NY Book Editors discusses the different kinds of editing.
The Harvard College Writing Center lays out the process of editing a draft.
WIRED’s Nick Stounton explains the cognitive processes that make it so hard to proofread your own writing.
Clients don’t always know how to describe the kind of editing services their texts need.
An easy way to distinguish between editing and proofreading is to focus on the final deliverable. In other words, do they expect to receive a REVISION or a PROOF.
If a client is looking for someone to make and suggest changes to improve the text’s grammar, syntax, structure, tone and overall persuasiveness, they need editing. For this kind of project, I usually work directly in a word processor and use both tracked changes and comments to collaborate and discuss with the client. Although I fix or flag any errors that I catch, some slip through and more will likely be added after the in-line comments are addressed.
If a client is looking for someone to go over their texts with fresh eyes to find the typos and correct formatting errors and other tiny mistakes, they need proofreading. For this kind of project, I am a ludite and work with a pen, paper and ruler in natural light. In a pinch, I will read the document out loud.
Many texts, of course, need a combination of both services. A dissertation with three approved chapters but a brand new introduction and conclusion, for example, can be broken into sections for billing.