What’s the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

When you’re done writing a text, it’s necessary for it to go through a careful editing and proofreading process before getting it published. However, many people wonder if editing and proofreading are the same things. The answer is no. Despite the fact that editing and proofreading tend to be mistaken, we’re talking about two stages of the process of revising a text, whether it is a book, an article, or any other content.

In this article, we will tell you the difference between proofreading and editing a text, and why these two stages of the reviewing process are very important in the creation of any content.

How to Edit a Book?

Editing a text—sometimes called “copy editing” or “manuscript editing, too—is a step that comes right after writing it, and it implies a deep analysis executed by a professional. This analysis consists of a thorough reading of every one of the phrases in the text with the aim of improving the whole content comprehensively.

Among other things, the copy editing process implies reorganizing the structures of the text that need a little twitch, amplifying those structures that have potential, making more accurate what is written, and even rewriting, adding, or eliminating information.

It’s possible that, during the editing process, some questions regarding the content of the text come up—about the plot, the tone, the style… The goal is to sort out all of these inconsistencies at this stage. The copy editor will always take into account what the author wants to express, and that’s why they should both stay in touch throughout the process. There can be several editing rounds—the important thing is that the text expresses exactly what the author intended.

What is Proofreading?

Once the editing process is over, it’s time to move on to the following stage: proofreading. This stage is carried out by a linguist, known as a proofreader, who will take care of removing any kind of mistake from the text in its entirety.

In proofreading, there are two substages: checking style and checking grammar and spelling. In the following sections, we will detail the differences between style checking and grammar and spell-checking.

Style Checking

Before going into detail about the characteristics of style proofreading, it’s important to know that it’s not the same as copy editing. Both processes can be confused, but it’s necessary to bear in mind that, when the text reaches the style checking stage, its structure should be, in theory, definitive. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes along the way, of course, we will do everything that’s needed to improve the text!

Now, let’s see, what is style checking? When we check style, our main objective is to make the text clearer—make it sound natural, fluid, and make it comprehensible. In this process, we will adjust the text to current language standards, resolve inconsistencies, and correct any grammar, spelling, and syntax mistakes.

A proofreader must be someone who, besides knowing language down to a T, is knowledgeable about the world, and understands what the needs of the author and the target audience are.


After correcting the style of the text, comes the time to make it flawless. When we talk about checking the spelling, we are actually talking about correcting spelling and punctuation mistakes, correctly using all typographic resources, unifying criteria on the use of bold and italics, adapting the writing of numbers… Ultimately, we’re talking about scrubbing and rubbing the text until it’s spotless!

This is a mandatory step before publishing any kind of material. A simply misplaced coma, the lack of an apostrophe, or a misspelling can be defining when a publishing house is deciding whether to publish your work or not.

Before, this process was known as “proofreading of galley proof” because, in the days of letterpress printing, the letters would be set into metal trays called “galleys” and then a proof press would print a few copies with the sole purpose of proofreading the material. In fact, it’s common for some publishing houses today to call the first printing of a text “galley proofs” because it is meant for the author to read and make last-minute changes.

Typeset Proof Revision

Once the text has gone through copy editing, style checking, and spell-checking processes, we can consider that it’s ready. At this point, the content should have no mistakes—its structure should be clear and precise and its content should be natural, coherent, and harmonious.

However, at a given moment, the text will have to go through a final step: typeset proof revision. This final step is about skimming through a text looking for any final mistakes. As we said, there shouldn’t be any major mistakes by now. A mistake at this stage can be a formatting problem or, in the worst case, an imprecise word or consecutive spaces.

This last step is usually a joint action that includes the design team, the editing team, and the author(s) of the text since this is where questions about some very specific aspects can come up, like headers, visual resources, spaces between words, blocks of text, among other elements.


Copy editing and proofreading are different. While editing entails a profound analysis and includes changes regarding structure and content, proofreading takes place once the text is in a more advanced stage. Both stages of the process of creating a text are extremely important to guarantee its quality.

At Palabra we offer writing, translating, editing, and proofreading services. Our professional team knows and applies the most up-to-date Spanish standards—and they also know when and where it is okay to break the rules! Our main goal is to provide the highest-quality service to deliver a text that is ready to go to print. Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Translated by: @paulanaominakagawa

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