Help! What type of editing do I need?

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /home/customer/www/ on line 1364

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /home/customer/www/ on line 684

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/customer/www/ on line 691

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /home/customer/www/ on line 684

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/customer/www/ on line 691

So the question that I have found myself answering most often during the entirety of my career as a Freelance Editor has been “What type of editor are you?” followed quickly by “What types of editing are there?” or “What type of editing do I need?”

These are actually fantastic questions, in part, because they open up a very important dialogue. As an editor, especially freelance, you typically find work doing multiple types of editing. How do you know what those are? What type does a client need? All are important questions that you, as an editor, need to have answers to. Editors need to understand the standard definitions of each type of editing that they do (and even the types they don’t) so that when the dialogue with a client occurs they can understand the needs.

Having a firm idea of what these terms means to you is also important from an author’s view point, so all the writers reading this, you too need to do the research and find out what each term means to you.

While it is likely that each individual will have their own spin to the main types of editing, and thus, need to make certain that as a professional editor, you delineate this to your clients, the core basis of the terms should be similar.  But do talk it out editors/authors with each other to make certain you are using the same definitions.

Here is a very concise list of what I consider the 6 main types of editing. Some of the terms can be interchangeable, which makes it a little confusing, I know. That’s why I keep a copy of them on my wall next to me desk!

Developmental Editing
This edit covers everything in the developmental process. It can be done at different stages of a manuscript and thus the focus shifts depending upon the need of the Author. Developmental Edits are designed to help the author to take an idea and put it into a story plan, look at a particularly difficult chapter and help find ways to improve or advance it, or even look at an entire manuscript and help develop and fine tune any problem areas. Pacing, Character Development, Humor, Overall readability, Research, and Scene settings are all aspects that can be covered in a Developmental Edit.

Copy Editing
This is where the editor fixes the technical issues of grammar, structure, and spelling & word usage, as well as a note of style and structure. A copy edit is most often used when the development of the manuscript is complete. Depending upon the type of manuscript a Copy-Edit can usually be completed within a weeks’ time by most editors, and often Editors in good practice will do a review after changes are made at no additional cost to the author.

Line Editing

While often used interchangeably with Copy Editing, Line Editing is different in that the intensity of evaluation leans more toward that of a Developmental Edit. Each sentence and paragraph are looked closely to make certain it communicated your intent to your reader .

Usually the most minor form of editing, Proofreading does a quick look over the manuscript for any issues in format (punctuation, capitalization, etc.), errors in grammar, and for any misspellings or issues with word usage. Of all the types of editing, Proofreading should have the least amount of turnaround time, but authors you should typically allow for a couple of days once the  editor has started.

Style Editing
This type of editing focuses on the pure mechanics of the manuscript. It is done to ascertain whether a certain style (AP – Associated Press, APA – American Psychological Association, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.) is used correctly and effectively. This can also include a Citation edit/check. Most often, this type of editing is used for Academic and Scientific papers. This type of editing can be done separately or as part of a copy-edit. Some editors do not consider this a separate type at all and often do not include it, however, given that over half of my work is Academic papers, I often find myself just doing style edits right before publication.

Substantive Editing
This is a comprehensive read-through of your manuscript that focuses on the entire document, providing a written critique after reading it. This critique should include detailed notes on punctuation, grammar and spelling, the flow of the manuscript, and the overall style and structure. It is a very involved evaluation where the editor brings light to any confusing plot points, point of view, characterizations and overall structure. Substantive edits are focused on the writing itself, helping the author fine-tune the prose.


You can take these types of editing and expound on them, or add a few variations to them, but I have found during my 20 plus years as a Freelance Editor, that this listing give me a very solid foundation for just about anything I work on.

So, if you are out there wondering what type of editing you want to do, or need for your work, I hope this helps you get a handle on the editing options available.

Have a great day!

at Editor’s Journey


About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: