AUGUST 31, 2021

What's the difference between proofreading and editing?

What's the difference between proofreading and editing?

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Chances are that you’ve heard of both proofreading and editing and, naturally, you probably lump them together.   

Perhaps, you even wonder: is this process of editing and proofreading content really necessary? And is there really a difference between these two terms?

Yes, it is fully necessary, and there is indeed a difference between editing and proofreading. 

In this article, we clearly explain the difference between these two editorial services, and then explain in more detail why these steps are an important part of the copy writing and content creation process. 

Here are the topics we’ll cover: 

  1. What is editing?
  2. What is proofreading?
  3. Why are editing and proofreading important?
  4. Just how are editing and proofreading different?

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and answer these questions!

1. What is editing?

Editing is an involved, detailed process that examines the quality, structure, and clarity of your writing. An editor will review your work and provide detailed feedback and corrections to help make your writing as clear, engaging, and consistent as possible.

During the editing process, the overall flow of the piece will be examined, along with its tone, structure, and other stylistic elements.  

An editor will look closely at the content, language, and structure of your content.  Does it read well?  Is it informative and captivating?  Does it move at an appropriate pace? Is it logically coherent and compelling? What improvements can be made?

The editing process also pays careful attention to grammar.  To make your writing as clear and correct as possible, a professional editor will ask many questions while reviewing your document: Are sentences being put together correctly? Is the proper punctuation being used?  Does the writing make sense each step of the way? Have words been used improperly or could different words be used to achieve a better effect? 

During the editing process, the following steps will be taken:

  •  Any technical errors that are captured will be commented on or corrected;
  • Sections of text may be reordered or changed substantially;
  • Certain portions of the text may be pointed out as being redundant or superfluous;
  • The content will be checked for accuracy and clarity;
  • The tone of the writing will be examined, and your editor will check whether your content uses the appropriate language to appeal to your target audience or customers; 
  • If you’re sharing your content digitally, your editor may also review your content for SEO, ensuring that your keywords and key phrases have been appropriately utilized. 

Given what an involved and detailed process it is, it’s no wonder that editing is its own job.  

There are professional content editors out there (like us),  and they exist for a very good reason. If you’re too close to the piece, you are usually less likely to be able to identify errors and areas of improvement. Your writing will almost always make sense to you, but will it make sense to others?

For a free, no obligation quote for our editing services, you can get in touch with us here

Or, if you do wish to try editing your own writing, you may also want to try reading it aloud or having a colleague read it aloud.  Any mistakes in your writing may stand out more clearly when you’re taking the time to read your words out loud, and it’s sometimes easier to catch awkward sentences when we’re trying to read them aloud. 

You can find more tips about reviewing your own work here.

2. What is proofreading?

Proofreading is a distinct process and usually occurs after a document has been edited. It’s a particularly technical job that requires a great deal of focus and an intimate knowledge of the English language. 

Proofreading is, essentially, examining a text for concrete technical mistakes. So, for example, it involves keeping an eye out for issues related to spelling and punctuation, along with glaring inconsistencies or words that have been used incorrectly.  

Proofreading also involves keeping an eye on the consistency of a document. This includes ensuring that the author’s spelling, font choices, headings, and other textual elements are consistent throughout the document. 

However, a proofreader doesn’t typically assess the general quality of the content. This means that they won’t be able to answer questions like “Is the plot of the story captivating?”, “Does the article flow well?”, or “Is a valid argument presented?” 

In general, a professional proofreader won’t make major revisions to documents, provide detailed feedback about how the author can make their writing more compelling or effective, or leave comments intended to help the author become an overall better writer. 

It’s ideal to have an outsider do your proofreading for you.  This is because it’s very easy to miss mistakes, especially if you make those mistakes repeatedly.  In fact, you may not even be aware of some of your potentially bad habits.  

For a free, no obligation quote for our proofreading services, you can get in touch with us here

3. Why are editing and proofreading important?

Here are a few reasons why having your content edited and proofread is so important: 

  • If your piece is not professionally reviewed, you’ll very likely have spelling mistakes.
  • You’ll very likely have many small, technical errors, and, while these errors may not stand out to you, they may be glaringly obvious to your readers.
  • The tone of your writing may be inappropriate for your venue and/or audience — it may be too casual, too opinionated, or unfocused.
  • Your content may contain distracting inconsistencies that detract from its clarity and value to the reader. 
  • Your manuscript may be rejected by your target publisher. 
  • You may let your audience down or otherwise fail to meet their expectations.
  • If you’re a small business, having multiple errors on your website can be enough for a potential customer to immediately click off of your page and move on.  
Content proofreading and editing are especially important for small businesses. 

Think about it: if you were reading some copy (say, on a company’s website) and came across multiple errors, what thoughts would come to your mind about that company?  Probably not the greatest ones. You may think they aren’t very professional, that they’re not a legitimate business, or that they aren’t willing to invest the appropriate capital in their brand. This might cause you to lose faith in them.  This is not something you want happening to you.

Again, imagine yourself reading another business’ content and having trouble getting through it.  Is it unfocused?  Does it not flow?  Are you lost while reading it?  Is it repetitive?  

If you’re in the market for specific advice regarding a particular kind of investment and you begin reading a piece that’s oversimplified or perhaps too casual in tone, will you stay with it?  If you’re looking for that investment advice and end up reading something that seems like it’s someone’s personal journal that either meanders or is full of what seems to be opinions, will you keep on reading?

Even if the value you’re trying to offer your audience is there somewhere, buried in your writing, if someone has to dig for it, you’ll lose repeat readers (if they even bother staying with your writing).

And remember: people are likely not reading your copy for entertainment or leisure.  Rather, they are reading your copy to find a specific answer, learn more information about a specific topic, or to otherwise benefit from your writing somehow. This means that your audience probably doesn’t want a meandering tale of, say, the history of financial investments.  No, they want the specific information that you’ve claimed you will provide.  

For a free, no obligation quote for our content editing and proofreading services, you can get in touch with us here. 

4. So, just how are editing and proofreading different?

Editing is a more creative and extensive process.  It’s the second part of the writing process and usually occurs right after the author has finished creating their content.  The editing process ensures that everything makes sense, that it sounds natural, that it’s clearly understandable, and that it’s in the voice your audience wants to hear. After an copy editor has reviewed your writing, they will usually send the document back to you to approve their corrections and to make any necessary changes.

Proofreading, on the other hand, involves almost exclusively the technical, picky stuff and is usually the final step in the content creation process, occurring right before a piece of writing is posted or published. When proofreading, the reader is usually just looking for glaring mistakes, inconsistencies, and punctuation problems. Here, the proofreader is not so focused on the overall content or story being told and is just working to polish or refine the piece so that it can be put out into the world.


After you’ve finished the writing process and reviewed your own work, you will definitely want a second set of eyes on your content.

Instead of hiring a professional, you may be tempted to ask a colleague, friend, or relative to attempt to proofread and edit your work for you. However, keep in mind that, while well-intentioned, these people may not be able to pick up on the same scope of issues as a professional. Additionally, their feedback may not be as insightful or detailed. 

If your budget allows it, we strongly encourage choosing a professional to help guide you through the editorial process. 

To speak with us about your proofreading and editing needs, you can contact us here. 

Or, for more guides and resources to help your business thrive, you can check out our blog here.

Steve Chambers

Steve Chambers

Steve is a copywriter and content developer with a passion for creating effective, engaging written content. When he's not crafting content for clients, Steve keeps busy as an avid screenwriter and movie buff.

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