There’s a difference between proofreading and editing?

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Differences between proofreading and editing

So you’ve finished your book, after months or even years of agonising and re-writing … and now eagerly wait to get published so that you can finally hold your first copy in your hands with its new dynamic cover and stylish typesetting. Or IS it your final proofed copy? Are you 100% sure that you have edited and proofed your manuscript?

In the past, there have been numerous projects I have taken on that have been supplied as final proofed copy, only for authors to spot mistakes in writing and style only AFTER their manuscript has been typeset, or even worse, already out in print.

The differences?

Many people seem to use proofreading and editing interchangeably, yet fail to realise that these are two very different stages of the revision process that produce different outcomes for writers, and therefore potential writers need to be made aware of what they do.


… is the first task that should be undertaken after finishing the first draft of a piece of work. It involves checking the content of the text to ensure that the ideas are expressed clearly, logically and form a coherent and meaningful whole.

The 7 Cs of Editing;

  1. ClearCheck and Change
  2. Correct
  3. Coherent
  4. Complete
  5. Concise
  6. Consistent
  7. Credible


… is the second task, involves checking over the text in finer detail after the editing stage, to detect errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and format.

The aim of proofreading is to spot and correct errors in;

  • spelling
  • typography
  • grammar, punctuation and use of language
  • style and format
  • anything missed at the editing stage


… is the third task, this is usually where Virtual Precision comes in as the typesetter/designer.  Making your book look the best it possibly can be.

Tips for both editing and proofreading

Give it some distance! It’s hard to edit or proofread a manuscript that you’ve just finished writing – it’s still too familiar and you will miss any errors. Clear your mind of what you’ve written by putting it aside for a few days or weeks, so you can take a fresh look when you are ready and see what is really on the page. Better yet, give the manuscript to a family member or friend – you can’t get much more distance than that. Someone who is reading the manuscript for the first time comes to it with completely fresh eyes. ADVICE: Don’t use them as your editor or proofreader though, pay to have it done by a professional.  It will be the best decision you ever made.

Print or Screen? Decide which medium lets you proof or edit thoroughly. Some prefer to work at the computer, while others prefer a printed copy they can mark up as they read.  Personally, getting away from the computer screen does the world of good.

Make sure it’s quiet! Don’t do your proofreading in a noisy environment. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate and avoid any distractions.

Make it Editor Ready! Changing the look of your manuscript whether it be font size or style, spacing or colour, might convince your brain it’s a new document, which could help you get a different perspective on what you’ve written. (see below for instructions)

Read it Loud! Reading each and every word out loud and individually will increase the chance that you will find a typing or spelling mistake or a misplaced commas or speech marks. Some say it also helps to read your manuscript from the back chapters first. Not tried this myself.

Make it Short! Do your editing and proofreading in several short periods of time to avoid lack of concentration. If like me you read too long your mind wanders. Try and stick to a chapter at a time. Preferably a chapter a day, this gives you time to “sleep on it” and perhaps find ways to re-word or re-edit what you have already written. It does not all have to be done in one day.

Prioritise. You may wish to prioritise your editing and proofing tasks to be sure that the most important ones are completed first. Minor spelling and speech mark mistakes could be picked up on the computer once you have edited it a few times, the major ones will be picked up via the editor, proofreader or even the typesetter.

There is a fantastic piece of software called Grammarly, that might help (see must-haves below).

You can install this as an extension in chrome, add it as an add-on to MS Word, or simply upload a document to their website (once you have signed up), however, although it does help with spelling and grammar, it does have a bad habit of trying to add commas before the word and.

The free version will at least point out some spelling and grammatical errors, you can choose to amend or ignore them as you wish.  If installed as Chrome extension, it will even point out errors in WordPress, if you are creating a blog.

The paid version does give you many more options if you are so inclined.

Instructions … Make it Editor Ready!

So how do you make your document editor ready?  Easy.  If you know how to type you can do this quite quickly and every proofreader and editor will be thrilled, although most have these as standard submission guidelines, formatting your document this way could even help YOU pick up mistakes you would otherwise miss.

Submission Guidelines


  • Font size 12 point and double-spaced
  • Ensure pages are numbered and include a word count
  • Printed on one side of A4 only


  • Include your name, address and phone number.
  • Include a brief letter detailing any specific questions about your manuscript if you wish.
  • Manuscripts submitted with 1.5 spacing or 11 point typeface will be charged at a higher rate.
  • Fees are generally based on 350 words per page.

Handout … Getting it back from the Editor!

When you finally get your manuscript back from the proofreader or editor, you WILL be horrified to see ALOT of red squiggles all over your pages.  Most will have no idea what these mean, so below you will find the British Standard Institution (BSI) Proof Correction Marks Sheet, which will make things a little clearer.

Proofing Marks

Le Shop

If you are looking for a Professional Editor or Proofreader, do bear in mind that Virtual Precision do offer this service, which you can buy from our online store.  Please do however book in advance as our Editors and Proofreaders are extremely busy.

Our proofreaders/Editors work for major publishing houses including: Macmillan, Penguin, Cambridge University Press, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Transworld, Hodder etc.

Or simply contact us to discuss your requirements before you go ahead with anything.

Must-have Sources you may/may not find useful


Style, Grammar and Diction

The 7 Cs of Communication

University of Oxford’s Guide to Editing and Proofreading