What Is the Difference Between Editing, Revising, and Proofreading?

    Many people believe that revising, editing, and proofreading are interchangeable terms for the same thing. That is not the case! In fact, paper revising, editing, and proofreading are all distinct processes that require different skills and have different goals. While there can be some occasional overlap depending on the type of document that is being reviewed, that does not mean that you can substitute paper revising for proofreading or proofreading for editing. No matter the type of document or language, revising, editing, and proofreading are all important steps that you should take before finalizing and submitting or publishing your work. Let's look at how these processes are different and at what stage of writing is each of them used.

    Big Picture: Paper Revising
    Paper revising is the process of taking a  “big picture” look at your writing to identify weaknesses and information or passages that should be changed, deleted, or added. When you revise your work, you will generally focus on making sure that:

    • The writing achieves its intended purpose
    • The writing flows logically
    • The writing transitions easily from one idea to the next
    • No important information has been omitted
    • Unnecessary information added is negligible

    As you can see from the list above, the purpose of paper revising is to review the content of a document. Paper revising focuses on the content of ideas and how well they are delivered to your target audience. If you are doing your own paper revising, you will want to allow some time between finishing your first draft and sitting down to revise your paper. This is to give yourself a bit of distance so that you can review your own work more objectively. If you created an outline before writing, it can help to revise your paper while checking it against your outline to make sure you wrote what you intended to. Don’t be afraid to delete and add sections or reorganize your paper if you realize that it will better achieve your goals. Once you’ve finished paper revising and are happy with the overall content and organization of your paper, it’s time to move on to the next step, i.e., editing.

    Refine Your Writing: The Editing Step
    Once you have finished paper revising, it is time to move on to editing. The purpose of the editing step is to check to make sure your paper is written using clear, smooth language and that there is no awkward or confusing phrasing. English language editing in particular will target passive voice constructions and run-on sentences for elimination or editing. English language editing will generally focus on ensuring that: 

    • Words are used properly
    • Grammar is correct
    • Writing is clear and concise
    • There are no overly long run-on sentences
    • Passive voice is kept to a minimum

    The main purpose of English editing and editing in general is to read each sentence carefully and make sure that it does its job. Is it easy to understand? Is it technically correct (spelling, grammar, punctuation)? Does the tone stay the same throughout the piece? Is the writing style appropriate for the audience? If you are writing for an academic audience, there are many terms you will not need to explain that you would to a lay audience, for example. These are all things to consider when editing.

    Editing might seem like a simple process, but in fact it can be very intensive. Many non-native English speakers in particular struggle with expressing their ideas well in English, which is one reason for a rise in English language editing services. If you can’t do your own English editing, there are a variety of services available that can take care of it for you. Native English speakers will review your work and make suggestions for how to improve phrasing and writing quality overall.

    The Last Step: Proofreading
    Once you have finished revising and editing your paper, it’s time for the final step: proofreading. Proofreading is the process of giving your paper one last read to look for any errors you might have missed. These errors are minor and technical in nature but are still essential to catch. They can be difficult to check for, and many people opt for proofreading services. English proofreading services review a document to make sure that: 

    • There are no spelling errors
    • There are no typographical errors
    • Punctuation is where it should be
    • Capitalization is consistent
    • Language style is consistent (UK vs. US English, for example)

    The process of proofreading is simple, but it is time-intensive and can be challenging. Many proofreaders use tricks like reading their paper backward or looking for one specific error type at a time. Proofreading can seem unnecessary. After all, you’ve already spent a lot of time revising and editing your paper. What mistakes could possibly be left? Why hire English proofreading services? The answer is that there will inevitably be more errors than you imagined. Professional English proofreading services are experts at noticing and correcting that misplaced comma or erroneous British spelling in an American English paper.

    Revising vs. Editing vs. Proofreading: A Comparison
    We now know the difference between paper revising, editing, and proofreading, and the merits of proofreading services and help with English editing. If you’re hiring a proofreading service or English language editing service, you can refer to this table for the differences in each process so that you’ll know what to ask for. 

    Error TypeRevisingEditingProofreading
    Logical flowOXX
    Grammar errorsXOO
    Spelling errorsXOO
    Run-on sentencesXOX
    Writing is appropriate for intended audienceOXX
    Punctuation errorsXOO
    Unnecessary informationOXX
    Awkward phrasingXOX
    Strange or missing transitionsOOX
    Typographical errorsXOO

    Whether you do your own paper revising, editing, and proofreading, or hire an English language editing service or English proofreading services, now you know the difference between the different processes and why they are important. If you follow these steps, you’ll write a great paper every time.