Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Behind the Books: Editing vs. Proofreading

When I visit schools, I often encounter a disconnect between the way professional writers use the word “editing” and how students have been taught to use it. In many schools, editing = checking one’s own manuscript for proper use of conventions such as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

That’s not how professional writers or people who work at publishing companies use the term. For us, editing involves reading a manuscript written by someone else and providing feedback. The person who does this job is called an editor.
Many schools include “buddy editing” or “peer editing” as a step in the writing process. This is the proper way to use the word “editing” as long as the student reader is providing substantial feedback (not just checking conventions).

In a school setting, the teacher is the primary editor. The teacher-editor guides the writer by asking questions and making specific, gentle suggestions that will help the writer improve the manuscript . Then the writer uses those comments as he/she revises.
Professional writers rely on proofreaders employed by their publishing company to check conventions. This is a tiny little step at the very end of the process, just before the manuscript goes to the printer.
As educators work to emulate the professional writing process with their students, I hope that they will modify the way they use the term “editing” and introduce the term “proofreading” to describe the final step of the writing process.

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