How to Edit & Proofread writing like a pro

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Looking to sharpen your editing and proofreading skills? Here’s a quick guide for how to edit and proofread writing like a pro (as told by an editor).

how to edit and proofread content like a professional editor

Did you know that editing and proofreading are two very different things?

Editing involves someone making changes and suggestions that will improve the overall quality and flow of a piece writing, focusing on language and tone of voice.

An editor’s job is to make sure the content is consistent, the language used makes sense and flows, and the readability of the piece and structure is the best it can possibly be.

Proofreading, on the other hand, is focused purely on picking up errors in writing, such as mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation and the like. It's the final stage of preparing a piece of writing to be published, and should be completed after editing has taken place.

Editing and proofreading should be done separately on a piece of content, and here’s how to carry out each stage like a professional.

How to edit and proofread content properly

How to edit like a pro (5 steps)

Step 1: Re-read the brief

Before diving in with editing, it’s always a good idea to reacquaint yourself with the brief and subject matter so you’re familiar with the purpose of the piece of writing, the style, and the key information that needed to be included. Reading the brief will ensure this is fresh in your mind, so you can make mindful edits to improve the copy.

Step 2: Read the content from start to finish

Read the piece of writing in its entirety first, without making any changes. While this is easier said than done, reading the copy through will enable you to understand how everything fits together, and get a grasp on the piece of content as a whole, before making any edits.

Once you’ve read it, ask yourself:

  • Does it fit the brief and goal of the piece? Does it do what it says it should do?

  • What SEO keywords and phrases was it meant to be targeting, and does it do this?

  • Does it flow well, or does it need to be structured differently?

  • Does it contain enough information to meet the purpose of the piece?

  • Does the tone of voice used make sense for the piece, and is it consistent?

Make notes for necessary changes based on your findings from the questions above.

Then, it’s time to edit.

Structural edits to copy writing

Step 3: Edit the structure

Based on your findings, make edits to the structure of the piece. Look at the structure of the piece as a whole, and ensure it flows nicely.

Have you ever had someone tell you a story and they kept going off on tangents that didn't seem to be all that relevant to the story? It's distracting and confusing, right?

If that's happening in the copy, be sure to remove it so you don't lose your reader's attention. Give them what they came for, and don't waste their time.

Add in information that readers may need in order to better understand the content, and is needed for SEO to make the content more comprehensive. Are there frequently asked questions about the subject you could include? Have you provided enough information to satisfy the reader?

Then, go through and condense it by removing anything that doesn't add to the piece, isn't relevant or is repetitive.

Add logical sub-headings to the content to differentiate different key ideas, using H2 and H3 tags.

Find out more about heading tags: How to correctly use heading tags for SEO.

Once you’re happy with the overall structure of the piece, it’s time to edit the language and writing style.

Edit copy line-by-line

Step 4: Line edit