When I first started editing for clients, I offered three types of editing on my website: heavy editing, light editing and proofreading. Interestingly, “dissertation proofreading” inquiries have often turned out to be “dissertation editing” projects. In other words, the client either underestimated the work that was needed on the manuscript, or did not understand the difference between proofreading and copyediting.
You may be wondering why this is important. Well, it is vital to understand the difference between these two tasks so that the client has realistic expectations about the final product and the work involved. If the client and the editor are on the same page from the outset, there are less likely to be any misunderstandings and the project tends to run smoothly.
Because this seems to be a common source of confusion, I am going to use the rest of this post to describe the different levels of editing.
Proofreading literally involves reading a manuscript (that is assumed to be already in good shape) and, as necessary, correcting a few small errors per page (e.g. typographical errors, punctuation errors). As a rule of thumb, there should be no more than five small errors per page in a true “proofreading” project (some pages will have no errors). The bottom line is that the manuscript which needs proofreading is “almost ready” – it simply needs a final check.
Dissertation copyediting (light)
Light copyediting requires significantly more work than proofreading… it usually consists of corrections to spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and sentence construction. Thus, light editing goes beyond proofreading to include improvements to sentence construction and word choice. Light editing also allows for a lot more errors (e.g. 5-15 errors per page).
Dissertation copyediting (heavy)
Heavy editing obviously involves more work than light editing. In addition to spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and sentence construction, heavy editing involves moving sentences, attention to paragraph flow, and moving paragraphs. I also provide suggestions for further improving the document (e.g. information may be missing). Finally, there tend to be a lot more errors (over 15 errors per page) in a heavy editing project.
Think about it… the word “edit” implies that significant changes are needed; with the word “proofreading,” the focus is on reading and checking rather than changes. Of course, proofreading involves some amendments, but it is important to understand that these amendments are very minor.
Tendency to underestimate the work involved. Whether your manuscript needs heavy editing, light editing or proofreading, as mentioned above, there is a tendency to underestimate the amount of work that is required. Another example… clients often describe a project as “light editing” when the work actually involves “heavy editing.” At first glance, sometimes, even I think that a project involves less work than is actually the case. This is why the free trial edit (250-300 words) that I provide is useful to both clients and myself in confirming the level of editing that is needed.
Hopefully, this post helps you to understand the key differences between dissertation proofreading and editing!