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Step by Step Proofreading and Editing for American English, Including Prices

Updated on July 11, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty has successfully reviewed thousands of books, films, products, and vacation/retirement cities around the world.


What is Editing?

Many Internet content writers believe that editing is only proofreading - checking and changing spelling and simple grammar mistakes. However, they are incorrect. Editing can encompass anything up to a full re-write of a document or book.

Text Revision of American English Documents

Opinions vary on the robustness of the print and publishing industry today, because of the rise of eBooks, but one aspect remains necessary: revision. The only author I have found that successfully wrote books start to finish without a single change is Rex Stout, who created the detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

In doing book reviews and helping writers find literary agents, proofreaders, and editors, I find that some individuals see "editing" and " proofreading" as synonyms for the same activity, when they are actually different stages of revision.


Many more Americans are turning to online writing as a source of income and they are considering both print and eBook editions for their works. Some of these persons have never written for income before. A large niche today seems to be, among some newer writers, the life story.

Thousands of books and eBooks of life stories exist currently and many more thousands are in the works or otherwise not published. Good writing and careful revisions can bring some of these stories to success from within the large numbers available.

Unfortunately, in America I meet many new writers without knowledge of the levels of revision that exist, nor of the steps to publishable writing. When they look for editing help, what some mean is only the changing of punctuation and spelling, which is just one of many steps

The idea of having an editor is glamorous to some new writers, yet because they do not understand revision, they are offended if anything is suggested to be changed in their work. I wonder if they are looking for a rubber stamp, or what exactly they understand an editor to be.

Revision vs. Editing vs. Proofreading

A separate course to handle revision, editing, and proofreading might well be added to the required English courses in high schools and community colleges. Since freelance writing is becoming a major online job classification these days, such a course needs to be available on a wide scale.

Unfortunately for freelance editors, a small group of newer writers feel that if they complain about the editing upon completion, then they will receive it free-of-charge. Some ask for free editing at the outset, but editors cannot make a living without charging standard fees and pro bono revision work is usually not a possibility. Using a written fee structure and a contract are the best way to avoid these problems.

Another issue occurs occasionally with friends that edit other friends' work. Friends tending to share likenesses, a wordiness issue in both people, for example, may not be caught while editing a manuscript. The work could become less objective overall than it might otherwise be.


Definitions and Actions of Revision; Editing and Proofreading

Revision is the umbrella term that contains all the changes that may be made to a document, manuscript, or other writing. Editing is reviewing and changing a written work and making additions, deletions, and other changes to conform the document to an agreed-upon standard (and to make it publishable).

Below is a good overview of revision for articles, essays, and books; divided into proofreading and editing activities. Not every single element is listed in the activity column, but this chart will give you a good idea about the categories of revision.

Prices for editing services quoted below in Chart I. are from my own experience, from popular Internet sources, and from companies in Ohio in the Midwestern USA.

Chart I. A Chart of Revision for American English Documents

Check spelling, punctuation and minor grammar mistakes. This will be done usually more than once in a written work.
From $0.01/word to $10.00/page of 250 to 300 words. Some companies or individuals charge more. Proofreading for term papers can cost a little less than $10.00/page.
Editing Content
Ensure material is appropriate to the slected topic and target audience, makes a solid argument or contributes something worthwhile; well fact-checked, and supported by evidence. Check tables, charts and photographs and sources.
he "Editing" Categories are often offered under a single price listing of $25 to $50 per page. Re-writing an entire 300 page book is priced in the thousands of dollars. Ghost writing a book of 200 - 300 pages at 250-300 words/page ranges from $5,000 - $12,000; higher on the East and West Coasts. Some editors or
Editing Page Structure and Longer Structures
Introduction, conclusion, premise or thesis, logical sequence, clarity throughout the document/book, flow, consistency, reading grade level.
companies use the term Full Edit to mean Substantive Edit, wherein large changes in many of the Categories must be made to make a work publishable. The same editors may charge less if only one or a few categories must be addressed. They may call this a Partial Edit.
Editing Paragraph Structure
Ensure clear topic sentence and supporting sentences that make sense and are logical. Eliminate problems of extraneous or missing information.
Editing for Clarity
Check word use, sentence structure, parallelism and other factors.
Editing for Writing Style
Check approriate tone: formal, informal; narrative, persuasive, cause-effect, etc.; passive or active voice, person, gender-related wording, wordiness, use of verbs, ostentation, hyperbole, trite phrases, other.
Editing for Citations
Choose one standardized style system and maintain it throughout the document from beginning though citations: AP, APA, Chicago and MLA are all good; but there are others.

Reference Resource on Revision

Rules of Thumb
Rules of Thumb
I have long used this reference to refresh my knowledge of editing and proofreading before beginning any large editing task. This is a language handbook as good as the best medical handbooks are to physicians.

Some Relevant Cases

Horror stories of writing and editing abound, just as they do in "bad first dates", job interviews, and various work situations. Plagiarism can present a big problem, but a reading grade level can create a horror story as well.

Some editors provide an evaluation of manuscripts and a written document detailing what revisions should be completed. This can be helpful to a writer, especially one unfamiliar with revision processes. Sometimes it opens a Pandora's Box of poison pens.

At one time, I was asked to evaluate a nonfiction manuscript for a company before the final edit was performed. What I found were several chapters written for an adult target audience that could read at about the 10th grade level, but written with many trite phrases and grammar errors. Following this were several chapters written at the 3rd grade level, which is legally termed functionally illiterate for special reading assistance in schools and public programs. A complete rewrite seemed in order and the author decided to attempt this himself. It was a large nightmare of a job.

One other time for the same company and another manuscript, I found several surprises. The first chapter of the manuscript contained a few punctuation errors. The remainder was unreadable, because few sentences made sense and nonsense symbols from a special characters collection appeared within each word.

Just as I sent in an evaluation, the author begged the company for free editing on the grounds that she was dying. The company investigated, learned that the book had already been published as an eBook in its poor state, and the client was not ill. She was dropped by the company.

The world is a big place, and we must accept that we will be approached by a few odd stories in it. This might include either side of the writer/editor partnership.

Check out any editor or editing company you use for American English and ask for references.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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