The Large and Small Differences between Editing and Proofreading


So you have finished the final draft of your document, but you still want the trained eye of an expert. You start looking online only to be inundated with too many options. Proofreading Services, Editing Services, Copy Editing. Which one should you choose? What are the benefits of each option? How do they lead to your eventual goal of having a concise, well written piece?

Many people assume editing, proofreading and copyediting services are the exact same thing. However, you should consider whether you are looking to merely correct your grammar and, or if you are looking for more substantive changes such as style, tone, and formatting.

For example, in the publishing industry, editors make substantive changes to stories to increase their overall readability. However, it is still well understood, those stories that have been edited still need to undergo the proofreading stage.

There are many subtle and many glaring differences between each writing service. Depending on which one you prefer the most, you should probably consider an individual with expertise in that category. 

What is an Editing Service?

Before we embark on explaining this, it is important to make yet another distinction between the different types of editing. The first stage is known as developmental editing or substantive editing. During this stage, editors review your manuscript or book by taking a broad based approach. They look at the organization and structure of the text as well as any inconsistencies that may exist within the story. Any other problems that might exist such as improper tenses, tone, conflict within the story or character and plot development might also be pointed out by the editor.

During the developmental editing stage, editors focus on improving the story rather than correcting incorrect grammar or awkward phrases that may exist. They are looking only at the big picture during this stage of the editing process. This type of broad based editing does not only apply to stories. It can also apply to blogs, news articles or even business reports.

Once the developmental editing stage is complete, the copyediting stage can begin. This is where sentence level editing begins. During this juncture of the editing process, editors look at grammar, spelling and punctuation. Moreover, entire phrases in a sentence can also be removed to make it more succinct and ensure the flow of the story is conducive for better reading. Furthermore, too much passive verbs can also be exchange for more active ones to ensure the writing is more balanced and fluid. Sentences are also looked at to ensure they are not awkward or repetitive and that they serve to further the plot of the story or the main point of the text.

In a sense, you can look at developmental and substantive editing as the macro (the large picture) approach to editing while copyediting is more micro (smaller picture).

What is a Proofreading Service?

At first glance, many people conflate proofreading and copyediting and believe it to be the exact same thing. While certainly there are many similarities, it is important to make a distinction. A story or article or blog need to be proofread in order for the writer to be sure it can be published. Proofreaders read the entire text with a fine tooth comb to ensure every word and punctuation serve their purpose and are not incorrectly placed there. Proofreaders make minor changes, not big ones and can pick up on many of the smaller mistakes copyeditors overlooked. For agencies offering copyediting and proofreading services, it is important for writers to use both and not take a one or the other approach to ensure a flawless piece of writing that is ready for publishing. 


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