Editing or proofreading – what’s the difference?

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By Leanne Francis

You’ve done the hard work and finished your manuscript – congratulations! Now, what next? Do you need an editor or a proofreader? Editing and proofreading are both part of the editing process and are necessary for your written work to proceed on its path to publication. But what comes first? ♥


In a nutshell, editing is the finessing of a writer’s work so that it observes all the conventions of good writing. Your first draft will require this sort of editing.
Editing can include both substantive, structural editing or copyediting. The former is a more comprehensive edit, the latter, less all encompassing. For the purposes of this article, we’ll talk about editing more generally.
Editing will include:

  • making revisions and suggestions to the actual content
  • improving the accuracy of language, vocabulary and overall readability
  • improving the flow and quality of the writing
  • checking for unnecessary wordiness
  • ensuring consistency and clarity of thought and intention
  • looking for correct grammar and accurate spelling
  • factual checking
  • consistent characterisation
  • identifying repetition and overuse of a passive voice
  • ensuring correct terminology is used

The mantra of editing is the five Cs – the writing must be


An editor’s job is not to rewrite your work but to make suggestions for you to improve it. This is necessary to retain your unique and authentic voice and to ensure the text remains true to your original meaning and idea.


This is the final step on the way to publication. Your manuscript has been edited and revised and the story makes sense, has great flow, is consistent in characterisation and sequence and is ready in every other respect, except it requires proofreading.
This includes checking the text line by line for:

  • grammar
  • spelling errors
  • syntax
  • typographical errors
  • aesethic issues of headings, spacing, gaps between paragraphs, page numbers and font and type size

It’s the final touch.

So the answer: you require both an editor and a proofreader to make your work the best it can be and ready for publishing.

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