The Difference Between Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

Writing.Writing, Editing, Proofreading. Oh My!

Editing.

Proofreading.

 

No. They. Are. Not. The. Same.

 

Someone who is good (or even exceptional) at one doesn’t mean they’re decent at the others.

 

So, what’s the diff?

 

Writing

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for writing is, “the way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

 

The way I see it, in the simplest terms, writing is the process of stringing words together to communicate a message and make an impression on readers. In practice, it’s a far more complex activity than that because it requires the capacity to think through how to get from point A to point B, to choose effective words, and to structure thoughts in a way that strikes a chord with readers.

 

Writing requires creativity and the knack for connecting the dots to pull ideas and bits of information together and communicate them coherently.

 

A writer’s personal style, the type of assignment, and the audience the writer—or a writer’s client—wants to connect with will flavor the tone and formality of writing.

 

Editing

“Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” is how Oxford Dictionaries defines “edit.”

 

Most writers I know often edit their own writing to fine-tune how it flows, eliminate wordiness, and modify sentence structure and word choice. For me, it’s part of the process to ensure the end product I’m delivering to a client is as close as possible to what it needs to be. And of course, editing (typically in the form of minor tweaks) after getting feedback from clients comes with the territory, too.

 

Some editors are really good writers, but not all are and they don’t necessarily have to be. When editing, you don’t have to create the story and message; you’re improving upon the writing so it’s as effective as possible. Editors need to have proficiency in making changes that will ensure writing makes sense, uses proper grammar, has effective sentence structure, and uses the right words. They need an ability to both pay attention to details and look at a piece of writing from a birds-eye view to make sure all parts of it are effective parts of the whole.

 

The extent and degree of editing can depend on the type of writing, quality of writing, and length of a written piece. If you’re looking for editing assistance, you might see the various levels of editing referred to as:

 

  • Copy editing – Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.
  • Line editing – Focuses on the sentence or paragraph level rather than the broad scope of the piece.
  • Substantive or heavy editing – Goes beyond the two above and polishes sentences to improve clarity and flow. It will eliminate overuse of passive voice, repetition, awkward wording, and run-on sentences. This type of editing also involves checking facts and rearranging or reworking parts of the writing if necessary.

 

Some characteristics of editing (copy editing in particular) overlap with those of proofreading.

 

But they are not the same!

 

Proofreading

Proofreading comes after writing and editing.

 

Dictionaries.com defines it as: “to read (printers’ proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”

 

It involves a final check of a piece of writing before it’s published to catch minor mistakes in spelling, spacing, punctuation, inconsistency in indentation of paragraphs, etc.

 

Contrary to what you might assume, not all writers and editors are capable proofreaders. Proofreading requires a skillset all its own, and it’s never ideal for people (writing and editing professionals included) to proofread writing assignments they’ve been working on. Sometimes (depending on how heavy my workload is), I’ll ask a proofreader to review what I’ve written and fix any errors I might have made.

 

When you write or edit something, you’re too close to it, and it’s far too easy for your brain to trick your eyes into seeing perfection where it doesn’t exist. For example, you might not catch an extra “the” where it doesn’t belong or an incorrect “they’re” where there should be a “their.” We’ve all seen published blog posts with those sort of oopses. They can happen to the very best writers—because writers aren’t proofreaders. Yes, writers will do their best to make sure what they write is as clean as possible (and often it will be error free after they’ve reread it a couple of times to catch sneaky mistakes), but a second set of eyes on a piece of writing (yours or a pro proofreader’s) can further ensure perfection.

 

Writing, Editing, Proofreading – Which Do You Need?

It depends.

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might benefit from asking a writer to help you with your content.

 

  • Do I have trouble formulating topics and ideas that will captivate my target audience?

 

  • Do I struggle writing thoughts, information and ideas in a way that makes sense to others?

 

  • When I write, does it sound stilted and unnatural rather than genuine?

