The Difference Between Editing and Proofreading

An easy way to understand the difference between editing and proofreading is to think of them as two opposite ends of a spectrum.

Proofreading is mostly a technical function, originating from the early days of the printing press. It’s the final polishing step where we go through the work and add that last bit of perfection with a laser-like focus on punctuation, formatting, alignment, font consistency, etc. When you think your work is finally “done,” that’s the ideal time to have someone else carefully review it.

Here’s the most important part:

Proofreading is the very last step before showing your work to your customers. This means your proofreader can help you the most by viewing your material as it’s meant to be seen by the customer. In other words, not in a Word document but actually in its final online form.

Editing, on the other hand, is more of a creative function.  Your original work is gently modified to improve things like word choice, cadence, organization, and the progression of ideas, all the while retaining your own personal voice and tone.

Since each person and each piece of writing is different, the spectrum from minimal proofreading tweaks to more in-depth editorial changes can be quite broad.

It’s important to understand this distinction because each person and each project has a different set of needs.

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