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What is the step of editing?

What Are Proofreading and Editing?

It is not uncommon to be confused about the terms “proofreading” and “editing” because the two are often used interchangeably and given a number of different meanings. There are several stages when creating any written document, and within the broad term “editing” there are multiple types of editing and proofreading. The three main phases in the editing process are: (1) structural or developmental editing, (2) copy editing, and (3) proofreading. Let’s imagine you’ve written the first draft of a document. The next step would be for the document to undergo structural or developmental editing. Depending on the type of document, structural and developmental editing can mean two different things. However, for the average person, we combine the two into a larger category because many people are unable to hire a professional to review their document for both types of editing. Structural or developmental editing involves looking at the “big picture” of the document. In this stage of editing, the focus is on overall consistency, structure, flow, and voice. An editor would make sure the voice is consistent throughout the document and that the structure of the document, whether a book, journal article, blog, or other written material, makes sense.

The second stage of editing is copy editing. Many writers work on structural or developmental editing on their own, but it can be difficult to copy edit your own document. Copy editing involves taking a more detailed view when editing the document. A professional editor will review your document for clarity and readability with a focus on the flow throughout the paper as well as grammar, word usage, spelling, punctuation, consistency, and style. The editor will make corrections when there are grammar or spelling errors, will fix punctuation, and may make suggestions when needed.

The final stage of editing is proofreading. When an editor reviews a document for a copy edit, many revisions are made and a few minor details can be missed, such as an extra space between words, a typo, or a letter that should be capitalized but isn’t. You can’t expect a copyeditor to catch every issue in your document in a single round of editing. This is what the final stage of editing, or proofreading, is for: to find those last few issues in the document and fix them. The proofreader of your document will make sure the spacing between sentences is consistent, that typos are eliminated, and that other remaining issues are resolved.

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Types of Editing: An Inside Look at the Editing Arts

Literary editors are a writer’s best friend — they have the skills, experience, and knowledge to take your manuscript to the next level. However, not all editors do the same job and it’s important to understand what type of editing your project needs at any given stage.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the different types of editing and offer insights from Reedsy’s deep roster of expert manuscript editors.

5 common types of editing in publishing:

  • 1. Editorial assessment
  • 2. Developmental editing
  • 3. Copy editing
  • 4. Proofreading
  • 5. Fact-checking

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1. Editorial assessment

An editorial assessment is often the first piece of professional help a manuscript will receive. Your editor will offer you some broad, insightful feedback on major strengths and weaknesses in your plot, characters, or structure.

“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.”

Types of editing | editorial assessment

Seeking out an editorial assessment early on will make the job of a developmental and copy edit later down the line much easier. Similarly, they can help you determine whether your work is ready for querying before you contact any literary agents.

What kind of editing does your book need?

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2. 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 to tell you if any elements of your story just don’t work. It’s similar to an editorial assessment but contains much more detail.

“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?”

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types of editing | developmental editing

Your editor will return an annotated manuscript, a marked-up version of the original manuscript with specific suggestions for each issue, and an editorial report. This is essentially a summary of the raw feedback left on the manuscript.

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.

3. Copy editing

Copy editing is the next step after you’re certain you’ve solved your book’s big-picture issues. An editor will read your work on the lookout for anything that makes it less readable, like word repetition or character inconsistencies. This type is also known as mechanical or 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:

types of editing | copy editing

  • 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.)

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. They can also help make sure that you’re using the right terminology and that you’re using inclusive language in your writing.

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 is more precise. While a full copy edit looks at all of the elements listed in the bullets above, a line edit would only consider word usage, POV/tense, and descriptive inconsistencies and provide more detailed suggestions on strengthening the prose.

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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.

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And speaking of proofreaders.

4. Proofreading

Proofreading is the last major stage of the editing process. Proofreaders are eagle-eyed inspectors who ensure no spelling or grammar errors make it to the final version of your work.

Back in the day, an impression of a metal plate would be created as “proof” of a typeset book. But before that happened, it would be triple-checked by the proofreader, who made sure the publisher didn’t churn out thousands of copies of a novel called A Tale of Tow Cities.

Even with modern digital typesetting, proofreaders still often work from physical proofs, often using a language of their own, as they go. They’ll watch out for:

types of editing | proofreading

  • 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.

Although most issues will be resolved by this stage, proofreaders still scrutinize the text for anything previous edits might have missed. Hopefully, they don’t find much, but better safe than sorry!

