Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Proofreading vs Editing

This post is going to be really short. Just a warning.

I was perusing the Twitter-sphere yesterday and came across an article: 25 Editing Tips For Your Writer's Toolbox. So I read it, and the first thing (basically) it starts with is explaining the difference between proofreading and editing, and it's a basic set of definitions that I feel are important for people to know.

Editing is the big stuff: plot, setting, dialogue, characterization. It's where you decide that Plot Point C should actually go before B and that Betty Lou should be an angry arsonist instead of a cookie-selling Girl Scout. It's your content and the way you organize it.

Proofreading is the small stuff. It's all of the misspelled words and misused grammar, the punctuation gone awry, the run-on sentences. It's everything that you wouldn't notice if you're just reading through your book or novel quickly, or even skimming it.

Basically, editing would be changing how much flour you put in the bread, and proofreading is adjusting how much butter you're putting on top. Both are required for an excellent snack (or novel), and they both come after the first time you try the recipe.

Knowing the difference is a bit important. There are actually jobs out in the great wide-somewhere that involve editing, and others that involve proofreading (also called copy-editing). They also involve different states of mind: I see editing as more of a critical-thinking exercise, while proofreading is more about making sure you're following a basic set of rules for grammar. Both, however, involve focusing your attention on certain aspects of your manuscript.

What you don't want to do is try editing and proofreading at the same time. If you rewrite something, or add a completely new set of sentences, then odds are that you're also introducing new grammar and spelling mistakes-things that need to be fixed with proofreading. The problem is that you may have already proofread everything before it, or even everything before and after, and then you'll wind up missing an entire chunk of newly-added material.

Don't do it.

Typically, editing comes before proofreading. Get your plot and content organized, first, and then dive in with your more minor fixes. Your sanity will thank you for it.

See? Told you today's post is short.


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