3 Types of Editing
by Patty Pacelli
You've finished your book manuscript! Fantastic! Now what? You probably know you need some type of editing, but do you know about the 3 main types of editing, and what they mean? The following descriptions of Developmental Editing, Copy/Line Editing, and Proofreading will help you get started in finding the best editor for you.
Developmental Editors look at the big picture. This is most commonly used in fiction. The editor will look for any flaws or inconsistencies in characters and their development, check facts, look for plot holes or things that just don't work or make sense. They will look for anachronisms, such as a mention of a specific building that didn't exist at the time the story takes place, or types of clothing, household gadgets, technology, or other things that are out of place. For example, a woman putting on pantyhose before 1959 when they became available.
The editor will look at how the manuscript connects with its intended audience, and the language use, whether it's too casual, too formal, not fitting with the characters, etc. They will give feedback about book structure, including how it is divided into chapters, and how time and location jumps are done.
The editor might not mark on the manuscript during this phase, but will provide a report or letter giving overall feedback and findings. It's best if this is the first step in the process,
Copy or Line Editing - The editor reads the manuscript line by line and makes changes as they go in punctuation, capitalization, grammar usage and wording. They will make the manuscript grammatically correct and consistent in formatting. Books, blog posts, articles and social media posts can benefit from this type of editing, and it is a must for a published book. A good editor will maintain the author's voice and personality while improving clarity and re-wording phrases for better flow. Consistency is important too.
The editor should always be asking the question, "Does this make sense?" If it doesn't make sense to the editor, it probably won't to the readers. The editor should use one dictionary edition and one style guide, such as Chicago Manual of Style, for grammar rules. They should use some form of tracking, such as "Track Changes" in Microsoft Word, so you can see all changes. Remember, any changes are given to you as suggestions, and you can "Accept" each change, or discuss it with the editor.
This is the last step and should be done by someone with good language skills, but preferably not the same person as your line editor or developmental editor. They should be proofing a final PDF or hard copy, and looking for consistency and correctness in all aspects of the finished product. Reading out loud or using a ruler to focus on each line are good proofreading techniques.
Any editor will naturally overlap into all three areas, but should focus on what you are asking for at each stage of your project. It's fine if a copy editor notices something that needs to be changed that a developmental editor would normally catch.
Most cities have Editor Guilds or Associations, such as Northwest Editors Guild here in the Seattle area. They have lists of editors to contact who do different types of editing for various written work.
We are happy to answer any questions about editing your work and can help you find the right editor for your project. Contact Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions on writing, editing or publishing.
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