Articles for Authors

Types of Editing


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

Editorial Services
1. Developmental Editing (aka Substantive Editing or Content Editing)
2. Line Editing
3. Copyediting
4. Proofreading
5. Manuscript Critique
(These services may be done separately but can occur simultaneously.)

Writing Services
6.  Beta Reading
7.  Sensitivity Reading
8.  Book Doctoring
9.  Mentoring/Coaching/Consulting
10. Collaborating/Coauthoring
11. Ghostwriting

Related Services
12. Transcribing
13. Data entry
14. Indexing
15. Translating
16. Research

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


1. Developmental Editing (aka Substantive Editing, Content Editing)

A developmental edit is a “big picture” edit, and is generally the first round of editing performed on a manuscript. Some line edits or copyedits may be included on the manuscript to show how to revise effectively. A developmental editor

  • identifies problems with overall clarity or accuracy;
  • seeks to achieve clarity of subject, logic, and consistency by identifying cloudy explanations, vague assumptions, and faulty logic;
  • evaluates the order of the text and recommends ways to reorganize;
  • identifies gaps in content, structure, and style;
  • analyzes sentences for structure, syntax, and rhythm;
  • suggests clearer explanations, anecdotes, analogies, or illustrations;
  • proposes additions or deletions of headings;
  • identifies outdated content and factual errors; and
  • points out content that doesn’t adhere to the theme, tone, or marketing focus of the manuscript.

For a fiction manuscript, a content edit also identifies problems in pacing, plot, dialogue, point of view (POV), character development, setting, lack of conflict/tension, too much (or too little) description, showing and telling.

Note: The terms developmental editorsubstantive editor, and content editor overlap and may be used interchangeably. When seeking an editor, the best practice is to ascertain what each editor includes in this type of edit.

2. Line Editing

Line editors work at the sentence or paragraph level of a manuscript, working on a line-by-line basis to check for clarity, flow, style, and tone. Basic line edits are often included in a developmental edit. Moderate and in-depth copyedits may also include a line edit.

3. Copyediting

Copyeditors correct spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. A copyedit can be light, moderate, or heavy depending on the manuscript’s condition and the author’s preference. A copyeditor may also

  • ensure material is logical and understandable;
  • correct continuity problems;
  • ensure sources are properly cited for all statistics and quotations; and
  • flag inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

In a moderate copyedit, the editor may also look for

  • redundancies;
  • sentence clarity;
  • word choice; and
  • maintenance of tone/voice.

A heavy copyedit could also include some line editing, such as

  • a review for consistency of style and mood or presentation of content;
  • analysis of the point of view (fiction);
  • cross-checking references, figures, tables, equations, etc. (nonfiction); and
  • pointing out items that may require permission from the copyright holder.

4. Proofreading

This stage of editing generally follows developmental, line editing, and copyediting. Proofreaders review the text for

  • typographical errors;
  • misspelled/misused words;
  • grammatical problems;
  • punctuation mistakes (including abbreviations and capitalization);
  • inconsistent format;
  • spacing errors;
  • specialized terms, character names (fiction), locations;
  • numerical and alphabetical sequences;
  • vertical and horizontal alignment of set-off text (including paragraph indents); and
  • references to illustrations, tables, and figures within the text.

If a manuscript contains Scripture quotations, the proofreader may, upon request, verify that the quotations have been copied accurately and that the reference given is the correct one (including the Bible version being used).

5. Manuscript Critique

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



6. Beta Reading

Beta readers read a manuscript, often before the manuscript undergoes editing, and provide feedback to the author, usually at no cost. Some common issues addressed are plot holes, inconsistencies, and errors. While many beta readers are friends or acquaintances of the author, or avid readers who enjoy the author’s genre, some editors offer beta reading as a paid service. Typically, feedback from a beta reader is less in-depth than a manuscript critique.

7. Sensitivity Reading

Sensitivity readers review a manuscript with the goal of pointing out cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes, or problematic language. While many sensitivity readers are not editors, some editors offer sensitivity reading as an editing service.

8. Book Doctoring

Book doctors are generally considered developmental editors. However, in addition to providing editorial feedback, they also make changes to the manuscript by rewriting and reorganizing passages. They often work with an author from the initial concept, outline, and/or draft.

9. Mentoring/Coaching/Consulting

Mentors/coaches/consultants work with a client to develop, refine, and/or complete a manuscript. This can include everything from emotional support to practical advice. Coaching can begin at the start of the project to provide direction, or later if an author becomes “stuck” and needs assistance to complete the project. A consultant may also assist clients in navigating the steps involved in publishing their book.

10. Coauthoring/Collaborating

A coauthor/collaborator works with the author to write the book together. The collaborator may be listed as a coauthor of the book.

11. Ghostwriting

A ghostwriter uses text, notes, outlines, and/or transcriptions provided by the author to write the manuscript. New material is obtained from the author as needed. The author retains all rights and receives all royalties, and only the author is listed as author of the book.



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

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

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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 story’s time and place.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click the appropriate link below to fill out our request form.