The style sheet

When working with a proofreader, you should provide them with a style sheet that notifies them of any unusual spellings or styles in your manuscript — for example, if you’ve written a fantasy novel and have invented some words. Otherwise, they’ll read your manuscript “blind,” which is still pretty effective but may not incorporate every little detail of your work.

Once they’re done, your proofreader will return a marked-up document for you to revise one final time. After making those changes, you should be ready to send your manuscript into production, either by working with a typesetter or using a free tool like the Reedsy Book Editor to export your ebook.

types of editing - a style sheet helps an editor work with you

5. Fact-checking

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

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 note all the factual references in your book, then carefully confirm them via external sources; if they find any inaccuracies, they’ll alert you immediately.

types of editing | factchecking

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 historical fiction and hard sci-fi works.

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your book is the same — a quick self-edit won’t be enough if you want to be a successful author (whatever that means to you). An outside perspective from a professional editor, will help you lay the foundation the right way. With that in mind, you’re ready to go forth and conquer the world — the world of editing!

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To learn how to find an editor to work on your book, proceed to the next post in this series.

– Originally published on Jun 18, 2019

A Beginner’s Guide to Editing

The Basics of Editing

In some businesses, these stages are divided even further. As an independent author, you have the creative control to stick with the basic three. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or an amateur looking to gain some recognition, you should consider getting an editor; one who can do all three edits is the ideal, but naturally, you’ll have to work within your budget.

You can find freelance editors online who specialize in each type of editing, but most of them have experience in all three. Be sure to ask for some samples before you sign any contracts; you don’t want to pay someone for providing feedback you could get for free from the AI bot on Grammarly. One way to know if you’re getting quality work is to be aware of what each type of editing should include. By knowing what should be done in each stage, you have an idea if they are skipping steps or cutting corners. And, you can also gain an understanding on how to edit the draft yourself, as needed.

Developmental Editing

As the name suggests, this involves the development of the actual content in the book. This step involves looking for places to expand on your points or trim down fluff; you can cut words and refine the sentences later, the goal now is to get all of the necessary information down on the page. Developmental editing also reviews the organization of the draft and ensures your key points actually support and defend your thesis. Voice, tone, chapter length, organization and pacing, and consistency are all elements to review in developmental editing.

This stage works best after you’ve gotten feedback from your beta readers; they bring up knowledge gaps that you, as an expert in your field, may not see. If you’re unsure how to address those gaps, a developmental editor can offer insight. Once your content is squared away, you can start copy editing your work.

Copy Editing or Line Editing

Some businesses separate these into two different levels of editing, but for the most part, they are used interchangeably, as we’ll do here. Copy editing involves going line-by-line to review the draft. There’s a duality of focus on the flow of the sentences, the clarity, and other ways to improve how the information is conveyed to the reader while also searching for mechanical errors such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling. To emphasize: this stage isn’t about creating new content (that’s in the developmental editing stage) but refining how the information is communicated. These edits happen at a paragraph, sentence, and word level to improve the readability.

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Some common problems to look for include showing vs telling, using the passive voice, eliminating awkward phrasing, and improving transitions between paragraphs and sections. This is arguably the most important stage to invest in a professional. You can look for gaps in your content with the help of beta readers and get input from colleagues, but this stage requires experience with writing and an extensive knowledge of language and grammar. Once you’ve had your draft thoroughly copyedited, you can move to the final stage, proofreading.


Proofreading is the final polish on your draft. At this stage, you’re looking to catch any typos or incorrect grammar. If you hired a professional copy editor, your draft is probably about 90%-95% error-free, but even professionals can miss things. Check any graphs, figures, and other media for errors in the captions and in-text references. This is the final passover of your draft before it’s published. If there are any mistakes in formatting or the layout, you should address them now before your work goes live.

I recommend actually listening to your draft through a text-to-speech conversione so you “hear” any issues that may have been overlooked on paper. It’s difficult to make changes after you format and publish your manuscript, so be thorough now!


As you can see, editing is more than just understanding grammar rules and finding typos. Each editing stage requires time and outside perspective in order to get the best version of your work to publication. If you can afford to hire an editor, their expertise in writing is well worth the investment. Otherwise, use free online resources such as Grammarly and your friends and family to get the feedback you need to develop your draft into a polished manuscript.

As an amateur writer, your first few books set the expectation of their quality, so you want them to be high quality. If you’re a seasoned author, then you already have a reputation to uphold. Whether it’s your first or fortieth time writing a book, always take the time to be thorough in the editing process.

  • Emily Batdorf
  • August 16, 2021
  • 11:00 am
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