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What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

With any piece of written work, the editorial process is just as important as the writing itself. While this may sound unexpected, the truth is that the editing and proofreading of a text can make all the difference to its quality and its readability. But often, even within the language industry, these terms are used interchangeably, despite their decidedly different meanings.

No matter the skill level of the writer, it is essential that every written text be edited and proofread by a professional, for a number of reasons. It is often difficult even for professional writers to see their own mistakes within a text. They can sometimes find themselves set in their own logic or thought process, even when this doesn’t make sense to the reader. The most valid of arguments within a text can quickly be undermined by something as simple as an overlooked typo. Remember that a well-written text can be a powerful marketing and communications tool – so it truly pays to invest in a professional editing and proofreading service.

Read on to discover the real difference between editing and proofreading, and how and when each technique should be applied to your writing.

What is editing?

The term ‘editing’ is much broader than it may appear, with numerous types of editing all contributing to the final composition of the written text. Editing in general is defined as the revision of a text’s content, structure, grammar, and overall readability. Whilst the action itself can be broken down into different stages depending on the type of content and a client’s specific needs. Corporate texts, in particular, such as press releases, web and social media copy, and internal communications benefit greatly from professional copy editing.

Copy editing is carried out on the draft of the text, and aims to improve its structure, language, grammar, and readability. Copy editing can also be stylistic, tweaking the draft of the text to best suit its audience, and offering linguistic suggestions and improvements to the author. In the case of printed materials, it can also be an editor’s job to shorten a text in order to fit it into a layout. Copy editing tends to be the last stage of the editorial process before moving on to the final proofread.

What is proofreading?

Once a written text has gone through all the initial editorial stages and is signed off in terms of both its structure and language, that’s when it’s time to proofread. Sometimes carried out on printed manuscripts (when it comes to books or novels, for example) but commonly carried out electronically, proofreading is the final check that a written text will face before publication. Here, the proofreader must check for any errors or typos, as well as for any mistakes in grammar or punctuation. Not only will a proofreading professional check for issues with the text itself, but will also check for any anomalies in page numbering, graphics, tables, spacing, etc.

When should I use which service?

To put it simply: editing is primarily carried out on a draft of your text. Once these improvements to the piece’s language, syntax, and structure have been made, the final draft is then ready to be proofread. As discussed above, proofreading is the very last stage before your piece is ready to be published.

When deciding whether you need to seek out an editing or proofreading service – or, often, both! – there are some important things to consider. Firstly, you should determine how and where you would like your text to be published; this will determine its structure, tone, and style. Make sure to communicate these factors to your editor, who will then be able to carry out their checks and make any necessary changes without losing your distinctive voice. The editing process should always be tailored to the needs of each individual client, whether you’re looking for a detailed grammatical and structural review, or a ‘lighter’ edit of your text.

Another thing you’ll need to discuss with your editor is your target audience, or ideal readership. With this in mind, your editor can help you ensure that your writing style is well-suited for your client or reader – examples of this could be the decision to localise your text for either a British or a US-American reader, or the level of formality employed in your writing style.

Final checks and publishing

So, your written text has been professionally edited and proofread. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to be published! There are a few extra steps you should take to ensure a flawless final text.

If you’re planning to print your work as a hard copy, then it’s important to carry out a “Ready for Print” check. A “Ready for Print” check is the final stage before printing and ensures that there are no errors within the written text – either visually or grammatically. The check includes (among other factors):

  • Punctuation
  • Word separations
  • Cut-off text
  • Fonts
  • Titles
  • Overall layout

If you’re publishing your text in more than one language, then you may want to opt for multilingual Desktop Publishing (or DTP). A technique which usually follows the final editing and proofreading of a translated text, DTP focuses particularly upon the visual aspect of your text, ensuring that the layout and formatting is perfect and ready to print or publish. DTP also highlights potential errors within certain aspects of your text, such as:

  • Missing or incorrectly placed translations
  • Layout and format
  • Fonts
  • Titles
  • Images
  • Graphics and statistics

DTP will also ensure that your text is fully localised and perfectly adapted to your target audience.

Outsourcing the editing and proofreading of your written text to a skilled professional will level-up the quality and readability of your copy. At SwissGlobal, our team of experienced editors and proofreading experts are always ready to help you perfect your text, offering ISO-certified services that will fine-tune your text without losing sight of your unique voice and tone. Contact us today for a personalised consultation.