It is sometimes difficult to know exactly which skills are required when you are looking for someone to edit and/or proofread a piece of work. The lines between the different service levels are easily blurred. For this reason I always suggest working with you on a sample section, usually around 3,000 words (with confidentiality assured), before we agree on a price for the entire contract. This helps to ensure that we are on the same page when it comes to exactly what services you require. You may think you require a proofreader, but in reality you may be expecting the skills of a substantive editor.
In order to assist you to understand the different roles involved in the editing process, I have noted some definitions below, which are taken from the Australian Style Manual (6th Edition).
Editors work with the publishing client and the authors to ensure that a publication’s focus, structure, expression, style and format support its purpose and will suit its probable range of readers. They work with the rest of the publishing team to promote consistency in the document’s style and approach, and to ensure its overall integrity. Finally, they prepare the approved content to a standard suitable for publication. Good editors can greatly improve the quality of a publication and increase its chances of success.
Substantive editing concentrates on the content, structure, language and style of a document. Some restructuring and rewording might also be done in the interests of accessibility, clarity, a cohesive style and tone, and a tighter reader focus.
Contribution to, or assessment of, concepts for the proposed design, illustration, delivery format and usability criteria, is also generally part of a substantive editing brief.
The purpose of copy editing is to remove mistakes, inconsistencies, or other infelicities of expression that could irritate or confuse readers―or embarrass the author. At the copy editing stage, the editor therefore concentrates on the details of language, spelling and punctuation; on achieving consistency of style and layout; and on checking references, illustrations, tables, headings, sequences, links and preliminary matter and endmatter.
The principal aims of proofreading are to verify that there are no discrepancies between the previously approved master copy and the formatted proof, that the document is complete and that the standard of presentation is suitable for publication.
The proofreader compares the approved version of a document with the first proof, checking each word, punctuation mark and graphic element. Each component of the document is also checked to ensure that everything has been included and is in the correct position. Each page is then further scrutinised to verify that the layout and type specifications have been accurately followed, and that the line breaks, page and screen lengths, and table and illustration placements are suitable.