Differences Between Editing and Proofreading

by Elizabeth Oommen George
Differences between editing and proofreading

One of the main objectives for researchers is conducting research and getting their work published. However, the painstaking months spent on writing and finalizing the manuscript for publication can count for nothing if some basic processes are not followed. While what you may want to share with the wider academic community could be of great value, a manuscript that is not structured well and has errors in language will not be able to attract and engage readers. Therefore, it is extremely important to thoroughly edit and then proofread manuscripts before submitting them to journals for publishing. Many confuse the two processes, often viewing them as one and the same, and use these terms interchangeably. However, editing and proofreading are two completely different processes and we’ll discuss the many differences between editing and proofreading in this article.

What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

Editing aims to improve upon the writing quality by bringing in elements that make it more readable, with edits to enhance the language and structure. A professional editor recommends suggestions and revisions on the manuscript as a whole and offers valuable inputs on specific parts of the document. Often students and researchers write down their thoughts as they work, without attention to structure, and this results in a manuscript that is haphazardly put together. Experienced editors also ensure that the content is presented in a logical manner with clear transitions that make the flow of information more logical, interesting and engaging for readers. A keen editor is also able to sift through the content matter thoroughly and weed out unnecessary lines of texts and even whole paragraphs that may not be relevant to the argument being made.

Sometimes the manuscript lacks conviction and a firm tone of voice, and fails to convey the intended message to the readers. Most researchers and academic writers are not experienced enough to realize that their manuscript is lacking in this aspect. However, a professional editor with a keen understanding of the reader profile will immediately be unable to identify this inadequacy and will be able to correct it effectively.

The process of editing requires not only a keen eye for detail and a strong understanding of the language but also the subject area. Experienced editors are skilled at wordplay and possess an almost intuitive understanding of the manuscript’s potential audience. They are usually able to tell if the ideas and meanings conveyed in the manuscript are effective enough to attract and engage readers. Some examples of editing are ensuring appropriate word choice to effectively convey the intended meaning, confirming the right tone for the intended audience, enhancing the language and sentence structure, and making sure the content is written in a crisp and readable manner.

Proofreading, unlike editing, is one of the final steps before submission and involves correcting grammar, spellings, and typographical and punctuation errors in a manuscript. While looking for possible errors a proofreader also checks for formatting, referencing, and any inconsistency in various terms or definitions used in the text. Expert proofreaders will also typically identify and correct issues in common sentence structure, for example comma splices, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments. While different software are available online for checking grammar, spelling, and punctuations, they often are unable to process or comprehend the varying contexts of the text. As a result, the software may suggest corrections to words or phrases in the text that could be contrary to what the author intended. In fact, oftentimes the suggestions offered by the online tools can lead to misinterpretations of the original text. This could be a problem for those who are not experts in English, such as those with English as a second language.

It is therefore important to remember that a computer cannot completely replace an experienced proofreader, who may be able to identify minor errors that may seem deceptively correct. Proofreading requires a special range of skillsets that is gained by training and experience. Many English language experts term the process of proofreading as a science that can be accomplished only by the human brain. A proofreader has the expertise to distinguish between common language sets that are used in the text, American English, or British English for example, and maintain the necessary grammar and sentence structures throughout the text. Importantly, understanding contexts and subtle nuances in the texts can invariably be done only by a proofreader. Some proofreading examples that are commonly highlighted are verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, pronoun references and missing words in the running texts, which can only be highlighted by the agile mind of a proofreader. 

Editing and proofreading are, therefore, two different linguistic processes and these are most often carried out by trained professionals in the English language. Recently, however, smart AI writing assistants like Paperpal have emerged as trusted resources for researchers. Trained on millions of pre and post-edited manuscripts, the AI writing and editing tool not only presents authors with precise subject-specific recommendations to improve their writing, it can also differentiate between American and British English, check for formatting inconsistencies, and offer writing tips that will help authors improve their English writing skills over time. Paperpal can also help authors maximize their chance of acceptance by putting their manuscript through 30+ language and technical checks to ensure their work is submission ready. Try Paperpal now!

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