Proofreading vs. Editing: What is the difference?

I recently ran across a blog from an author where she was ranting about her bad reviews, and the fact they kept saying she had editing errors.  I will not name names as I do not want to cause an author  war.  We have enough hatred going on right now, what with Paris and ISIS.  She claimed she went through her manuscript and found X amount of errors.  She also went on to say that criticism over her sentence structures was wrong as that was her writing style.  So pooh, pooh on all you bad reviewers.
Well, I did review her book, and I did mention she had some editing issues.  If there aren’t too many proofreading errors, I’ll let them slide by, but editing errors get my goat.
So today’s lesson is the difference between proofreading vs. editing.  Per Merriam-Webster, proofreading is: to read and correct mistakes in (a written or printed piece of writing.)  This means spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
This is where most indie writers go astray.  *Raises my hand.*  I couldn’t afford a proofreader, so I tried doing it myself, and I’ve been called out on it many times in my reviews.  I deserve those reviews.  I published an unedited book.
Let’s go back to the author at the top with her rant.  She only looked for misspelled words and she only found X amount.  What about her grammar?  What about punctuation?  Would her and her friends that read her book know the difference?  I think not.
Other than misspelt words, the biggest problem I see in indie authors is the lack of punctuation.  Most of them don’t have a clue when to use a comma.  The lack of a comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence.  A good proofreader will know what an Oxford Comma is and how to use it.  I have an editor now and she does use the Oxford Comma.  My sister thinks she overuses them.  Maybe – maybe not.  I think my books look more professional.
A lot of the indie authors are from different parts of the world, so they’ve been taught to use different punctuation marks.  For example, instead of using “ ” for dialogue they use ‘ ’.  This is not the standard format used in traditionally published books.  When I brought this up in a writers group, they defended themselves by saying that’s the way they were taught and they couldn’t publish a book in every format to please readers worldwide.  *Still shaking my head.*  This is why we have a standard in the publishing industry.  If you don’t know what it is, hire someone who does.  Simple as that.
Now, on to editing, which Merriam-Webster defines as:
a :  to prepare (as literary material) for publication or public presentation
b :  to assemble (as a moving picture or tape recording) by cutting and rearranging
c :  to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose <carefully edited the speech> <edit a data file>
As you can see, proofreading fits within the parameters of editing.  If you have friends, or hire someone, that only knows proofreading but doesn’t know squat about editing, you’re in big trouble.
Why should I be worried about syntax? you ask.  Here’s why, again from Merriam-Webster: the way in which words are put together to form phrases, clauses, or sentences.
The biggest culprit I’ve seen when syntax isn’t followed, is when the principle of Cause and Effect is not applied to a sentence structure.
An example: He rose from his chair after hearing a knock on the door.  Wrong!
He heard a knock on the door and rose from his chair.  Right!
Or, to make your writing less passive: Hearing a knock on the door, he rose from his chair.
Notice how the sentence flows better.  So just remember, you cannot have an effect BEFORE the cause.  Will your buddies or family members know that?  I doubt it.
When I published my first book, It Lives in the Basement, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  I hated English and grammar in school.  YUCKO!  But I told myself, if I was going to pursue my goal of publishing Bob’s stories, I needed to learn.  So I bought books, books on writing, books on marketing.  Thank God I did.  That’s when I found out I hadn’t been following the rules of Cause and Effect.  Once I understood the principle, it was so glaringly obvious in my writing.  Unfortunately, for some weird reason, when writing, the effect always wants to come out before the cause.  I find myself correcting my WIP all the time for that reason.
So, to all those indie authors who claim their sentence structures are their own writing style, No it is not.  The only time you can get away with a syntax error is if your character talks that way, like Yoda.  Otherwise, it’s just bad writing.  Get yourself an editor, or at the very least, buy some books to teach yourself.  Sticking your head in the sand over your ignorance won’t help your writing career.
Ostriches, Strauss, Bouquet, Bird
*Putting on my flak-jacket.*  Okay, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?  Either way, have a wonderful day.  Smile

About Sahara Foley

Bio: Until my husband died on Christmas 2012, I never thought about becoming a writer. In fact, the act of writing a story terrified me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading, just never had the knack for writing. The thought of writing dialogue scared the bejeebers out of me. See, Bob was the writer. He wrote stories for years but could never get a traditional publisher interested enough to publish even one. Now I understand why, as they were unpolished outlines. Then, after 30 years together, Bob passed away and my life was turned upside down.

About a month later, I was sitting around my apartment, trying to adjust to the worst event in my life, when a little voice spoke to me. Why not publish Bob’s stories? To be truthful, ever since the advent of self-publishing, I always wanted too, that’s how much I believed in his stories. But I knew I would have to fight him for every little change I made to his outlines. Sorry, honey, but they had to be done.

So, I pulled out the box of stories, dusted them off, and started on a new adventure: The World of Self-Publishing. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. I finally published several short stories early in 2014, then my horror novella, It Lives in the Basement. While I was working on them, I was slowly learning the craft of writing, and getting The Secret of Excalibur ready for publication. Excalibur was my favorite story of them all, and in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted a publisher. One day on Twitter, I ran across a tweet from Creativia Publishing, and that was another game changer for me. I signed up with them in December of 2014, and it was the best decision I’ve made.

One thing I’ve discovered on my new adventure, are all the really awesome and talented Indie Authors. If you find the right community of Indie Authors, all they want to do is help each other. I found that I love promoting them and their books, so that’s how I setup my blog. For readers to meet Indie Authors.

Anyway, enough about me. Here’s all my contact information:




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14 Responses to Proofreading vs. Editing: What is the difference?

  1. divyangashah says:

    Hi, thanks for giving me a knowledge of cause must be first and than effect. but, I think the problem must not be to all Indie authers and it may be some other authers.

    • saharafoley says:

      You’re right, it’s not all indie authors and I never said it was. But you are wrong about other authors. You wont find these issues in trad books as they have professional editors on staff. Thxs for dropping by.

  2. divyangashah says:

    thanks for precious knowledge. 🙂

  3. divyangashah says:

    why do you have problem with all indie authers in general, it may be some exceptions?

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  5. Thank you for this informative post! I’m just beginning to stretch my wings and helping authors who cannot afford an editor. This really helps me to know why there are some sentences that really do not sound right. Cause and effect may be part of the problem. I hadn’t thought of that aspect so have not been specifically looking for incorrect cause and effect in the syntax.

    • saharafoley says:

      I’m so glad you liked my post. I was a little nervous writing it, as I’m not even close to being an expert, but I love learning new things. Sadly, there are a lot of writes that have deluded themselves into thinking they don’t need to work on their craft. Especially if they’ve been picked up by a small publisher. Oh well. All I can do is make my writing better. Thank you for stopping by.

  6. Thank you for this post. It helps me to understand what I’m looking for when I read an unpublished manuscript for editing, proofreading, etc… I love helping indie authors clean up their stories. Sometimes I find things that don’t flow well and this article helps me to see why.

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