What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?

19. august 2022
Af Cecilie Tejnø

When we write an important text that’s going to be seen by a wider audience or just a small but important target group, then we’ll usually want a fresh pair of eyes to go over it and catch any grammar mistakes we’ve made or other irregularities. Because whether we’re writing in our mother tongue or a second language, we will have made mistakes.

Most people use the word ‘proofread’ when asking someone to review their text. If you were to ask someone working here at GlobalDenmark, they’d ask for clarification; do you need a proofreading or an editing?

Aren’t they the same thing? Not at all.

What is proofreading?

Simply put, when we proofread a text, we correct grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. We also make sure that your tables are labelled and numbered correctly, and we check concordance between headings and the index.

In other words, it’s the process of finding and correcting mistakes in a text before it’s printed or put online.

Editing a text takes things a bit further.

What is editing?

An editor of course looks at the “surface” level issues of a text (spelling, grammar, etc.), i.e. all the issues that are included in a proofreading. However, they will also take a deeper look at the content of a text, its structure and context.

An editor will typically

ensure readability and stylistic consistency – this can include splitting long sentences, deleting unnecessary words and rephrasing sentences, without changing their substance.

make sure paragraphs and sentences stay focused and have a logical flow

identify ambiguities or inconsistencies in the use of terms

A good editor will spot the common pitfalls that obstruct your argumentation and will suggest rewordings or restructurings that can improve the text’s readability.

So, which should you choose?

Whether the text needs to be proofread or edited depends on a number of factors, for example: What kind of text is it? What will it be used for? Were several authors involved in writing it? How do you rate your own ability or the abilities of your co-authors to write and structure a text?

And finally, the choice between proofreading and editing will also depend on your budget and deadline since an editing will often take longer and thus be more expensive.

Regardless, it can be hard to assess how much work your text is going to need. If you send your text to an experienced proofreader/editor, they’ll be able to quickly gauge it and recommend one of the two options.

In the end though, it’s always up to you to decide the level of revision you want and can afford.

Click here for more information about GlobalDenmark’s proofreading and editing services.

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