Editing involves a proactive editor making changes and suggestions that will improve the overall quality of your writing, particularly in relation to language use and expression. After editing, your language will be sharp and consistent, your expression clear and the overall readability of your writing enhanced. Editing should ensure that your writing gives the impression that the English language comes naturally to you, even if it does not.
The following are some key questions that an editor will consider when editing a piece of writing:
- Have proper words been chosen to express your ideas? If it sounds like you have consulted a thesaurus throughout the document, an editor will pick up on it.
- Have you used a passive voice? An active voice is not always appropriate, but writing that is too passive does not make for compelling reading.
- Is the tone appropriate for the audience?
- Do you use too many words? Using unnecessary and frivolous words is a common trait in many writers, and is a pet hate for editors.
- Have you used gendered language appropriately?
Proofreading is the process of correcting surface errors in writing, such as grammatical, spelling, punctuation and other language mistakes.
These are the key questions a proofreader will consider when proofreading a piece of writing:
- Are there any spelling errors?
- Are full stops, commas, colons, semicolons, etc., used correctly?
- Have words that sound like one another but have different meanings, such as there, their and they’re, been used correctly?
- Have quotation marks and apostrophes been used appropriately?
- Are there any double spaces, particularly after full stops?
You might think that eliminating mistakes and inconsistencies in a document is not a particularly demanding job and that a friend or family member, or even a computer program, could do it. However, a professional editor is a far more accomplished proofreader than your typical friend or family member and any computer program that Google has dreamed about.
A professional editor understands the conventions of English writing and the nuances of the language, is trained to be methodical, and through experience can identify and eliminate the common errors that often plague, for example, a novel or thesis. As well as catching easy to overlook mistakes, they can also identify inconsistent terminology, spelling and formatting.
Proofreading is an important service because any writing intended for publication—whether an academic article, book or business document—must communicate its message in the clearest possible way. For writing to be clear, there must be no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, or inconsistency in language, as these can undermine the impact of the writing and the credibility of the author.
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