What Separates Proofreaders from Professional Editors

Anyone with a college degree can edit your work, right?

Wrong. There’s a reason why Editor is a profession. It requires a special skill set, specific expertise and plenty of experience. An “editor” who’s simply a great speller and grammarian is as good as an “auto mechanic” who can only top off your fluids and replace your brake light bulbs. They have skills, sure, but you wouldn’t trust them with an important whitepaper or transmission repair, right?

I can change my own oil, but I’m certainly no mechanic. I am, however, an Editor. To start, I served as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper at my high school. That’s where I found my passion for it. From there, I became the editor-in-chief of a collegiate creative writing publication and, upon graduation, an editor at an award-winning content marketing agency. 

Since I’ve seen the editorial process from a lot of different angles, I can tell you with confidence: it ain’t easy. And, more importantly, there are a lot of people out there who’ve hired an “editor” rather than an Editor and ended up disappointed—or worse, embarrassed.

To save you from others’ editorial woes, I want to share with you who an Editor is, what an Editor does and how you can find the right Editor for you.

What’s the Difference Between an Editor and a Proofreader

Usually when someone says “editor,” what they really mean is “proofreader.” What’s the difference? A Proofreader is someone who conducts a surface-level analysis, looking at technical issues such as spelling and grammar. A Proofreader starts the process, but there’s more to the process than that. After a Proofreader has scrutinized the copy, the author incorporates their recommendations and sends the copy to an Editor.

Once the Proofreader has corrected all the technical errors, the Editor looks at the work through a more critical lens. An Editor focuses on the quality of the work. She asks the tough questions. To put it another way, a Proofreader makes sure a reader doesn’t have a bad experience due to errors, while an Editor makes sure a reader does have a good experience thanks to great content.

What Do Editors Do

An Editor’s work is more complicated than you may think, and at any given time, an Editor is scanning your work for a million different things. Here are five of those things, as well as sample questions within each category she may ask about creative, technical and professional writing.

Challenge the Logic

Creative: Why would such a calm character say something so emphatically? 

Technical: Shouldn’t there be another step between #4 and #5 in these instructions?

Professional: Where is the evidence to support this conclusion?

Check the Facts

Creative: Is this quote attributed to the correct character?

Technical: Is it possible for the reader to complete this task as you described?

Professional: Are you sure this event occurred on this date at this time?

Fix the Flow

Creative: Is the awkward word choice in this verse intended to convey a point and slow the reader down or should it be removed?

Technical: Can you vary the sentence structures to facilitate reading comprehension?

Professional: Can you add a transitional phrase to connect these two ideas?

Trim the Fat

Creative: Is this paragraph of dialogue necessary to move the plot forward?

Technical: Can these instructions be worded more clearly and succinctly?

Professional: Does the reader need to know these minute details?

Read it Aloud

Creative: Will readers be able to understand this eye dialect when they read it out loud?

Technical: Would a smart speaker be able to clearly read these instructions aloud to an end user?

Professional: Does this speech have the same impact when read aloud as it does on paper?

What EMB Can Do

If your company has important print or web copy you want to publish that hasn’t been reviewed by an Editor, maybe tap the brakes. The last thing you want is to lose credibility or cause controversy. At Elevate My Brand, we’re experts in content development, and we know an eagle-eyed Editor or two who’d love to elevate your copy. Call us and let’s chat!

Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand

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