Edit & Proofreading

The difference is in the details when it comes to editing and proofreading. The order of revising, editing, and proofreading varies depending on your work. I usually proofread first, then revise, then edit, then proofread again – but it’s completely up to you. Whichever order you choose to do them, I’ve made a to-do list for each of these parts of the writing process for you and the best part is, you can use it for any style of writing!

Proofreading To Do List:

  • Choose whether to proofread on a screen or paper
  • Choose what you are proofreading for
  • Read your work out loud
  • Read your work slowly and in small sections
  • Have someone else read it to you

Only proofread for one thing at a time (punctuation, grammar, content, etc). Also, make sure to take breaks in between proofreading sessions to give your eyes and brain a rest and then come back to it fresh afterwards.

When you proofread for punctuation, highlight or circle every single punctuation mark. Then when you are editing for punctuation you can check every single mark to make sure it’s in the right place and/or necessary.

Spellcheckers help a lot when it comes to misspelled words, but when you’re reading your piece out loud make sure to underline any word that doesn’t sound right. It may not be spelled wrong but it could be the wrong homophone or just not the right word choice for what you’re trying to project.

Highlight every verb while you read. This is very important because you need to make sure all verbs are in the right tense (past, present, future) and they hold the tone of the scene/section. When you go back to edit all the verbs, you may want to swap them out for something more active as well.

While you’re proofreading, if you come to a point in your writing where it feels like something is missing, mark it. You can put stories or examples where they are necessary to explain a point. If you come to a place that seems too wordy, mark it. You can cross out words that you don’t need when you revise.

You find all the mistakes when you’re proofreading, but you fix them when you edit and revise.

Editing To Do List:

  • Fix all the punctuation mistakes!
  • Check your spelling and usage of words
  • Verb and Voice usage
  • Capitalization
  • Formatting

Spellchecker doesn’t catch punctuation errors and if you really struggle with commas and semicolons and such, you may want to look into a program like grammarly. However, if you feel confident enough to correct the commas by yourself, you can use a cheat sheet to double check every punctuation mark you circled on your papers.

Look at all those words you underlined that didn’t sound right. Are they spelled correctly? Are they mixed up with a homophone (four vs for)? If so, make sure to correct those now. If they just don’t seem like the right word for the sentence, brainstorm other words to use on a separate sheet of paper and replace it.

Go through your highlights and make sure all your subjects agree with your verbs. Then check all your verbs to make sure they are in the right tense (past, present, future). Take out any dead verbs and replace them with active verbs so your story is always moving forward as well.

Make sure all the first words in a sentence are capitalized. Also check for proper nouns (names, places, organizations, etc) and trademarks as well as titles that appear before names. Don’t forget the days of the week and months of the year, too.

Make sure the whole text is in the same font (and choose it carefully) and the same size. Fix the margins to match the size of the piece you are working on (click here for common formatting sizes).

Revising To Do List:

  • Add stories and examples
  • Support your arguments
  • Cut out unnecessary words
  • Paraphrase quotations
  • Shorten sentences
  • Replace big words
  • Order sentences and paragraphs

Revising is more about the big picture than it is about the little details even though it’s tedious work.

Remember those marks you made when you were proofreading? Go back to those and add in stories or examples that elaborate your point if necessary. People learn by relating new information to old information. Make them see your point by being able to relate it something they already know.

If you make a claim in your writing, make sure you back it up. Paraphrase quotations as much as possible so it flows with your writing and you make sure you’re not plagiarizing other writers.

A lot of times we use extra words, or filler words, in our sentences that aren’t unnecessary. Cut out all the extra use of “the”, “that”, “and”, etc. You want to shorten your sentences but make sure your paragraphs have sentences of various lengths. The general rule is to not have more than fifteen words in a sentence so that it’s easy to read. Avoid using big words that most people don’t know, it interrupts the flow.

Finally, read everything over again and rearrange the order of the sentences and paragraphs as needed so that the story flows continuously and the reader doesn’t have to stop (and doesn’t want to stop).

After you proofread, edit, and revise, you should probably proofread it one more time just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. You should also look at professional editors for your work as well. I know that may seem excessive after all the work you just did, but your finished book will be better because of it.

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