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What Is The Difference Between Editing And Proofreading?


A white plaque in front of an out-of-focus succulent in a floral pot. The plaque reads: Write without fear. Edit without mercy.
Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash

Every single piece of media that you consume has gone through an editing and proofing process. TV and movie scripts, song lyrics, and even social media posts are polished before publication. But what is the difference between proofreading and editing?

When writing anything, things tend to happen in a specific order:


The Writing Process


First comes the big spark - a character, a line, an image. This is the match’s flame, the lightning strike that significantly kicks things off.


The next step heavily depends on your personal working style. Some people begin frantically researching, others start writing the first draft, and others mix them together.


Once your first draft has been thrown onto the page, it is time to begin the editing process. This could be repeated multiple times before a project is completed, and achieves different things depending on the depth of editing required. Word choice, continuity, structure, and more will be heavily scrutinised. Depending on your needs, you could end up rewriting entire sections of your piece to improve its quality.


Once the heavy editing phase is complete, the proofreading begins. Proofreading is a necessary final step to ensure that your work is as perfect as possible before publication. Grammar, formatting, and punctuation will all be inspected to ensure everything is accurate.


No matter what you are working on, editing and proofreading your document is essential.


Editing


Editing, as discussed above, occurs before the proofreading stage. It is a repeated process designed to address core writing issues. Unlike proofreading, editing is an intensive collaborative process where both editor and writer work together to improve the written piece. Different types are available depending on the depth of editing required. In general, your work’s clarity, readability, and structure will be adjusted and strengthened until it is perfect. Some things that editors do include:

  • Remove inconsistencies

  • Check citations

  • Examine clarity, structure, and content

  • Word reduction

  • Rewording

  • Restructuring

  • Adjust to a style guide

  • Adjust surface level issues such as typos and spelling errors


Proofreading


Proofreading, on the other hand, is a more isolated process with little collaboration. It typically happens just before publication and is a surface-level process. Proofreading is often cheaper than editing due to its relatively quick scrutinisation. Unlike editors, proofreaders exclusively look at:

  • Misspellings

  • Grammar mistakes

  • Punctuation mistakes

  • Typographical errors

  • Formatting errors

Once these issues are fixed, the piece can be sent to the publisher and revealed to the world.

Photo of a dimly lit wall with a pipe leading to a light switch attached. Drawn on the wall is a circle made of broken lines, with these words written inside: Get the Creativity Flowing.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

When is hiring an editor essential?


We recommend hiring a professional editor if:

  • English is your second language

Suppose you are looking to publish a piece in English, and it is not your first language. In that case, we highly recommend hiring an editor. Editors are there to help your work read and sound as though it were written by a native English speaker.

  • You are an author wanting to publish a book

Querying can be a highly stressful process. You’ve spent months working on your new novel, poem, or essay, and you cannot afford to have minor hiccups get in the way. Editors smooth any wrinkles or holes in your piece, allowing you to query or publish your work confidently.

When is hiring an editor advantageous?


Sometimes you need to make your work stand out from the crowd. Hiring an editor can give you an edge if you are:

  • Looking to publish an academic piece

The world of academia is a ruthless one, and you need to present your work as best you can to be heard. Having an editor on your side to review your citations and clean up your arguments can help you convince others of your paper’s legitimacy.

  • Writing important business documentation

As a business, you want to present yourself as professionally as possible. Whether it is a contract, a presentation, or a data report, having your work edited beforehand can show clients and contractors your business cares. Perfected documentation proves that you are communicative, well-presented, and professional. Excellent writing can make or break a business deal – get ahead of the competition with an editor.


When is hiring a proofreader essential?


Proofreading, despite its shorter turnaround time, is just as vital as editing in the writing process. In specific scenarios, having a second pair of eyes is incredibly crucial. We recommend hiring a proofreader if you are:

  • A student or an academic

Making typographical or formatting mistakes in a paper can cost you easy marks or brownie points with your peers. Having another person to spot issues in your work can really boost your confidence come deadline day.

  • An author looking to publish

If you are an author with strong editing skills, hiring a proofreader can increase your chances of being published. Removing any minor issues before querying can give your book the best chance possible of reaching a potential agent.

  • A business reaching out to clients and contractors

First impressions are everything; this goes double in the business world. Removing any minor wrinkles before a meeting with a client, contractor, or higher-up shows that you have an eye for detail and care about your work.

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