Proofreading vs. Editing: What is the difference?

Know The Difference Between Proofreading and Editing

Many researchers and academicians with excellent research backgrounds sometimes get frustrated when their manuscript or dissertation is turned down by reviewers. Usually, the reasons for the rejection are not because of poor research, uninteresting or irrelevant content, but more often due to problems of language usage.

If you’re like most researchers and academicians, then you’re trained in specific fields and chances are you don’t focus much on style or language, but on collecting, interpreting and delivering data. For this reason, sometimes a unique, clever and even life-saving idea can be blurred by poor word choice, grammar and spelling issues, styling and formatting.

This is exactly why you need professional proofreading and manuscript editing services. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they actually mean different things. Let’s take a quick look at their fundamental differences.

What Exactly is Editing?

Editing can be defined as the proactive process of a qualified professional going through written work and looking for ways to improve the quality of the writing.

The most important idea behind editing is the improvement of the quality of writing. And while at it, editing professionals look for the following things:

  • Incoherent sentences.
  • Poor sentence structure or syntax errors that make it difficult to follow and understand.
  • Words and phrases that lessens the impact of any sentence.
  • Use of too many or unnecessary words
  • Any terms or phrases that convey an unintended meaning.
  • Clichés.
  • The tone used.
  • Inappropriate use of passive and active voices.
  • Use of gender-neutral language, where appropriate.

At the end of a professional editing process, the end product will have improved writing quality, enhanced language use, clearer expressions, and error-free and consistent writing that delivers maximum impact.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading concerns finding and eliminating errors in writing, such as grammatical, punctuation, spelling, and other simple language mistakes.

The main things pros look for when proofreading are:

  • Basic grammar
  • Spelling errors
  • Use of idioms
  • Proper nouns
  • Verb Tenses
  • Formatting errors.
  • Idioms

At the end of a proofreading exercise, all spelling, grammar, typing errors, inconsistent language, and formatting would have been eliminated from a manuscript or dissertation– perfecting already good writing, and ensuring that it is ready for presentation.

So, what is the difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

To most people, there is no difference between the terms ‘proofreading’ and ‘editing’. However, the two serve quite different purposes and occur at different stages in the revision process and knowing the difference between editing and proofreading can help you better qualify your paper. 

Editing may involve rewriting sections of text in order to clarify the writing and to ensure that the goals and standards of the document are met. It’s intended to improve the overall quality of a document by restructuring sentences, improving language use and making sure that arguments are coherent.

On the other hand, proofreading is intended to catch minor errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation in an already edited document or one that is near-perfect but requiring a final check to catch any errors before submission.

Do I need both editing and proofreading?

If you’re looking to hire the services of a professional editor or proofreader, you might not be sure if you should pay for all the services or just choose one. As we hinted above, editing and proofreading are not mutually exclusive, so our suggestion is you need to pick both.

Your paper might have great content and ideas, but it would still need a lot of formatting and restructuring to fix it. Equally, a document that has only been proofread but not edited cannot be submitted for review. This is because while it might be error-free, the impact and clarity of the message may be watered down by poor word choice, inappropriate styling, poor sentence structure, and other formatting issues.

So in essence, your document needs both editing and proofreading, and if you’re hiring a professional to revise your paper, you need to make sure both the services are included.

Bottom line

Grammar and spelling errors and poor language usage are the biggest reasons journals and funding organizations reject articles. Hiring a professional to correct language errors allows the reviewers to focus on the ideas of your research and not the language skills. This will dramatically improve the chances of your article being approved and published or you/your organization receiving the research funding.

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