Editing, Writing

Proofreading vs. Editing: What’s the Difference?

Tam has written an essay for a political science course that she is taking at her local community college. This is her first semester in school after spending three years in the workforce. Having grown up in a bilingual family, Tam sometimes made small errors in her high school writing assignments, so she is nervous about writing for college-level courses.

“I just want someone to look at my essay,” Tam told her classmate, Erin. “I don’t want to turn in a paper that has mistakes.”

“I understand,” said Erin. “But do you want someone to proofread your paper or edit it?”

“I’m not sure,” said Tam. “I always thought editing and proofreading meant the same thing. Is there really a difference?”

Proofreading and editing are not the same.

It’s true that sometimes people use the terms “proofreading” and “editing” interchangeably. Indeed, many professional editors (including the ones at TextRanch) do both jobs. Although there can be some overlap, proofreading and editing involve making different kinds of changes and corrections to a piece of writing.

What is proofreading?

Are you looking for someone who will check your email, cover letter, or academic paper for typos or spelling and grammar mistakes? If so, then you want someone to proofread your piece of writing.

Proofreading is normally the last stage in the writing process. This is when writers or editors comb through the text to catch any minor errors that might have been missed during the writing or rewriting stages.

Proofreading isn’t meant to identify major writing problems. Your editor won’t improve the quality of your writing or make any changes to how your text is organized. Unless there is some kind of error, your wording will remain the same as you originally wrote it.

At TextRanch, this is what our editors will do for you when you choose our Basic service level. For some of our customers, this is enough–especially if they are at the end of the writing process and just need a second set of eyes to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. However, many of our customers want a more thorough review of their text. In other words, they want editing rather than proofreading.

What happens during the editing process?

The editing process does involve correcting your spelling and grammar, but you can also expect to see some stylistic improvements to your text. If a certain word doesn’t sound right in a particular context, your editor can substitute it with a more appropriate word. Editors can also make changes to sentences that sound awkward or unnatural.

Let’s look at an example:

The silverware was placed on the table by Jeffrey.

Since the above sentence is technically correct, someone who is simply proofreading the text wouldn’t change it. However, during the editing process, the editor considers other factors such as tone and audience. Depending on the information provided, the editor might change this from the passive voice to the active voice:

Jeffrey placed the silverware on the table.

The editing process also involves making sure that your piece of writing is well-organized and that the tone remains consistent. Maybe a formal business email contains a phrase or sentence that is too casual for that context. Your editor can fix that.

These are the kinds of changes you can expect when you choose the Advanced level of service at TextRanch. At this level, you can also leave a note for your editor, explaining the context or any field-specific terms that you are using.

For longer documents, we offer Advanced and Premium editing. The Premium editing process is even more in-depth than Advanced editing, especially in terms of how your ideas are organized and whether there is too much repetition. At the Premium editing level, your editor also leaves detailed notes regarding the changes they are making and how those changes will improve your piece of writing.

Someone in Tam’s situation would benefit from editing initially, followed by proofreading. In addition to making any necessary changes, a professional editor can also boost Tam’s confidence by letting her know what she is doing right. Then she can take what she has learned from this experience and use it when she writes her next essay.

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