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What are the 6 types of EDITING?

For any writer, the world of professional editing can be very intimidating — especially when trying to figure out what kinds of editing services you need and how to find an editor for your project. Indeed, there are so many types of editing out there, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!

But this process doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. 

What are the 6 types of editing?

1. Developmental editing

Developmental editing, also called content or substantive editing, involves an editor providing detailed feedback on “big-picture” issues. They’ll refine your ideas, shape your narrative, and help you fix any major plot or character inconsistencies. Basically, they’ll look at just about every element of your story and tell you what works and what doesn’t.

“For a developmental edit, I look at some of the larger questions,” says editor Mary-Theresa Hussey. “Why are the characters behaving as they do? What are their motivations? Do these scenes add to the overall story? What is your underlying theme and how does it change?”

As we said, this is typically the first step in the editing process. After all, you don’t want to get your manuscript proofed or formatted if you haven’t even fleshed out the plot yet! A developmental editor will make sure your story’s up to snuff before moving forward, so you don’t end up copy-correcting work that’s just going to get thrown out anyway.

What do you get out of a developmental edit?

There are two pieces here that your editor should provide: an editorial report and an annotated manuscript.

The editorial report is a general critique of everything your developmental editor thinks you should change, along with commentary on what’s functioning well and should stay in your work. Meanwhile, the annotated manuscript is a marked-up version of the manuscript itself, with specific suggestions as to how you can fix each issue. You might think of the annotated manuscript as the editor’s raw feedback and the editorial report as a summary of that feedback.

2. Editorial assessment

On the other hand, if your manuscript isn’t quite ready yet for a developmental edit, but you still want to get some feedback on it, you can always call for an editorial assessment.

“In an editorial assessment, the author wouldn’t receive comments and example rewrites in the manuscript,” says genre fiction editor Leah Brown. “Instead, they would receive a letter that focuses on the broad strokes. An editorial assessment is best for an author who is early in the process and whose manuscript may be messier.”

So an editorial assessment is similar to an editorial report, but with less detail. It should give you some concrete ideas about how to construct your story. However, it won’t have the nuance of a full developmental edit, so don’t rely on an assessment alone to perfect your manuscript.

3. Structural editing

Structural editing is pretty much what it sounds like: an approach to improve your story’s structure, such that it works for your particular narrative and keeps the reader engaged.

For example, if your story has tons of twists, a flashback structure might work better to increase suspense than a typical linear chronology. Structural editing can also help you determine if you should split your story into more or fewer chapters/sections, if those sections are in the ideal order, and what content you might delete or expand to either tighten up or fill out your structure.

All developmental edits should address story structure alongside plot, characters, and themes. However, if you’re particularly worried about the structure, it might be worth asking your developmental editor to prioritize it. You might also consider getting a structure-focused editorial assessment as your first step, so you can address those issues before anything else.

Make sure that structure’s solid before you build on it!

4. Copy editing

Once you’re certain that you’ve solved the big-picture issues of your book and done any necessary rewrites, it’s time to dive into copy editing! This type is also known as mechanical and sometimes line editing, depending on its particular application.

“A copy editor’s job is to bring the author’s completed manuscript to a more professional level,” says editor Chersti Nieveen. “A copy edit helps create the most readable version of your book, improving clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness. The goal is to bridge any remaining gaps between the author’s intent and the reader’s understanding.”

What elements do copy editors consider?

A copy editor examines and corrects the following elements in your work:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Capitalization
  • Word usage and repetition
  • Dialogue tags
  • Usage of numbers or numerals
  • POV/tense (to fix any unintentional shifts)
  • Descriptive inconsistencies (character descriptions, locations, blocking, etc.)

Essentially, while a developmental editor will address overarching issues with your story, the copy editor looks at more minute details. After all, it’d be pretty distracting to your reader if you constantly misuse dialogue tags or misspell the word “restaurant.” Copy editing ensures that errors like these don’t happen, so your writing is as strong as possible, and your reader remains 100% focused on the story.

What do Neil Gaiman, Isabel Allende and Joyce Carol Oates have in common?

They’ve all worked with Reedsy editors. Sign up today and work with them on your next book.

Is line editing the same as copy editing?

People often use “line editing” and “copy editing” interchangeably — but they’re not exactly the same thing. To clarify: line editing focuses specifically on the content and flow of your prose. It’s also called ‘stylistic editing,’ since it concentrates on style rather than mechanics.

In other words, it still falls under the umbrella of copy editing, but it’s more precise. While a full copy edit looks at all of the elements listed in the bullets above, a line edit would only take word usage, POV/tense, and descriptive inconsistencies into account, and provide more detailed suggestions as to how to strengthen the prose itself.

Obviously, spelling, grammar, and other mechanical elements are critical, but a line edit would not attend to these so much as to creative content. If you feel incredibly confident about the mechanics of your prose but less so about its flow and style, you might request that your copy editor focus their energy on line editing alone. After all, a proofreader can always catch any minor errors that slip through the cracks.

5. Proofreading

Proofreading is the last major stage of the editing process. Proofreaders are the eagle-eyed inspectors who make sure no spelling or grammar errors make it to the final version of your work. They’re extremely meticulous, as they should be — their painstaking review of your manuscript ensures that your text is 100% polished before going to print.

So what exactly does a proofreader do?

They’ll watch out for:

  • Inconsistencies in spelling and style
  • Inconsistencies in layout and typography
  • Confusing or awkward page and word breaks
  • Incorrect captioning on any illustrations and page numbers in the contents

Again, proofreading is the last stop on the manuscript express, so most issues will have been resolved by this stage. The point of proofreading is to really scrutinize the text for anything that previous edits might have missed. Hopefully, they don’t find much, but better safe than sorry!

6. Fact-checking

The fact of the matter (no pun intended) is that no matter how thoroughly you research your book, it can still end up with informational inconsistencies. Developmental and copy editors can help with this, but at the end of the day, it’s not really their responsibility to fact-check.

That’s why — if you have a lot of niche information in your book, and especially if it’s a topic you’ve never written on before — you might consider getting a designated fact-checker to comb through it. They’ll take note of all the factual references in your book, then carefully confirm them via external sources; if they find any inaccuracies, they’ll alert you right away. This type of editing is particularly crucial if you’re writing nonfiction, and dedicated nonfiction editors are often experienced fact-checkers too. But getting a trained eye on your manuscript can also be very helpful for works of historical and scientific fiction.

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So what type of editing do you need? Sometimes you can find someone who can help you with all aspects of this work!

Love, The Kingsley Publishing Team