Proofreading. How should it look like and how does it differ from editing?

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Both proofreading and word processing are extremely important stages on the road to publishing good quality text. Although their names are often used synonymously, they both constitute different stages of document preparation. So what does proofreading involve and what distinguishes it from the tasks of an editor?

The specifics of the work of a professional proofreader

Experienced authors are well aware that working on texts can be a thankless task, and that there are always typos, mistakes, omissions or linguistic errors of various types in even the most polished and well-thought-out documents. Often it does not help to find them by reading the paper several times – our brain simply misses some inaccuracies and successfully diverts our attention from them. This is why it is so important to work with a professional proofreader, whose main task is to catch everything that should not be included in the final publication.

The path of a working text from the author to the proofreader

Knowing what the proofreader’s work is based on, we can ask ourselves at what stage does the document fall into his or her hands? Does it happen right after the final touches have been made by the author? Well, no. Before this happens, the text falls into the hands of a text editor.

1. Editing

The editor is the first person after the author to read the finished text, analyzing it carefully and polishing it to ensure a smooth, coherent narrative. His work therefore involves careful, repeated reading, thanks to which he will be able to prepare the text for publication in the best possible way. At the stage of editing, grammatical, lexical, logical, stylistic and syntactic corrections are made, i.e. the quality of the text message is carefully refined. To this end, the editor may, for example, divide long, complex sentences into shorter, more comprehensible ones, rearrange paragraphs or extract additional paragraphs and subheadings from the content.

2. Proofreading

The written and edited text then goes into the hands of a proofreader. By definition, proofreading is a surface-level check, which is why many people assign it an easier task than editing. At this stage, the document is finally proofread; it should already be free of major errors, and the layout of the content should resemble the target form as closely as possible.

A professional proofreader will look for spelling mistakes, incorrect or omitted punctuation or text and number inconsistencies. Additionally, he or she should pay attention to and correct problems underlying the writing, such as inflections, lexical defects, sentence construction, and clarity of language. However, his tasks do not include rearranging paragraphs or adding headings

Unlike the editor, the proofreader is not obliged to read the text from cover to cover when revising. He or she works on a much more superficial basis, checking the places that have been changed and ensuring that nothing has been moved. He may also be asked to revise the text, that is, to review the whole thing for correctness and clarity, without reading it thoroughly. When revising, he checks, for example, that the table of contents has the correct titles and page numbers, checks the arrangement of illustrations, etc.

As you can see, editing and proofreading are two completely different stages of preparing a document for publication, and a professional editor and proofreader will pay attention to different layers of the text. The task of the former is to improve the quality of the message and maximize its comprehensibility and attractiveness in the eyes of the recipient, while the latter focuses on minor mistakes and aesthetics.

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