Writing, Editing, and Proofreading

By: David Bowman

Let us say from the start that writing, copy editing, and content editing are different and, as such, require unique skills. Writing is about getting ideas and content on paper. The primary task of writing is to determine what content to communicate. Copy editing (often called proofreading) is about adherence to commonly accepted rules for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage. Content editing (often simply called editing) is about bridging the gap between what a writer wants to communicate and what a reader needs or desires.

As we are in the business of editing, we will address copy editing and content editing more thoroughly.

Copy editing:
The primary task of copy editing is ensuring that accepted rules for punctuation, spelling, grammar, and usage are being followed accurately. Technical documents have the additional difficulty of making sure that formatting, heading, and citation styles are applied consistently. A good copy editor has to have a strong understanding of those rules and strong attention to detail.

Copy editing is a very tedious process, which means that the necessary intensity and focus can lapse. Thus, the copy editing process may need to be repeated several times. For example, Precise Edit generally conducts three (or more) reviews by two different people.

Content editing:
The primary task of content editing is revising text to help the writer effectively communicate with a particular reader. A good editor must have 4 characteristics:
1) a feel for style, voice, and tone;
2) the ability to interpret the writer's ideas and intentions clearly and appropriately for a particular audience;
3) an appreciation for the aesthetics and structure of writing; and
4) the logical ability to analyze the reasonableness and organization of content.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good editor must understand the writer's audience and be able to address readers' needs. The editor considers the content, style, structure, etc. that the reader needs in order to understand, be engaged in, or learn from the text. In this way, editing is much like marketing and product development: converting raw ideas into a product that consumers can use and will want to buy.

Editorial Services:
As mentioned above, writing, copy editing, and content editing require different skills. One mistake that many writers make is to assume that he or she can do all three. This may be true in some cases, but typically it is not. Actually, in our experience, the writer is usually not the best person for proofreading and editing.

Depending on the importance of a document, a writer should consider engaging a professional editorial service, and many are available. How, then, can a writer choose which one to hire? Based on Precise Edit customer feedback data, two factors seem to be most important: expertise and the quality control process. Other factors include responsiveness, cost, and timeliness. Together, these five criteria significantly reduce the number of quality editorial services from which to choose.

Keep up the great writing. Editors are ready to help.

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