One of the most common questions we receive about editing is if proofreading and editing are different.
The answer isn’t that simple, though it’s also not complicated:
Proofreading is a stage of editing.
Put another way:
Not all editing is proofreading, but all proofreading is editing.
What Is Editing?
Editing is the process that involves reviewing, organizing, correcting grammar and spelling, and formatting a piece of content.
Editing happens after a piece of content has been drafted or created. There are multiple levels of editing, sometimes divided into *heavy* and *light* editing.
Heavy editing involves working with a piece of content to improve it substantially. It most often includes the stages of developmental editing, structural editing, and line editing. Developmental editing and structural editing are meant to guide the writer and help them improve the piece of content. After a developmental edit, the content is returned to the writer for an additional draft.
Light editing most often involves the stages of copy editing and proofreading. Copy editing looks at how the content adheres to provided style and tone guidelines, and the editor corrects the piece to fit those. Proofreading involves reading the piece for clarity, typos, and grammatical errors.
Editing is distinct from writing.
What Is Proofreading?
Proofreading is usually the final step in editing, though most good editors will also do a proofread before doing deeper editing as well so that they are not distracted by errors in the writing while they concentrate on more substantive edits.
Proofreading is actually an older practice, which was done after the first print of a book, which was called a “gallery proof.” “Proofreaders” were people who read those gallery proofs to catch any final errors before the manuscript or document went into production. This was necessary because it was much harder to change the printing machines, as they were often typeset using letters and ink.
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