Although editing and proofreading are often mentioned together, they are two different things. Here’s the difference that needs to be taken note of.
Editing means improving writing to put the writer’s message across in the best way. Proofreading means checking to ensure the writing is technically and aesthetically sound.
What is editing?
Oxford Dictionaries defines it as to ‘prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it’’.
Editors edit copy. They are responsible for the overall consistency in meaning and accuracy in a piece of writing. Once a writer is finished with a draft, it is sent through to an editor who will read it and make changes.
- Correct spelling and grammar.
- Check the logical flow of ideas.
- Check consistency of language, tone, and style.
- Check facts and figures.
- Ensure that the writer is getting the intended message across.
- Ensure that the work is readable.
- Ensure there are no obvious errors.
Editors send their corrections back to the writer who fixes problem areas. After the writer and editor are happy with the work, they will send it to a proofreader. (Fiction editing can be broken down into even more specialised areas as you can see in this post – Four Types of Book Editing.)
What is proofreading?
Oxford Dictionaries defines it as to ‘read (printer’s proofs or other written or printed material) and mark any errors.’
Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process. It can only be done once the writer finishes all other revisions, rewrites, and edits. Imagine it as the final quality check before writing is published.
Because first impressions count, checking for consistency in usage and layout is important. The words we use to promote or provide information should look professional and they should be error free.
- Correct inconsistent formatting in layout, which includes margins, page numbering, italics, alignment, headers and footers, quotes, paragraphing, spacing, tabs, and fonts.
- Correct usage of language, which includes spelling (British or American English), punctuation, grammar, hyphenation, capitalisation, abbreviations, and acronyms.
Proofreaders read through the final copy of the text to highlight and correct errors. Once the errors are identified and marked with the appropriate symbols, the proof is corrected. Remember there is no rewriting done at this stage. Proofreaders polish the finished product.
If you are looking for good editors and proofreaders, they should:
- Have a detailed knowledge of the language in which they work.
- Be computer literate.
- Be good at research.
- Read widely and have interests in a number of subjects.
- Have sound analytical skills.
- Be able to identify facts that need to be checked.
- Pay attention to detail.
- Be able to understand writing in various fields, even if they know little about the subject matter.
- Be capable of critical thinking.
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