How to Save Money on Proofreading and Editing


So you’ve recently finished your umpteenth draft of your book, breathed a huge sigh of relief, maybe even dabbed a tear or two. You decide you want a set of professional editorial eyes on your work to make it the best it can be to accomplish your goal, whether that may be a traditional publishing contract, self-publication, or just to have something for friends and family.

By being willing to part with some money towards your work, you’re giving it the acknowledgement and attention it deserves. And with everything in life, you get what you pay for – but it never hurts to make savings on your well-earned cash here and there, does it? This post will help you do just that. I have another post for if you want to find out how you can save money on developmental editing.

Here’s a list of the ways to reduce proofreading and copyediting costs discussed in this post:

• Knowing the editing process and its order of play
• Cleaning up your document/making the most out of tools
• Using Word’s Styles
• Using a style sheet

Let’s tackle these in turn.

The editorial order of play

It’s worth taking stock of exactly where you are in your writing process to get a better idea of the type of editing you need. Even better, it’s also useful to have a clear view of the types of editing available.

It’s common for an author who is new to the publishing landscape to be unaware of the multi-layered process involved in getting a book from the initial stages through to production. Authors may plan to hire a proofreader while what they really need is a copyedit, or they may think proofreading incorporates duties that fall in the copyediting domain.

It is, however, good practice for editorial professionals to let you know if your book isn’t ready for the service you’re after, and often will refer you to a trusted colleague. We’re a helpful bunch, not money-hungry!

Bear in mind this practice is not universal. Dishonesty and charlatans – or those who care more about getting paid than their duty to clients – exist in this industry as any other. This, and there’s those who are well-intentioned but undertrained. Make sure to do your research.

Here is a simple breakdown of the different stages within the editorial flow:

Developmental editing

This is a rather broad and nebulous term even within the editing community and the service can encompass various aspects from one editor to another. But the common thread is identifying the big-picture storytelling issues – plot, structure, characterisation, scene effectiveness, tension etc.

Line editing

This service is all about the styling of your words to maximum effect. Tone, capturing of emotions, pacing, redundancy, flow, clarity, unnatural phrasing, dialogue mechanics, and more are the focus of line-editing.


This is where the more subjective elements of editing end. Copyediting involves checking for grammar, usage, consistency, formatting, and that all the elements are present in the text. The copyeditor also carries out fact checking, ensures timelines hold together, characters’ features don’t change, and much more. After the copyedit the book is then sent off to the typesetter, who will decide on and apply the page layout.


In traditional publishing, proofreading is the final quality check of typeset text for any lingering errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and ambiguity. The proofreader will usually (unless paid to do so) not reword sentences, alter their structure, or fact check (but will query if something seems wrong). Freelance proofreaders typically work directly within the Word file and may offer proof-editing services – a marriage between proofreading and copyediting.

It’s worth bearing in mind that there is a degree of interchangeability with these terms, especially in the freelance editing community. One editor’s copy edit may include line-editing by default, whereas another’s may stick to the more traditional, stricter definition. A line-editor may call their work substantive or structural. Developmental editors may operate under the title of a professional beta reader.

‘Well, how does this knowledge help me save money?’ I hear you ask.

Doing things out of order will waste tons of money. Just as you wouldn’t lay down carpets before getting the measurements correct, you wouldn’t want to fix the micro aspects of your novel such as grammar or punctuation before first correcting story issues. Commissioning only a proofreader before submitting to a publisher, who then tells you your story needs rewriting to fix several plot holes is something you, and your poor wallet, should avoid. Big-picture elements first, fine-tuning later. Always.

Big-picture elements first, fine-tuning later. Always.

Cleaning up the document

Quick self-editing tasks that make your document more readable and stylistically consistent before handing it over to the copyeditor/proofreader would save them time – time is money!

A quick warning of the Replace All button. As tempting as it may be to make a global change in one fell swoop, it can wreak havoc if used carelessly. Changing -ise spellings to -ize using Replace All, for example, will end up introducing misspellings for all the words that are only ever spelt with -ise, regardless of style: comprise, surprise, despise etc. It’s nearly always best to review each change one by one.

