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  • Writer's pictureBreanna Call

The Types of Editing: Know Which Kind Does What

Updated: Jun 12

Learn each phase of the editing process and how they all will improve your work in progress.

Two stacks of blank paper.
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

As a writer, you’re likely familiar with the term “editing.” It’s all about revisions and corrections and new drafts. Right? Of course! But there’s so much more to editing than that.

The word “editing” encompasses what professional editors do in only a general sense. To get to the specifics of what “editing” means for your work in progress (WIP), you need to understand the different types of professional editing. You read that right—there’s more than one kind. And the more familiar you are with each type of editing, the better you’ll be able to identify which kind of editing you’re looking for.

Of course, every WIP would benefit from all the phases of editing. But if you’re looking for a specific type of feedback, you’re going to need to know which phase of editing to plan for.

It is important to note that there are no hard and fast definitions for the types of editing, and some editors will vary in what they offer for each level. The definitions below detail what to expect from the editing process in general, with additional information specific to Ever Editing.


1. Developmental Editing

As the first phase of editing, developmental editing is also referred to as “substantive editing.” It focuses on the big-picture stuff. It involves the most collaboration between the writer and editor. Your editor will look at your work’s pacing, tone, and appropriateness for your desired audience. She will determine whether your hook is solid and reels your audience in. Your editor may suggest that you reorder, cut back, flesh out, or even delete chapters, scenes, or paragraphs.

Developmental editing will be the most time-consuming type of editing and may require significant revisions to the WIP. It is common to have 2 or even 6 rounds of developmental editing before moving on to the next editing phase.

If your WIP is fiction, your editor will look at your story arc. Is there enough rising and falling action? Is the pacing spot on? Does the climax give the right amount of adrenaline rush? Does the ending wrap everything up in a bow (with a tantalizing cliffhanger for book 2)—or is an element of the story missing? Are your characters cliché and predictable? Or are they multifaceted and learning and growing throughout the story? Is there anything that’s just not believable? Are you telling instead of showing?

If your WIP is nonfiction, your editor will look at your thesis or theme. Is it specific? Can it be argued? Do you have sub-themes that support your main theme? Is your theme supported with logical evidence? What elements, such as graphs and images, support your theme? Are you assuming your readers already know information they likely wouldn’t about your topic? Are there any connections between points that could be strengthened?

These are just a few of the issues that a developmental editor will address. Your editor will have specific questions and points based on your WIP. Generally, you can expect to receive your WIP back with comments along with an editorial letter that explains how to prioritize the suggested edits.


2. Line Editing

Line editing is the second phase of editing at Ever Editing. Other editors may combine line editing with developmental editing or copyediting. When line editing is not combined with another type of editing, you should need only 1 or 2 rounds.

Line editing has a large crossover with developmental editing. The difference here is that instead of looking at the WIP’s overall structure, your editor will hone in on paragraph and sentence structure. Your editor may suggest you shorten, lengthen, rearrange, or completely remove sentences or paragraphs to increase or decrease the pacing. Your editor will analyze your word choice to ensure it is appropriate for the intended audience.

If your WIP is fiction, your editor will look at each action your characters perform and each statement they make. Is what they do and say on track with their growth at that point in the novel? If not, is there a good reason for it?

If your WIP is nonfiction, your editor will look at each paragraph and sentence that makes up the main points. Does each paragraph’s ending lead into the next paragraph’s beginning? Does each sentence build on the next to create an understandable main point?

A line edit will generally be sent back to you with suggested edits to the text itself along with an editorial letter detailing consistent changes made and next steps.


3. Copyediting

Copyediting is the third phase of editing. You should need only 1 or 2 copyediting rounds. Here, your editor will review your WIP for errors in punctuation, spelling, capitalization, grammar, usage, and citation formatting. She will follow a style guide—such as Chicago, MLA, or APA—that is required or standard for your WIP.

Edits will generally be sent as tracked changes in a Word document along with a brief editorial letter listing specific style choices and spellings, which you can give to your proofreader to ensure consistency.


4. Proofreading

This is the fourth and last phase of the editing process. If you’ve come this far, your WIP is typeset and nearly done! But before we get into proofreading, you need to know about typesetting.

Typesetting is a necessary step your WIP needs to go through before proofreading. Typesetting is when an editor or designer takes your freshly copyedited WIP and converts it from a Word document, Google Doc, or other file into its publishable form—generally, industry-standard PDFs or e-books. These are called proofs.

Once you have your proofs, your WIP is ready for proofreading. You should need only 1 round of proofreading. This editing phase has a large crossover with copyediting, but instead of reading your Word document or Google Doc file, your editor will read your proofs. (Hence proofreading.)

In this phase, your editor will look for minor errors in punctuation, spelling, capitalization, grammar, usage, and source citation. They will also look at the formatting of your proofs. Are there any single words or string of words at the beginning or end of a page? A subheading that is formatted differently than the others? Do any references in the table of contents lead to the wrong page? Is there an odd white space in the middle of the page? Basically, your editor will make sure any glaring errors are taken care of before you officially publish your work.

The edited document will be a marked PDF that you can give to your typesetter to make corrections to your proofs.


Now that you know more about how much “editing” encompasses, we hope you understand what goes into the editing process and how much your editors care about your work.

Each phase of editing is important to publishing a professional work, and Ever Editing is here to help you. Collaborate with us and get your work out in the world. Click here to contact our editors.

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