An interesting discussion, and you all make very valid points. Here in the UK 
some of the folks I work with still make the traditional distinction between 
copy-editing and proofreading that dates from the days of hot metal. However, 
the terms are becoming blurred, and this is causing some confusion. 

This confusion become damaging when it results in a final production process 
that misses the fact that the proofer has no content knowledge. It also leads 
to the question of whether *copy-editing* can be performed in any effective way 
by someone without content knowledge: my contention is 'no', but in fact this 
is often what happens... 'copy-editing' is confused with 'proofreading'.

I believe that it *is* possible to effectively edit and proof your own work, 
but it is hard, and requires a substantial mind-shift. I agree that it is 
certainly not desirable, but sometimes it cannot be avoided for cost or other 

Story: some time ago I was commissioned to write a book. After writing it, I 
lightly copy-edited it as time allowed. The publisher then sent the Ms to a 
trained freelance proofreader (or, as I thought, copy-editor). I applied their 
corrections. Some time later I was reworking the material and found some 
glaring errors, so I carried out a complete reproof and analysis. I was quite 
shocked at the number of undiscovered errors I found. Some were typos, some 
were technical. It turned out that the proofreader had little or no 
understanding of the content.

I suppose the moral is that sometimes things don't turn out as you expect even 
if you do everything 'right'.


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