Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft.
For example, if you notice that you often discuss several distinct topics in each paragraph, you can go through your paper and underline the key words in each paragraph, then break the paragraphs up so that each one focuses on just one main idea.
Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation.
This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process.
To give you a chance to practice proofreading, we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in the text of this handout. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ different techniques.
You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions. But like it or not, the way a paper looks affects the way others judge it.
When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader from what you have to say.Do you repeat a strong word (for example, a vivid main verb) unnecessarily?(For tips, see our handouts on style and gender-inclusive language.) Have you appropriately cited quotes, paraphrases, and ideas you got from sources? (See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for more information.) As you edit at all of these levels, you will usually make significant revisions to the content and wording of your paper.Avoid using words you find in the thesaurus that aren’t part of your normal vocabulary; you may misuse them.Have you used an appropriate tone (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)?When you are editing an early draft, you don’t want to be bothered with thinking about punctuation, grammar, and spelling.If your worrying about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma, you’re not focusing on the more important task of developing and connecting ideas.Is your use of gendered language (masculine and feminine pronouns like “he” or “she,” words like “fireman” that contain “man,” and words that some people incorrectly assume apply to only one gender—for example, some people assume “nurse” must refer to a woman) appropriate?Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences? Does your writing contain a lot of unnecessary phrases like “there is,” “there are,” “due to the fact that,” etc.?(See our handout on paragraph development.) Have you defined any important terms that might be unclear to your reader? (One way to answer this question is to read your paper one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working backwards so that you will not unconsciously fill in content from previous sentences.) Is it clear what each pronoun (he, she, it, they, which, who, this, etc.) refers to?Have you chosen the proper words to express your ideas?