Editing vs. Proofreading

To me, there is nothing more satisfying than the act of picking up the red pen and diving into a document for an afternoon of editing. Most people I know think that’s a little crazy. These are the same people who fear getting their papers back, marked up in red ink. To me, it’s an exercise in continuous improvement.

Anyone can learn proofreader’s marks and how to use them. However, “track changes” in Microsoft Word and similar programs are contributing to the confusion of the act of proofreading with the art of editing.

There was a time when I could proofread, but I couldn’t edit. Editing requires seeing the big picture, and the precursor to the big picture is experience. Editing is more than a skill to be learned and applied: it is an art to be honed over time.

The advent of social media values frequency and speed, but quality is often not considered. While websites and blogs may intend to have good content, if the ideas are not presented in a manner that promotes clarity and understanding, the time you spend creating and composing may be in vain. A good proofreader can help you avoid major mistakes; a great editor can make you sound like a genius.

Find someone you trust, with a good eye for words and their relationships to one another, to edit your work. It may take time for you and your editor to reach agreement on how you want to sound, but the relationship and trust will build over time. It will not take long for you to wonder why you waited so long to find the editor you have always needed.


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