Decide whether your document needs editing or proofreading
It's common for many people to be a bit unclear about the differences between editing and proofreading.
Let's define editing
Editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer or editor strives to improve a draft (and sometimes prepare it for publication) by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective. It focuses on improving the accuracy of language, flow, and overall readability.
When performing an edit, editors are looking for consistency in fiction or academic writing and clarity in the writer’s thoughts. This applies to all types of documents, including technical/scientific papers and arts/humanities submissions.
It takes talent to be a good editor
Editing requires not only a background in English language skills but also a measure of intuition—knowing what looks right or wrong on the page—to gain a "feel" for your project's meaning and intention. A good editor will be able to look at your academic or fiction writing in an unbiased fashion. A professional editor will always apply his or her knowledge of English grammar conventions to help make your paper look and sound its best.
Now, on to proofreading
Proofreadingis the process of reviewing the final draft of a piece of writing to ensure consistency and accuracy in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.
By the time a document is ready to be proofread, it should have been edited already. This means its content should already be well organized, well written, and easy to understand. Editing also involves removing errors, but it focuses more on making sure the document makes sense as a whole.
Proofreading, on the other hand, is about finding errors both small and large that were either missed or introduced during editing. Proofreaders ensure that the document's final draft is completely free of grammatical errors (e.g., subject-verb agreement problems, incorrect word choices, improper punctuation usage, and incorrect spelling) as well as formatting and typographical errors. They also make sure the document adheres to the chosen style guide.
Though a proofread is less extensive than an edit, it is an important step when preparing a piece of writing to be read by other people, as errors can cause confusion or be seen as unprofessional.
Order the service that's right for you
Editing and proofreading are often confused, primarily because their goals tend to overlap a bit. It's fairly easy for editors to look at a document that specifies only proofreading and be tempted to alter sentence structure, address formatting issues, and clarify thoughts to help our clients sound their best. Editors must, however, follow the guidelines of the client's order request, even if it calls for proofreading only.