Not so long ago a client asked for our opinion about a chapter of their manuscript that they were about to send for translation. The book in question, they maintained, had been proofread; they asked us to ‘look over it’. It was well written but it was riddled with a multiplicity of grammatical errors and inconsistencies, such as (‘among’/‘amongst’; ‘realise’/‘realize’), clichés (‘they swept them into their arms’) and headings that were inconsistent in style (‘Reasons for society's actions’/‘Structure of The Book’). There were also many instances where dashes should have been used in place of hyphens and vice versa.
What does editing entail? Editing makes sure that sentences mean what they are intended to mean; that layout in a document is accurate and that text is presented in a professional manner for its intended audience; and that books, booklets, dissertations and reports are consistent in their style and free of jargon.
Editing, sometimes referred to as copy-editing, is an essential part of publication. Unedited documents that are riddled with grammatical errors give a poor impression of their authors. Authors are known to overlook elementary errors and inconsistencies in the documents they produce.
Written material should be free of grammatical and stylistic errors, including spelling errors, inconsistencies and ambiguities in meaning.
Developmental editing involves not only copy-editing and proofreading, but a substantial amount of rewriting and reorganization to improve a document's clarity.
When clients ask for proofreading, they really mean that they want a document to be checked for all kinds of errors. This may entail checking for typos (literals), missing words, repeated phrases and bad word breaks.
It is for these reasons that the ‘fresh pair of eyes’ is so important in the final preparation of a document.