 

  • Do I have trouble getting to the point when I write?

 

  • Would I rather have a root canal than write a blog post?

 

If you’re considering working with a freelance writer, keep in mind that rarely are writers skilled at all types of writing projects or a good fit for all industries.

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need an editing professional’s touch.

 

  • Am I good at formulating topics and ideas and writing them in an understandable way, but do I have trouble varying the structure of sentences so they sound less boring?

 

  • Does my writing sound monotonous and lack variety in word choice?

 

  • Do I creatively convey my message when I write but struggle with organizing the content so it flows logically for readers?

 

  • Do I find that I repeat myself or become long-winded when I write?

 

  • Do I enjoy the creative process of writing but not going back to fine-tune what I’ve written?

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need a proofreader’s help.

 

  • Am I good at writing clearly and coherently, but I make a lot of silly mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.?

 

  • Do I have time to review what I’ve written with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s error free?

 

  • Do I loathe attention to detail?

 

Writing, editing, proofreading…they’re different yet all extremely important when creating and publishing content of any type. If you don’t have all three skillsets in-house, consider getting the help of professionals who can make sure your content consistently puts your business’s best foot forward.

Kick Your Blog Up a Notch with an Editor: But Consider These 4 Things First!

You know what your audience wants. You’ve got the expertise, the experience, and the pulse on what they expect to take away from your blog.

While all of that is absolutely critical for building a following and earning reader respect, there’s one other key component that businesses need in blogging…well-written posts!

A blog with poor writing style, regardless of the usefulness of the info within it, can destroy credibility and make you look unprofessional.

If your business resembles that remark, it doesn’t mean you or your employees aren’t extremely smart, savvy and skilled. It just means you aren’t writers. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just not your thing.

When you’re trying to convey your business’s strengths, features, benefits and value to readers, your blog needs to have the pizazz and polish of a professional writer. Although hiring a writer to create content for posts might not be financially feasible, hiring a writer/editor to spruce up your rough drafts could very well be within budget.

Thinking about kicking up your blog’s prowess up a notch? Here’s some food for thought as you consider using an editor:

  • Editors generally price their services according to a rate per word. And some bill by the hour or by the page. Through my research when setting my own editing price points, I found that editors’ rates vary widely depending on capabilities, experience, geographical location and other factors.
  • Editors might ask for a sample of your work before offering pricing. To provide a rate that’s fair to both you and to them, some editors will request to see a sample or two of your work so they can assess how much work will be involved. If your writing skills are relatively good, editors won’t need to spend as much time and effort on your posts as they would on drafts written by someone who has poor grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Often, editing rates will be specific to individual clients. Realize it really can’t be “one size fits all.”
  • If an editor offers different levels of editing, find out how they’re different. I suggest that you seek an editor who follows my M.O. I prefer to take a paragraph from a sample draft and, in turn, provide my prospective clients with samples of basic editing and more substantial editing so they can see the difference and make an informed decision about which level will satisfy their needs both functionally and financially.
  • Most editors treat proofreading as a separate service. Many writing professionals edit first at X cents per word, and do proofreading as a separate service at X cents per word. Although I also do them in that order, I don’t edit without proofreading. And I choose to combine them into an all-inclusive rate per word. I’m sure there are other editors who do the same. Be sure to ask if proofreading is – or is not – included.

Whether you’ve got an existing blog that could use some fine-tuning or haven’t yet started a business blog because you don’t believe you’ve got the writing chops to pull it off, an editor could be just what you need. As you search for one that’s the right fit for you, keep in mind that you’re looking for value, not just the cheapest rate. Always ask for work examples, inquire about turn-around time, and find out how they’ll provide the edits to you (Word doc with mark ups, Word doc with changes made live, etc.).

Got questions about my blog editing services or about what to look for in an editor? I welcome your emails to dawnmentz@gmail.com. Or feel free to call me at 717.435.3559