Proofread, edit or paraphrase
Although people often think of proofreading as a generic term for any of the above, they are, in a technical sense, all different.
Firstly, we shall consider editing (otherwise known as copy-editing, particularly in the publishing industry). This process involves making a general improvement to the document, such as restructuring sentences and improving the clarity. For example, many sentences can be too long so that clarity is lost. In this case, the editor will split a long sentence into several shorter ones to make it clearer and easier to read. Sometimes, sentences will be too short, so in this case an editor will combine sentences to make the text flow better. An editor will also check for grammar and punctuation errors. Editors also watch for factual errors, such as “31stof April” and typographical errors such as “The First World War began in 1014.” An important task of the editor is to check for consistency both grammatically and factually. In some cases, this is a matter of personal preference of a writer, academic institution or publisher. Consequently, it is essential that the editor knows what that preference is. There are different levels of editing, such as standard editing and substantive (or intensive) editing. Again, considering this from the perspective of the publishing industry, when editing is complete, the document is ready to be sent to the printers.
The printer then prints a proof (in traditional printing this was done by typesetting the letters). Ideally, the document should then be ready for publication. However, the editor may have made mistakes and the printer may have made typesetting errors, so a final check (proofreading) is needed. In one sense, the proofreader is the goalkeeper, and following the proofreading process the document goes to press.
From a practical perspective, the terms proofreading and editing, as separate processes, belong the age of manual printing. In today’s digital society, it is becoming more usual to combine these two processes, particularly in the academic field; so today, proofreading alone is more likely to involve just a spelling and grammar check, while editing involves this and also a general improvement to the text.
Although the boundary between proofreading and editing is now more blurred, this cannot be said of paraphrasing which is very different. Paraphrasing involves rewriting the entire document, while at the same time retaining the meaning. A paraphraser will use synonyms wherever possible (except of course for technical terms and formal definitions), and will also restructure sentences. Paraphrasing is often used when a writer wants to avoid plagiarism by retaining ideas of others but putting them into different words. In such cases, a citation is still given. Furthermore, when direct quotations are used, the text is not changed out of respect for the person quoted. However, if in this case the text is paraphrased, the quotation marks are removed. Finally, paraphrasing also includes both proofreading and editing.