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What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?

By October 29, 2020Uncategorized
editing, proofreading, difference

“Originality is simply a fresh pair of eyes.”

– Thomas W. Higginson


Originality and quality give your writing impact. And hiring a professional editor to review your writing is a sure-fire way to ensure that your writing stands out. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to hire a second pair of eyes to check your written content. But the most important question isn’t “should I hire someone?”, it’s “which service do I need?”. Many people use the terms editing and proofreading interchangeably, but they are totally separate services, delivering very different results. Hiring a professional editor can be costly, and it’s easy to waste money on the wrong service. So, we’ve listed 7 key differences between editing and proofreading so you can decide which service is right for you.


1 – Editing is performed on the first draft; proofreading is performed on the final draft.

Editing and proofreading are different, but connected. They are actually different stages of the same writing and editing process.

The writing process begins with planning, then writing, then editing. Finally, proofreading is performed on the final draft before it is submitted or published for its intended use. Proofreading only happens once, but a document may be edited several times before the final draft is produced. It’s also worth noting that the proofreading should be performed by a separate professional. That’s because fresh eyes detect errors more easily, and they avoid the typo blindness that comes from overfamiliarity with the text.

2 – Proofreading is a surface-level check, editing addresses core issues.

Proofreading rectifies problems such as misspellings, errors/omissions in punctuation, and inconsistencies in terminology and numbers. It’s a surface-level check. In contrast, editing addresses issues with the core features of writing such as sentence structure, clarity, and tone. A thorough editing service will leave your document with a smooth, coherent narrative that is persuasive and – above all – readable.

3 – Editing takes longer.

Editing is usually more time consuming than proofreading. That’s not because that proofreading is a simple process that can (or should be) rushed, far from it. Proofreading requires focus, diligence, and exacting standards. But editing involves collaboration, research, and rewriting, and these features are simply more time consuming. It’s worth remembering that when you discuss your deadline with your editor.

4 – Proofreading will not reduce your word count.

Proofreading corrects the errors in your existing words, but it won’t remove them, rewrite them, or reduce your word count. Those are editing tasks. There are many reasons why reducing your word count is important. You may have a set word limit, e.g. for an essay or article. It could also be that the sheer volume of words makes your document harder to read. Either way, your editor can address this. It is also possible to expand your word count, although expansion is a writing task, not an editing one. If your document needs to be longer, your editor may offer suggestions on sections that could use more detail or explanation. You could also consider hiring a professional copywriter to write additional content for you.

5 – Proofreading and editing have different goals.

If you still aren’t sure which service you need, this key point should help you decide. Proofreading removes the errors from writing that is already good, whereas editing improves the overall quality of the writing itself. Put more simply: proofreading removes unsightly smudges from a nicely-painted wall, editing repaints the wall.

6 – They look different.

Any decent proofreading or editing service will use software such as Microsoft track changes to make alterations. They do this so that you – the customer – can clearly see where your document has been altered. That’s important because not only does it provide evidence of the service you’ve paid for, it can also help you develop your writing skills.

A document that’s been proofread will contain changes to your individual words, and punctuation marks may have been added or removed. But there is usually no change to your original wording. Edited documents contain sentences and paragraphs that have been crossed out and restructured, and the overall structure of the document may also be different. Some phrases and sentences may have been totally rewritten from the original. Your editor may also have left notes, questions, and suggestions throughout the document, this is part of the collaborative editing process.

7 – Editing requires specialist knowledge of your subject and subject-specific conventions.

Proofreading requires an eye for detail and a comprehensive knowledge of grammar. However, editing may require a deeper understanding of your specialism and the associated subject-specific conventions. For example, imagine that your document is an article on biochemistry for a science journal. Your editor would need an understanding of the sciences and scientific writing conventions, along with a more general understanding of the style conventions required for article publication.

So, which service do you need?


Your document has been edited, and you’re confident about the language and structure. Now you want a final check to eliminate typographical errors, punctuation errors, and misspellings.


Your document require revisions for clarity, readability, and flow. You want to collaborate with someone to refine your writing style and develop your argument.

Wordsmiths offers a comprehensive range of services, including proofreading, editing, and copywriting. We also offer a business content paraphrasing service that rewrites every word and sentence of your existing content. This makeover service retains your original message, but delivers it in a way that fits perfectly with your brand image. You can find out more about our services on our website, so get in touch if you’d like to chat to us about your writing project. You can contact us via email on info@wordsmiths.org.uk or WhatsApp at 07743518681. Don’t forget, you can keep up with our latest news and offers through Facebook and Instagram, and by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.