A Guide to the Proofreading and Editing Process

Proofreading and editing are two important parts of the revision process, and they are both essential for written documents that will be published or presented to the public. However, they produce different results depending on the type of document, and writers should be aware of what each step entails so that they can make the right choice when it comes to perfecting their work.

Proofreading vs Editing

Most texts are both edited and proofread after the draft is completed. These texts include essays, research papers, journal manuscripts, and other works for publication or submission. Both editing and proofreading demand careful attention, but each focuses on different aspects of the writing.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading means checking for and fixing objective errors in a text. This includes identifying and correcting the following:

  • Grammar mistakes and mechanics issues
  • Spelling errors and typos
  • Incorrect punctuation
  • Formatting and writing inconsistencies

Before a work is published, proofreaders check a “proof copy” (a printed version of the text) and note errors using standard proofreading marks. Nowadays, most professional proofreaders review digital texts using MS Word’s “track changes” feature or Google Docs’ “editing” mode.

When to proofread

Proofreading is usually the final step of the revision process and is done after editing has been completed. After all errors, formatting issues, and inconsistencies have been corrected, the work is considered complete and ready for publication.

What is editing?

Editing means improving the quality of writing in terms of style, vocabulary, readability, and natural phrasing or “flow.” Editing typically identifies and corrects the following:

  • Wordiness (using too many unnecessary words)
  • Incorrect or inappropriate terms and expressions
  • Repetition and redundancy
  • Unacademic and awkward terms
  • Incorrect formatting of citations and references

After receiving editing (which can include language editing, copy-editing, and line editing), your expressions and terminology should be more precise, your language less repetitive and awkward, and the overall quality of your writing better.

When to edit

Language editing is usually done after the first draft of a document is finished. After reviewing the work to ensure proper content and organization, authors should edit to improve the language and clarity of their ideas and arguments. This increases the writing’s impact on the reader.

Editing and proofreading can be completed in two separate stages or simultaneously. The revision order depends on the type of work being revised (research paper, essay, cover letter, etc.) and whether the author is self-editing or receiving help from a peer or professional editor.

Basic editing can be done by the author or an experienced peer. However, language editing and proofreading are often done simultaneously by a professional editor with subject expertise and a deep understanding of style conventions and English language rules.

Editing Example

In the editing sample below, the editor has improved readability and elevated the language by changing vocabulary terms, rephrasing sentences, and modifying the transitions.

Proofreading Example

In the proofreading sample below, the proofreader has limited their revisions to objective errors: focusing on correcting grammatical, spelling, and mechanical errors. As you can see, potential issues with style, vocabulary, and expression have not been addressed.

The Stages of Editing and Proofreading a Paper

Revision Type This includes Revision done by
Stage 1:
Substantive Editing
  • Substantive content changes
  • Moving, adding, or deleting significant amounts of text
  • Rearranging entire sections of the work
  • Also known as “developmental editing” or “content editing”

The author of the text or a research peer with relevant subject expertise

Stage 2:
Line Editing /
Copy Editing

Copy editing and line editing are often used interchangeably because their purposes overlap. These two are often done simultaneously by a single editor.

Line editing (or “stylistic editing”)

  • Altering the language and phrasing to communicate the arguments, ideas, or events more clearly and effectively
  • Revising a work line-by-line, focusing on the tone, flow, and vocabulary

Copy editing

  • Polishing individual sentences to ensure clear syntax and stylistic consistency, often following style guides (such as APA, MLA, or Chicago).
  • Similar to proofreading and differs from line editing as it does not focus on the author’s intent but rather on proper format

A professional line editor, copy editor, or language editor

Stage 3:
  • Identifying and correcting remaining objective errors, such as grammar errors, misspelled words, and misplaced punctuation
  • Fix on-page formatting (heading text, page numbers, indentation, line spacing, citations/references, etc.)
  • Ensure formatting consistency and adherence to the relevant style guide

A professional proofreader or editor

Do I need both editing and proofreading?

Not all texts require both language editing and proofreading. The type of revision your work needs depends on your writing quality, the type of document, and where you are submitting the work.

