Tag: style editing

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.


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!


Poetry as an Editing Niche

Poetry as an Editing Niche

A few months ago, I talked about exploring and Finding your Niche in the editing world. One of those very niches that I stumbled into was editing for Poetry.

Poetry is a unique form of writing. With that incredible depth and variety comes a world of different types of editing required to produce and publish poetry successfully. Editing poetry means that you must have such a technical understanding of language and words and how to manipulate them. You need to know when to ignore all the rules. Embrace the intent of the poem and poet.

Whereas some poems have precise rules that the poet follows, other free verse poetry can ignore the rules. Often, the poets are encouraged to step as far away from them as they can. The trick here for an editor is that you can find a blend of structured, free verse, and avant-garde poems in a single book. The question, then, is how one customizes the edit to the poetry in the book.

As a poet myself, I admit that I am one of “those poets” who bounces around between genres and styles. I don’t limit myself, and for the most part, that is a strength in my life as a poet.  As an editor of poetry and poetry books, I approach the relationship between myself, the editor, and my client, as a partnership. This editor/author partnership is even more true for editing poetry than other manuscripts.

To serve your client well as their editor, you must get to know them, learn from them what they want with the book. This understanding of continuity and message is not much different from what you need for any manuscript you are editing. With a book of poetry or even a poem, however, you need to understand the overall picture and each poem. Most poetry books contain somewhere between 25-60 poems. Often part of my job is to let my client know if things flow well, if the poems all fit together, and sometimes, even to help them figure out what a theme might be for them (depending upon the stage of the manuscript when I see it.)

You also need to take each poem and look at it critically to decide just how much of it you will hold to standard grammar rules.  Poetry can often be perfection WITHOUT punctuation or with limited punctuation.  You could easily have several poems that have no punctuation, or like E. E. Cummings, be all lowercase, and then in other poems in the same book, you’ll have poems asking to Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

When working on poetry, you must understand what the poet is trying to achieve. I find I talk more to my Poetry clients even more than I do to my Academic clients. Each experience that I have with a client is gratifying because of this.

Also, poets do prefer to have someone well versed in poetry editing their manuscripts. If you think about it, though, that’s not as strange as it seems. Academics want people to edit their work with experience in their field or with the Style Guide they use. Just so, poets need to know that the person editing their manuscripts understands the world in which they live. There is an impermanence to poetry, and that magic sometimes needs the rules to bend.

Are you a poet? Have you ever had someone edit your poetry? What are some of the things you experience?


Five Most Common Style Guides

Five Most Common Style Guides

When working as an editor on academic and research documents, one of the most common questions I ask of a new client is the Style Guide they are using. Sometimes, I am asked by a prospective client what ones I am familiar with, and like everyone, as an editor and researcher, I have some that I am most proficient at using. Suppose you work as an editor long enough. In that case, however, you will end up coming across a wide variety of styles over the years, including some that are exclusive to specific publications. However, the truth of the matter is that there is a small handful that editors and writers encounter the most. Here are my thoughts on the five most standard style guides that I have worked within the last 25 years.

American Psychological Association Style (APA)

APA was initially created for the discipline of Psychology and other Behavioural Sciences. Still, as time has progressed, more and more of the Social Sciences and Journals require APA to be used.  In many of these disciplines, there is a need to reduce the bias within the literature. So much of the research deals with communication (interviews, in particular). It thus allows you to avoid gendered pronouns, learn though is to bring information forward so that it can stand on its own without language bias.

APA provides a very clean, consistent, and easy-to-navigate format that writers, editors, and readers alike can understand the document.

It is also beneficial because citations are handled both within the text and in the Bibliography or Works Cited.

Associated Press (AP)

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law has been around since 1953 and is considered the premier tool for anyone working as an American Journalist today. It was created initially for reporters; it is now the leading publication reference for any communication in the public forum. It allows for consistency across the country for writers and editors in new and social media. It is also designed to assist a writer and editor in creating full impact stories in a tight medium of brevity.

Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) & Turabian

A vast, in-depth style guide, the Chicago Manual of Style is probably the most common guide that I have come across in the last 15-20 years. It is used across many academic disciplines and has two different citation systems depending upon whether you are working with the Social Sciences, Note-Bibliography citation system, or the Physical Science, where the Author-Date citation system is typically used.

I find that Chicago is a bit lengthy and overly abundant in nit-picky rules; however, after working with it for several years, most of the standard rules are easy to remember. There are several online tools to consult if you have questions.

Sometimes, when working with Chicago, you hear the term Turabian—this is an offshoot guide created for Research by Kate L. Turabian.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The MLA Handbook is what I learned in high school back in the 1980s/90s and is still used in classroom education when teaching research papers. Outside of the classroom, you will find MLA used in the Liberal Arts and Humanities (when APA isn’t being used), including Literary Criticism, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature and Analysis, and Foreign Language studies.

The Elements of Style

Possibly the most outdated and overrated of the list, The Elements of Style was once considered the penultimate Style Guide. Time, however, has overtaken it, and as newer styles have been developed and honed, The Elements of Style has fallen to less use. The book is smaller than most and is a generalized collection of advice (not always substantiated) on word usage and writing. I NEVER suggest it to any of my clients because it just doesn’t work as well with modern publishing.

So, there you have it, the top 5 Most Common Style Guides that I have encountered over the years. If you have a style guide that you think should be on this list, or if you have one that is very rare and you think it should be on my upcoming “Rare or Obscure Style Guides” post, let me know!

Galen, An Editor’s Journey

Important Websites:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Associated Press Style (AP)
Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago)
Modern Language Association (MLA)