Types of Editing

proofingThe services offered by an editorial freelancer may include one or more of the following:

Editorial Services
1. Proofreading
2. Critiquing
3. Content Editing/Substantive Editing
4. Copyediting/Line-by-Line Editing
5. Developmental Editing
(These services may be done separately but can occur simultaneously.)

Writing Services
1. Rewriting
2. Ghostwriting/Coauthoring
3. Mentoring

Related Services
1. Transcribing
2. Data entry
3. Indexing
4. Translating
5. Research

NOTE: Different editors may define the above terms differently or use different terms.


1. Proofreading
A proofreader searches the text for:
• Typographical errors
• Misspelled words (including incorrect word usage)
• Grammatical problems (including verb tenses and syntax)
• Punctuation mistakes (including proper abbreviations and capitalization)
• Inconsistent format
• Letter or sentence spacing errors
• Specialized terms, character names, location references, etc.
• Numerical and alphabetical sequences
• Vertical and horizontal alignment of set-off text (including paragraph indents)
• References to illustrations, tables, and figures within the text

If a manuscript contains Scripture quotations, the proofreader may look up the quotes to verify that they have been copied accurately and that the reference given is the correct one for that quote (including the version being used).

Page proofing (aka galley proof or character-by-character proofread) compares the latest version of a project to earlier stages to make sure all changes have been made correctly. This is sometimes done on galleys, after a manuscript has been typeset, comparing them to the author’s final draft. This step can also be beneficial for authors who have made numerous editorial changes in order to verify that changes have been properly made.

2. Critiquing
A manuscript critique is a broad overall assessment/review of a manuscript, pinpointing its strengths and weaknesses. Specific problem areas are flagged and general suggestions for improvement made. A professional opinion of the manuscript’s potential for acceptance by an agent and/or royalty-paying publisher, based solely on the focus of the material, may be given if offered/requested.

3. Content Editing (aka Developmental or Substantive Editing)
The content editor’s focus is on clarifying ambiguities, correcting conceptual problems, and maintaining the tone of the manuscript. A content editor:
• identifies problems with overall clarity or accuracy
• evaluates the order in which the text is presented and recommends ways to reorganize
• identifies gaps in content
• analyzes sentences for structure/syntax
• suggests or provides clearer explanations, anecdotes, analogies, or illustrations
• proposes additions or deletions of headings
• seeks to achieve clarity of subject, logic, and consistency.

The content editor checks for:
• readability and flow of information
• structural difficulties
• stylistic troubles
• sentence structure and rhythm
• cloudy explanations
• vague assumptions
• faulty logic
• errors of fact
• inconsistencies in information
• poor examples and analogies
• outdated content
• content that doesn’t adhere to the theme, tone, or marketing focus of the manuscript

For a fiction manuscript, a content edit may also include identifying problems in such areas as:
• pacing
• plot
• dialogue
• point of view
• character development
• setting
• lack of conflict/tension
• too much (or too little) description

4. Copyediting (aka Line-by-Line Editing)
Copyediting can cover a broad range of corrections and suggestions. A basic copyedit includes:
• Making sure material is logical and understandable
• Correcting continuity problems
• Making sure sources are cited for all statistics and quotations.
• Flagging inaccuracies and inconsistencies

In a moderate copyedit, the editor may also review the manuscript for such things as:
• Redundancies
• Sentence clarity
• Word choice
• Maintenance of tone/voice

An in-depth copyedit could also include:
• a review for consistency of style and mood or presentation of content
• analysis of the point of view chosen for each scene (fiction)
• cross-checking references, figures, tables, equations, etc. (nonfiction)
• pointing out items that may require permission from the copyright holder

The copy editor points out errors/issues to the author, but does not rework awkward or unclear sentences/paragraphs. The author chooses what to revise based on the editor’s comments.

5. Developmental Editing (aka Book Doctoring or Coaching)
A developmental editor works closely with the author on a specific project from the initial concept, outline, or draft (or some combination of the three) through any number of subsequent drafts. The editor makes suggestions about content, organization, and presentation, based on an analysis of competing works, comments of expert reviewers, the author’s market analysis, and other appropriate references.

This type of edit includes all of the steps described above as well as minor rewriting, including:
• adjusting awkward sentences
• completing sentence fragments (where needed)
• reorganizing paragraphs and chapters for logical text flow

In addition, the developmental editor reviews an author’s manuscript for the following:
• Content organization
• Clarity and effectiveness of content or story sequence
• Flow/transitions
• Progress and pace
• Sentence structure
• Readability
• Presentation

In addition to proofreading and editing, some editorial freelancers offer related services.


6. Rewriting
The editor rewrites existing text, notes, and/or transcriptions provided by the author. No new material is developed or researched. The manuscript should receive an additional copyedit and proofread after changes have been made.

7. Ghostwriting/Coauthoring
A ghostwriter uses text, notes, outlines, and/or transcriptions provided by the author, then writes the manuscript, working closely with the author. New material is researched and developed or obtained from the author as needed. Author retains all rights and receives all royalties.

8. Mentoring
A mentor works closely with an author, teaching writing and self-editing techniques. Assists with the preparation of a proposal and the search for an agent and/or publisher. A mentor performs many of the same services as a developmental editor/book doctor, but usually works with the author through numerous projects over a long period of time rather than on a single manuscript. As the mentor works on multiple projects with the author, he/she helps the author develop the skill and craft of writing and assists him/her in establishing a career as an author.


9. Transcribing
Recorded messages submitted on cassette are transcribed to a computer document. No editing provided, but basic proofreading is usually requested.

10. Data Entry
Printed or typed text (on paper) is entered into a computer document. No editing is done, but page proofing is essential.

11. Indexing
The content of a manuscript is analyzed to determine what information is likely to be most useful to the readers. An index—alphabetical list of references to important terms and concepts in the text—is created. This work is usually done near the end of the project when the final layout is available.

12. Translating
Text written in one language is converted to another, with extreme care being taken to ensure that words, terms, and phrases accurately reflect the intended meaning of the original.

13. Research
The researcher finds reliable sources to back up claims made by the author in the text. Provides documentation for all quoted material. Determines where permission is needed for quoted material and may assist in securing permission in accordance with copyright law. For fiction, a researcher ensures that all words, names, actions, and items used in the manuscript are appropriate for the time and place in which the story takes place.

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