The different levels of editing

Trying to assess what level of help you need with your writing can seem confusing to begin with. Of course, you may say to me, ‘Surely proofreading is just checking for spellings and copy-editing is for rewriting?’

Let me just show you exactly what different levels of editing there are, and why you may need them.

Have you just finished your story or novel and now want to check through the major aspects of the manuscript?

If yes, then developmental editing is probably the best place to start.

Developmental (or structural) editing is story-level editing and looks at the novel or story as a whole. Decisions are considered and assessed that affect the overall, bigger picture, and include plot, story arc, characterisation, narrative point of view and tense.

This is the first stage of any editing process, whether it’s done by the writer themselves or by an editor.

Are you happy with your story-level decisions and now feel the need for a closer, sentence-level look?

If you are, then line editing is probably more for you.

Line editing is more sentence-level editing, checking line-by-line and word-by-word for clarity within the text. It looks at the application of language and how it is used to tell your story.

Are you in need of a more technical assessment of your work?

Then copy-editing will be the service level you need.

Copy-editing looks at your writing from a technical point of view, addressing spelling, punctuation and grammar, but also looking at internal consistencies such as character descriptions and timeline conflicts.

Style sheets are used during copy-editing as the standard to work to and detail all decisions made in previous stages of editing regarding language choices (American or British English), character traits, particular spellings for names and a whole host of others.

Do you need that final QC check for spelling errors and misplaced commas?

Then proofreading will be just the thing.

Proofreading really is the final stage of editing any text. It is the quality control stage that checks for those few spelling, punctuation and grammar errors that may have slipped through or been introduced, and checks the indentation, line spaces and consistency in page numbers.

Proofreading is not the time to be looking for plot holes or noticing inconsistency with tense or point of view.