I took a ballet class earlier this week for the first time in a lifetime. I confused some of the moves by not focusing on similarities, not what made them unique. As I was leaving, I started thinking about a recent conversation regarding editing, copy editing and proofreading, which are often – mistakenly - interchanged.
Technology has blurred the lines by keeping the focus on the similarities but there are significant distinctions. Knowing the difference helps better understand the overall writing process. So, I am breaking down the nuances but it’s important to remember ALL have an important role in the writing process.
The art of editing is all encompassing. It requires the ability t see the big picture, dig deeper into how thoughts are presented, and rewrite material so it’s more accessible to more people. Editing can, and often does, occur at every level of the writing process.
A good editor rewrites sentences for clarity and rearranges paragraphs so the material flows better. A great editor does it without silencing the writer’s voice and takes a page from Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Proofreading aka proofing
Proofing is at the heart of copy editing and editing yet it stands alone as the final step in the writing process before publication. It is the action of correcting cursory mistakes - like formatting, punctuation, and spelling but it’s so much more than that, too.
Think of a proofreader like spelling and grammar checks on speed; only they don’t rely on computers to catch errors. It’s their super power. If you see errors in print or online, chances are proofreading was bypassed because someone believed editing is the same thing, or it was accomplished by simply skimming the written word. Or people are human and mistakes sometimes slip through the cracks.
Proofreading isn’t an afterthought. In baseball terms, it’s batting cleanup.
Copy editing goes further than proofreading – though the actions are similar. A copy editor, in addition to proofing, has expert knowledge in different writing styles, style guides (AP, Chicago etc.) and sometimes, in a specific field. Additionally, copy editing safeguards consistency with the treatment of items like dates, lists, locations, and names across all content and platforms.
Forget the idea that only an author, professional writer or large corporation needs these services. The truth is everyone can benefit from copy editing, editing, and proofreading. We live and work in a digital world where the written word – no matter how truncated – never dies. Mistakes sometimes get published but we can help lessen the likelihood. Contact us today for more information.