Editing vs. Proofreading

Editing vs. Proofreading

In today’s world, we often interchange words with similar meanings. As time slips by, the distinctions between these words begin to vanish. One such example is that of the terms “proofreading” and “editing.”

These two words are interchanged so often that we find many thinking editing services are merely proofreading services. So, is there really a difference between editing and proofreading?

Understanding Editing

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the act of editing involves collecting, preparing and arranging material(s) for publication. It includes the acts of addition, revision, and correction. One might say the task of editing focuses on the manuscript as a whole. It includes a basic technical review, but it goes much further.

Developmental editing involves improving the quality and flow of a piece of writing through further development. During this process, phrases, sentences, and entire paragraphs may be removed, rewritten, or added. Rewriting and creative changes are staples of editing.

The Definition of Proofreading

In contrast, Merriam-Webster defines the act of proofreading as reading, marking, and correcting errors. This task focuses on the spelling, grammar, and mechanics of a piece of writing. Instead of looking at the big picture — the manuscript as a whole — attention is directed to finite, usually technical, details.

Spelling errors are found and corrected. Punctuation mishaps are fixed. Sentence fragments are pinpointed and updated. Proofreading focuses on technical details, whereas editing focuses on readability and flow.

You might compare proofreading to auto-correction software; it’s capable of catching technical issues but unable to add the humanity of seeing and improving the big picture.

Is Copy Editing, Editing?

You may wonder if copy editing is the same as editing. Any copy editor will quickly tell you the answer is no.

Copy editing is a much longer and more tedious process in comparison to editing. A copy editor is tasked with examining a document in search of basic grammatical errors while also gauging style consistency throughout.

What is style consistency? Simply put, it’s the consistency of style and format throughout a given piece of writing.

A copy editor has a trained eye that searches for uniformity. They spot irregularities, such as: I found not 1, but two errors. And then, they correct these inconsistencies like so: I found not one, but two errors.

Expectations Matter

Expectations are a cornerstone of business. It is vital for you as a potential customer to understand your needs and for the service provider to understand them as well so the right service is purchased.As you can see, the tasks of editing, proofreading and copyediting are distinct. Each task focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. Need an easy way to keep it all straight? Grab a copy of our

As you can see, the tasks of editing, proofreading, and copy editing are distinctly different. Each task focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript.

Need an easy way to keep it all straight? Grab a copy of our Revise vs. Proofread vs. Edit infographic.

Feature Image Credit: Brad Calkins via 123RF Stock Photo

11 thoughts on “Editing vs. Proofreading

  1. Just reblogged this article. The information it contains is very helpful, and should clarify the differences between the various services offered by publishers and others. Many aspiring writers do NOT understand what the terms copyediting, proofreading, and editing really mean, and get sucked into costly publishing contracts that deliver very little.
    Good job!


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