Revising, Editing & Proofing

Revising, Editing & Proofing

Developed for the Bowling Green University Writers Lab by Sherri Wahrer
Adapted from Chapter 4 of the Scott Foresman Handbook, Fifth Edition

Have you ever felt that you put a lot of time into 'revising' an essay, only to have your instructor comment that s/he doesn't recognize the work you've done? It could be that you weren't actually revising (although you may have thought you were); perhaps you were only editing or proofreading. Differences do exist among these three things, each of which is usually done at a specific stage in the writing process. This handout was designed to clarify the intentions of revising, editing and proofreading so you'll have a better idea of what you need to do with your draft.


  • is usually done with the first draft
  • focuses on grand-scale issues (such as audience, organization, content, gaps in information/argument and purpose) that affect the entire paper
  • does not focus on or include work with grammar, usage, and mechanics


  • is usually done with drafts in between the first and final draft
  • focuses on use of language, word choice, transition usage, brevity and/or wordiness, and more solid introductions and conclusions
  • does focus on grammar


  • is often confused with revising (though the two are drastically different)
  • focuses solely on grammar, usage, and mechanics - check for spelling, punctuation, format, usage, typographical errors, and inconsistencies

As you can see, there are distinctions among revising, editing and proofreading...and isn't it a relief to know you aren't responsible for doing them all at once?