Copy editing vs proofreading

Do you need a copy editor or a proofreader?

What’s the difference between proofreading and editing business documents?

People often interchange proofreading and editing to mean the same thing — basically, cleaning up your writing. But each has a different purpose and meaning, and both are equally important for your business document process.

What is editing?

Editing happens after you finish writing your document. Your document is a draft, and editing – sometimes called copy editing – is where you do your rewriting. This may take the form of several drafts until you are satisfied with your content.

Here, you are checking the content to make sure it reads well. You are looking at what’s been written to make sure it is factual and backs up any arguments you might be making in your work.

When editing, you should ask yourself:

  • How well does my piece make sense to the reader?
  • Do the words, sentences and paragraphs flow well?
  • Have I used the right words?
  • Could some words be deleted without changing the meaning?
  • Or do I need to add words to improve clarity?

Finally, when editing, you are checking the structure to make sure that your paragraphs and topics are in the correct order and make sense when they are read. Does it read well? And are the transitions smooth?

All this involves rewriting. Eventually, though, you will have to stop editing and declare your document complete.

Proofreading is the next step in the process of polishing your writing

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is what you do when you are finished drafting your document: it’s checking for spelling and grammatical errors and making sure that punctuation is correct.

Proofreading involves fixing typos, checking capitalisation, and checking that your sentence structure is correct.

It’s true that technology does some of the proofreading for us nowadays. However, spell checks and grammar checks don’t pick up everything. For example, they don’t pick up errors like “you” for “your,” “their” for “they’re,” misused words, or even contextual errors. That’s why it’s so important to both edit and proof your writing when you feel your latest draft is ready for it.

There is a significant difference between editing and proofreading, but each process goes hand in hand when polishing your writing. Remember, too, that both involve attention to detail. If you don’t have a good focus on detail, consider getting help from somebody who does, such as a colleague or professional editor and proofreader.

For help with your copy editing and proofreading, contact us to discuss your requirements, or take a look at our proofreading or copy editing services pages for more information.

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