Author working on typewriter

Many beginner writers or authors and even experienced wordsmiths aren’t exactly sure about the difference between editing and proofreading. What about copy editing – and how is that different?

The confusion doesn’t end there, and often you’ll end up paying for an editing job, when in fact all you needed was a proofreader.

On top of that; there’s also developmental editing, critiquing, revisions, line editing, fact-checking, and much more.

Let me break down all of these variations, so that next time you want to engage an editor / proofreader, you know what you’re in for.

Table of Contents

Editing vs. Proofreading

Is editing the best service for your research paper, or would proofreading be enough to get your work in shape for submission to journals? Does your book require critique and thorough editing before it’s ready to be published?

Editing and proofreading are essentially two parts of the same process. Yet, the two can produce different results depending on the kind of content.

Knowing the differences can help you make the right decision regarding finalizing your content, whether it is academic, novelistic, business-related, or any other kind of written content.

All authors can benefit from the editing services of an expert like those here at Content Development Pros to polish their work.

Professional editor at work

What is Editing?

A professional editing service involves an editor who has a deeper understanding and familiarity with the English language. The professional has experience with revising the text and suggesting ways to improve the quality of the content in terms of the style, readability, natural expression, and essentially the flow of the content.

A professional editor can also make the content more concise and crisp. They can substitute phrases, vocabulary terms and even refining sentences and phrases. The editing process makes your writing more readable and impactful. It can improve the delivery of what you want to convey while enhancing your terminology and expressions. It can make your language less repetitive, and the overall quality of your work becomes more professional.

Editing ensures that your readers see your mastery of the language, even if you’re not a non-native English speaker. High-quality writing is no longer just necessary for the professional or academic world – it is crucial for all types of content being published online.

Whenever someone reads your work, especially journal editors, researchers, and professional colleagues, they might ask themselves some questions regarding your writing to determine its quality. Yes, the meat of the matter is important, but so is the focus on language and style. Here are some of the things they might look for when reading your work:

Does the tone and voice of the writing suit the intended audience?

Suppose you’re writing for your company’s blog, and you have a law firm that provides family law services. You want your potential customers to get clarity and understand the intricacies of family law through your blog. Using highly technical jargon will not provide any value to your potential clients, and they might seek help elsewhere.

Does the work use the right terms to express the ideas?

Suppose you are the top expert in your particular field, there is no other professional that can match your level of expertise in the work you do, and you are writing an article for a layman audience.

However, you don’t have the right grasp of the English language, and you pick out certain expressions or terms from the thesaurus instead of choosing your words carefully to express a certain idea. A reader can easily recognize the inadequate expressions of speech and question the legitimacy of everything you have written.

Is the writing too redundant or verbose?

A sophisticated reader can immediately tell when you have added fluff to your writing. They can also pick up on phrases and sentences that add no value to your content. Most professional journal submissions are rejected for basic language issues like these.

Is the formatting consistent and appropriate?

If your content has inconsistent spellings (the US or UK English inconsistencies) or has a different punctuation formatting, these issues can be quite problematic for academic and professional content. Professional editors can recognize and eliminate these issues based on what is necessary.

What are the Types of Editing?

Editing may seem like it is a singular process. If you ever Google “types of editing,” you will get a lot of information that can confuse you. As complicated as the information on the internet might make it seem, editing is not that complicated to understand.

Proofreading can be considered as a type of editing. After all, it’s part of the same process. However, there are different types of editing you should be aware of. Understanding the types of editing is not just helping you choose the right editing or proofreading service. These are the steps that you should be taking care of yourself while you are writing, and it’s likely you already are.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing looks at the bigger picture, including the structure and the content of the document. This is also the first step in the editing process. The professional editor reviews the entire document from a broader perspective. The editor can suggest improvements in consistency, organization, and the structure of the content. They might even point out errors or issues with the subjective aspects of the content.

Editors do not focus on fixing minor spelling errors or punctuations during developmental editing. The focus is on improving the document as a whole, whether it is a novel or a long-form blog post.

Suppose you have written a lengthy blog post. During developmental editing, you will organize all the information and refine the focus of the content. It will help you decide on which details you want to include and what you might want to change or remove.

Copy Editing / Line Editing

Copy editing focuses on providing a clearer picture of the text and consistency in language. The focus of a line editor is on individual sentences and paragraphs rather than the entire document. The editor can look for several things, including:

  • Incorrect or inadequate word choice and sentence structure
  • Content that could be expressed in clearer words
  • Fact-checking to ensure the correctness of the content written
  • Inconsistencies in the tone or style of writing
  • Parts of the text that could be more concise
  • Possible improvements to the presentation of the content

Line editors may make direct changes to the content or leave suggestions for the author to make the changes. The goal of line editing is to help the author refine the text.

