As fairly few business people have used editors and proofreaders, I am often asked to define just what we do. Here are the basic distinctions between proofreading and editing:
This is a final check for errors, typos and formatting that’s gone awry. We cross-check content lists with body copy, check headings are in a consistent style and that embedded URLs lead where you expect them to.
Also called ‘line editing’, we go through your writing line by line, rewording it where needed to improve style, grammar and clarity. We check for consistency, such as in spelling, which often suffers in longer reports with multiple contributors. Are you using % or per cent? Are you spelling cooperate with a hyphen some of the time? Judgement or judgment? Trademark or trade mark? We often find bullet points change from dot to dash part-way through, or the tab setting varies. Frequently, there are too many sentences in the passive, so we improve the readability of your writing by editing some passive sentences to be in the active voice.
Also called ‘substantive editing’, this involves taking an overall look at document structure and improving logical flow. We might, for example, find sections that are largely repeated. Could some sections be moved into appendices? Is what the reader needs to find quickly, easily discoverable?
Our editing jobs frequently involve a combination of all three – proofreading, copyediting and structural editing. Our experience is most clients ask for a proofread, but need (and do want) a copyedit.
- We take pains to retain your ‘voice’.
- We like accuracy but we’re not pedantic.
- We favour plain (but elegant) English.
- Our tools are the Macquarie Dictionary and Australian Government Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers.
- We will use your company’s style guide if you like.