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Methods of Editing


Editing may be done using one of three methods:

  1. Hard copy (pages sent by mail)
  2. Electronic editing (files sent by email)
  3. Indirect editing (such as websites or published books)

Hard-Copy Editing

An author may send the editor printed material (such as a full or partial manuscript) to edit or proofread. A publishing house may send “galleys”—printed pages that reflect what the published book will look like, with the exception of any mistakes the proofreader finds.

Unless you request otherwise, hard-copy edits will be made using standard proofreading symbols.

For book manuscripts, punctuation is corrected using The Chicago Manual of Style and spelling is corrected using Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (the most recent edition) because those are the industry-standard references for book publishers in the United States. For newspaper or journalistic magazine articles, The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary are used.

The edited hard copy is mailed to the author or publisher, who makes changes on the document as they deem appropriate.

Electronic Editing

You send material to an editor via email attachment (in Microsoft Word). If there is a compatibility issue, files may be sent in Rich Text Format or whatever program you and the editor both have.

Track Changes

With this feature selected, every change the editor makes to the document is marked in red (or whatever color is selected) so you can easily see the suggested additions and deletions.

When you open files that have been edited with this feature, you simply place the cursor over one of the changes and right-click. A menu box pops up that allows you to “accept” or “reject” that change. To accept or reject multiple changes, you can highlight the changes (making sure the beginning and end of the highlight are both on a change), right-click, then choose “accept” or “reject.” To accept all changes made in a document, click “accept all changes.”

Additional comments may be added in a couple of different ways. The Track Changes feature allows the editor to insert comments that are “hidden” unless you turn on the “show comments” option. Comments can be shown either in “balloons” in the right margin or in a box at the bottom of the page, depending on which option you choose. If you prefer, the editor may insert comments in brackets within the text.

Without Track Changes

Electronic editing may by done without the Track Changes feature. The “strikeout” font can be used for anything the editor believes should be deleted. Additions, changes, and comments can be made using a different-colored font and/or the “highlight” feature.

Indirect Editing

You may want to hire an editor to edit website content or a book that has already been published. In these cases, you will need to discuss with the editor the best way to communicate what changes the editor recommends.

For example, for a published book, the editor could identify the page number, the paragraph number, and the line number within that paragraph (or just the page number and the line on the page).

For websites, the editor would identify the page by name and by URL (the website address specific to that page), then by the location of the change being recommended.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click on the appropriate link below.

AUTHORS Seeking Editors

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How to Choose an Editor


After you’ve filled out the CEC request form, you will likely receive responses from more than one editor (unless you have specifically requested only one). You may have also found other potential editors through an internet search, referrals from other authors, or at writers’ conferences.

How can you determine which one is the best for you? Here are some things to consider.

1.  What type of editing do you want?

  • Developmental editing (big-picture editing)
  • Copyedit (line by line)
  • Basic proofread for typos and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (may include checking Scripture quotes)
  • Manuscript critique (strengths and weaknesses)
  • Mentoring (long term)
  • Coauthoring
  • Ghostwriting

2. What method of editing you prefer?

  • Online: With the Track Changes feature turned on, every change the editor makes will show up in a different-colored font. You can right click to either “accept” or “reject” each change. Or you can choose to accept all changes and see how the manuscript reads that way. A second online alternative is to ask the editor to make whatever changes they feel are appropriate right on the document and send you the revised version.
  • Hard copy: You send the editor printed pages to mark up with a pen or colored pencil. (As a professional courtesy, send the editor a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage to cover the cost of returning your work. Please add a few extra cents postage to cover any additional pages the editor may include.)

3. What type of writing you do?

Find an editor who specializes in whatever genre you write. For example, you probably don’t want to hire someone who specializes in nonfiction to edit your novel. That person may not understand fiction techniques. You also wouldn’t hire a secular editor to work on your Bible study or devotional.

4. How much can you afford?

Find out how much the editors you are considering charge. (Click here to read the article “How much will a professional edit cost?”) You’ll want to hire the best editor you can afford.

Once you’ve narrowed down the choices to a few, how do you make that final decision?

  • Ask potential editors for a free sample edit. Most editors will provide a sample edit so you can see their editing style. (Some may charge a small fee for this.)
  • Ask for references/testimonials from authors they’ve worked with.
  • Consider personality compatibility. Try to determine whether you and the potential editor will “get along.” You don’t want to inundate a freelance editor with numerous phone calls or emails just to decide whether or not you want to work with that person. But one or two quick emails can tell you if the two of you are “on the same page.”
  • Review an editor’s website to learn a variety of information about them.

If you’re still on the fence, consider what one author, Mary Allen, who connected with an editor through our network said. After getting sample edits from three CEC editors, she chose the one who “frightened” her the most. She figured that editor would probably challenge and teach her the most. “I couldn’t help but feel like God wanted me to face my fear and trust Him through the process,” Mary said.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click on the appropriate link below.

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 What Do I Do Before and After I Get My Edit?

Before: While you’re waiting to get your edited manuscript back from the editor, prepare yourself.

