“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” —Mark Twain
Although many writers and instructors use the terms interchangeably, it is helpful to see revising and editing as two different activities. For our purposes, revising is an ongoing process and occurs throughout the writing of the essay when a writer attempts to make the changes. These changes may be ones suggested in a peer review but also ones you decide on as you write. Think of revising as “revisioning” your writing to make the content clear, focused, descriptive, and detailed.
Editing happens after you are satisfied with the overall content of the writing. Editing means going through a piece of writing and making comments and suggestions about how it could be better—or even whether it’s appropriate at all. Editing also includes proofreading for grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. Editing identifies the changes needed, and revising incorporates the changes needed. For example, a reviewer might suggest that you tweak your introduction to make it better fit the rest of the paper. The actual process of changing the introduction is called revising.
Differences between Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
It is important to note that revising, editing, and proofreading are very different processes. Despite the differences, however, they often overlap. They are being separated here for ease of explanation.
- Revising is done throughout the writing process, with special emphasis on the first few drafts.
- Focus = big issues
- Editing is done throughout the writing process, with special emphasis on the middle and final drafts.
- Focus = technical issues
- Word choice
- Textual inconsistencies
- Proofreading is reserved for the final draft.
- Focus = mechanics and presentation
- Typographical errors