The Beginner's Guide To Edits and Proofs

The Beginner's Guide To Edits and Proofs

Edits and proofreads are important. Like, really important. 

But did you know that they’re not the same thing? No? You’ve got some work to do, young content Jedi.

Whether you’re editing or proofreading someone else’s work, or you’re applying a rigorous self-edit and proof to your own latest masterpiece, knowing how to do this correctly is integral to ensuring high-quality, high-value content.

But how hard can it really be to scan for typos and spot grammatical errors - after all, isn’t that what Grammarly’s for?

Well, as today’s post proves, effective editing and proofreading requires far more than a quick spot check - and failing to do a thorough job could have drastic consequences for your content’s performance.

Edits and proofs: what’s the difference? 

First things first: what’s the difference between these two practices?

The two terms are often used interchangeably, referring to any process that involves checking content before publication. This could either be carried out by the writer themselves or, more commonly, a fresh pair of eyes.

The difference between editing and proofreading is hidden within these ‘checks’ - it all depends on where the focus is being placed.

Let’s start with editing. Our friends over at Grammarly offer a damn fine definition of a content editor’s role:

“The tasks involved in copy editing include checking written material for grammar, spelling, style, and punctuation issues before it’s prepared for proofreading. A copy editor may also do a rewrite, if necessary, to fix any problems with transitions, wordiness, jargon, and to ensure the style of the piece fits with the publication. This work is known as revision.”

Proofreading, on the other hand, is defined as:

“When the material is nearly a finished product, meaning it has been edited, laid out, and designed, the proofreader searches for typographical errors. The proofreader works with a facsimile of a finished product, or a proof (hence the term proofreading). Proofreaders don’t suggest major changes to the text; rather, they look for minor text and formatting errors and confirm the material is ready for publication.”

Spot the difference? Whereas proofreading is concerned with fixing top-level errors and minor inaccuracies, editing scratches further beneath the surface to ensure the content fulfils its brief and is fit for purpose.

Edits and proofs: why do they matter?

We’ve already established that editing and proofreading are both integral to the content creation process - but why?

Let’s start with the obvious one: proofreading.

Proofreading matters because there’s no easier way to undermine your brand’s authority and credibility than by letting pesky errors slip through. At best, they make you look careless - and at worst, they make you and your content appear shamefully amateur.

It’s not just your audience who’ll think you’re a laughing stock, either. Even Google will punish content inaccuracies with lower organic visibility and fewer search ranking opportunities.

If proofreading is important to your content’s quality, then editing is integral to your content’s value.

By placing the emphasis on how well your content fulfils its brief, editing ensures your content remains purposeful. How? By assessing the content’s value from the perspective of both reader and brand.

Let’s start with the former. Focusing on phrasing, vocabulary, information and structure during an edit puts you in an audience-first mindset. Editors are assessing the content’s value from the perspective of the audience and, as such, are examining how effectively the information is communicated to the reader.

Is the format digestible? Does the piece offer solutions to readers’ problems and pain points? Does it engage the reader with the appropriate level of jargon and assumed knowledge? Does it drive the reader to take the desired action?

Editors should also be reviewing content from the perspective of the brand. Consistency is key to creating content that achieves objectives, so edits should also focus on the tone and style of the piece.

Does the content embody the brand’s values and beliefs? Is it written in the brand’s tone of voice? Has it been structured and formatted according to your brand’s style guide? 

How to edit content

  1. Learn the brief. Familiarise yourself with the purpose and objectives of the piece from the perspective of both audience and brand. The most reliable way to do this is to check the original brief (this is easy to do if your content team uses digital workspaces like Monday.com or Asana) or to check in with the writer/content strategist.

  2. Read as an audience member. Start by reading the piece from start to finish. Keep those fingers off the keys here - your first read through should be exactly that: a read through.

  3. Don your editor’s cap. With your first impressions established, now’s the time to pick up the proverbial pen and begin your edit. Analyse line by line, championing quality and value at every step along the way by ensuring consistency with both the content brief and your brand’s style guide.

  4. Conduct a fact check. Accuracy is key, and it’s your job as editor to ensure this. Confirm any research conducted has been carried out accurately and ensure statistics and quotes have been attributed correctly.

  5. Return with fresh eyes. Go back through and read the piece one more time. This is especially important if you’ve actioned any revisions throughout your edit. To do this most effectively, it’s best to look at the piece with fresh eyes, so take a break between your edit and final read-through.

How to proofread content 

  1. Read for flow. Read through the piece from start to finish to ensure a consistent flow. Post-edit, you should be able to effortlessly read the content without stumbling on clunky phrasing or confusing information.

  2. Scrutinise the grammar. This is the heart and soul of proofreading. Embrace the linguistic nerd within you and meticulously analyse the accuracy of the writer’s grammar.

  3. Conduct a spell check. Finally, don’t fall at the final hurdle by failing to conduct a thorough spell check. Don’t just rely on autocorrect or Grammarly here - instead, run these in addition to a manual spell check to guarantee maximum accuracy. 

  4. Review the finished article. Check back one final time once the piece is live to ensure there no formatting errors were made during publication.

Would you rather entrust someone else with ensuring the highest quality content for your brand? Paragraft’s first-class blog writing services and scrupulous editorial standards deliver best-in-space content that serves your audience and brand. 

Get in touch with our friendly team today to learn what our creative expertise can do for your brand.

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