The Difference Between Proofreading and Copy Editing

Whether you’re writing a dissertation or publishing a newspaper article, proofreading and editing both play a significant role. Still, even some professional writers don’t understand the nuanced differences between the two.

In general, we can state from the start that proofreading tends to be mechanical in nature. Proofreading will fix things like spelling and grammar mistakes as well as sentence structure issues. Conversely, editing tends to focus more on developing your document as a whole. That is, when you edit, you’re usually making changes to improve content, clarity, and tone.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these practices and investigate why they’re both so integral to the success of your document.

What Editing Can Do to Improve Your Document

Let’s start by outlining the role of editing. To what extent editing will change your document has to do with several factors.

First, if you’re hiring someone to perform professional editing services, you can convey how much or how little you want them to change. Some writers need and want a lot of help with readability and content clarity. Others feel confident in their final draft and only want a bit of advice or direction on areas that need serious work.

It’s also important to look at the draft itself. If it truly does not need a lot in the first place, there may only be minor changes made during the editing process. On the other hand, some documents are quite disorganized and require a lot of help, so editing may drastically alter the overall structure and form, essentially resulting in a rewrite.

Overall, the editing process improves:

Content: Helps convey your document’s message in the most accurate and engaging way possible

Clarity: Ensures an easy-to-follow, linear flow of thought

Tone: Limits passive voice and keeps the overall character and voice of the document consistent

What Proofreading Can Do to Improve Your Document

Proofreading tends to occur after editing. This is because if you proofread your document first, then changed large swaths of it during the editing process, you could end up making additional grammar and spelling mistakes that would require more proofing. Proofreading toward the end of your writing journey will better ensure you catch all errors.

Additionally, remember that having fresh eyes can help with the proofreading process. Professional proofreading services allow you to turn over your document to a new and objective reader who will surely catch those small errors you tend to gloss over as the writer.

Overall, the proofreading process improves:

Spelling: Corrects double words, incorrect capitalization, misspelled words, and punctuation issues

Grammar: Fixes incorrect pronoun references, subject-verb agreements, and tense issues

Sentence Structure: Corrects sentence fragments, run-on or incoherent sentences, and comma issues

Who Should Proofread and Edit Your Document?

While you’ll certainly want to proofread and edit as you go, then do a few run-throughs after your final draft, you should also have a professional take a look at your document. Investing in professional proofreading and editing services will give you an edge when it comes to winning readers over and being successful in your writing pursuits.

Which Is More Important: Proofreading or Editing?

Would you be surprised if we said they’re both of equal value?

It should go without saying that a document full of spelling and grammar errors will not go over well with readers. Even small errors will not only impede the flow of your words and overall readability, but they’ll also make your work look sloppy. And if you’re trying to convey a message of importance in your writing, this can greatly diminish your effectiveness.

Likewise, editing allows you to be clear with your message by making the content itself as effective and direct as possible.  Many of us have a tendency to ramble on or bounce around from topic to topic when we speak. In conversation, this way of communicating isn’t usually a problem. On paper, it is. You need editing to help organize your thoughts. This will keep them linear and nicely conveyed on paper, particularly so that they can be well-understood for your intended readers.

Now that you more fully understand the difference between proofreading and editing, get to work completing your final draft! Once you’re happy with your document, you can then hand it over to professionals who will polish it to perfection.