Online College Courses for Credit

2 Tutorials that teach Revising, Editing and Proofreading
Take your pick:
Revising, Editing and Proofreading

Revising, Editing and Proofreading

Author: Sophia Tutorial

In this lesson, students will learn about the differences between the revising, editing, and proofreading stages of writing.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

28 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

286 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 26 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

This tutorial covers revising, editing, and proofreading—what each step looks like and how each contributes to creating a successful finished draft. The specific areas of focus include:
  1. Final Stages of the Writing Process
  2. Purpose of Revision
  3. Purpose of Editing
  4. Purpose of Proofreading

1. Final Stages of the Writing Process

It’s important to remember that writing is a process, not a product. For every finished, polished, solid essay, there were multiple drafts that developed towards that finished piece. Those drafts are necessary for the final piece, so you can’t skip any of the steps and still hope to have a successful final version.

 After you complete a draft, you’ll need to:

  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Proofread

These steps might sound similar, but they’re actually distinct parts of the process. Considering them one by one allows you to focus on each individual element carefully.

  1. When you draft, you generate content for the essay; that’s the first step.
  2. Then, revision is the process of re-envisioning an essay or other writing project. That’s where you get to think carefully about the big ideas and how they work in service of your essay’s main point.
  3. Next you work on editing, which is improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing. This is where you focus on making the clearest presentation of your big ideas using carefully selected language.
  4. Finally, you get to proofread, which involves fixing grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing, and therefore making sure that there are no remaining errors that inhibit your readers’ ability to understand your argument.

Each of these steps is part of the same process, improving your writing. Because writing is a recursive project, you might find yourself doing multiple rounds of drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. Similarly, you need not artificially separate these steps.

If while editing the big ideas, you notice a typo, go ahead and fix it. If while doing final proofreading, you discover that you’d rather phrase something differently than you originally had, go ahead and rewrite that spot. You can and probably should be comfortable working through these steps as much as your essay needs.

But why should you work through the steps? Why should you care about these stages at all? You’ve spent time and energy writing the essay and now just want to be done with it, but here’s the secret: Revising, editing, and proofreading will make all the work you did researching, organizing, and drafting worth it.

The more work you do after your draft, the better your essay will be. If you don’t do any of that work, then you might have wasted all of that writing you did in the first place. An essay that’s turned in with errors that could have been fixed through editing, revising, or proofreading can cause you to lose credibility with your reader.

Do you trust an argument when you read it and find glaring typos? If an author can’t be bothered to proofread, how much do you trust that author to have done careful, trustworthy research?

Your whole purpose for writing the paper might be lost if your paper has:

  • Poor organization
  • No clear focus
  • Not enough supporting evidence
  • Broad, vague language
  • Unclear word choices
  • Choppy sentences
  • Errors in the mechanics and grammar of the writing

Therefore, think about these final stages as the quality control of your writing process. Just as a car company has quality assurance, checking each car that comes out of the factory to make sure that it has all the necessary parts, runs correctly, and has a clean paint job, so too should you check your essay to make sure that none of its tires is going to blow off as soon as it gets on the highway.

2. Purpose of Revision

The first stop on the quality assurance assembly line should be revision. This is a different stage than editing, which will look at the sentences themselves to assess how well they articulate the argument.

Revision is also different than proofreading, where you’ll check your writing to make sure that it follows the rules. There’s no sense in doing those two steps, editing and proofreading, if you’re going to take out, add in, or otherwise change all those sentences themselves.

Revising is the stage when you think about the big picture of your arguments, assessing your overall argumentation, support, evidence, assertions, etc.

In this step, you might:

  • Add in relevant details that you missed the first time through.
  • Take out irrelevant content that you now realize doesn’t really help your argument.
  • Reorder the body paragraphs to change the way your reader works through the argument.
  • Research if you find that your argument needs more support or evidence to back up your claims.
  • Rethink the thesis statement if it no longer matches your argument.
  • Rewrite your introduction and conclusion to reflect those changes.

Many people revise by printing out a draft and writing on it with red pen, doing a reverse outline, or looking through how each paragraph contributes to the thesis. You can do your revision either on paper or on your computer, depending on your personal preference.

Here’s what it might look like as you cut, add, move, and change around your writing:


The process of re-envisioning an essay or other writing project.

3. Purpose of Editing

Once you’ve revised and have a draft that you’re sure contains all the info that you want and no info that you don’t want, you’re ready to edit to make sure that the sentences are pulling their weight.

In revising, you’ve been focusing on re-seeing and rethinking the whole argument’s ideas, support, and organization. Here you’re going to zoom in a little more closely, just looking at how those ideas are expressed in language.

In other words, this is where you get to think about how your words are working—making sure that they mean what you intend and match the overall tone you want. Editing is also where you assess how your transitions connect ideas in sentences and paragraphs to create a smooth flow of ideas.

During this stage, you’ll want to check that your essay has all the elements of style:

  • Clarity of ideas
  • Precise language
  • Effective word choice
  • Sentence variety
  • Complete sentences

More specifically, you might:

  • Look to see if you’re repeating your ideas or including redundant information.
  • Replace any words that are vague or imprecise with stronger ones that strike the right tone and create vivid impressions.
  • Add in or change up your transitions so that you’re connecting ideas into sentences and paragraphs intelligently and clearly.
  • Check that all of your sentences are complete and that you use a variety of sentence lengths and structures.

In the revised paragraph from above, now that you’re ready to edit the language, perhaps you can make this spot more evocative.


And in this portion here, you can change up the sentences a little to add some more variety:


Those kinds of changes are all editing requires.

Improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing.

4. Purpose of Proofreading

You’ve now got to do a final check to make sure that everything in your essay is where it and how it should be. Proofreading is where you zoom in your closest to check for the smallest errors in grammar and mechanics.

This is separate from revision and editing, because here is where you’re making sure that this text is ready for prime time. You’re not adding anything new or fundamentally changing the way things are expressed; you’re just making sure everything is clean and correct.

Again remember that writing is a process, not a product. Thus, you might notice something to revise or edit while you’re proofreading, and that’s fine. Go ahead and fix any issues that you notice, but do focus on the small nitty-gritty details of grammar and mechanics.

When you proofread, you should look for:

  • Typographical errors (which are usually called typos)
  • Grammatical errors, such as shifts in verb tense or errors in plurality or pronoun agreement
  • Spelling errors
  • Punctuation errors
  • Capitalization errors
  • Any other basic formatting issues, such as indented paragraphs, double spacing, margins, or font type

One method of proofreading is to enlarge the font on your screen to at least 20 points so that you can see some errors that might have otherwise been hiding in the fine print.

You can see how this works with a portion of the revised and edited sample from before:

Once you zoom in, you’ll notice the word “human” is misspelled as “humane,” and you can fix it.

You’ll also see an excess comma that you don’t need, and you can delete that.

After proofreading, your essay is ready to be seen by the world.

Fixing grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing.

In this tutorial, you learned that after you finish drafting your essay, the final stages of the writing process are revising, editing, and proofreading. While these three steps may sound the same, they each have a separate purpose.

The purpose of revision is to think about the big picture of your arguments by assessing your overall argumentation, support, evidence, and assertions. The purpose of editing is to look at how your ideas are expressed in language by evaluating whether your words are working the way you intend. Finally, the purpose of proofreading is to make sure everything is clean and correct by focusing on small details of grammar and mechanics. Once you’ve completed these steps, your essay is ready for your readers.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.

Terms to Know

Improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing.


Fixing grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing.


The process of re-visioning an essay or other writing project.