Is proofreading a subset of editing

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Is proofreading a subset of editing

'Proofreading' and 'Editing' are two of the most paired set of words as far as publishing jargon is being employed. It is very common to see the job of proofreading and editing go to the same individual. This tends to imply that proofreading and editing are two parts of the same job. The idea that proofreading and editing are two parts of the same job may be wrong because there are many alternative ways to view this matter. It is either proofreading and editing are two different parts of the same job, or proofreading is a part (subset) of editing. This article is interested in clearing up any conflation and misappropriation associated with the use of these two words (proofreading and editing).


Among the list of words in the glossary of the publishing process, 'proofreading' and 'editing' are used like they are words representing the same thing. The importance of associating words with the right meanings can easily be realized when you consider the story of Macbeth. In Shakespeare's masterpiece, the protagonist received prophecies from witches, and his misinterpretation of these prophecies was his Waterloo.

You might consider Macbeth's story fictional and unimportant until you are at the brink of completing your masterpiece. At this stage, purchasing proofreading or editing services would be on your mind. Associating any of these words (proofreading or editing) with a wrong meaning might lead to paying for services you didn't need. To avoid incurring such unnecessary costs, it is important for the author requesting for editorial services to understand what each of these words entail and know exactly what to demand from the editorial service provider.

It is important to proofread because

What then is the difference between proofreading and editing? Defining each term would certainly give you some clues.


Proofreading involves glancing through a piece of literature with eyes interested in spotting and correcting the spellings and grammar of the text. A proofreader picks up a piece of literature, observes the syntax, punctuations and semantics, and alters the text to ensure it is flawless. Proofreading is considered the final stage a written piece must cross before it is worthy of publication.

It is important to proofread because accurate use of language gives credibility to the work being read. In the current world, writing reviews on a book is very easy. The first thing most readers interested in purchasing books on Amazon do is viewing the book's reviews.

Editing involves considering a piece of

Negative reviews can range from criticism of grammar to criticism of writing style and spellings. Such negative reviews are the sure way to kill a book's potential. Nobody would prefer a book with negative reviews over a book with positive reviews. It would not matter how wonderful the ideas in your book were, it would not sell because the negative reviews are negative advertisement.

Allowing a book or any other piece of literature pass through the table of a skilled proofreader is important because it gives a book the chance to be judged by the quality of ideas it contains instead of being judged by the level of understanding of language the writer has.


Editing involves considering a piece of literature, reading the mind of its writer and detecting the audience the piece was written for. Once the writer's message and the intended audience are pinpointed, the editor begins improving the text. The text is improved to ensure its voice passes the message of the writer to his intended audience in the most appealing way possible.


Consider an expert in the biosciences writing a white paper about COVID-19 to enlighten peasants in rural parts of the Third World. The writer and the proposed audience are clearly worlds apart, and this is a massive barrier. When this expert in the biosciences is done writing cryptic medical jargon, an editor needs to come into the picture. An editor has to analyze the work, alter the content to ensure it is suitable for consumption of the intended audience.

Across the world, there are writers with powerful ideas but many of the books they produce never pass the ideas they intended. The reason this happens is that the structure of the work suffocated the voice of the author. A poorly structured work has no flow and cannot keep readers glued because it makes the voice of the writer passive. The editor's job is to improve the quality of the work by altering the content of the text.

In a bid to improve the quality of the text, editors remove fluffy and unnecessary words from the text. To fill up the spaces created by the unnecessary words removed, an editor who is well versed in the niche the author is writing about can offer advice. This advice can involve suggesting ideas that could be added to the literature-piece to improve its quality.


Is Proofreading a Subset of Editing?

The definitions are clearly different, you might be wondering why they are often used like they are the same word.

Commonly listed synonyms of 'editing' are 'changing', 'altering' and 'deleting'. The fact that changing, altering and deleting are part of the proofreading process as much as they are part of the editor's job might hold the answer. It is possible that editing and proofreading are considered the same thing because they involve similar processes (altering, adding and deleting).

While the reason stated in the previous paragraph is plausible, there are other plausible reasons that can explain this. Ideally, the process of editing is done before proofreading. The editor often changes a lot of the text that was submitted to him. There is no editor who would return the work to the author without proofreading the work to ensure the grammar he put in is accurate.

In proofreading the text to ensure the text he produced is grammatically correct, he has eliminated the need for the job to pass to another table. This makes the editor of the work double as its proofreader. The fact that editing and proofreading are commonly done by the same person can create the illusion that they are the same thing. This impression that they are part of the same job is likely the reason they are used like they mean the same thing.

Most editors placing adverts for their craft often signify that they are carrying out proofreading/editing services because they understand that they would likely proofread the work as well. It is inescapable for many of them because they are basically rewriting the piece in a bid to improve it. They must check to confirm that their grammar is correct before returning it.


The Arabic numeral that represents six could represent nine if it takes a different spatial configuration. Depending on the angle you are looking from, proofreading can be considered a subset of editing. But the fact that 'red' is a subset of 'color' does not mean that 'red' and 'color' mean the same thing or have the same definition. The fact that proofreading can be considered a subset of the editing does not mean it is right to think proofreading means the same thing as editing.

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