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, I thought I’d share some inspirational quotes I’ve come across lately. In this post, you’ll find thirty motivational quotes, one for each day of June. Many are focused on business and success, and some are focused on overall well-being and happiness. I hope you’re able to come back to this post throughout the month when you need a little extra motivation. Enjoy!

1. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” —Maya Angelou
2. “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” —Mark Twain
3. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” —Art Williams
4. “If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” —Jim Rohn
5. “People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed.” —Tony Robbins
6. “All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” —Michael John Bobak
7. “Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.” —Anonymous 
8. “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” —Ella Wheeler Wilcox
9. “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” —Mark Caine
10. “There is no traffic jam along the extra mile.” —Roger Staubach
11. “Trust because you are willing to accept the risk, not because it’s safe or certain.”                       —Anonymous
12. “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”                 —Albert Einstein
13. “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” —Ecclesiastes 11:4
14. “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”      —Pablo Picasso
15. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison
16. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”                               —Ralph Waldo Emerson
17. “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” —Diane Ackerman
18. “We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams. We are the movers and shakers of the world forever, it seems.” —Arthur O’Shaughnessy
19. “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” —Deepak K. Chopra
20. “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” —Lao Tzu
21. “Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”                                 —F. Scott Fitzgerald
22. “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”                   —James N. Watkins
23. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” —C. S. Lewis
24. “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” —Theodore Roosevelt
25. “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” —Thomas Jefferson
26. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference.” —Robert Frost
27. “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” —Dale Carnegie
28. “In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it.” —Jane Smiley
29. “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” —Francis Chan
30. “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.” —Anatole France

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I recently picked up Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and I thought it would be fun to include a book review every few months on the blog (I will, of course, keep the book choices relevant to freelancing, editing/writing, and business in general). As a freelancer, the way my home is organized directly affects my productivity. I was interested to see if Kondo's method (aka the KonMari Method) could help me better organize my home, leaving more time to build my business and work more productively.

Clutter affects us in many ways and comes in various shapes and sizes. It’s not just a pile of junk mail on the table or clothes in the closet that don’t fit but can come in the form of toxic relationships, possessions from a past relationship or broken friendship that give off a negative vibe, and/or an overflowing e-mail inbox. Clutter adds stress to our lives and distracts us from the things that truly matter.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is an absolute gem. From an editorial standpoint, I found it to be extremely well written. It’s a relatively quick read (213 pages) and has a clear and helpful index and table of contents. Besides wholeheartedly recommending this book to those who are looking to bring order into their lives and work (if you aren’t one of the millions of people who have already purchased it), I thought I’d include some of the ways reading this book has improved my life as a freelancer. I hope you find these tips to be helpful!

I’ve reset my morning and evening routines for better productivity.

Each evening, I make sure that everything is put away in its proper place before I go to sleep. In addition to giving me a fresh start in the morning, I am actually able to get better-quality sleep knowing that everything has been taken care of prior to bedtime. Before reading this book, I would tidy up the apartment as part of my morning routine, thinking it would kick-start my productive spirit and energize me for the busy day ahead. This partially worked, only I would get into “home mode” instead of “work mode,” and before I knew it lunchtime would have passed on most days without much editing to show for it (however, on occasion I would have an extremely organized kitchen, complete with an alphabetized spice rack). I now have a new morning routine, which I’ll outline in detail in the next post, and I’ve been able to hit the reset button on my productivity.

I am now surrounded only by things that bring me joy, which has improved my energy and overall happiness.

When I look around our home, I can’t help but smile because the possessions I’m surrounded by, each and every one, bring me joy, which is the primary theme of the KonMari Method. Each piece of furniture, artwork, and décor is something that my husband and I picked out or was a gift that truly suits our style and needs (and not something we kept because we felt like we had to). Photographs elicit happy memories and fresh candle scents invite relaxation. To learn to let go of what no longer serves us is such an important life lesson, but to then be surrounded only by what we hold most dear generates such an uplifting feeling. As for my workday: happier thoughts + more energy = less stress + more getting done.

Tidying has become so much easier, which means more time in the day for the important things in life.

Once I had decluttered and assigned everything its own place (and I mean everything), I was amazed by how much faster and easier it was to have the apartment clutter-free, and, most importantly, it’s been near effortless to maintain. There’s no more shutting the door to hide the mess on the other side or taking extra time to decide where something should go. I no longer have items I didn’t remember I had because they were stashed away in storage, and I can now better organize our belongings in our tiny one-bedroom apartment with lots of room to spare (my favorite tip was her method of folding rather than hanging certain clothing items—it has seriously changed my life!). Since I spend drastically less time picking up, I have more time to work on the things that mean the most to me. I’ve felt the weight of a heavy load being lifted off my shoulders, and I’m ready to take my business—and my life—to the next level.

Have you guys read this book? What did you think?


