The difference between proofreading and proof-editing

People often request a proofread of their project when it actually requires both editing and proofreading. The aim of a proofreader is to ensure that a piece of writing is clear. The aim of a proof-editor is to improve the reader’s experience. This blog discusses the difference between the two services to help you decide which would benefit you more.

Proofreading

A proofreader’s aim is to ensure that a piece of writing is clear by reducing errors and inconsistencies.

Proofreading happens at the final stages of the writing process: after designing but before publication online, as an e-book or printed copies. (Sometimes an author uses two proofreaders for two different points in the process – once to check the Word file and once to check the designed file).

A proofreader will check for:

  • spelling mistakes
  • typos
  • punctuation
  • hyphenation
  • consistency of formatting
  • correct page references
  • factual inconsistencies (this is not the same as fact-checking)

A professional proofreader is not expected to, nor should they, interfere with the content and style of writing. If they do suggest changes or additions, it should be presented as a query and backed up with a good reason.

(You can read more about what a proofreader does here: Why use a proofreader? – Nazneen Editorial Services).

Proof-editing

The aim of the proof-editor is to improve a reader’s experience. Proof-editing usually incorporates proofreading, some copyediting/stylistic editing, and some developmental/substantive editing (high-level editing). This means you can expect a service that could include the following:

  • proofreading corrections (as listed above)
  • changes to structure to strengthen argument and messaging
  • changes to paragraphs, sentences and words to make the writing clearer
  • reduce repetition
  • improvements to weak areas, e.g. the conclusion
  • suggestions for gender-neutral language where needed
  • fixes to where author’s voice (or Tone of Voice in branding-speak) drops within the text
  • important recommendations, e.g. to use an authenticity reader

Like all editors, proof-editors need to have an eye for detail and offer clear reasons for any changes that they are suggesting.

The category of ‘proof-editor’ is still relatively new and has come about from the rise of the ‘self-publisher’ in the widest sense of the word (i.e. people who publish online from writers of e-books, bloggers, influencers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profits, etc). People who want to produce high-quality content and develop their brand, benefit from using a combined service like proof-editing and many proofreaders now offer this service.

When is a proof-edit useful?

A proof-edit is best used for

  • online content (websites, blogs)
  • newsletters
  • brochures and flyers
  • zines
  • business documents
  • educational resources
  • those who need a quick turnaround
  • individuals and businesses with small budgets
  • small businesses, consultants, non-profits, entrepreneurs, bloggers and influencers who produce a lot of content but do not have a team to assist with the quality and consistency of their writing
  • academic work (students also benefit but there are ethical issues surrounding this and is a large topic in itself)

A proof-edit is not good for:

  • manuscripts (including e-books)
  • magazines

What are the limitations of a proof-edit?

A proof-edit combines many types of edits but does not come with the same level of depth you can expect from using specialised editors for separate tasks. This is not a problem for most types of content but if you are writing a book, it is best to hire a developmental/substantive editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader separately. The quality of your book will improve vastly and is more likely to meet the expectations of your readers.

Furthermore, a copyeditor will identify legal issues e.g. copyright infringement or potentially libellous statements within the text. Proof-editors do not typically incorporate this service.

A proof-edit also means that your work is only seen by one pair of fresh expert eyes. Using the traditional process of a copyeditor and a proofreader (i.e. two pairs of fresh expert eyes) reduces the rate of error in the text.

Costs

The obvious benefit of using a proof-editing service is cost. The service entails more for less money. You can expect a proof-editor should charge less than a copyeditor but will be more than their typical proofreading fee because more time and skill are needed to suggest improvements.

Summary

A proofread is an essential service. However, a proof-edit, which incorporates proofreading, could be more beneficial, particularly if you work for yourself or do not have colleagues to help you with the quality of your writing. It is a low-cost option compared to using separate writing services and many proofreaders offer proof-editing as an option.

There are limitations to using a proof-editor but for online content creation, those on tight budgets, and those who require a quick turnaround, proof-editing is a good option.

For those wishing to self-publish a book, it is better to budget and pay for an editor and a proofreader to create a polished book. (I will write a blog on all the different types of editors and writing services out there!)


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