I'd like to take a sec and welcome the wonderful Nikolas Baron to the blog. Nikolas works at Grammarly, so feel free to comment on the post and he'll answer any questions you may have. Oh, and don't forget to enter to win a FREE 3 month trial of Grammarly. Personally, I love the thing! You'd not believe how many errors it catches beyond anything that your word processor does.
Copyediting vs Proofreading vs Editing: What Exactly is the Difference?
“The sad man was crying very loudly? and new the end was nearing. “
I know exactly what you are thinking. Yikes. Yes, well, welcome to the world of editing where your nightmares are my everyday reality! Hello, my name is Nick, and I am writing this piece today to educate the world at large about the basic differences between proofreading, copyediting and editing. For my work over at Grammarly, I spend my time studying writing habits, and from experience I can tell you not enough people are familiar with the definitions below.
So, a client emails you with his first ever novel that he wants “edited”. You took AP English in high school, and you are certain you can handle whatever is thrown at you. At least you think this until you open the novel and realize it would take a small army to clear the grammatical errors, let alone make the book actually readable. But alas, you were tasked with “editing,” and as you sit there wondering what to do next, you really wish you had pushed the client to explain exactly what he meant.
It is obviously important for one to understand exactly what the client is expecting, which means being informed enough to educate your client if necessary. Keep in mind the following definitions are more like guidelines rather than concrete definitions.
First we have proofreading, or line editing, and yes, it is exactly what you think—meticulously mulling over the text and correcting spelling, punctuation, typos and other obvious mistakes. Proofreading takes a very well-trained eye that most do not have, which is why almost every writer can benefit from a thorough proofreader. Proofreading is now most often done using a word processor, but there is still a demand for good ole’ fashioned pen and paper proofreaders.
A copyeditor’s job involves all the work of a proofreader, as well applying their vast knowledge of style.
Further, copyeditors more often than not act as fact checkers. This can be as simple as checking historical facts, determining the plausibility of a certain character's heritage, or perhaps even verifying the population of certain towns.
A good copyeditor ensures that sentences make sense through clarification of ambiguity and poor wording.
The job of the editor is to improve the flow and quality of writing—without a doubt the most difficult job in the editing world. This means having the power to omit and rewrite entire sentences or paragraphs for one to correct unnecessary wordiness, or just any obvious errors. An editor though will not necessarily proof or copyedit. Further, the text will have to be proofed again after being worked on by an editor. Generally, editing is more costly than both proofing and copyediting.
As with all things, becoming a proficient editor of any kind takes time and practice. The more you do it, the better you will become, and who knows, maybe one day you will become a big shot editor. There are tools available to every young editor in training aside from The Chicago Manual of Style.
For example, most word processors have excellent tools with which to track changes and that can clearly highlight and fix the problem without altering the text. There are also several high quality websites now that can do more than just proofread. Specifically, a site like Grammarly.com is an excellent tool as it can also provide stylistic edits, as well as proofread, check for plagiarism, as well as apply contextual edits based on the style of writing.
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.