What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?

Traditionally editing is a three-part process:

  • structural (substantive) edit
  • copy edit
  • proofread.

In a nutshell, the structural edit is done if the manuscript needs some serious work to knock it into shape. The copy edit is a line edit where the editor checks paragraphs and sentences, fixes grammar, spelling and punctuation. The proofread is the final check after typesetting is done and prior to print or publishing.

What a structural editor does

The structural (or substantive) editor makes sure that the structure, content, language, style and presentation of the work are suitable for the purpose and the target audience. For this big picture edit, the editor will:

  • review the tone of the text and how it supports the purpose of the manuscript
  • suggest changes to layout of content, review chapter structure, overall content linkages, consistency of voice and writing style to enhance the reader’s engagement and retain reader interest
  • identify any gaps in information and content and suggest additions or changes that improve the narrative.

The structural edit is not limited to but includes the following specific tasks:

  • check the order and flow of the narrative ­– check the coherence of the subject matter that improve reader engagement
  • check the heading hierarchy and heading/content connections
  • ensure linkage between sections to make sure that narrative connections are clear and effective
  • check for duplication and/or any unnecessary text and suggest sections that can be restructured or cut to improve reader interest.

The editor may suggest layout ideas such as breakout boxes, chapter overviews and summary points that can also improve reader engagement.

What a copy editor does

Copy editing differs from structural editing in that the aim of the copy editor is to fix issues with the text presented without making any major changes to content.

The aim of the copy edit is to:

  • improve paragraph and sentence structure
  • correct errors in punctuation, grammar and spelling
  • check style and make changes such as using active rather than passive sentence structure; cut out superfluous words; work towards ‘plain English’ writing for all sentences.

What a proofreader does

Proofreading is the final step in the publishing process and takes place after typesetting for print or as a draft website page for web publishing. The proofread is as important in the publishing process as editing as it makes sure the work is ready for publication.

It is the proofreader’s job to find any errors in terms of punctuation, spelling, text alignment, type font irregularities, spacing errors.

A proofreader may also be asked to compare proof documents with the original copy for any omissions that may have occurred in the publishing process.

Writing is only half the story if you want your written communications to be the best (effortless reading by your target audience).

Susie Stevens, accredited freelance editor, can assess what your document or manuscript needs and provide a quote for affordable editing and proofreading. Call Susie today on 0410 037 635 or email Susie with your details.