There are a lot of misconceptions associated with the terms ‘editing’ and ‘proofreading’, and many people use these two words interchangeably. However, they actually refer to two very different stages of the editing process.

Depending on the overall condition of your written manuscript, the editing stage is often the most time-consuming step in the publishing process. In contrast, proofreading is the final check after your Word manuscript has been typeset and before it is published.

A brief overview of editing

Editing is a much more complex process than proofreading. For this reason, it can take weeks (and sometimes even months) for an editor to complete one project.

Distinct phases of the editing process

There are two distinct phases of the editing process:

  1. Structural editing (which is also referred to as developmental editing)
  2. Copyediting (which is also referred to as line editing).
Structural editing

This step involves reviewing the big-picture perspective of your book. It focuses on the organisation and presentation of your manuscript rather than grammar, punctuation and spelling.


During this phase, an editor focuses on the finer details of your manuscript. They will reviewing your writing for style, language, clarity, sentence structure, syntax, word choice, consistency and readability. An editor may also provide recommendations (in the form of Track Changes and Comments in the Word manuscript) regarding rewriting certain sections of your draft book. In addition, they may suggest ways for you to reorganise the sentence or paragraph structure of your manuscript.

Proofreading – the final quality control phase

Proofreading is the final ‘quality control’ phase of the editing process. It occurs after the structural editing and/or copyediting phases have been completed.

After you’ve responded to the editor’s suggested edits and comments, your edited manuscript is then typeset. At this point, it’s the proofreader’s job to review the final typeset manuscript for any minor typos, grammatical issues or formatting mistakes prior to the book being printed.

Reviewing the fine details

Proofreaders work through a typeset PDF file – word by word and page by page – reviewing all aspects of the book layout. This includes checking spaces between words and lines, indentations, typeface style, page numbers, consistency of headers and footers, image and table captions, and so on.

The proofreading stage is not the time for you to revisit any major issues with your manuscript or rewrite your text. The reason is that these areas should have already been addressed during the previous editing stages.