AcWriMo: Editing & Proofreading

People often think that editing and proofreading are the same.  Actually, they are different although there is a degree of overlap between the two. Let’s consider what is meant by these two terms. We’ll start with editing.


Generally, editing refers to the process of making changes to the structural and conceptual elements of your writing.  For example, when you edit your paper, you will look for problems relating to the logical ordering of paragraphs. Perhaps you discover that one paragraph does not link logically with the previous, and so you need to insert another to create a seamless logical flow.  When you insert that paragraph, you are editing your work.  Sometimes, you notice that what you have written could be read in two ways, and so it is ambiguous.  When you make changes to remove the ambiguity, you are editing.  Similarly, if you delete repetitive arguments, you are also editing.


When you proofread, you look for the more superficial errors in your writing relating to grammar, punctuation, spelling, formatting, etc.

Here are a few tips on how to edit your journal manuscript:

  1. Never edit immediately after you finish writing. You need to switch your mind off from the paper before you edit it, so that you can be more objective about it.  Go out for a coffee, go shopping, or meet up with a friend before you start to edit.  Ideally, wait 24 hours before editing; however, sometimes deadlines mean that you can’t wait that long.  Take as long a break from the paper as you can before you begin the editing process.
  2. Do rounds of editing, each with a specific focus. For example, make the first editing round a short one which focuses on whether you have generally achieved what you set out to achieve.

If you are happy that you have achieved your aim, then go onto the next round, which might focus on whether the arguments are clear and logical.  Don’t look for anything else in this round; if you spot a proofreading error, don’t be tempted to put it right (unless of course, that is the cause of the break in logic or clarity). Keep to the focus of the editing round.

In your third reading, look for repetition or ambiguity.  Remember, repetition can include repetition of ideas in paragraphs, words in sentences, or it might even be repetition of entire paragraphs if you have accidentally clicked on ‘copy and paste’ instead of ‘cut and paste’ during an earlier editing round!

After three editing rounds, you are probably ready to do the final polishing and proofreading of your manuscript.

Here’s a useful checklist for editing your journal manuscript:

  1. Is your writing style consistent throughout the paper, or have you lapsed into informal / very formal style in places?
  2. Does your Introduction include a paragraph outlining the structure of the paper?
  3. Do the aims of the paper in the Introduction match the claims made at the end pf the paper?
  4. Is the paragraph flow clear and logical?
  5. Have you included in your manuscript any keywords that are listed under the abstract?

If you’d like to find out more about maximising your chances of getting your article published, why not click on this link from the Guardian, which has tips from editors on how to get published: How to get Published in and Academic Journal: Top Tips from Editors