11 Jan 2024

About proofreading and editing

What is editing?

Editing is professional help to make a text ready for publication or use by ensuring that it is clear, consistent, correct and complete. Different sorts of editors help at different stages in the publishing workflow. There are three main editorial stages:

  • Developmental/structural editing helps the writer to shape up the basic content and structure or plot.
  • Copyediting focuses on the detail of a text: checking grammar, spelling and punctuation; applying consistency to the language and formatting; and making sure it’s clear and reads well for its intended purpose. ‘Copy’ is another word for text that is to be published, from a company report to a book to product packaging (or anything else with words).
  • Proofreading is the final quality check before publication, but after editing and layout.


What is proofreading?

Most people are familiar with the word ‘proofreading’ and often use it to mean general checking of a piece of writing, but in the traditional publishing workflow proofreading is one stage at the end of the editing process.

After the words of a text have been edited, it is ready for design and layout (deciding the final look and preparing the required formats). This is often done by a designer or typesetter, but it may be done by an editor who offers this additional service or by the author.

The draft of the final layout is called the proof. Proofreading is the final quality check of the words and layout before publication. A draft text may change a lot during editing and layout, so at proof stage it’s usual to find things that have been missed and need to be tidied up.

The publishing workflow

This diagram (PDF download) shows who typically does what in the publishing workflow.



Using proofreaders and editors

Get our free booklet Proofreading or editing? A quick guide to using editorial professionals (PDF download).

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Read our other free resources on working with proofreaders and editors:

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