The six types of editing are:
- Developmental editing
- Structural (or “evaluation”) editing
- Content editing
- Line editing
- Copy editing
Before publishing any piece of content, it’s advisable to have an editor take a pass over the document to help make it as good as possible. But not every piece of content needs the same depth or type of editing.
A social media post, for example, will likely simply require a quick proofread to catch any glaring typos, whereas a full book will need deep editing to tighten and sculpt as well as catch those pesky typos that we all hate.
As a writer, it’s important for you to understand the six types of editing so that you can choose the correct one for each piece of content you’re creating.
Let’s look at each individually.
The most comprehensive type of editing is developmental editing, which involves a complete review of your entire document from structure and word choice to style and even plot and characterization (in fiction).
It keeps your audience in mind and edits towards that. This is the type of editing done for a long manuscript for an upcoming publication such as a book. The purpose is to firm up the full narrative and plot so that it is enjoyable to the reader.
Developmental editing happens before copy editing and proofreading.
Structural editing is usually the precursor to developmental editing. When doing an editing evaluation, an editor will review the whole document and outline chapter by chapter major changes that need to be made.
The goal is to provide big-picture feedback, instead of detailed feedback on areas like word choice, so that the author can understand how much work might be needed from a full developmental edit.
Next up is content editing, which is meant to take a good manuscript and make it publish-worthy.
Content editing is similar to developmental editing in that it covers the entirety from plot and structure down to word choice and sentence structure. The difference is that developmental editing happens usually throughout the creation process, but content editing takes that finished manuscript and takes it to another level through a deep holistic editing lens.
Content editing is what most people traditionally think of when they think of “editing” or “book editing.” It is actually a trained skill that people study and practice for years to do well, because it involves the structure of a full manuscript as well as the nitty gritty parts like copyediting and proofreading.
Line editing is the fine-tooth-comb approach to editing where every single sentence in a manuscript is read and massaged to fit the entire manuscript well and weave it into a comprehensive piece that will wow readers.
It is important to note that line editing is not copyediting. It is not combing over a manuscript for errors, but rather for consistency of voice and structure.
As NYbookeditors says:
A line edit addresses the creative content, writing style, and language use at the sentence and paragraph level.
Next up is copy editing. Copy editing is one of the most common types of editing. It involves checking the manuscript for errors like bad grammar, misspellings, style, and punctuation issues.
Copyediting is done before proofreading, as copyediting is meant to catch all of the above mentioned errors whereas proofreading is a final read to catch any last errors before a final manuscript is sent for publishing.
Copy editing is also commonly known as revision.
Proofreading is the final type of editing and is performed after all developmental, line editing, and copyediting are done and the manuscript has been laid out in final form.
Proofreading is a review and read of the final manuscript to catch any final errors that may have escaped the eyes of all of the other editing rounds. Books are famous for one or two typos, which are often corrected in future versions, but proofreading is done to catch as many of these as possible before the first version is even published.
What About Subject Matter Expert Reviews?
Sometimes you need a subject matter expert to review the content of your or another writer’s copy for correctness and phrasing that makes sense for a specific industry. Here at EditorNinja we think of this as peer review, though finding a subject matter expert can sometimes be very difficult.
It can be considered another level of editing though, and usually happens after a first draft is created and before finalization of copy occurs.
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