What is the difference between ‘editing’ and ‘proofreading’?

These two terms are often used interchangeably by students and other users of editing services, but they are quite different things.

Editing involves improving the quality of a piece of writing.  It includes changes to sentence structure, grammar, tense, and the way in which ideas, arguments and facts are presented. As part of the editing process an editor will also correct spelling and punctuation, and check the use of regional English (American v British spelling).

Proofreading is a publishing term, where it is something that is done after editing has been completed.  It comprises a very close inspection of the final draft to pick up every remaining error in the areas mentioned above: spelling, regional English, punctuation and grammar.

In recent times, however, some in the online editing industry have begun to use ‘proofreading’ to describe a lower level of editing, usually at a lower price, and often restricted only to documents which are already quite well written.

Editex editors operate their own individual editing businesses, and the type of service offered may vary from one editor to another.  Each editor will provide details of the editing services they provide, and it is important to establish with the editor exactly what level of editing you require.