Saturday, October 15, 2011

the fine line between proofreading and editing

I've told my client, who last week gave me a 19-page paper to proof, and ten days in which to proof it, that I was restricting myself only to proofreading and that I wouldn't be doing any editing. By that, I meant that I'd help clean up her prose, but that I wouldn't touch her content: if I detected any flaws in her argumentation, I wasn't going to change them myself; that would be up to her. She said she understood.

Of course, the line between proofreading and editing isn't always clear. Sometimes, the proofing that one does for the sake of clarity is tantamount to altering the paper's content. Perhaps there's a purgatorial realm that lies between proofing and editing-- content cleanup or some such. The notion that comes most strongly to mind for this activity is salvage: what you're doing is content-related, but it usually involves the reparation of grammatical and mechanical problems in order to bring out the text's intended meaning. You're taking a wreck and turning it into something better than it was.

Then again, "salvage" might be a poor metaphor, since the term can also mean re-dedicating junk parts to other uses than those for which the parts were originally intended.

Like re-gifting, but dirtier.


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