When an author finishes a draft copy of their text, whether it be a manuscript, an essay, a thesis, or a short story, to ensure an accurate and improved final version, they will need to go back through it and make a few changes. This process is known as editing, but the words revise and edit are often used interchangeably. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between the two.
Looking at the dictionary definitions of each word, the differences separating the two are somewhat vague:
- Reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence.
- Examine and improve or amend (written or printed matter).
- Alter so as to make more efficient: (as adjective revised).
- Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it (verb).
- a change or correction made as a result of editing (noun).
In essence, Revision means to revise the content by looking at the bigger picture; that is, revising the content as a whole by looking at the structure, content, and organization of ideas. Editing, on the other hand, focuses on the finer details at the sentence level, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, choice of phrases, etc.
In the editing process, the author or editor will revise the content at the sentence level, meaning they will not aim to significantly alter or rewrite the content, but will rather make subtle corrections and adjustments to the text to improve the accuracy, clarity, and flow. Since all writers make errors, it is often beneficial to have a second pair of eyes look at the text. Hence, a third party, such as a professional editor, will often take charge of the editing stage to ensure there are no errors affecting comprehension and that every expression suits the content and context.
When to use it
Editing and proofreading are two separate processes that are conducted after completing the first draft. The editing stage usually comes after reading through your draft in detail to assess the strength of the content and revising any problematic areas. Both the editing and proofreading stages focus on the language and structures used, rather than the organization of ideas and the actual content/substance. While editing aims to improve the quality of the writing with regard to the choice of words, expressions, and structures used, proofreading focuses solely on the elimination of grammar and punctuation issues.
Editing tends to fall under several levels. At the highest levels, Content and Developmental editing could fall under the umbrella of revision, while Line and Copy Editing are much more geared towards eliminating language errors and awkward phrasing to ensure the text is grammatically accurate and readable.
Content editing. Usually conducted by someone with subject-specific knowledge of the content and topic, content editing ensures that a paper is logical and comprehensive and that the methods, findings, and conclusions are all appropriate. A Content Editor will look at the quality of the research, arguments put forward, and evidence gathered from experiments and interviews.
Word Choice, vocabulary, and flow. At the editing stage, editors will assess whether the words used are appropriate to the writing style and target audience (e.g., academic, fiction, specialist knowledge vs. general knowledge). Are the statements unnecessarily wordy? Does the author use anthropomorphism and appropriate use of pronouns, active/passive tenses, etc.?
Transitions. Editors will assess the paragraph structures to note how they link. Are there any inconsistencies? Did the author fail to mention any crucial points? Is there a logical progression between paragraphs and sub-sections?
Style and format. Professional editors are familiar with the most common academic writing styles (APA, Chicago, MLA) and will format your paper accurately on request in terms of headings, indentation, line spacing, citation style, use of footnotes, page numeration, etc.
While an editor should have an expert knowledge of Grammar and English usage, they should be flexible and creative enough to bend the rules. There is a fine line between being creative and instilling a range of structures and expressions while ensuring strict adherence to the rules of English grammar.
Whether an academic article or a novel, the revision and editing processes are both necessary processes in the preparation of a manuscript for publishing. Now, we will break down each of the processes to understand the differences in each.
The revision process places a greater focus on the content in terms of the reader’s perception and interpretation of the text to improve the overall clarity and readability.
Hence, when revising a text, the author, or in some cases, the developmental editor, will look to add, remove, or reposition ideas, thoughts, and assertions as appropriate. They will also offer their understanding of specific parts of the text and provide insight into how to improve explanations, add details and provide clearer descriptions, remove unnecessary content or wordy statements, and in fiction writing, add extra information to ensure comprehensive descriptions of characters and environments.
When to use it
The revision process is usually handled by the author. This is because the author has a proficient understanding of the content and structure, though having a third party point out any strengths and weaknesses is also beneficial.
Revision should be done after writing a draft manuscript to identify any weak points and pitfalls that affect the quality, flow, pacing, plot progression/organization. By identifying the weak points of a manuscript, the author can then make the necessary edits at the sentence level to improve cohesion.
Revisions are made to eliminate holes in the research or plot, weak arguments and characters, and unfinished and/or unnecessary details, ideas, and plot elements.
During the revision process, the following questions will help you to analyze any text in detail. Your answers will determine where to reorganize, enhance, alter, and eliminate any problematic content.
- What are the major arguments and points mentioned in the paper? How could it be summarized? Is the main topic/idea/argument clearly stated and comprehensible?
- Is the writing style clear? Is the paper informative, analytical, argumentative, or an evaluation/review? What is the main purpose of the paper?
- Is there sufficient evidence/research presented to support your main argument or hypothesis? Further, are all quotations accurately cited?
- Are there any ideas or sections that do not focus or add any relevance to the topic of research? If so, could they be improved or removed?
- Highlight any awkward, vague, or unclear phrases to rewrite later and/or send to your editor.
When reading through your writing, switching the perspective from the writer to the reader will help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint any areas to improve.
Use margin comments to provide insight and give recommendations and reasoning for any prospective changes to the material.
At the revision stage, giving the text to someone with a knowledge of the subject matter experience and grammatical knowledge can be likened to a film that is shown to critics before its official release. After receiving feedback on a paper, the author will have much to think about when it comes to polishing and tailoring the content to suit the target audience.
After receiving the feedback, the author can then make the necessary changes to the content before giving it to an editor for sentence-level correction to ensure the manuscript is fit for publication. Ultimately, quality revision and editing will improve the chances of your manuscript being accepted and published.