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Updated: Mar 14

There are several different kinds of editing. To make matters even more confusing, there is no real consensus within the publishing industry as to what each kind entails. However, here is an overview of some of the basics.

Developmental editing takes a bird’s-eye view of the writing project. A developmental edit often occurs before writing has even begun. It focuses on the overall content and organization of the work.

Substantive editing (sometimes called content editing) examines the overall structure, content, and flow of existing writing. A substantive editor will note errors in logic and suggest improvements to things like organization and tone. In fiction, a substantive editor will also look for issues like point of view, pacing, and plot holes.

Copyediting is the process of revising written material to improve readability as well as conformity to the desired style guide. A good copyeditor will improve a work’s clarity, consistency, and sentence structure while preserving the author’s unique writing voice. Copyediting also includes mechanical corrections like grammar, punctuation, usage, and spelling. A heavy copyedit is sometimes referred to as a line edit.

Proofreading is the final check of a fully edited and formatted document prior to publication. In addition to correcting any remaining mechanical issues, a proofreader will also check things like chapter headings, page numbers, word breaks, and a variety of other potential formatting issues.

Do you need to undertake every type of editing on this list before publishing your work? Not necessarily. It’s important to take an honest look at both your writing and your budget before deciding on a course of editing action.

You can also ask an editor to look at a sample of your work and advise you on what kind(s) of editing would be most beneficial. If you’d like me to do that for you, please email me at

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