Chances are you are reading this because you either are in need of editing services or you just want to learn more about the field. Maybe the reason you are looking into which various editing services are generally offered by publishing companies is that you are an English major who is looking for a job in the editing world? Maybe you have recently written, or started writing, a book and were surprised to find out the many different types of book editing options you had when you started looking into publishing your manuscript?
Chances are slim, however, that you are reading this because you are a chief editor at a publishing company, who was asked to write a blog post about the various types of editing and was thoroughly surprised upon learning that there are actually 6 distinct types of editing! Thoroughly surprised and thoroughly embarrassed at the same time. Up until this writing, I had not been aware that I was not simply “an editor”. That being said, let’s explore the different types of book editing:
When I first get a manuscript to edit, I read the entire thing from start to finish. I usually print it out, so I can make annotations as I go along. What I look for at this stage are not minute spelling mistakes (although I might correct the glaringly obvious ones), but whether the text makes sense. I ask myself, “Did I really understand what I just read? Did I make sense of the plot? Who are the main characters and are they developed properly? Or, in the case of non-fiction, what is the subject matter and did reading the text make me feel like I just received all the tools to be able to explain the subject matter to another lay person?”
Hence, developmental editing is also sometimes called substantive or content editing and is the first stage of editing, because any writer likes a second set of eyes on their story before we want to hear that we forgot a comma in the second-to-last sentence. A writer needs to know if his idea is a good one and if he’s on the right track of writing a winning piece, so the developmental editor provides the writer with an editorial report, which basically is a critique of the story containing the main things the developmental editor suggests to change and which ones to keep.
This type of editing goes hand-in-hand with the first one. Again, the editor will look at the big picture of the story, not minute details. The writer will be provided with an evaluation of the structure and flow of his piece, which is why this stage is also called structural editing. It addresses areas of concern and provides suggestions for the book. Sometimes, if the author has broad idea in the manuscript but may have gotten stuck somewhere along the lines, having this editorial assessment done is a great first step. That way, if there are more than a couple of areas that need improvement, the developmental editor can then help redirect and help bring the manuscript full circle with a more-in-depth developmental report.
This is sometimes called structural editing, because the content editor looks directly at the structure of the manuscript. This editor will go through the text chapter-by chapter and paragraph-by-paragraph, looking at how the story keeps the reader engaged throughout. Any plot twist is scrutinized in this type of editing and the writer may receive advice on how to smooth the flow and construction of his work – chapter and paragraph. In doing this, it is crucial that the content editor is aware of the writer’s tone of voice and his target audience, so any editorial suggestions are aligned with the message of the manuscript.
Line editing is another one of the different types of book editing that is exactly what it sounds like: The line editor will literally look at the manuscript line-by-line and word-for-word. Forget big picture – we are getting down to the nitty gritty here, where every single sentence is examined for content and grammatical structure alike. A line editor looks at every word to see how it fits into its sentence. This editor is searching for content errors like a wrong tense, run-on sentences, clichés, or sentence fragments, all while being focused on how each sentence reads as a whole, so the writer never loses the reader’s attention. Does every sentence have the intended impact on the reader? Is the reader on the edge of his seat to find out what will happen next?
Very often, line editing is used interchangeably with copy editing, but these two are truly two separate types of editing.
If a line editor is concerned with content errors in individual sentences, the copy editor takes combing through the manuscript line-by-line and word-for-word to another level and looks specifically for grammatical errors, like the usage of a wrong tense or a wrong pronoun. This editor will use the fine-tooth comb to find spelling, punctuation, and capitalization mistakes.
Proofreading and Fact-checking
These two different types of book editing are ordinarily performed by the same editor, so they are here combined in the 6th type of editing. It also goes hand-in-hand with the 5th type, the copy editing. As this type of editor on a project, I again print out the final text and read it as a book first. I mentioned earlier, as a near-native speaker (English is my third language and I didn’t start learning it until I was 5 or 6 years old) who was trained in Oxford English by strict teachers from Britain and New Zealand, I usually catch grammar and spelling mistakes at first glance.
Depending on where we grew up, there are catch phrases that we just use on a daily basis, even though they may not be grammatically sound. Aunt Betty or our best friend, while a good resource for early feedback on a writer’s idea, wouldn’t necessarily notice those errors, because they use the incorrect form just the same. Enter the final editor who is formally trained in the language and reads the Chicago Manual of Style for fun.
Everyone needs their manuscript edited – even editors hire other editors to run through the different types of book editing before publishing their work. We are a publisher in St. Louis that provides self-publishing services such as editing, ghostwriting, graphic design, and marketing to independent authors and organizations in the hospitality/tourism, finance, construction, and