Paper editing has been virtually abandoned by publishers for a number of years. In the publishing world, modern day technology really is everyone’s friend. There is a reason why authors and publishers migrated from a paper-based world to a digital world.
No matter how you cut it, ‘old school’ paper-based editing is time-consuming, subject to more errors not being caught, and in many instances, a money-losing enterprise for the editor unless the client has an unlimited budget and is willing to spend it. Because paper-based editing is slower, time schedules have to be longer.
I cannot imagine having to edit the hard copy of a document. Tracking an editor’s changes in Microsoft Word is, without a doubt, the standard today. Publishers give authors the option to accept or reject changes, and tracking makes it easier to know what changes have been made. I know that in my business we always edit with tracking on.
The track changes feature in Microsoft Word (the tool I predominantly work with) is a really great editing tool. All the changes are easy to see, and the editor and author can toggle between the original content and edited content. Content can easily be moved around. The author can quickly accept or reject changes. Additionally, if there are multiple editors/reviewers, each author can edit the same content, and each set of edits is shown in a different color.
To address the quality of the editing, paper versus electronic, is a very complex question. No matter whether a project is paper-based or online, in the first instance, the quality of the editing depends on the skill of the editor — the more skilled the editor, the better the quality of the editing.
The real question is less addressed to quality than to consistency and accuracy, which are much higher in online editing than in paper-based editing because there are so many tools available to help increase consistency and accuracy, tools that are not available for paper-based editing.