Editing vs Proofreading: What is the difference?


Editing, proofreading and copyediting are often assumed to be the same thing — but they’re not. To help clarify things, we have created this helpful guide to explain the differences between these tasks.


Editing consists of reviewing and changing your text with the intent to improve the flow and overall quality of the writing.  An editor has the freedom to remove entire sentences or rewrite entire paragraphs. An editor is often distinguished by his individual style or specialization in a particular subject area. A good editor will correct any obvious errors he comes across, but his main goal is to use his expertise and intuition to ensure the document makes sense, cut down on wordiness and clarify any ambiguity.


Proofreading is the process of examining the final draft of a document or text — after it has been edited — to ensure there are absolutely no errors. A proofreader will check for spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos or incorrect use of regional English (i.e. ensuring that American English or British English is used when necessary). It goes beyond “spellcheck” to catch errors a computer might miss.

While proofreading can be done electronically — for example, using track changes in Microsoft Word — it is just as often done on a printed version (also referred to as a “hard copy”) or PDF. In this case, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with proofreaders’ marks, a collection of symbols and shorthand to indicate corrections. (Rest assured: professional graphic designers will also understand these marks!)


To “copyedit” a document is to proofread it — with the added expectation of ensuring style consistency with other content from the company or publication. Copyediting is also known as “sub-editing” in the UK, Australia and elsewhere.

A copyeditor should have the talented eye of a proofreader as well as additional expertise in matters of different styles of writing.  Some measures of consistency include making sure names, locations and dates are always treated the same way. A copyeditor will also have expert knowledge of different style guides and may also perform fact-checking or have specialized knowledge in a particular field.

Depending on your requirements, Wise Linguistics can advise you on the above matters and place your order with the appropriate linguist.

For more information on our Proofreading and Editing service, please call us on 0203 488 0742 or email hello@wiselinguistics.co.uk