A quick guide to different types of editing

A quick guide to different types of editing

Pencil propped up on pencil sharpener and surrounded by shavings.
Image by Free-Photos, via Pixabay.

Editing is a nebulous word that covers a whole host of meanings. If someone says that they have sent their book off to an editor, they could mean anything from submitting their work in the hope of getting it published to getting typos fixed. This can understandably make it tricky to navigate the world of editors if you’re thinking of hiring one!

Here is a brief overview of some of the more common categories of editing:

  • Developmental editing looks at the ‘big picture’ of your novel as a whole and focuses on storytelling elements such as character, plot and worldbuilding, and writing craft elements such as dialogue and point of view. Going through development will likely involve some significant changes and rewriting, so a developmental editor would normally be the first type of editor that you work with. This is the type of editing that I offer at Future Worlds Editing.
  • Line editing focuses on strengthening your prose at the sentence and paragraph level. A line editor will bring out the style and the ‘voice’ of your work. This type of editing usually comes after the developmental stage and before (or combined with) the copyediting stage.
  • Copyediting is all about clarity, consistency and continuity. A copyeditor will ensure that your prose conforms to industry standards and that your characters’ hair doesn’t suddenly change colour from one chapter to the next. If you’re interested in hiring a copyeditor, you should only do so once you’re completely happy with the content of your manuscript—otherwise their work, and your money, will go to waste if you do any rewriting afterwards.
  • Proofreading is a final check for typos before the book goes to print. Proofreading is not strictly a type of editing, but proofreaders and copyeditors are often lumped together, which can cause some confusion. To be clear: you should not hire a proofreader if you haven’t first had your manuscript copyedited—they are a last line of defence against errors.

It’s important to note that even among editors, terms can be hazy and mean slightly different things. A good editor won’t just label it and leave you to wonder; they’ll explain exactly what it is they do (and don’t do). If in doubt, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask.

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