The Art of Editing and the Science of Proofreading

“Effortless reading requires brutal editing and rewriting. Get very comfortable with the idea that everything you write will require numerous revisions. Sometimes the best writers aren’t the most gifted, they’re the ones willing to edit the most.” — Jimmy Daly Animalz

What is the difference between proofreading and editing? If you don’t understand what the two processes are or what they involve, read on. This article will provide you with an easy overview for editing and proofreading your own content, or help you decide which of the two services you require.

Editor’s Skills

  • The main goal is to enhance the content

  • Incorporate emotion and feelings into the document

  • Use specific knowledge to define and boost the text

  • Consider imagination and creativity

  • Ensure the content is well structured, easy to understand, and appropriate for the audience

Proofreader’s Skills

  • Find and correct all spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors

  • Make small changes and modifications

  • Follow style guidelines and rules

  • The main concern is technical accuracy and surface errors

  • Use logic to complete proofreading in an organised manner

The Art of Editing

The role of an editor requires more execution than proofreading. Flow, readability, structure, quality of research and evidence, clarity, and style all need to be considered and improved when written content is edited. It’s not unusual for an editor to rewrite whole sections of text to enhance the quality of the writing and make sure the overall goals are being met. Fact-checking is also an essential part of the editing process, as is the correction of any punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors. Editing begins as soon as a first draft is complete. If you are looking to enhance the quality and value of a written document vastly, an editing service is necessary.

When editing, the following should be checked:


  • Check the content to make sure the requirements of the brief are met

  • Fact check claims

  • Check references and evidence

  • Check that the information is relevant to the assignment


  • Check content for a suitable introduction and conclusion

  • Check the topic is stated in the introduction

  • Make sure each paragraph is related to the topic and flows in sequence with clear transitions


  • Check sentences are clear and make sense

  • Make sure the correct words have been utilised to explain or express ideas

  • Check essential terms are defined to ensure the reader can understand them


  • Ensure the tone used is appropriate; formal, informal etc

  • Check that a passive voice is not used too often

  • Remove any unnecessary phrases such as “there are’’ and “due to the fact that”

  • Check for repetition of strong words and verbs

The Science of Proofreading

The main goal of proofreading is to check for minor mistakes, including spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. A skilled proofreader needs to possess extensive knowledge of the English language and a high level of concentration. Proofreading requires the reader to spend long periods meticulously scanning a document for small errors that the human brain is very good at correcting as we read text. This is why it is hard for people to pick up on mistakes in their own documents, and often why even people with advanced English skills make small errors.

Proofreading is generally the last step in preparing a document. It should only be completed once you are happy that your content editing revisions are finalised. A proofreading service should be obtained if you want to check a final document for minor mistakes.

Tips for proofreading:

  • Don’t rely heavily on spell checking tools. They have a restricted dictionary and can flag words as misspelt if they are not in their memory.

  • The same goes for grammar checking tools. They have a limited memory of rules and can’t identify all mistakes.

  • For accuracy, proofread for specific errors one at a time to ensure you stay focused.

  • Read every word slowly and out loud. This helps you hear how the text sounds and allows you to identify the errors.

  • Read the document backwards to avoid being distracted by the actual content. This helps the reader to focus only on each word’s spelling.

As you can see, there are many critical differences between editing and proofreading content. Both are necessary steps in the overall writing process and should be completed thoroughly. Depending on the level of quality you must achieve, you may need to employ the services of a professional to complete either step.