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Editing vs. Proofreading: What’s the Difference?

By Kristen Joseph

So many different steps go into creating a published work that it’s easy for the definitions to blur together. Here at Atlantic, we’ve realized that proofreading and editing are two of the most commonly confused terms. You may be thinking, “Wait, aren’t they the same thing?” While this is an understandable assumption, the short answer is no. In fact, they are different entities entirely.

Editing is an ongoing process that takes place until the manuscript is complete. An author will submit what they’ve written to their editor with the expectation of receiving comments and suggestions about what works well in the book and what may need to be changed or clarified. This stage focuses on ensuring that the plot and themes of the book are adequately expressed, making the whole book feel cohesive. It deals with the big picture, and, often, the author is still actively writing their book during this time.

Proofreading, on the other hand, deals with minuscule details after the book has already been edited, prepped for layout, and sent to design. The proofread takes place when we have the final PDF of the book, which shows us exactly what it’s going to look like when it goes to print; all that proofreading entails is reading through the entire document and taking note of the small things that need to be fixed before the book is printed. This involves things like adding in a necessary comma, removing an extra quotation mark, or fixing a misspelled name. Grammatical changes are made. No ideas will be changed and there will be no comments made.

Both elements are essential for the production of a quality publication, but they are still very different processes. Editing takes up the majority of publication time, but proofreading is the final stage. It ensures that every sentence you read makes sense and doesn’t end up looking and sounding like utter gibberish.

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