Editing versus Proofreading

Editing is an important phase in the publishing process as it prepares a manuscript for typesetting and publication. It not only improves the flow and overall quality of the writing, but the editor ensures that the format is correct and that it adheres to the publisher’s requirements. Editing someone else’s work is a sensitive task and a good editor will never jeopardise the author’s knowledge or the interpretation of the message.The work remains the author’s.

The book Butcher’s Copy-editing, which is a bible for editors, begins with this definition: ‘The main aims of copy-editing are to remove any obstacles between the reader and what the author wants to convey and to find and solve any problems before the book goes to the typesetter so that production can go ahead without interruption or unnecessary expense.1

Editing goes far beyond just checking for typos, spelling errors and punctuation errors. It may also include the following:
  • Ensuring that the language is correct and consistent. 
  • Ensuring that the manuscript is clear and comprehensible. 
  • Ensuring that the language is concise and tight, and that there aren’t any gaps. 
  • Ensuring that the text flows well, that the quality of the writing is even, and that the tone is appropriate and consistent. 
  • Making sure all heading levels, captions and paragraph styles are correct and consistent. 
  • Checking and correcting references and cross-references. 
  • Ensuring that all references in the text appear in the bibliography. 
  • Checking the bibliography for consistency and style. 
  • Checking the list of abbreviations with the abbreviations in the text. 
  • Ensuring that the table of contents is complete, consistent and matches the actual headings and page numbers in the document. 
  • Checking margins, paragraph indention's, spacing between words, lines and paragraphs. 
  • Checking the font type and size remains consistent throughout the writing. 
  • Identifying ambiguous references, dangling modifiers, homophones, redundancy, personal pronouns, relative pronouns, imbalanced sentences, split infinitives, difficult propositions, subject and verb agreement wordiness etc. 
  • Checking and verifying that it conforms to the Publishers style guide. 
  • Checking that it complies with the appropriate spelling format. i.e. UK vs. US spelling. 
  • Although it is the author’s responsibility, editing may involve research to verify facts if required. 
  • Looking for plagiarism, copyright infringement, defamation, offensive material and other ethical and legal problems. 
  • Preparation of the manuscript to ensure that the manuscript is clearly marked so that the typesetter knows how to format every element. The editor may compile a brief for the typesetter if requested.


Proofreading is the process of examining the final draft of a document or text — after it has been edited — and it is the final safety net to catch any typos, spelling errors, punctuation errors and grammatical errors that may have slipped past the editing stage. Whether editing or proofreading is required will depend on how well the document or manuscript is written.
1 Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake and Maureen Leach, Butcher’s Copy-editing
   (4th edition)

No comments:

Post a Comment