Copywriting, Translation

I’ve written something and need to get it publication-ready. Do I need proofreading or editing?

difference between proofreading and editing

There can be a dizzying array of choice when it comes to getting a pair of professional eyes to look at your work. From proofreading to editing. From non-native English editing to bilingual proofreading. These are all slightly different services, and it can be difficult to know straight off what most suits your needs. The difference between proofreading and editing can seem blurred, but there is a very real difference.

What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?

Most of the time, when a client contacts me about reviewing something they have written or translated themselves, they request a proofreading service. However, more often than not, once I have understood the end needs of the client, we realise that editing is the most appropriate service.

The reason is simple: proofreading catches the silly typos that spellcheck missed, such as those pesky words that sound the same, or mistakes in writing a number down.

Editing concentrates on the effect the text will have on a reader, how successful it is at reaching its objective, and turns it into something that people want to read. If you are not a natural writer, it can be difficult to achieve this without some help.

What does proofreading involve?

Proofreading captures those aforementioned silly errors. No one’s perfect, and you can be surprised at how easy it is to miss something when you’ve read it an nth time.

When working directly with a client, translators and copywriters will almost always include proofreading as standard.

They may do their proofreading themselves, or – more often than not – they may employ someone else to do the job. When you proofread your own work, it can be more difficult to separate yourself from the piece – you often find yourself reading what you think you’ve written, rather than what you’ve actually written.

Proofreading captures those little niggles that hound us all, such as:

  • Spelling – have you got the right version of ‘there’, ‘they’re’ and ‘their’?
  • Grammar – should it be ‘Google is expanding’ or ‘Google are expanding’?
  • Syntax – have you got a couple of words the wrong way around?
  • Punctuation – from simple full stops to the sweat-inducing semicolon.
  • Formatting – have you capitalised your headings in a consistent way?
  • And my favourite – have you used an incorrect version of a common idiom such as ‘it’s a doggy dog world’ instead of ‘it’s a dog eat dog world’?

Difference between proofreading and editing

What does editing involve?

As I alluded to earlier, editing requires a much deeper emphasis on the text as a whole. It typically involves the following:

  • Reorganisation of the points made or order of information to tell a coherent story.
  • Tightening of sentences to give them more impact.
  • Simplification of sentences to make it easier to understand and more readable.

Don’t be offended if you contact a copywriter or translator for a proofread and they recommend an editing service. Remember that all great writers have their work edited to death before publication.

Of course, it will always be your choice whether you hire them as a proofreader or editor. But first have a think about what you really need them to do to your text.

What is the difference between proofreading and editing a translation?

When a text has been translated from another language, you can either perform a monolingual proofread/ edit, where you look at the translated text in isolation, or a bilingual proofread, where you check the translated text against the original one.

These are two very different services and involve a vastly different amount of time and scrutiny.

A bilingual proofread will take much longer because the proofreader will check your use of language and assess how accurately the message is conveyed in the new language.

What is the difference between proofreading and editing texts by native and non-English speakers?

I do not think it is fair or ethical to discriminate on the native language of the writer. Therefore, I do not charge differently for non-native English editing. After all, many non-native English speakers write better and more eloquently than native English speakers.

And ability can vary among native speakers as much as it does among non-native speakers. The nature of the mistakes or improvements might be different, but that’s it.

Therefore, I do not charge differently according to the native language of the person who has written the text.

difference between proofreading and editing

Can I proofread or edit my own work myself?

Of course!

I always recommend that you leave your text to ‘sit’ for day, or at least a few hours. Get out and do something different – have a walk to clear your head if nothing else. This will mean that the next time you look at it will be with fresh eyes and you’ll find it easier to spot mistakes and ways you can improve it.

In my drive to make my freelance business more eco-friendly, I recently discovered Word’s Text to Speech function. There’s something about hearing your words said aloud that can really focus your mind. When mistakes are spoken aloud, they are easier to identify.

You may also wish to print out your text – make sure you get it as final as possible and print in draft form to save trees and ink. Go through with a ruler to make sure you read each line separately and mark changes with a different-coloured pen.

Editing yourself is a lot more difficult, because you are intimately acquainted with the text you have written.

Again, in Word, you can use the spellcheck to show the Flesch-Kincaid reading score, which estimates the difficulty of the text. The difficulty depends on the audience you are writing for, but in copywriting, the lower the reading age, the better. Otherwise you can easily lose your readers’ attention.

Could your words do with an extra polish? Get in touch with me to see how I can help you publish the best version of your web page or blogpost.

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