The differences between proofreading and editing services explained.

Proofreading and editing are basically the same skill, aren’t they?

Actually, no.

As per the Oxford Learning Institute Guide to Editing and Proofreading, the importance of proofreading and editing is demonstrated by the fact that the publishing and printing industries employ different people who are specifically responsible for each of them. Therefore, the difference between the two is significant.


A proofreader carefully examines a draft text/document and makes spelling, punctuation, grammar and inconsistency corrections to ensure the text/document reflects an exemplary standard of written English.

If the text/document requires any formatting, a proofreader ensures the font (type and size), line spacing, margins, headers/footnotes, indents, listings etc. are all correct, consistent and visually pleasing to the eye.

A proofreader will usually either use track changes or proofreading marks/symbols. If using track changes, some proofreaders will send you two final versions of the corrected text/document back – one showing their corrections and another ‘clean’ version which is ready for you to use immediately. Others may not offer a ‘clean’ version in order that you become responsible for accepting their suggested corrections, or not.

A good proofreader should never:

Miss your agreed deadline;

Show your text/document to any third parties;

Alter the content of your text/document beyond correcting errors;

Leave inaccuracies/inconsistencies in the body or layout of the text/document;

Do a basic spell-check job. As I previously outlined here, it’s so important to ensure all homophones/near homophones are used correctly, all punctuation is accurate and there are no remaining grammar mistakes.


An editor not only proofreads your text/document but reviews and re-shapes it too, in order that it makes perfect, logical, easy-to-read sense. An editor should be able to take what you have written and make it even better without losing *your* voice. They may suggest a paragraph re-jig, point out referencing needs or re-write small sections to aid comprehension.

A good editor should never:

Miss your agreed deadline;

Point out ‘mistakes’ in a negative or aggressive way;

Alter the text/document beyond all recognition;

Show your text/document to any third parties;

Re-write large sections of your text/document for you to claim as your own;

Claim they can guarantee certain outcomes e.g. better marks for an essay, a specific number of new clients/customers for website content etc. These outcomes are likely to be improved with good quality content, but one person alone cannot guarantee them!

Frequently asked proofreading and editing questions:

I’ve got spell-check on my computer – why do I need a proofreader/editor?

As mentioned above, a basic spell-check is not adept at picking up homophone and grammatical mistakes, cultural errors e.g. English/American spelling differences, punctuation omissions, inappropriate tone or paragraphing irregularities. Correcting all of these errors ensures your content speaks for itself, instead of allowing errors to confuse/distract your reader and sabotage an otherwise positive impression.

I’m a student – if I give you a few notes will you write my essay/dissertation for me?

In short, absolutely not. A proofreader/editor’s job is to carefully check and suggest amendments on a completeted text/document, not to write or dramatically expand content for you to unethically claim as your own.

Am I guaranteed to get the job/grade/outcome I want if I use a proofreader/editor?

A proofreader/editor cannot guarantee any outcomes. A proofreader/editor can use their skills to improve your text/document within the remit of their job, which in turn should give your content its best chance at acheiving the outcome you desire.

What qualifications should my proofreader/editor possess?

A good quality proofreader/editor should possess an eager eye for detail, be able to demonstrate an excellent grasp of English spelling, punctuation and grammar rules, as well as a clear understanding of idioms, colloquialisms, cultural references etc.

Although there are no formal qualifications necessary to become a proofreader/editor, a professional proofreader/editor should be able to evidence their qualifications and experience e.g. an English, Publishing, Media Studies or related degree, appropriate professional memberships, relevant career experience and/or the transferable skills thereof.

I hope this blog has proved useful and informative, but please feel free to ask any further proofreading/editing questions if you have any!



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