What is the difference between “editing” and “proofreading”? It isn’t always easy to tell both terms apart and many people consider them to be synonyms. However, proofreading and editing focus on different areas and both are still extremely important in the outcome of a document or text. To better understand the difference, we’ll need to define each one of them.
Editing a document consists of making the necessary changes to improve the quality of the writing. It is intended to make sure your document contains consistent language, clear expressions and is easy to read. It is considered by many to be a higher-level manuscript preparation service.
An editor will make sure the proper words have been used to transmit the writer’s idea. The editor will also check if the right tone has been chosen to best influence the target audience or if the gender language has been used appropriately, among other things. Editing focuses more on the content of the document.
There are three different levels of editing. The first one is line-by-line editing to make sure the paragraphs are properly delineated. The second one is substantive editing, which ensures the document is written in a clear language and has the correct style and structure. The third one is developmental editing, which consists of collaborating with the author to improve the document. In this last level an editor practically works hand in hand with the author to help him or her achieve the goals for the text, making important suggestions to improve it.
Since the success or failure of your document is greatly influenced by the quality of its writing, an editor’s job is quite essential.
On the other hand, proofreading is the process of making sure a text or document is grammatically correct. A proofreader also checks for punctuation errors, typos, spelling errors, missing or duplicated words, as well as other language mistakes.
But, isn’t this taken care of by simply running a “spell check” in your word processor? You may be surprised of how many mistakes aren’t detected by the ubiquitous spell and grammar check in your word processor. If you type a word that is spelled correctly but doesn’t make sense in a sentence, the spell check will not mark it as incorrect.
The job of a proofreader, who excel in the knowledge of spelling and punctuation rules, is to understand and apply the conventions of the English language. Through their extensive experience, editors are also able to identify inconsistent terminology as well as catch easily overlooked mistakes. Editors are very methodical and take a great deal of time to properly fulfill their task. The way proofreaders work usually consists of three rounds of proofreading. The first round corrects any mistakes, a second round after a few days of the first one to be absolutely sure the document is error-free, and a third round after all other editing has been finished.
Usually proofreading is done with a preview copy of how the book will actually look because the editor also checks the page numbers, page headings, table of contents, layout, page breaks, as well as makes sure that the illustrations, captions, and labels correspond with the text.
In conclusion, editing and proofreading complement each other. Both the content of a document (a.k.a. editing) as well as the quality of its writing (a.k.a. proofreading,) affect how the message is communicated to the reader.
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Pamela Hilliard Owens is the founder and CEO of Detroit Ink Publishing, a company that helps authors with their ghostwriting, writing, editing, formatting, manuscript preparation, and self-publishing projects. Contact us here to schedule a free consultation about your needs.