Whoever edits your work should:

  • Be an “expert” or possess a “professional” level of written English
  • Have a deep, technical understanding of English
  • Have a native-level knowledge of vocabulary terms, phrasing, and expressions
  • Be capable of catching all grammatical, mechanical, and stylistic errors

Although some authors edit and proofread their own work, even writers with years of experience often seek the guidance of a professional editor. Therefore, language editing by a third party is usually recommended for any important text.

For these documents, both language editing and proofreading are strongly recommended

For these authors, language editing would be helpful (but perhaps not essential)

For these authors, proofreading alone is likely sufficient

Ready to get professional editing and proofreading?

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How much does editing and proofreading cost?

Companies vary in how they calculate editing and proofreading rates: by the hour, by the page, by the individual word, or by bulk numbers of words (one price for 1 to 1,000 words; another price for 1,001 to 3,000 words, etc.).

Authors should receive price quotations from several companies and compare to see whose rates are most affordable for the quality. Some companies require a document to be submitted before offering a price estimate.

Proofreading and editing rates per hour

Per-hour editing rates are usually charged by independent freelance editors and can range from $10 to $100 an hour, depending on the editor’s experience and level of subject expertise.

Editors cannot predict exactly how long it will take to edit or proofread a document; therefore, authors may not know the full price of proofreading or editing until after the revision has been completed. Cost, speed, and quality should all be considered when choosing hourly editing rates.

Proofreading and editing rates per word

Professional proofreading and editing services charge per-word rates ranging from $0.01 (one cent) to $0.10 (ten cents) for “standard” revision, which can include basic style editing or simply proofreading or copy-editing.

Wordvice Editing Rates for 1,000 Words of Text
Turnaround Time Academic Editing Admissions Editing Business Editing
120 hours (5 days) Academic Editing : $40.00 Admissions Editing : $40.00 Business Editing : $30.00
72 hours (3 days) Academic Editing : $60.00 Admissions Editing : $70.00 Business Editing : $42.00
24 hours (1 days) Academic Editing : $80.00 Admissions Editing : $90.00 Business Editing : $51.75

How long does editing and proofreading take?

Authors should leave enough time for editing and proofreading between drafting and publication. However, for papers or essays with a hard deadline, be sure to find an editing service that can deliver revised files on time.

Most online editing services offer several different turnaround times, but a minimum of 24 hours is recommended for proofreading. For longer documents or documents that may require more extensive revision, it is best to allow for at least 48 hours. Additionally, a longer turnaround time is typically associated with a lower editing price.

Wordvice calculates editing rates based on three factors: document type, word count, and turnaround time. For example, editing for a 1,000-word research paper would range in price from around $.05 per word ($46) for a turnaround of 96 hours to $0.08 cents per word ($80) for a turnaround of 24 hours.

Admissions essay editing for documents such as SOPs or letters of recommendation is priced at $0.04 per word ($40) for a turnaround of 96 hours and $0.09 per word ($90) for a turnaround of 24 hours. Lower rates are available for longer turnaround times, but longer turnarounds are only available for documents with higher word counts (minimum 4,000 words for a 7-day turnaround).

Wordvice offers similar pricing for business editing and book editing. Prices are determined by built-in rates that factor in the amount of time and attention different document types require.

Editing Tips and Guidelines

Basic proofreading and editing skills are essential for anyone who writes. For more basic texts such as college and university essays, blogs, and personal writing, there are some techniques you can use to revise effectively before sharing your work with others.

Take a break from the text before editing

When you write, read, and review the same text for hours or days, it becomes much harder to catch errors. Before proofreading and editing, set your work aside for a day or two so that you can come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Edit your writing before proofreading

Before proofreading your work for grammatical and mechanical errors, thoroughly revise your work for style, vocabulary, and clarity. Fixing minor errors will be the final stage in the revision process, so only proofread once you have completed a draft that you are satisfied with.

Make an editing checklist

Before you begin editing your work, create a list of the exact issues you plan to address so you don’t overlook your editing objectives.

