Editing vs. Proofreading — Is There Really A Difference?
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Ever found yourself wondering what the difference is between editing and proofreading? This is a question I'm often asked by both prospective clients and avid writers. Besides process and complexity, you might be surprised by some of the key differences between these two services — and it's why I decided to share this post with you. Enjoy!
Imagine for a moment that you're doing an interview with one of the fastest men in the world, Usain Bolt. During the conversation, you prompt him with the question, "Now that you've won an Olympic gold medal and hold the world record in the 100 meter sprint, are you going to try for the marathon?" I mean, they both involve running...right? While it's technically a true statement, this comparison will sound just as crazy to Usain Bolt as trying to convince an industry professional that editing and proofreading are basically the same. Silly anecdotes aside, let's take a look at some of the key differences between these two services...
In a nutshell, proofreading involves combing through a text, searching for surface level mistakes such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Ideally, this will be the last time the text is checked before being published.
Although it still takes a highly skilled individual to do a proper proofread, it is much less intense than editing since no rewriting should need to be done at this stage. Who might benefit from hiring a proofreader?
• Authors who have already had their
book professionally edited
• Writers who are confident in their
work and have self-edited
• Businesses who need one final check
of a document before printing
While an editor will still fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues that are jumping off the page, his or her job is to dive in deep and improve the overall quality of the text. Editing is a true test of creativity and requires an individual who is capable of maintaining the author's tone while fixing awkward sentences, suggesting alternative word choice, and even rearranging parts of the text in order to convey a message more clearly. Sometimes this process can result in extensive changes to the original text, meaning that editors are usually strong writers themselves. Who might benefit from hiring an editor?
• Writers who are non-native English
• Authors of books or ebooks
• Businesses looking to make sure their
documents contain quality writing
• Authors who are not confident in their
writing or situations where multiple
people have made a contribution
One Final Comment
Hopefully by this point you're convinced that YES, there really is a difference between editing and proofreading! Trust me, I know it can be daunting trying to figure out what service you need, especially when you start seeing people throw around terminology like content editing, copy editing, structural editing, and developmental editing.
But don't worry, a quality professional (and maybe a future blog post to explain the different types of editing...hint hint) will always be happy to steer you in the right direction and help you find the best fit for your project. Have you got any questions about editing vs. proofreading? Leave them in the comments below.