Editing and proofreading: What’s the difference?

Published by Clara on

Editing and proofreading are essential steps in the writing and publishing process, but people often use the words interchangeably. While both require careful consideration and reading of the copy, there are some notable differences between them. 

So, what’s editing all about?

Editing addresses the core features of writing, such as clarity and sentence structure. It’s usually the first step in the revision process and aims to improve the readability and tone of a piece, helping it flow and sound more natural. 

Since editing requires more work, it takes longer to complete than proofreading. Editing is also more collaborative, as the editor and author work together to achieve clear, concise copy that connects with the intended audience. 

And what’s proofreading?

Proofreading comes after editing and addresses surface mistakes such as missing or incorrect punctuation, grammar errors, misspellings and inconsistencies. Unlike editing, proofreading doesn’t require so much, if any, collaboration with the author. The text should already be in pretty good shape, so this step usually takes less time than editing.

Finding common ground

Despite their differences, editing and proofreading often overlap. For example, both involve checking for errors in language and grammar, and both aim to correct those pesky spelling and formatting slip-ups. 

Editing and proofreading also demand a sharp eye for detail and require a good understanding of the English language. Editors and proofreaders always ensure the writing adheres to the chosen style guide.

Top tips

Read your text out loud

While you might feel silly, reading your text out loud can help you to catch mistakes you might have missed had you read the copy in your head. These errors may include missing words, typos, grammar errors and awkward sentences. 

Reading aloud can help you get a feel for the pace and rhythm of your copy and help you identify sentences that feel rushed or overly slow. Hearing your voice can also help you assess whether your text has the right tone. If you feel bored while reading your copy, then it’s likely the reader will too.

Read your text from back to front

Read your work backwards to spot typos and spelling errors. Best used in combination with other proofreading techniques, this technique can give you a different perspective on your copy. Plus, it enables you to focus on individual words – making it easier to identify mistakes.

Don’t rely on spelling and grammar tools

While spelling and grammar tools can be helpful in the proofreading and editing process, they should not be relied upon. Some grammar tools cannot detect the context of your writing and may suggest corrections that are technically correct but inappropriate within the context of your message. They also don’t account for your writing style and may suggest changes that alter your voice or the message you are trying to get across.

Categories: General