Proofreading and editing are often used interchangeably, broadly referring to the correction of a written text.
Without going into the particulars of the differences between both editorial processes, proofreading involves lesser intervention in the written text than editing does.
But what is actually the function of both, proofreading and editing?
Despite the differences between proofreading (sometimes written as proof-reading, other times called proofreading) and editing (or subbing, copy-editing), both are ultimately aimed at the correction and improvement of a written text, be it a small report, an essay, a dissertation, a book, or treatise.
Proofreading and copy-editing are essential services in many sectors, including academia and publishing. For a scientific or academic manuscript to be submitted to a university, it has to meet a certain standard of written English. The same applies to peer-reviewed journal articles.
Given that many academics and students are non-native speakers of English, they often need a helping hand to get their paper properly revised for language or any required editorial improvements.
Not only non-native speakers of English require proofreading services or editing, but natives too. The simple fact is that even the best native speakers can still make errors and mistakes in their copy.
What is genuine proofreading and editing?
Since the overarching purpose of copy-editing and proof-reading is the detection and correction of language errors as well as introducing any editorial improvements required in the written paper, both editorial processes should stay clear of superficiality.
Some editors and proofreaders often make some stylistic changes or correct the odd grammar, punctuation or spelling error here or there.
However, a genuine edit of a written piece of work should go far deeper into the text to read the heart and soul of the writing.
Proofreading and editing are not about introducing mechanical languages changes. The proofreader or editor needs to dedicate complete focus and attention to the written text and immerse themselves in it in order to ensure the author has conveyed the idea in the best language and way possible.
The editor or proofreader approaches the text with a fresh
pair of eyes, and thus is in a position to pick out unnoticed issues in the
writing, like broken narrative, contradiction, inconsistencies, etc - language issues that the writer himself may not have noticed.
Although that should be the standard approach for genuine proofreading and editing of a text, there are a few exceptions where the introduction of significant editorial changes does not apply for a variety of reasons:
1) Required specific style of writers and authors
2) Academics and students are sometimes requested to only proofread, not edit, their papers
3) Papers written for the purpose of assessing the standard of written English
The Ultimate Proofreader is a leading UK-based provider of English language editing and proofreading services.