Proofreading vs. Editing: What's the Difference?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Many people believe that editing and proofreading are the same things — but they are not! Looking for someone to develop your writing style and flow, or just want someone to make sure your punctuation marks are in the right places?

To help clarify the doubt, I've developed this useful guide to describe the differences between those two.

In a nutshell, editing and proofreading are different processes in revising a document. Editing may require significant changes to text, structure and vocabulary, but only minor errors and inconsistencies are corrected in proofreading. A text also goes through multiple editing stages before it is proofread. The following table lists some of the differences between the two steps.


Editing and proofreading, as you can see, are two separate phases of writing.

Here's a more detailed differentiation:


According to the Cambridge dictionary, proofreading is "the process of finding and correcting mistakes in the text before it is printed or put online. It is carried out on the final copy of the document.

A proofreader looks for various elements than that an author does — proportions of blank space; section, column, and margin spacing; page numbers following the table of contents and indexes; arrangement and accuracy of headings, subheadings, headers, and footers; poor word breaks or end-of-line breaks; quality of picture captions and graphs, maps, and figures used in typesetting; and any typography. It also captures remnant errors that may have skipped a single editing step, or new errors that may have been added by the author in the revision process.


By definition, editing is the process which improves vocabulary by improvements to comprehension, readability and seamless delivery.

After polishing and fine-tuning a final draft to the best of your ability, the document is ready for editing. Editing covers text, form, design and grammar creation including use of spelling, punctuation and layout.

Is it required to go through both stages?

It depends on the text type and length. You don't have to always undergo both the processes, but a decent piece of work is almost certainly going to go through a similar cycle of revising, rewriting and proofreading. Some editorial systems, however, merge copy editing and proofreading into a single stage, where grammar, syntax and style are handled concurrently along with slight mistakes in spelling and punctuation.

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