At ProseWorks, we’ve probably seen it all. Over the years we have undertaken all imaginable editorial assignments, ranging from scripting plays through to writing display notices.
One of the most common requests, though, goes like this: ‘Here’s our draft. Don’t change anything. Just give it a quick proofread.’
Occasionally only a quick proofread is required. More often than not the document requires more drastic editorial surgery: a robust copy edit or sometimes a structural edit or even a complete rewrite.
We then have to pick up the phone and – with a degree of trepidation – explain that we really do recommend that more than a proofread is required.
I say trepidation because we half-expect the client to drag their heels and object to the time and cost implications of our proposal.
In the event the opposite usually happens. The client readily agrees to our suggested course of action. ‘OK. Great…that’s what I wanted in the first place.’
There are three lessons to be learned from this. Firstly, that clients always thank you if you are brave enough to use your own expertise and experience to question their original instructions.
Secondly, there’s a lot of confusion out there about the work that editors do. Clients are sometimes fearful that once they hand their draft over you will completely rip it apart; so much so that it bears no resemblance to the original. They therefore request ‘proofreading’ to prevent this happening.
And thirdly, in the world of words that we copywriters and editors inhabit, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the meaning of the terms ‘proofreading’, ‘copyediting’ and ‘editing’.