Here are some examples of the issues you might want to focus on:

Use proofreading tools and editing software

Use proofreading tools and editing software

While many research authors use special typesetting systems such as LaTeX, the most widely used word processing program is MS Word. Using Word’s “track changes” function, you can view the precise changes made to a document.

If you have repeatedly misspelled certain words, misapplied capitalization or formatting, or even used UK English when you meant to use US (or vice versa), you can use the Find and Replace function to fix instances of the same mistake.

Once you have finished editing your work using “track changes,” toggle between “Simple Markup” and “All Markup” to view the finalized revision or individual alterations, respectively. Carefully review the revised text before accepting any changes.

Learn from your mistakes to improve your writing

Pay close attention to the specific writing and punctuation errors you tend to make. Understanding what mistakes you repeatedly make can help you understand how to avoid them and improve your writing skills.

Proofreading Checklist: Common Errors in Grammar, Punctuation, and Mechanics

Knowing which errors to look for is challenging. Typos and spelling errors are easy to spot, but mistakes in grammar and punctuation can be more difficult to catch. The table below presents some of the most common objective errors to watch out for when proofreading.

Grammar errors
Punctuation issues
Style inconsistency
  • Inconsistent use of UK and US English
  • Inconsistent use of numbers
Mechanical errors
  • Capitalization mistakes
  • Spelling errors and homophone confusion
Formatting issues
  • Misplaced or missing headers, footers, and page numbers
  • Inconsistent paragraph indentation and spacing
  • Inconsistent application of academic style guide citations (APA style, MLA style, Chicago style, etc.)

How can you check the quality of an editing service?

Editing quality varies greatly between services, and all authors should do their homework before choosing one to revise their document. Here are a few criteria to assess the quality of an editing company:

A proven record of professional editing and proofreading

Has the service been around for a few years? The length of time an editing company has been in operation can be an important indicator of its quality and trustworthiness.

Highly qualified editors

Does the company have well-qualified editors from a range of academic and scientific backgrounds? Many online editing services display editor profiles on their website.

Client review ratings

Does the service have independent third-party reviews? (e.g., Trustpilot and Google Star Ratings). A good service will often display client reviews and testimonials on their site.

Client review ratings

Affordable rates

Does the service charge a per-word rate rather than an hourly or bulk-word rate? For the most affordable proofreading services, choose a company that charges by the word.

Convenient ordering process

Does the service offer an instant price quote for editing and proofreading based on factors such as word count and delivery time?

A range of delivery times

Does the service offer different turnaround times? Can they provide express delivery (24 hours or less) for urgent documents and multiple-day delivery for longer documents?

Security and confidentiality

Privacy is crucial when choosing any online service. Does the editing service use data encryption and 2-step verification? Do their editors sign non-disclosure agreements to keep submitted documents confidential?

Great customer support

Does the service offer a quality or satisfaction guarantee? Are they available to answer questions or concerns about your order 24/7? Choose an editing service that provides contact information on its website and makes itself available to answer questions about its services.

Recommended Editing Service

Wordvice provides English proofreading and editing for a wide range of documents, including journal manuscripts, academic and research papers, college and graduate admissions essays, theses, dissertations, research proposals, and business and corporate documents.

Our standard academic editing, which includes both proofreading and language editing, begins at a rate of $0.04 per word. We offer turnaround times ranging from from 24 hours to 7 days, with 9- and 13-hour express turnaround times also available. Our standard admissions essay proofreading and editing begins at $0.02 per word with similar turnaround times.

Wordvice has an average client review rating of 4.9 on Google Star Ratings and 4.5 on Trustpilot.

Use our citation generator for APA, MLA, Chicago, and Vancouver styles to ensure accurate reference and formatting styles.

Regardless of the turnaround time, document type, or total word count of your document, Wordvice guarantees professional editing by an editor with expertise in the subject area or topic of your work. In fact, we guarantee 100% language accuracy and will work to revise your document until we have met your expectations. Visit our Pricing page to receive an instant price quotation.