What are the different types of editing?

There are four types of editing. Developmental editing, line editing, copy-editing and proofreading. Developmental editing focuses on the structure of a text, looking at how it all works together. Line editing, copy-editing and proofreading focus on the detail of the text, looking at it sentence-by-sentence and word-by-word.

Developmental (or structural) editing aims to improve the content and structure of a text. In fiction, this would look at plot, pacing, structure, narrative and characterisation. In non-fiction, this would look at the structure and narrative of a text, as well as making sure the flow of ideas isn't confusing for the reader. I don't offer a developmental editing service, but I do offer an early manuscript review (beta read) service.

Line (or stylistic) editing addresses the content, writing style and language of a text at sentence and paragraph level, making sure the sentences flow smoothly whilst retaining the author's voice.

Copy-editing is the correcting stage where errors or inconsistencies in punctuation, spelling, grammar and formatting are addressed. The text is aligned to the style guide at copy-editing level, making sure it is consistent with the preferred style and grammar rules.

Proofreading is the final check that a document goes through before publication. It picks up any errors that have been missed in previous rounds of editing. Ideally, when a proofread is requested, I will be working on the final draft and would mainly be correcting minor errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and formatting. The text would already be consistent with a style guide (if applicable) and be fully formatted, although there may be some tweaks required.

There can be some overlap between the different levels of editing. Copy-editing can be done at the same time as line editing. Proof-editing is a hybrid of proofreading and copy-editing. In traditional publishing, a text will have gone through the other stages of editing before it is proofread. Proof-editing happens when time and/or budget constraints mean that there is only one stage in the editing process. In proof-editing, the usual proofreading concerns apply, but the level of editing is likely to be greater.


Please contact me or refer to the CIEP factsheet proofreading vs copy-editing to find out what level of editing you need. To learn more about my proofreading and editing services, please take a look at my services flyer. For more details on how I can help you, please see my independent authors, academics or businesses services pages.​

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