Copy editing is not a big picture look at the content. It also doesn’t put your content under the microscope. It can be somewhere in between. Copy editing can blur boundaries with developmental editing or proofreading, depending on how much or how little is needed.

Heavy copy editing could mean that the content might be excellent from a developmental perspective, but the sentences, paragraphs, and word choices aren’t the best. Sometimes, it could require a complete rewriting of sentences. Light copy editing could just mean the writing has a slight room for improvement.


Proofreading is the crucial step of the revision process. No matter how skilled you are in the English language, how thorough your editing process is, or if you have years of professional writing experience, proofreading is the final step before publishing the content or submitting it for publishing.

What is Proofreading?

Editing is a process that can involve an artful correction of vocabulary, style, and the flow of the content. Editing is more akin to an art form, while proofreading is more about exact science.

Proofreading consists of fixing objective issues with the language used in the document. It may be limited to the word level (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation). However, it can expand to the sentence level (incorrect use of modifiers, grammatical errors, and wrong syntax).

Proofreading is the final quality check on any piece of writing before you send it for publication or post it.

You might think that with all my years of experience, I might be writing this blog and posting it directly. However, my work goes through an extensive editing and proofreading process before you get to read it. Even if I edit the blog myself, a proofreader will provide an additional layer of final checks to ensure the correctness of everything.

Here are some of the things that proofreaders ask when they receive documents for proofreading:

Are there any capitalization or spelling issues?

Incorrect usage of capitalization and misspelled words are quite common and remain after editing documents.

Has the writer used punctuation marks correctly?

Commas, periods, colons, semicolons, question marks, hyphens, dashes, quotations, and other punctuation marks can make a world of difference in English. Proofreaders ensure the correct usage of these throughout the content.

Is the formatting consistent and correct?

There are different formatting rules depending on the type of document you’ve written. The formatting style, English type, capitalization rules, and sometimes even the font are the differentiating factors. Professional proofreaders can identify the appropriate formatting for content to make sure it is correct and consistent.

Proofreading of manuscript

One of the common misconceptions about proofreading is that it is easy, and you can perform this using a spell check or grammar tool. Even the most advanced tools like Grammarly can do an excellent job of finding errors. However, they can overlook grammar errors in complex sentences and even miss homophones.

You need a professional with a deep understanding of the English language to properly eliminate all the objective errors in writing. Your best bet for high-quality proofreading is a professional proofreader with years of experience. A proofreader with experience in your area of writing is ideal.

What is Copy Editing vs. Proofreading

The difference between copy editing and proofreading is a line in the sand so to speak. These two segments of revising a document are eerily similar, yet they are two separate processes.

Proofreading can overlap with copy editing. Like the different types of editing, proofreading also does not have strict boundaries.

Proofreaders will not ignore incorrectly used words or misspelled words that a copy editor might have missed. However, the liberty to make changes and how extensive the changes they make can depend on the professional’s role.

Sometimes, companies can employ editors who take care of editing and proofreading the documents they are reviewing.

Difference Between Revising, Editing, and Proofreading?

Revising, editing and proofreading are three aspects of making changes to the content to perfect it before you publish. Instead of lumping everything you do into the umbrella of “editing,” you should know the differences between the three processes.

Revising, editing, and proofreading overlap. However, each process serves a different purpose for your document and focuses on separate objectives for improving your content.


Suppose that you have written a novel. The next step after completing your first draft is called revising. The focus of revision is to determine whether or not you’ve achieved your goals with the document.

Does everything make sense? Is the tone correct? Is the document conveying the right message? It would be best if you consider your content from your reader’s point of view and your own.

You can call revising the content as substantive editing or developmental editing. You might rearrange your document’s different aspects, decide what works, if your characters’ behavior aligns with the qualities you gave them, point out anything you need to improve and determine what your content doesn’t need.


Editing encompasses line or copy editing. It can overlap with revision, so the boundary between substantive editing and editing is unclear. I have already gone over what a professional editor will do during the copy editing stage.

This stage aims to look at the content once more after ensuring consistency in the bigger picture. The goal at this stage is to make sure everything flows correctly. The process can require very little or a lot of work, depending on the condition of your writing. If more editing is necessary, the editing might overlap with revising the content.

Copy editing focuses more on spelling, grammar mistakes, and typos, making it overlap with proofreading.


Like copy editing, proofreading also reviews spelling and punctuation. However, proofreading always comes in as the last step for processing a document before publishing. You usually proofread after you have the final copy of your formatted work. A professional proofreader will look for typos and formatting issues that a copy editor might have missed.

