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Proofread, Edit, or Rewrite: How do you know what your document needs?

At EditPro, we specialize in the proofreading, editing, and rewriting of English language documents of all kinds. Whether it is marketing copy for a brochure or website or a white paper for an internal professional user group, every document you send out with your name on it represents you and your organization. We take that very seriously.

We do recognize, though, that it is never easy to hand the labor of our minds and typing fingers over to another person to criticize. What is more personal than our thoughts? So, when you are considering having another person verify that your document is worthy of disseminating to your wider professional circle, it is helpful for you to know some things first.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is a fairly basic critical analysis of the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of your document. Proofreading involves no analysis of structure, lexical usage, or audience appropriateness. It essentially assumes that the message is coherent and the concept well formed.

Even as I type this, I am questioning my own structure and lexical usage. I am wondering if my audience of mainly non-native English speakers will understand me and I am adjusting certain things as I go. Not only will I revise this document myself three or four times, I will also give this to a German native speaker who is a C1 (near native) level speaker of English to critique. Since I am a native English speaker, I cannot imagine that any non-native English speaker would be certain of structure and lexical usage. I always opt for requesting that one of my partners does a full edit of my documents before dissemination.

For this reason, we pair proofreading and editing every time. Few people are such good writers that they could not have chosen a better word here or there or constructed this or that sentence more logically.

What is editing?

As you may have understood from the description above, editing involves all of the considerations of proofreading and adds words usage, structure, and audience to the mix. A good editor will tell you if you have failed to support an argument and will ask you questions about the audience for your document. That same good editor will take a look around at similar documents that are available and decide if you have assumed the correct tone and communicated in a style that will make your document accessible.

It is always easier to hear that you left out a comma or that you misused a semi-colon than it is to hear that you have written something that is hard to follow because of logic flaws or unsupported claims. An editor who assumes a harsh, authoritarian note-making style can make a writer feel dejected, angry, and aggressive. Writing is a deeply personal exposure of knowledge and/or self. No one would ever receive notes like this from our editors. In our opinion, editing provides an opportunity for writers and communicators to sharpen their language and elevate the impact of their work. As professional editors, we're passionate about our job and hold ourselves to high standards of accuracy, clarity, and concision. We love spending time with writers and helping turn their original thoughts into exceptional documents while maintaining their unique voice and style.

When do you need a rewrite?

Very, very seldom have I received something that I felt required an entire rewrite. I attribute this to two reasons:

  1. I have had the great pleasure of working with people, in business and in academics, who are experts in their field. They have, therefore, been very careful in their writing; and,

  2. I will never know as much about your topic as you do.

We have done major rewrites, though. This usually comes to us as a facelift of an older document or as a clean up of a flawed translation. As machine translators improve and get cheaper, fewer of these documents will cross our desks. (In a future blog post, I will make a detailed argument about translations and translators with tips on how to choose well.)

Giving a facelift to an older document requires research and discussion, as well as writing. If this is something you think you need, please just telephone us so that we can decide if we have a qualified editor/writer for your topic. Furthermore, if our editor works on your document and determines that a major rewrite is required, we will contact you to discuss this rather than just editing and moving on.

Our commitment to you We won’t let your English language document out of our hands without giving you the full benefit of everything we can do. We will make certain that there is no potential for your document to create confusion or, worse, laughter for your audience. Simply put, we tie our feeling of success with yours at every stage of the process.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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