On Chasing Your Dreams

Before I started my business, I was working an entry-level office job where I often had to “create” things to do. I was bored, and I didn’t feel like I was contributing to society or using my talents appropriately. While I was grateful for the work, I knew I needed something more.

According to a Gallup poll, in 2013, 70 percent of people described themselves as “disengaged” from their work. I personally know many people who are unhappy with their jobs, but very few do anything—or feel they can do anything—about it. Why is this?

Leaving your job, no matter how unhappy you are, means going outside your comfort zone, into the unknown.

Whether it’s a tiptoe, a step, or a giant leap, going outside your comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable. Do your research, determine what you need, and see what matches up. Lean on friends and family when you have doubts, and remember why you wanted to make a change in the first place.

As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal. —Robin S. Sharma

Some people won’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.

As with any decision, big or small, you will likely have naysayers. In my case, I had an array of responses to my decision to start my own business, from “I’m so excited for you” to “Isn’t that a bit risky? Why don’t you just keep a ‘normal’ office job like everyone else?” While it's smart to take varying opinions into account when making a big decision, in the end, it’s up to you. You are in charge of your own happiness, and your decision doesn’t need to make sense to everyone else as long as it makes sense and is meaningful to you.

Trust your instincts and make judgments [based] on what your heart tells you. The heart will not betray you. —David Gemmell

You are waiting for the “perfect time.”

Life can really get away from us if we let it. Time seems to fly by in an instant, and we wonder how it’s even possible. If you allow it, you might find yourself losing five, ten, even twenty-plus years in a job that isn't fufilling. Don’t put a date stamp on chasing your dreams. It’s easy to say, “But maybe I’ll get a raise next year” or “When the kids are older, I might try something else,” but why put your happiness on hold? Take the time to regularly evaluate where you are in life. Is it where you thought you’d be? Is it even better? Are you happy? Don’t be intimidated to take a step toward your happiness, even if it’s a small one.

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved. —Maurice Chevalier

Life is short, and each day is a precious gift. If you feel that hunger, that longing to try something new, think about what you need to do in order to get there and feel empowered to make it happen.

All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts. —Elle Luna

What’s the Difference between Copyediting and Proofreading?

“I am a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.” This is my simple reply when asked what I do for a living, and I have become less and less surprised when my statement is followed by confused looks and questions like, “Isn't that the same thing?” or “So you spell-check documents?”

Copyeditors Are Not Proofreaders

The duties of a copyeditor are quite extensive and difficult to describe in one neat, simple sentence, so it’s not surprising that many people are unclear on what it means to be a copyeditor. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, let’s get one common misconception out of the way: copyeditors are not proofreaders—although many copyeditors are also good proofreaders. The Copyeditor’s Handbook (3rd Edition) describes it best:

Copyeditors work on an author’s manuscript and are concerned with imposing mechanical consistency; correcting infelicities of grammar, usage, and diction; and querying internal inconsistencies of fact or tone. Proofreaders, in contrast, are charged with correcting errors introduced during the typesetting, formatting, or file conversion of the final document and with identifying any serious errors that were not caught during copyediting. (2011, 11)

So, copyediting comes first, then proofreading—they are two different and distinct stages in the publication process.

What Does a Copyeditor Do?

Let’s break down the main responsibilities of a copyeditor based on the previous quote from The Copyeditor’s Handbook (this list is not exhaustive):

Imposes mechanical consistency. Correct errors in spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation (what’s the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash?), as well as make changes to ensure a manuscript conforms to the appropriate editorial style (in academic editing, this would often be either Chicago, APA, or MLA style).

Corrects infelicities of grammar, usage, and diction. Amend wording that is likely to distract or confuse a reader. A copyeditor will use various editing resources as well as his or her own judgment to make these changes, as the rules for this facet of editing are often subjective. A good copyeditor will know when to hold back and when to make a change. A helpful question to ask while editing is: “Is this sentence technically correct as the author has written it?” If the answer is “yes,” leave it. Never change a sentence that is technically correct simply because you would prefer to write it another way.

Queries internal inconsistencies of fact or tone. “On Monday, March 15, 2016,” is an example of an item that would need to be flagged for the author and not just simply changed as there is more than one possible change. For example, it is possible the author meant Monday, March 14 (“Monday” is correct), or the author might have meant to write “Tuesday” instead of “Monday” (making “March 15” correct). Although copyeditors aren’t responsible for the factual accuracy of a manuscript, a good editor will flag any consistencies he or she finds and ask the author to confirm.

What Does a Proofreader Do?

Based on the definition from The Copyeditor’s Handbook, a proofreader checks for errors in the book proof, which is normally in PDF format. A proofreader should be on the lookout for problems such as incorrect change in font style or size, line break errors, inconsistencies in chapter headings, and so on. He or she will also read through the book from start to finish and identify any errors that were not caught during the copyediting stage (because no one is perfect!).

I hope this information is helpful! Please feel free to leave comments/questions below!

Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. 3rd edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.