Outside of the publishing industry, most people assume that the terms “edit” and “proofread” mean the same thing. So, it’s not uncommon to hear people swap out these two terms when they are looking for help with their content creation.

In order for everyone to have the right expectations when working on a project, however, it’s important for everyone to understand what sort of work is involved in each of these services. While editing and proofreading are both services that involve the close reading of a text and can lead to revisions, the techniques that are used, as well as the amount of detail and skill that is involved, are really quite different.

What is editing?

editing When an editor looks over the text in a written work, one of the first things that they will look at is the structure of the text. They will look at how information is organised and presented, and whether or not each section of the text is clear and flows well. They will pay close attention to the style of writing that is employed in the work. As they read the text, they may make suggestions to the original writer on how to make the work more clear and improve the flow of ideas.

As part of the editing process, an editor may also rewrite or delete words, sentences, paragraphs or even entire sections of the work. Some editors also perform fact checking of the text to ensure that the correct dates and statistics are used. This is very common for texts that are written for scholarly, historical and technical publications.

Even when a text is well written and concise, editing can still be a very time consuming and labour intensive process. Depending on the amount of revision that is necessary to improve the coherence and consistency of the text, an editor may go through the editing process more than once.

What is proofreading?

proofreadingOnce a text is written, edited and possibly rewritten, it is ready for proofreading. Regardless of the skill level and knowledge of the writer and editor, it’s almost always a good idea to proofread a text before publication to ensure that it is error free.

When using the services of a proofreader, they will carefully go through the text word by word to look for typographical errors as well as errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Many proofreaders will only look for one specific type of error at a time as they carefully examine the text. Since there are several types of errors that can commonly occur, a proofreader may need to read through a text several times in order to ensure that no errors remain.

Why You Need a Proofreader

Misspelled words and other errors can make it difficult to understand individual words or even the theme of the text. This is because simply changing one letter in a word can change its meaning. Funny and embarrassing misunderstandings can be the result if mistakes are not caught.

Errors can also give others the impression that you might have hurried through the text and not put forth your best effort. These types of errors make you look careless, and unprofessional. Whether it’s a simple email, a resume, or a longer publication, errors might cause some to stop reading the text, or ignore you and not take you seriously.

Even if your error-filled content is read, the mistake may be so obvious, and embarrassing, that the reader may spread the news. It’s bad enough to think you may have given someone a bad impression by sending them an error filled text. What happens if the reader takes pictures of your errors and then shares the post with several hundred, or thousands, of their connections?

Hot Docs proofreading errorA recent article published on HotDocs focused on just such a scenario and gave funny examples of common proofreading mistakes, complete with photos and the full details on the errors.  These types of mistakes seemingly occur everywhere and all of the time, as most of us can remember seeing an error on a sign or other publication that made us laugh just because the mistake was so obvious and completely changed the meaning of what the writer intended.

While we all laugh when we see others make these mistakes, none of us wants to swap places.  Despite the potential for embarrassment, it can be almost impossible to prevent these types of mistakes if you proofread your own work.  Being able to catch errors when you read your own work is very difficult, as our brains tend to trick us into skimming over the text too quickly to be able to see and catch the errors.

Proofreading becomes even more difficult if you are writing for an audience that uses a different language or a different regional dialect than your native tongue.  Hiring a professional proofreader to look over your text provides you with a fresh set of eyes that are more likely to catch your errors since the text is new to them. Proofreading is a service that is usually performed at a lesser rate than professional editing, so hiring a proofreader can be a cost effective way to help you protect your image and reputation.

Now that you are more familiar with the meaning of these two terms, do you know who really needs a proofreader? Yes, that’s right, each of us can benefit by hiring a proofreader to look over our work! Pop over to Oz Proof and Edit and ask for help.