What are the Main Differences between Academic Proofreading and Editing?

What are the Main Differences between Academic Proofreading and Editing?

What are the Main Differences between Academic Proofreading and Editing?


While many people believe these two phrases are synonymous, they are not. They relate to two separate stages in the publication process, the first of which is editing. Since the fairly recent advent of self publishing, whether in print or online, the distinction between such two categories has been somewhat muddled, since the author of a book frequently chooses to edit and proofread their own work—or not, a choice that may be painfully clear.

Oxford Dictionaries Online states:

To edit is to prepare (written content) for publishing by revising, reducing, or changing it in some way.

Proofreading is the process of reading (printer’s proof or other printed or written material) and highlighting any mistakes.

Editing is a necessary step in the creative process of planning a work for publication. Substantive editing is evaluating and changing a manuscript’s structure, organisation, and tone to ensure that it effectively communicates the author’s message to the intended audience. Often, this entails condensing a manuscript’s length by deleting duplication and parts that do not contribute to the author’s ability to communicate their essential idea.

Copyediting (alternatively called mechanical editing or line editing) is reading a document carefully and finding and fixing (or flagging for the author’s notice) errors and inconsistencies in syntax, punctuation, syntax, style, continuity, and fact. The finest copyediting is a continuous, collaborative approach among author and copyeditor, during which each copyedited document approach perfection mechanically.

Proofreading is the act of comparing a printed or electronic proof of a document to the original text to confirm that the author’s and editor’s edits have been included into the proofs and that no errors have been introduced throughout the process.

Prior to the advent of electronic publication, proofreading entailed comparing a printed version of the text that had been made up manually with the editor’s infamous red pencil to the printer’s hard-copy proof and noting any differences. Similarly, this was an incremental method, with successive proofs generated until the writer and editor agreed that the work was ready for publication.

While writers can and do copyedit as well as proofread their own work, this rarely results in the same level of quality in a published document as when the material is inspected by a set of fresh eyes. Even a reader without editing skills will frequently pick up on flaws in a document that the author overlooked due to his or her own engrossment in it. The highest-quality manuscripts are the product of the author collaborating with an experienced and talented editor with whom they have a solid connection and confidence.

When I’m revising a manuscript, I utilise Word’s Track Changes tool to keep track of all the changes I make. This helps the author, if desired, to examine and accept or reject each individual modification. This is extremely beneficial when working with writers over time, since they learn to self-correct the most frequent errors they make.


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