Proofreading vs Editing: Understanding the Difference in Copywriting

Proofreading and editing are two vital aspects of writing. To ensure successful communication - whether via an email, a blog post, or an article - the content must be clear and comprehensible. As such, you must always include an editing stage in your writing process.

The terms “proofreading” and “editing” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different processes. Both seek to remove mistakes and refine the overall piece, but there are some differences in their approaches.

To understand the distinction between proofreading and copy editing, we’ll define each process and explore what they involve. We’ll also compare the two more explicitly, examine why they’re so important, and suggest some exceptional content editing tools you can use to improve your writing.

What is Copy Editing?

Editing, or copy editing, generally occurs immediately after the initial writing phase. Sometimes, writers will edit their copy as they go, making stylistic decisions and rewriting sentences after each paragraph. But, typically, there should always be a copy editing stage after the first draft has been written.

While copy editing does involve checking for mistakes in grammar and punctuation, it’s also a lot more thorough and subjective. As well as general spelling errors, copy editing involves making stylistic choices to ensure the writing conveys the right tone and message you require. Certain tools - such as ProWritingAid - can make your writing more direct.

In other words, copy editors will rewrite sentences, restructure paragraphs, and add or remove words to make the piece read more clearly.

For clarity, here are some examples of what a copy editor might identify and correct:

  • Spelling, punctuation, and general grammar errors.

  • Overly wordy sentences.

  • Undesirable tone or style.

  • Confusing syntax.

  • Problematic or offensive language.

  • Awkward or clunky sentences.

After a piece has been copy edited, it should be clear and concise for the reader. It should also adhere to any relevant style guides and be generally error-free.

What is Proofreading?

The term proofreading is often used synonymously with editing, but it’s actually a distinct process that typically comes after copy editing. While there is a bit of overlap between the two, there are different points of focus during each stage.

Proofreading usually involves fewer corrections than copy editing, since the main focus is on spelling and grammar rather than style and wording. However, that doesn’t make it any less important.

In fact, proofreading marks the crucial end-stage of the writing process. It’s the final quality assurance part that’s performed directly before the copy is published.

The main motive behind proofreading is to remove any errors that may have been missed in both the writing and copy-editing phases. This mainly involves spelling and punctuation errors, but can also pertain to the formatting of the copy.

Here’s a list of what a proofreader might correct:

  • Spelling.

  • Punctuation.

  • Capitalisation.

  • General grammar and cohesion.

  • Formatting.

  • Layout.

Once your copy has been proofread, it should be finalised and ready for publication. If you’re stuck on how to begin proofreading, read our guide on developing a proofreading checklist to ensure you get the most out of this process.

Copy Editing vs Proofreading

As we’ve seen, editing and proofreading are two distinct but highly important stages in writing successful copy. They both fall under the category of mechanical editing but involve different aims and processes.

Copy editing is typically performed first and focuses on the stylistic elements of the text, such as wording, tone, and syntax structure.

Proofreading, on the other hand, is generally performed after the copy editing stage and focuses on the final checks of proper grammar use. Proofreaders typically target errors in spelling, punctuation, and formatting.

Why are Editing and Proofreading so Important?

The benefits of proofreading and editing are vast and highly valuable to any copywriter. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this game for years, editing and proofreading your work will never stop being important.

For one, editing your work ensures clarity. Your message will be clearly and comprehensively communicated to your readers, preventing any subjectivity in your writing or leaving anything to the whim of the reader. You can use tools like Readable to enhance your copy’s readability.

Moreover, the impact of proofreading on your reputation is undeniable. Correct spelling and grammar build trust among your readers and reflect well on you and your business. Your brand will benefit from improved credibility, authority, and professionalism.

The clarity and credibility that good quality editing and proofreading brings will optimise your copy for its intended purpose. If you’re writing a product description, for instance, you want to be as concise and as enticing as possible. Poorly written or wordy descriptions will cause any potential customers to lose interest and will reduce the number of sales the site makes.

Tools for Successful Proofreading and Editing

Any copywriter worth their salt should have a few trusted editing tools they use regularly. After all, it’s easy for people to make small mistakes in their writing, so why not reduce the risk of human error with an AI editing tool?

Here are three exceptional tools you can use to help improve your copy editing and proofreading processes:

1. Grammarly

The king of grammar checking, Grammarly helps you find spelling and punctuation errors you’ve missed in your copy and ensures your style is consistent. On top of this, it also assesses your writing for readability, clarity, and engagement, which gives you a greater sense of how well your copy will perform once it’s published.

2. StackEdit

A handy tool for bloggers and marketers, StackEdit provides in-browser spell checking and previewing functions. This means you can check the quality of your writing and see what your copy will look like when it’s published, allowing you to format your copy as desired. With professional and social media integrations, too, StackEdit is a highly useful tool.

3. Yoast

Yoast is a tool developed as a plugin for WordPress that allows you to review your work before you publish it. With features like a keyword density indicator, linking suggestions, and meta tag creator, you can optimise your copy for SEO and ensure it ranks well in search engines. You can also ensure your copy reads well without omitting any crucial keywords.

Final Thoughts on Proofreading vs Editing

The importance of editing and proofreading is immeasurable when it comes to copywriting. The post-writing editing stage is too significant to skip, which is why even highly experienced copywriters always ensure their work is proofread before being published.

We’ve seen that although they are similar processes, proofreading and copy editing amount to different things with distinct points of focus for each. Proofreading ensures the piece reads correctly, copy editing ensures the piece reads well.

Despite their differences, both are equally important in copywriting.

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