Key Differences Between Copy Editing & Proofreading

Published on September 14th, 2022

editing and proofreading

Editing and proofreading are two essential stages of copywriting production but they are often confused as being the same thing. In some ways, this is understandable because they share certain similarities, but it is important to understand their differences.

In this article, we clarify the differences between editing and proofreading in copywriting, how they improve the quality of your copy and why you need them both.

Proofreading vs editing: What’s the difference?

Editing and proofreading are commonly confused or referred to interchangeably and, technically, you could argue that proofreading is part of the editing process. However, these are two distinct practices that play different roles in copywriting production and each one is carried out by specialists with different skill-sets.

Before we go any further, let’s quickly define editing and proofreading:

  • Editing: Enhances the quality of writing by improving readability, flow, structure, relevance and other factors.
  • Proofreading: Corrects grammar, spelling, punctuation and other technical inaccuracies in a piece of writing.

Proofreading is the easier service to describe because it has clear, quantifiable goals: to ensure technical accuracy of the language used in your copy. It corrects typos, fixes grammatical errors, amends misused punctuation and revises any other technical linguistic issues in your text.

Editing is a more expansive process that assesses the full body of text to achieve the desired style, tone and other qualities set out in your editorial guidelines. Every brand has its own editorial requirements and the editing process maintains consistency across every piece of copy you produce, no matter how many different writers or other professionals are involved in a project.

Content editing & proofreading are two different specialisms

As explained already, content editing and proofreading share some similarities, which can cause a bit of confusion. Both revise your content to ensure the correct standard of quality is achieved and these are normally the last two processes involved in production before content is approved for publishing.

As a result, the two services are often grouped together in the same review process. However, as we specified in the previous section, editing and proofreading correct very different aspects of your copywriting and other written content.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key differences:

What makes editing different?

  • Prioritises editorial and stylistic qualities
  • Ensures consistency across every piece
  • You have to define your own editorial guidelines
  • Freedom to make significant changes – wording, word count, etc.
  • Editors often collaborate with writers to discuss changes
  • Editing takes place before the final proofreading stage

What makes proofreading different?

  • Prioritises technical accuracy (spelling, grammar, etc.)
  • Doesn’t need to worry about consistency
  • No guidelines required
  • No collaboration required
  • Only fixes technical errors – no stylistic changes
  • Proofreading is the final stage of the review process

Proofreading is the final check that ensures technical accuracy in your content. It fixes objective errors based on established language rules, so there is no room for creative or stylistic changes – it simply rights linguistic wrongs.

In this sense, proofreading is a science based on a specific set of rules, whereas editing is more of an art that improves the subjective qualities of copy and content. With no fixed rules, you have to develop a robust set of editorial guidelines that you can fall back on to ensure of consistent results. Likewise, editors will often collaborate with writers of the original draft to discuss stylistic intent and clarify aspects of the text before making final changes.

Once the final edit/draft is ready, proofreading removes any remaining technical issues ahead of approval for publishing.

Also Read: Proofreading services: 5 challenges you’ll face on every project

Editing and proofreading work best together

Hopefully, everything we have covered in this article has made it clear that editing and proofreading are two distinct disciplines, but are both equally essential for producing quality copy and content.

If you think a more robust editing and proofreading process could improve the quality of your content and copywriting, our team can help. Call us on +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or fill out the form on our contact page to arrange a call-back.

Posted on: September 14th, 2022