Proofreading vs. Editing: Do You Know the Difference?


You just put the finishing touches on your latest blog post. Or maybe you completed your first novel. Now what? Should you hire a proofreader or editor? The difference between the two can be confusing.

Here are some guidelines to help you decide which is right for you.


In its simplest form, proofreading is checking a document for errors. Originally, it was the last stage of correcting copy before it was typeset. True proofreading is more than just a quick once-over for spelling and grammatical errors. Today’s proofreader:

  • Checks for typos;
  • Corrects errors or inconsistencies in grammar, punctuation and spelling; and
  • Looks for problems or discrepancies in formatting.

There are two levels of proofreading.

Basic proofreading checks copy word-for-word against a marked-up draft. Any errors are identified for correction. At this level, a proofreader may also check for repetition of small words and correct styles.

Editorial proofreading looks for incorrect word usage (using to instead of too, that instead of which), hyphenation and subject-verb agreement. Editorial proofreaders can also suggest changes in word choice or incorrect punctuation.


Unlike proofreading, editing takes the entire document into account. Editors evaluate text for clarity, conciseness, consistency, content, word choice and jargon (or as I like to call it, gobbledygook). They also improve the language, flow and overall readability.

Like proofreading, there are various levels of editing.


  • Provides feedback on things such as point of view, structure, concept, tone, continuity, language and character development

Copyediting (aka line editing):

  • Corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax and word usage while preserving the author’s meaning and voice; and
  • Checks for consistent style and format. Most editors refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook or The MLA Handbook regarding standard manuscript formatting.

Substantive editing:

  • Identifies and solves clarity and accuracy issues;
  • Reorganizes sentences, paragraphs, sections or chapters to improve the order in which ideas are presented;
  • Calls for adding content or rewriting text to improve readability and the flow of information; and
  • Offers suggestions, comments and feedback to improve the story.

When deciding between a proofreader and copy editor consider the level of change you’re looking for. A proofreader is the best choice if you want to ensure your content is error-free. If you want someone to guarantee the meaning and mechanics are correct go with a copy editor. Either way, the result will be more effective and professional content.

About The Ys One

I am an award-winning writer and editor who is passionate about writing. I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Sign up for my newsletter and receive tips, tricks and advice about writing and social media marketing. To learn more visit
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