Proofreading and Editing

"Which one does what?"

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between proofreading and editing. It's simple, really:

  • Proofreading is mainly oriented at catching spelling errors, typos, and the like
  • Editing is more oriented toward the content, and can be broken into various categories: copy edit, full edit, technical edit, etc.

"But which one do I need?"

Honestly, that depends on your ability and the resources available to you. Some people have very good spelling and grammar to begin with, and they'll need less work on their manuscript before it's publishable. Let's go through the options one by one:

  • Proofreading assumes that your grammar is excellent and you only want to fix minor flaws
  • Copy editing adds grammar and punctuation into the mix on top of proofreading
  • A full edit will give feedback on your story, writing style, pacing, etc... but depending on who does it, they may not catch many small errors like a proofreader would
  • Technical editing just checks the facts in your book, which could be useful if you're writing non-fiction - but don't expect technical experts to correct your grammar and typos

Here's another problem: all these services are expensive. I found that I couldn't find a proofreader (via internet) for my 110k-word manuscript for under €1,000 ($1,400). In my case, I was lucky enough to have a family member who did several rounds of high-grade copy editing and proofreading for me (thanks, Mom!). What are your "cheap" options?

  • Join an online writing community to help with editing. There are many sites where you exchange reviews, chapter-by-chapter, with peers. These other authors want your feedback too, so they'll give you extensive critiques if you do the same for them. I used the Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy, and Horror.
  • Find a critique group or a circle of other authors in your genre, and exchange manuscripts with them for full-length corrections. Of course, this may not do the trick for spelling and grammar if they are not proficient at that. But you'll be able to fine-tune some of the things you would have with a full edit: pacing, character development, etc.
  • Once you're satisfied with the level of editing, try to find some college students or friends/family who have excellent language skills and pay them to proofread for typos, misspellings, and perhaps grammar errors as well.

"What else?"

Okay, I have a few tips left up my sleeve.

  • Don't go all-out with your final proofreading until you're completely satisfied with the content.
  • Try to find objective readers to sample your work. Usually friends & family can't say anything besides "Wow, it's great!" because they don't want to offend you or hurt your feelings. You WANT strangers who will say, "I just can't believe this character, he doesn't work" or "This section is slow and boring, cut it or spice it up!"
  • When you get to proofreading or copy editing, have the person read over your manuscript in its final, typeset form. ON PAPER if at all possible! (not electronically on a PC). It's much easier to spot errors when reading a paper copy. Perhaps its due to our voracious consumption of electronic material online, but we just don't see errors as well on the screen.

That's all for this section! Now, get ready for typesetting the interior.

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