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Which level of editing you need?

Posted on March 22, 2020 (updated on January 23, 2024)

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What are the different levels of editing?

There are four levels of editing. 

  1. developmental editing

  2. line editing

  3. copy-editing

  4. proofreading

1. Developmental editing

This focuses on the big-picture –

structure, narrative, plot, pacing, characters and the flow of ideas.

2. Line editing
 

This addresses the content, writing style, readability and flow at sentence and paragraph level while retaining the author’s voice.

 

3. Copy-editing
 

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

4. Proofreading

This is the final check – correcting minor errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and formatting that have been missed in previous rounds of editing.

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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.

1. What is developmental editing?

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.

2. What is line editing?

Line (or stylistic) editing addresses the content, writing style, language and readability of a text at sentence

and paragraph level, making sure the sentences flow smoothly while retaining the author’s voice.

3. What is copy-editing?

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 sheet at copy-editing level, making sure it is consistent with the preferred style and grammar rules.

4. What is proofreading?

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 sheet (if applicable) and be fully formatted, although there may be some tweaks required.

Can multiple levels of editing be carried out at the same time?

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.

Further questions?

Please contact me if you​’re still not sure which level of editing you need. For more details on how I can help you, please see my independent authors, academics, or businesses and writers services pages.​ For a list of my training and CPD, please visit my qualifications page.

Has enabled me to publish my work ...

“I can’t thank Victoria enough for the help and support she has given me. She certainly went that extra mile to help me achieve my writing experience. Her knowledge and the time-consuming advice she has given me as a new writer has enabled me to publish my work. I have no hesitation in recommending Victoria and will hopefully be using her services again in the not-too-distant future.”​

—Kathryn Blake, author

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