While proofreading and editing are two distinct steps in a continual review process, they have varied impacts on a manuscript. Editing (also known as copy editing) tackles problems of style, vocabulary, and formatting, and occasionally also involves rewriting and restructuring the content. Proofreading, on the other hand, focuses on grammar and punctuation. However, to know the best editing process your work needs, you must know the difference between these two terms.
Some writers regard proofreading as a science because of its systematic approach. Nevertheless, the aim of proofreading is to find all grammatical, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Additionally, proofreading detects inconsistent referencing, formatting, and terminology. But generally, proofreading offers minor changes to a work’s overall outlook or beauty.
Effective proofreading requires specialised training and experience (and goes well beyond what the spell-checking program on your computer can do). This is because the human brain is not perfect at spotting errors at a glance. But with training and practice, you can master the science of proofreading.
On the flip side, editing can be said to be an art because it emphasises the overall beauty of the work. In editing, the focus is to make a write-up as good as possible. It is the act of enhancing the overall quality of writing. It employs a lot more creativity and often considers the reader’s emotions.
As a result, editing can significantly alter a text, raising queries like: Have I used the best words to communicate my meaning successfully? Did I use passive voice? Does my tone fit my reader? Are there extraneous words or sentences that are too long? Can the structure of my work be adjusted to strengthen my argument?
The main goal of editing is to communicate a piece of writing’s meaning and ideas as effectively as feasible. It also entails paying more attention to the material itself, employing subject-matter expertise to make the language more understandable, and frequently double-checking your facts’ accuracy. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to review spelling and grammar in-depth, as it is with proofreading.
Going forward, you can set aside your writing for a day or two before editing or proofreading it so you can view it from a new perspective (or seek feedback from someone else). This helps you detach yourself from the work and give an unbiased view of how you presented your facts, grammar, sentence structure etc.