DEFINITIONS / EXPLANATIONS
Proofreading and editing covers a multitude of activities, many of which overlap and are easily confused; the brief definitions given below attempt to clarify the differences between the various activities in order to ensure that the service you ask for is what you actually need.
Proofreading: Often one of the final stages in the ‘publishing’ process, proofreading involves checking a document or manuscript for errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, grammar, consistency, fonts, general layout etc. In general terms, no changes other than correction or suggested correction of these elements are made.
Copyediting: In addition to incorporating proofreading, this activity is intended to improve the readability and consistency of a document by checking and correcting (or at least suggesting correction) elements such as redundancies, passive/active voice, tone, jargon, colloquialisms, clichés, continuity, tense, headings etc.
Structural Editing: This activity looks at the manuscript or document as a whole and deals with its layout and structure. Aspects examined and corrected/suggested for correction include text justification, page numbering, headers and footers, references and indexes, captioning of pictures and other graphic elements, ‘standardisation’ of styles and formats.
Desktop Publishing: The process of taking an electronic manuscript and creating a formatted document according to the author’s/designer’s instructions or style template. This includes the placement of pictures and other graphics, page numbering and indexing using software functions. This activity may relate to documents ranging from a single page to several hundred pages but GENERALLY does not relate to full book type documents.
Document Conversion: The conversion of an electronic document from one format to another using computer software. The most commonly requested conversion is a document in a proprietary word processor format (Microsoft Word for instance) to the cross-platform - and to a large extent fixed - PDF (Portable Document Format) for distribution. It is also possible to convert documents back from PDF to a variety of formats. Other conversions may be from Excel or PowerPoint to PDF, from PowerPoint to YouTube video, video files to individual pictures/graphics or from one video format another.
There are a number of reasons why it may be necessary (or desirable) to convert a document from one format to another. The most frequently occurring reason is quite simply compatibility – there are several ‘flavours’ of computers in common use [the two major ones being the Microsoft PC and Macintosh] and a wide range of ‘production’ software – and the second being appearance or presentation. Software ‘add-ons’ can often be found to for instance enable a document prepared in Microsoft Word to be read and even edited in Corel WordPerfect, but it won’t look or ‘act’ the same in the two programmes. This may not be a problem during the preparatory stages but once a document is finalised, it is certainly desirable that (as an electronic document) it look and act the same where or however it is displayed. Barriers to this occurring may as simple as the difference between the ‘default’ printers set up on two different computers – it is the settings relating to the default printer that generally determines the on screen layout of documents – or the non availability of a particular font on the reader’s computer.
One answer to this problem is to only distribute documents in printed form, but this is 2011 and the general expectation is for documents to be distributed electronically where possible and this leads to the use of Portable Document Format (PDF).
PDF is a platform and (authoring) software independent format in which the ‘look and feel’ of the original document, including fonts, graphics and layout, is retained across viewing platforms regardless of settings or fonts. The only thing required on recipient machines is a PDF reader application.
The PDF format was developed by Adobe and the original, and still the ‘gold standard’, PDF reader is the Adobe Reader which is available as a free download at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html . Other, third party readers are available elsewhere on the Internet and at retail outlets. Because PDF documents have become so common there would be very few modern computers that do not have a PDF reader (most likely Adobe Reader) installed as part of their ‘out of the box’ software suite. Similarly, net-books, tablets and smart-phones generally include a PDF reader.
PDF documents are primarily created by conversion from other formats such as Microsoft Word. Many scanners also offer PDF as an output option – although the result is often a single picture of the source document rather than a ‘full’ PDF version.
It is possible, with the right software, to edit the content of PDF files almost to the same extent as can be achieved in the originating programme (i.e. Word, Excel etc). However, this type of software is not generally found on home or small business computers due to its specialisation and cost.