Help! What type of editing do I need?

Help! What type of editing do I need?

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 great questions, in part because they open up an essential 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 at the ready. Editors need to understand the standard definitions of each type of editing that they do (and even the types they don’t). When the dialogue with a client occurs, they can understand the needs.

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

Everyone will likely have their own spin on the main types of editing. Therefore, you, as a professional editor, need to 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 sure you are using the same definitions.

Here is a very concise list of what I consider the six 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 the wall next to my 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 author’s need. Developmental Edits help the author take an idea and put it into a story plan, look at a challenging 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 covered in a Developmental Edit.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is where the editor fixes the technical issues of grammar, structure, spelling, and word usage, and a note of style and format. A copy edit is typically used when the development of the manuscript is complete. Depending upon the type of manuscript, a copy edit can usually be completed within a week by most editors. Often editors in good practice will review the document after the changes at no additional cost to the author.

Line Editing

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

Proofreading

Usually, a minor form of editing, Proofreading does a quick look over the manuscript for any formatting issues (punctuation, capitalization, etc.), errors in grammar, and any misspellings or issues with word usage. Of all the types of editing, Proofreading should have the least amount of turnaround time. Still, for 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 ascertains whether a specific style guide (AP – Associated Press, APA – American Psychological Association, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.) is correctly and effectively applied. Style Editing also includes 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 different type at all and often do not include it. However, given that over half of my work is Academic papers, I often find myself doing style edits right before publication.

Substantive Editing

Substantive editing 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 comprehensive evaluation where the editor brings light to any confusing plot points, points 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. Still, during my 20 plus years as a Freelance Editor, I have found that this listing gives me a 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!

Galen

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