The Write Way

Proofreading vs. Editing: What's the Difference?

Hand editing on stack of papersIf you think of editing and proofreading as synonymous, you aren't alone. Many business writers and reviewers think of these two processes as being interchangeable. But these activities are quite different, and both are uniquely vital to successful writing.

Know the difference

Editing occurs after the drafting of a document. An editor (whether that's the writer, a peer, or a manager) reviews the content to make sure it contains the core aspects necessary for a solid scientific, technical, or business document:

Editing can occur in several rounds as a document is revised or as different team members review the writing.

Proofreading is the final step in the creation process. The proofreader focuses on details that might seem superficial, but that can make a real difference in your audience's opinion of the document:

Editing and proofreading do share some common ground: both skills require a certain amount of distance from the text. If you're reviewing your own work, don't edit immediately after writing, and don't proofread right after editing.

It's also a good idea to change the format of the document between editing and proofreading. If you usually work on the computer, try editing or proofreading a printed copy, or change the look of the document by altering the font size or spacing. And regardless which phase of writing you're in, try to minimize distractions so you can focus on the task at hand.

Time-tested tips

A good edit provides some outside perspective. You can help your editor by being as specific as possible about the type of feedback you need.

As for proofreading, here are a few tips that can help you catch errors:

If these processes seem daunting, consider an editing or proofreading course. Such courses can teach you how to streamline and improve your review processes and produce cleaner, more successful writing.

Learning to write effective content can be challenging, but it is a learned skill that more than pays for the effort you put into it. Contact Hurley Write toll-free at 877-24-WRITE (877-249-7483) or by email for more information about our writing training courses.

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