Proofreading vs Copy Editing: What’s the Difference?

Writing for the internet

February 14, 2022

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Nicola Marrison

Understanding the importance of professional copy editing and the positive impact that can make on your business.

As a professional content writer, I can tell you that I spend twice as much time editing as I do writing. This is particularly true for my full service clients, and it’s also why my copywriting rates are not bound by word count – because less words actually take more time.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who DIY their website copy and content writing, and I’m hoping to help with this post. Today I’m breaking down the difference between proofreading and copy editing – and most importantly when to seek each service for your business.

Recommended reading to sharpen your writing and editing skills –  ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White.


The finishing touch. Proofreading is the process of eliminating spelling and grammatical errors. There comes a point where you become ‘blind’ to the words, and this is because your brain already knows what’s coming next. How do we work around this? Get someone else to proofread your work who hasn’t read it before – as the saying goes, get “a fresh pair of eyes.”

Proofreading helps your business by:

  • Removing spelling mistakes that can tarnish your credibility.
  • Ensuring you are saying what you want to say with proper punctuation.
  • Making a good impression with polished and professional content.

When to hire a professional proofreading service:

  • If English isn’t your first language – the American/British/Canadian gauntlet 😱
  • For any collateral going to print/download, e.g. brochures, workbooks, etc.
  • The final step prior to (re)launching a website.
  • For seasoned bloggers who batch their posts before publishing.

In essence, you are confident your piece will perform. A common misconception is that proofreading will improve the quality of your message. It won’t. Proofreading is merely correcting mistakes in language and writing format.

If you want critique and changes to your content beyond this, then copy editing is what you’re looking for.


Copy editing is the first line of defense as it involves minor rewrites to ensure the piece is fit for market. It involves a more thorough examination of your content by considering flow, cohesiveness, and audience context. Copy editing is an intricate, yet ruthless process that makes written content the best that it can be.

Copy editing helps your business by:

  • Tightening the message and allow readers to know, like, and trust you.
  • Supporting your brand image through a consistent tone of voice.
  • Building an SEO foundation of keywords, headings, and readability.

When to hire a professional copy editing service:

  • As a budget friendly alternative to hiring a full service copywriter.
  • You’re 80% happy with your DIY website copy but know it could benefit from some professional flair. 
  • For new bloggers who are learning to write with SEO in mind.
  • To gain confidence in your overall online presence.

Copy editing is generally the better investment because there are vast differences between writing offline and online content. An experienced novelist will apply unrelated techniques compared to a website copywriter, and vice versa. When you hire the right copy editor, you are getting both excellent proofreading and writing strategy for optimum performance.


You’re probably a better writer than you think you are. But if you’re anything like me, you need help stepping out of awkwardness and into confidence. You just want someone to tell you what WORKS. That someone is me!

Are you ready to discuss your next project? Contact me today.

I can’t wait to hear from you,

xo, Nicola

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