Okay, so the title is misleading, because, let's be real, there isn't much of a difference between us. If you've ever tutored at a Writing Center before with the policies my Writing Center has, then you'll know that, as a tutor, you're not supposed to provide an editing service. This is a misnomer, because this is essentially what tutors do. Let me explain.
First, I want to mention what is basically the only difference between a tutor and an editor are. A tutor actively engages his or her client in the editing of his or her own paper. An editor passively engages his or her client in the editing of his or her own paper. That's really it. Oh, and tutors who work at a university are usually limited to 30 minutes or an hour and we can't touch client papers, but that's besides the point.
What I mean when I say actively engaged is the client usually reads his or her paper aloud to the tutor, since reading a paper aloud can help spot mistakes. The tutor will then engage the client in dialogue about potential problem areas, whether or not the paper needs to be restructured, if the thesis is strong or not, and other issues. The tutor will right then and there, while the client is editing his or her own paper, help come up with a solution to fix any problem areas.
An editor passively engages clients by pointing out problem areas while the client is not around, and then usually e-mailing these corrections to the client. The editor and client can then choose to engage in dialogue after corrections have been submitted, but the editor usually works alone without active client input.
I've been tutoring for about a semester, and I feel a semester is long enough to conclude that what we do as tutors is provide an editing service, despite what Writing Center ethics may claim. It might be politically incorrect to say we provide editing serves, but we nonetheless do.
Editing, as defined by the English Oxford Dictionary on-line, "[is to] prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it."
What we tutors do is help clients modify, correct, and sometimes condense their papers so they can prepare them to be turned into their professors for a grade (and some do come in for publication or portfolio help). We might not be writing on their papers, but we are still providing them the sort of feedback an editor would provide.
How do I know this? I have an independent editor. Many Writing Centers claim they don't provide editorial services because providing an editorial service would mean (and this is just my interpretation) writing the paper for the client. Editors don't even do this. In fact, my independent editor will tell me about her other clients, and sometimes she'll say to me, "I'm not writing the books for them. That's their job." I'm going to assume this is the same for an editor of a publishing house as well.
I have received feedback on three chapters of my novel thus far, and the criticism I have received is the sort of criticism I dish out in the Writing Center. She will suggest changes I should make, and I do the same thing with clients at the Writing Center. She won't make the changes for me. She will point out a few grammar errors, and if they are consistent, she will let me know and not point out the rest of them. I do the same thing with clients at the Writing Center. I'll point out a few errors, tell them why they're errors and how to properly use this piece of punctuation, but I will not point out all their errors, particularly if they are consistent throughout the paper. She'll also help me restructure if need be, and I do the same thing with clients at the writing center.
While I as a tutor can't provide as in-depth feedback as she can as an independent editor, this is only due to time limitations. Otherwise, writing tutors and editors provide roughly the same feedback. So to claim tutors don't provide editorial services is a misnomer. We might not be writing suggested changes on their papers, but we are verbally suggesting changes for their papers, and this is still helping the student prep his or her paper to be graded. We aren't prepping their papers to make a guaranteed A, but independent editors cannot also guarantee that a client's manuscript is going to be published.
Of course, tutors do function as teachers more than editors do because we are teaching our clients, but a good independent editor will also function like a teacher as well--just in a different way.