I am both an English language editor and a proofreader. Many people don't realise that there is a difference between the two, but there is. Here is a short guide to explain how these services differ.
English language editing focuses on the style and structure of the English language used in the text. When I edit, I want to create error-free text that flows well and has the correct tone for your audience. I make your text easier to read by correcting grammatical errors, fixing spelling mistakes, improving punctuation, removing inconsistencies, refining language style and rewording jargon.
English is a complex language with different spellings and different ways of expressing the same thing. When I edit, I build up a consistency list for your text as I go along. The consistency list notes what spelling, capitalisation, hyphenation, phrasing choices etc. you prefer. As I go through your text, I make sure your preferred choices are implemented consistently throughout your work. When I return your edited document to you, I can also give you the consistency list. You may find this list useful if you need to update your document at some later point, and want to maintain the same style of English in your new text.
Proofreading checks to see how the text and the other elements in the text (such as the fonts, illustrations and page layouts) work together as a whole. Although I focus mainly on the layout of a document when I proofread it, I also correct any minor errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar that I come across.
You can see an example of an edited and proofread text in the next file.
Editing for undergraduate and postgraduate students
The type of edit I do for a student differs from the type of edit I do for publishing companies, business people, academics writing papers, etc. This is because I must be careful that I do not give the student the kind of help that puts the student at risk of being accused of cheating.
The student earns a qualification because the people who examine his or her work think the student knows the subject well and that the student can write an academic work of a particular standard. If an editor rewrites a student's work then the person examining/marking that work is not seeing how the student expresses himself/herself. Instead, the examiner is actually seeing how the editor expresses himself/herself.
In addition, if the editor adds in factual content or corrects errors in factual content, the examiner is now seeing what the editor knows about the subject and not what the student knows about the subject. In this situation, it is no longer clear what is the student's work and what is the editor's work.
This means that when I work on a student's document, I have to limit what I do for that student because the qualification that the student will earn needs to reflect what the student can do.
I call this type of edit a 'light' edit because I limit my editorial changes in a student's document to the correction of language errors only. My fee for a light edit is, therefore, lower than the fee I charge for a full edit.
Many universities have strict regulations regarding the amount of help a student may get from an editor or proofreader. Students need to be aware what their university's regulations are regarding the level of help the student is allowed to receive from an editor or proofreader, and whether the student needs to acknowledge the use of that editor or proofreader.