Proofreading vs. Editing: What’s the Difference?

When reading one another’s writing, high school students will almost always point out grammatical errors, misspelled words or typos before anything else. Perhaps its because they “know” how to fix those things. They’re easy to identify for good writers, but this is not editing though its part of the editing process. This is called proofreading.

Proofreading is a crucial step in the process to publication, but it is actually the last step. Before you proofread your work, you need to edit and revise it.

So what is editing? Editing is looking at the “big picture” of your story, analyzing the overall story structure, the characters, and style.

As you begin the overall editing and revision process, ask yourself some of the following questions about your story:


  • Are your characters consistent?
  • Do they contradict themselves anywhere?
  • Are they believable people?
  • Are they fully-developed and well-rounded if necessary?
  • Does the character have a clearly defined goal?
  • Are they boring or hateful?
  • Is there believable dialogue?


  • Do you have enough information and detail that the reader can “see” the scene happening?
  • Do you have too much unnecessary detail?
  • Is the pacing good? Does it slow down in places that need to speed up or does it need to speed up in others?
  • Is the story unique?
  • Is the information or any facts in the story accurate? Have you done any necessary research?
  • Is there a clear climax?
  • Are the scenes in the best order to tell the story?


  • Is there a good mix of showing and telling?
  • Have you overused adjectives and adverbs? Could you replace them with strong verbs?
  • Have you used active and not passive voice?
  • Is the voice consistent in the story?
  • Is the point-of-view consistent throughout the entire piece?
  • Is the verb tense consistent ie. Past tense or present tense throughout the entire piece?

This is just a brief list but it should get you started on the editing process for content.  After you revise the overall story, then go back and proofread your work which is correcting errors in your conventions.

To proofread, look at:

  • Sentence structure: run-ons, fragments, comma splices
  • Capitalization
  • Dialogue
  • Overuse of exclamation points
  • Your vs. You’re
  • Their, their, they’re
  • Colons & semi-colons
  • Remove: very, a lot, really, so, sort of
  • Revise “to be” verbs and replace with active verbs

What other strategies do you use to edit? Do you have specific questions you ask yourself as you read? We’d love to hear!

Share your best editing and proofreading strategies in the comments below.

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