It is not uncommon to be confused about the terms “proofreading” and “editing” because the two are often used interchangeably and given a number of different meanings. There are several stages when creating any written document, and within the broad term “editing” there are multiple types of editing and proofreading. The three main phases in the editing process are: (1) structural or developmental editing, (2) copy editing, and (3) proofreading. Let’s imagine you’ve written the first draft of a document. The next step would be for the document to undergo structural or developmental editing. Depending on the type of document, structural and developmental editing can mean two different things. However, for the average person, we combine the two into a larger category because many people are unable to hire a professional to review their document for both types of editing. Structural or developmental editing involves looking at the “big picture” of the document. In this stage of editing, the focus is on overall consistency, structure, flow, and voice. An editor would make sure the voice is consistent throughout the document and that the structure of the document, whether a book, journal article, blog, or other written material, makes sense.
The second stage of editing is copy editing. Many writers work on structural or developmental editing on their own, but it can be difficult to copy edit your own document. Copy editing involves taking a more detailed view when editing the document. A professional editor will review your document for clarity and readability with a focus on the flow throughout the paper as well as grammar, word usage, spelling, punctuation, consistency, and style. The editor will make corrections when there are grammar or spelling errors, will fix punctuation, and may make suggestions when needed.
The final stage of editing is proofreading. When an editor reviews a document for a copy edit, many revisions are made and a few minor details can be missed, such as an extra space between words, a typo, or a letter that should be capitalized but isn’t. You can’t expect a copyeditor to catch every issue in your document in a single round of editing. This is what the final stage of editing, or proofreading, is for: to find those last few issues in the document and fix them. The proofreader of your document will make sure the spacing between sentences is consistent, that typos are eliminated, and that other remaining issues are resolved.
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