Editing vs. Proofreading
Finally, finished writing your dissertation? Are you ready to submit that big funding proposal? You may think so, but if you haven’t bothered editing or proofreading your work, you are, in fact, not ready! Editing and proofreading are essential writing steps before any written manuscript is ready for the eyes of the public (or your boss, or your potential funder). What are editing and proofreading, and what is the difference? Do you really need both? The answer is yes, and there are some key differences between editing and proofreading that we are going to review in this article. We will focus specifically on English editing and English proofreading, but for those of you who read and write in more than one language, don’t be fooled. Editing and proofreading are critical steps no matter what language you are writing in and no matter whether or not you are a native speaker.
What Are Editing and Proofreading?
Editing and proofreading can be thought of as two different steps in the same process. That process is reviewing and making changes to a document so that it is polished, well-written, and error-free. Both editing and proofreading will improve your paper in different ways. The scope of English editing is a bit broader than English proofreading and involves making a variety of changes, including but not limited to:
- Fixing grammatical errors
- Rewriting sentences to make them shorter and clearer
- Breaking up long sentences
- Changing passive to active voice
- Ensuring that style and tone are consistent
- Fixing any awkward or missing transitions between ideas
When an editor approaches a document, they want to get a sense of purpose and the intended audience of the writing. If you hire professional English editing services, they will ask you some questions such as where will this document be published and who will read it. Your answers will determine the changes they make. For example, if you are writing an article intended for the general public about the science behind making vaccines, the editor will advise explaining or changing any overly technical terms. They will revise your language to be more formal or casual, depending on the publication venue. An editor usually reads through your document and makes changes and leaves comments as they go.
The scope of English proofreading is more limited and generally aims to:
- Find and fix any spelling mistakes
- Ensure that punctuation is proper
- Check for consistent capitalization and abbreviation
- Fix any minor grammatical errors left behind by the editor
Of course, an editor will fix any mistakes like these that they catch, but they are not focused on hunting down specific, nitpicky errors like if the Oxford comma is applied consistently throughout your text. Many non-native English speakers choose to employ a native English proofreader to catch mistakes for them. Native English proofreaders have the advantage of easily spotting errors that non-native speakers miss. Even so, proofreaders employ various tricks to make the process easier. Many proofreaders will read through a document multiple times, looking for specific error types each time. Some may read the document backward or in sections to make sure they don’t miss anything.
When Should I Choose Editing vs. Proofreading?
Whether you seek professional English editing or a native English proofreader to review your paper depends on what stage of the writing process you are in. If you have only written and revised a couple of rough drafts and feel like your writing itself needs polishing, professional English editing will take care of making the changes and suggestions that you need. If you’ve already edited your paper and are just one step away from being finished, it’s time to seek out a native English proofreader to carefully read through your writing and make sure that your final document is error-free.
This simple comparison of English editing and English proofreading, and what each stage of the writing process seeks to accomplish, can help you determine whether you need editing or proofreading.
Do I Need a Native English Editor or Native English Proofreader?
As the global language, English is one of the most in-demand languages when it comes to editing and proofreading. Simply put, there is an endless amount of English writing out there that needs proofreading and editing so that it can become clear, well-written, compelling text. However, because English is the global language, there are many varieties and ways to speak it that are all correct. In other words, there is no “right” style of English. There are only rules and conventions for each variety of English.
Strictly speaking, there are many native English speakers who are not great editors and many non-native speakers who are. That said, hiring a service of native English proofreaders and professional English editing offered by native speakers is not like asking any native English speaker to do the work for you. Many online professional English editing services offer skilled, subject-matter experts with years of experience doing English editing. They also employ native English proofreaders who have a keen eye for the finer points of English rules and conventions, and knowledge of how these vary between English types. No matter whether you are an experienced academic, a famous author, or a new student, your writing will benefit from both editing and proofreading.
What Is the Difference Between Editing, Revising, and Proofreading?