A first easy step to perform is to remove any double spaces. Open Advanced Find and Replace by pressing Ctrl + H, type in two spaces in the Find box, and one in the Replace box and voila! It’s worth repeating this in case there are instances of triple, or more, spaces.

If you’re using spaced hyphens for parenthetical statements – like this – then they would need to be changed to either en or em dashes depending on which style guide the publisher you’re sending your work to uses. To make the change, use the following steps (^32 is Word’s code for a space):

Find: ^32-^32
Replace: ^32^=^32

You would alter the Replace box content depending on the style. If you need em dashes, the symbol would be ^+ with a space either side or closed up as needed.

After you do this step, hyphens may remain behind if there’s a missing space either side of them – like this- or even- like this – because the search specifically targets the exact string of characters and spaces. You can find and manually correct those errors. Turn on wildcards, then:

Find: [A-z]-^32
Find: ^32-[A-z]

In a number span, the convention is unspaced en dashes, rather than hyphens. To make the change, you need to harness the power of wildcards. On the Find and Replace menu, make sure you have the ‘use wildcards’ option checked (and Tracked Changes turned off as wildcards and TC don’t get along). Then:

Find: ([0-9])-([0-9])
Replace: \1^=\2

(keep in mind these are backslashes, not the regular forward slashes)

To remove unwanted empty lines between paragraphs, do the following:
Find: ^p^p
Replace: ^p

While doing this, it may be useful to reveal formatting marks. This can be done in two ways: using the shortcut Ctrl + * or clicking on the symbol that looks similar to a reverse ‘p’ at the top right of the paragraph section under the Home tab. Enabling this allows you to see the characters which aren’t displayed on-screen, such as spaces or paragraph returns.

The good thing about taking the time to carry out these short tasks is you can tell the editor/proofreader you’ve done them, so they don’t need to worry about these issues themselves. This saves them time which will be taken into account when calculating fees.

Quick self-editing tasks that make your document more readable and stylistically consistent before handing it over to the copyeditor/proofreader would save them time – time is money!

Word's Styles

Styles are a great way to control your document’s formatting options, and if you haven’t already, please start using them! Doing so will greatly impress your editor and they’ll be thankful for making their job easier.

How do Styles make formatting easier? Well, using them:

• enforces consistency
• saves time
• makes navigation easier
• makes rearranging sections a breeze
• allows you to create an auto-updating table of contents

See my guide on how to use Styles to take the stress out of formatting.

Use a style sheet

Style sheets are a consistency tool that editors usually form themselves, or are provided to by a publisher as part of the project brief. However, that’s no reason why an author can’t make their own!

A style sheet is a document that outlines decisions you’ve applied to your novel regarding spelling (-iz or -is, focussing or focusing etc.) hyphenation, presentation of dates/time, and much more. It can be as detailed as you need it to be and can include story details such as place, family, or species names. If you can’t remember if a certain word has previously been hyphenated or not, the style guide comes to the rescue! It’s also great for maintaining consistency across novels in a series. Hand this to your editor to save them time and they’ll also most likely update it and give it back to you with more depth. Wins all around.

What’s that? You want a free style sheet with dropdown menus? Well, here you go…

The dropdown menus don’t seem to work on mobile (at least, not on mine!) so I’ve included a normal version too. Either select your preferred options or, on the normal version, delete the style choices you don’t want. Of course, save a copy so you can reuse it for each project. There’s also guidance on recommended practices in fiction.

Final thoughts...

By now you’ve noticed a theme has emerged – saving you money is about saving your editor time by fixing the nitty gritty micro elements, allowing your editor or proofreader to spend less time carrying out the rudimentary tasks and get right into the meat of the work.

Here’s a refresher of the money-saving tips you can use before handing over work to an editor:

• The order of play is developmental editing, line-editing, copyediting, then proofreading. Always start with the big-picture editing, then fine-tune the writing later
• Use Find and Replace searches to clean up your document
• Word’s Styles make both your job, and the editor’s, easier
A style sheet is your one-stop-shop for all of your stylistic decisions which you can refer to whenever you need reminding

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