Proofreaders will compare the final document to the edited draft to make sure that there is consistency in page breaks, page numbers, and the table of contents (for a book).

Proofreading is the last line of defense for your work. If every other stage of writing goes well, the proofreader might not have much to change. However, it still doesn’t make their work any less important.

Revising, developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading are often misused or used interchangeably. Remember the differences in each of these or ask which service you might need. The costs for editing and proofreading services can differ. Hiring the right service can make sure that you spend on only what is necessary so you can get the best value for your money.

Editing vs. Proofreading: Which Service Should You Choose?

Old book

Editing and proofreading can be two parts of the same process of preparing any written document for publishing. You can also apply the two processes independently, depending on what you need.

When you are thinking of editing vs. proofreading, you should know that editing improves your writing and proofreading perfects what you have written. You have to edit your work after all the contextual and language edits are finished. After that process is done, it can go through for proofreading.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Editing or Proofreading Services

I would recommend that you employ professional editing and proofreading services consecutively to get the best results for your writing. However, I understand that not every writer might have the time or money to afford both services. If you are reading this, you are probably wondering which of the two services you should choose if you can only pick one.

The most important question you should ask yourself when deciding between editing and proofreading services is whether you think you are a competent writer. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I very familiar with the basics of English writing?
  • Do I have a good command of the language in terms of how I speak and write?
  • Is my writing style as natural as that of a native speaker for most readers?
  • Do I make relatively few grammatical errors? (This does not include typos but mistakes due to a lack of understanding the rules of writing)
  • Do I consider my writing to be very good?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, then the chances are that you might just need some proofreading. If you know that some areas of your writing have room for improvement, choosing professional editing services can be a better idea. After all, even native English-speaking authors also require the guidance of a professional editor.

This section will discuss the likelihood of the services you might need, depending on what type of author you are.

Who Needs Editing and Proofreading Services

Authors with English as a Second Language

If you are a non-native English speaker, there is a chance you might fail to grasp some of the nuances of writing in English. You may face challenges while using the right terminology all the time. Unless you’ve been speaking, reading, learning, and writing in English for years, you might certainly require both editing and proofreading for your written documents.

Authors of lengthy books or manuscripts

Novelists, non-fiction writers, autobiography authors, and other writers with lengthy manuscripts should always seek editing and then proofreading before publishing their work. Even if you are not writing a book, a lengthy blog, article, publication for a journal, or any other long-form work can benefit from revisions by a good editor. There might be just a handful of changes necessary in terms of editing, but they can exist in such a lengthy document. Proofreading will still be necessary after the editing process.

Who Needs Editing Services

Academic authors planning on submitting their research manuscript for a publication

Any type of author can benefit from the experience, perspective, and advice from a good professional editor. Editing can improve any kind of writing. It allows the content of your work to express your views clearly and make a greater impact. Getting the advice and suggestions from an editor experienced in your subject area can be more reliable than from a general editor.

Business professionals that may need compelling writing

Depending on the industry, product, service, and target customer, a business can also have great need for excellent writing. With the world becoming increasingly digital, businesses might need both editing and proofreading. However, if you are confident in your command of the language, perhaps the advice of an editor experienced in your industry or niche can help you improve on what is already very good.

Who Needs Proofreading Services

Students, researchers, and individuals with exceptional writing and editing skills

If you are an author, businessperson, researcher, or any other kind of author with strong writing and editing skills, you could still benefit from proofreading. Many authors sharpen their writing and editing skills over time but need a once-over to ensure objective correctness.

Remember that your work should already be of publication quality if you’re opting only for professional proofreading services. Proofreading will only remove remaining mistakes and inconsistencies – not address major issues.

Authors of works that have already been edited and require a final pass

If you have already received comprehensive revisions and editing for your manuscript and it is ready for publication, you still need proofreading. It might be the only thing you need. It is important for any document you publish to be error-free in terms of language, punctuations, or even font. If you are an author with a book that has been heavily edited but not proofread, mistakes are bound to appear. A book reviewer with a sharp eye can immediately point out the mistakes and have a negative impact on your career.

Pro Tip 2

Putting an End to the Editing versus Proofreading Debate

When it comes to editing, proofreading, or comprehensive revisions, there are so many ways they differ and overlap with each other. All these aspects culminate into one thing: Publishing high-quality content that ensures the success of your content by eliminating any and all mistakes.

If you are already adept at writing content but require a range of editing and proofreading services to make sure everything is ready for publishing, I have a team of expert editors and experienced proofreaders at CDP. Simply get in touch, call us, or chat with our representative to get a free quote. We’ll take care of the rest.