There is a tendency to mix up Editing and Proofreading but they are very different in nature from one another. It is hard to tell them apart and for that very reason comparing is the best way to get a clear idea about both. Editing looks at the contextual and factual side of the writing where Proofreading focuses on finer mistakes that are either wrong or right. They both check and correct the writing so that the final piece is completely error-free and ready for publication or any formal use.
Writing > Editing > Proofreading > Final Piece
As soon as the author is happy with the writing, the first draft is ready to go. Once it is ready, the editing process kicks off. The editor takes his/her time changing portions of the piece and fixing big issues in it upon discussing with the author. After elaborate discussions, the author and editor come to a decision and the piece gets direction. This process repeats itself a number of time until both are happy with the work at hand.
For the proofreading to start, one must wait for the last draft to be reached. When the author and editor are done with their brainstorming and fixing big issues in the text, the proofreader enters the scene. The proofreaders are the masters of finishing touches and final polishing so they work their magic on the final draft to make it look publish-worthy and completely error-free.
Read More: The Method of Proofreading
The Range of Work
At the editing phase, all the major changes and fixes are taken care of. This is also the time to think about the core features of the written piece and how best to make them work as a whole. Brainstorming remains in full swing at this stage so that nothing stays untouched or unrevised when it gets to the final draft. Editors are mostly writers themselves and know what will work better and how to incorporate ideas better into a piece of writing. So in the editing phase, the two writers sit down and have a chat about what works and what does not.
Proofreading on the other hand, deals with the surface level details of the piece once the core features are already decided and it is almost ready to go out into the world. Proofreaders come in with their hawk eyes to detect all those silly common mistakes that are hard to keep track of while the actual writing process is happening. Once they are finished, the writing is squishy clean and ready to rock.
Things To Fix
Editing looks after the integrity of the content, what comes after what and the smooth readability of the overall copy. At this stage, the editor will fix discrepancies regarding these issues.
Once all these big issues are taken care of and agreed upon, here come in the proofreader. The proofreader takes a close look at the finer details of things like spellings, grammars, punctuations and other formatting side of it.
There are a few types or stages of editing an editor has to deal with. Firstly, s/he edits the content itself; having a closer look at the context and structure of the piece. The next stage is to do proper fact-checking and going through the writing line-by-line with an invisible magnifying glass at hand. Then comes the final copy editing phase where the editor checks the overall integrity of the text one last time before the piece lands at the hand of the proofreader.
Proofreading is a relatively quicker and less complicated task but that does not mean that it is an easy one. With an expert proofreader, the process may seem like a breeze but the knowledge and practice involved to get there is insane. Having the right grammar and punctuations at your fingertips is what makes it look easy. Proofreaders look for common mistakes in language, punctuation, capitalization like a grammar police as well as fixing the overall formatting for a uniform look so that it becomes a polished error-free piece of writing.
Discussion With the Author
The editor requires close collaboration with the author on a constant basis. It is a collective effort between the author and the editor to get the best output off of the piece at hand by conducting major addition and/or omission for the sake of increasing quality, integrity, and readability.
Proofreading is the very final touch a written piece requires. Since this phase deals with very minor issues and fine details, it requires no direct or constant collaboration with the author. The proofreader has the factual liberty to fix any definite error in the piece which is not subject to discussion; they are either right or wrong.
The Time Taken
Editing is a rather elaborate process since major changes and shifts are expected in the context and dimension of the writing itself during this process. Editing aims for a thorough improvement of quality and layout.
Proofreading on the other hand takes a very brief instance compared to editing. When the aim is to fix the things that are already in place, there are only a few ways the proofreader can deal with it. Here, the aim is squishy clean, and error-free writing.
So depending on how far a written piece has come, one should realize whether s/he needs an editor or a proofreader at a point in time. If you have followed the aforementioned distinctions among them, it is safe to conclude that once the author has written a piece, the editor comes into play and once the editor is done working his/her magic, it is time for the proofreader to take over and finish the process.