If you only want to be told that your manuscript is perfect and wonderful and straight from God’s lips to your fingertips, show your manuscript to your mom. An editor’s job is to show you how your manuscript can be improved and what errors need to be corrected.

Most editors will mark two things: corrections and suggestions. So having a lot of markings on your manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a lot “wrong” with it. There may just be several little things the editor thinks might make it even better than it already is.

When you’ve worked really hard on your manuscript, it can be upsetting to get a thorough critique of it. Rather like showing your newborn baby to someone and asking that person to tell you honestly what’s wrong with your child! So prepare yourself to get what you asked for: a thorough and honest edit.

After: What should you do after you get your edit?

First, try not to panic if you see more markings on your manuscript than you expected. If you do feel upset, set the edit aside for a little while. Give yourself time to absorb the shock.

When you’re ready, analyze the edit. Determine which markings are “corrections” and which are “suggestions.” You’ll want to make every correction (unless you are 100 percent sure you know you’re right). You should seriously consider every suggestion.

But keep in mind, you don’t have to accept everything your editor recommends. This is your writing, your work, your baby . . . possibly your career. But if you took your baby to a doctor and he said, “Here’s what’s wrong with your child and what you should do about it,” you’d follow his advice, right? (Unless you had a good reason not to, like a second opinion from another professional.)

What if you don’t like your edit?

Maybe you’re too close to the work or too sensitive. Try to develop a “tough skin” and see if you can accept the constructive criticisms without taking them too personally.

Maybe you were expecting too much (or too little) from the editor. You may want to ask the editor for another edit, this time with a different focus (for example, an overall critique rather than a line-by-line copyedit, or vice versa). You might even want to look for a new editor.

Maybe there’s simply a difference of opinion. A lot of editing, like writing, is subjective. If it’s a question of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, look in the appropriate resource book to determine the correct rule. For everything else, realize that what one person likes another may not.

What if you’re sure the editor is wrong about something?

Prove it. Ask another editor, or look up the rule yourself. (Make sure you’re using the appropriate reference manual for your type of writing and the latest editions. The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary are used for book manuscripts; The Associate Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary are for articles. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is the standard for Christian book publishers.)

Inform the editor of the mistake:
a. Do it in love.
b. Do it for their edification and improvement as an editor.
c. Word your correction in a way that gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. (Keep in mind, no matter how positive you are, you just might be wrong.)

What shouldn’t you do?

  • Don’t ask for your money back. If the editor realizes they were wrong, they may offer a partial refund. But that editor spent time and effort doing their best for you. And you probably gained some benefit from it.
  • Don’t tell everyone you meet what a terrible editor they are. Vent to friends and family, but not to other writers or industry colleagues. It’s not professional and definitely not Christian. On the other hand, if someone asks you for a referral, be honest. Be specific about what you did and didn’t like about a particular editor. What didn’t work for you may work perfectly well for others.

What should you do if you like your edit?

  • Thank your editor (through a phone call, e-mail, or thank-you card, and possibly with a line in the acknowledgments of your book).
  • Send them a complimentary copy of your published piece (autographed, if it’s a book) with a note of thanks.
  • Tell other writer friends. Word-of-mouth referrals are the best source of business for a freelance professional.
  • Mention the editor on your website (with the editor’s permission). Maybe add a link to their website from yours. Write a testimonial for the editor’s website. Ask they would like to put your book title (and cover art) on their website and/or other promotional material. Offer to be a reference the editor can give to people who are considering their services.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click on the appropriate link below.

AUTHORS Seeking Editors

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What to Expect from a Freelance Editor


When you hire a professional freelance editor, you can expect

  • Professionalism (but not perfection—remember, nobody’s perfect)
  • Confidentiality (there’s no need to copyright your work first)
  • Honesty (letting you know what, in their opinion, the manuscript needs)
  • Encouragement (telling you what’s good, not just what’s wrong)
  • Communication (via email, phone, or personal visit, depending on what works best for both of you)
  • Availability (within reason—everybody gets busy; don’t expect your editor to have nothing else to do but work on your manuscript and respond to your every email within an hour or two)
  • Promptness (whatever turnaround time the two of you agreed on—but realize that everyone has unexpected delays)
  • Follow-through (the editor does what they promised, barring unforeseen circumstances)

Will there be a written contract/agreement?

It’s not necessary but can be helpful to identify the following:

  • Services requested/agreed to
  • Cost
  • Deadline/turnaround time

If the editor of your choice doesn’t offer one, feel free to request one if you wish.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click the appropriate link below.

AUTHORS Seeking Editors

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How Much Will a Professional Editor Cost?


What your edit will cost depends mostly on three things:

  • how well you’ve polished your manuscript prior to sending it to the editor;
  • what level of editing you want; and
  • the rate charged by the editor.

Some editors charge by the hour, others per page or word. Those who charge by the hour will usually give you a per-page or per-word estimate, so you can figure out the approximate cost per page from that.

Freelance editorial rates vary a lot, depending on many factors—including how long an editor has been in business. The generalization is true: “You get what you pay for.” However …

  • If you’re a new writer, a new editor may work well for you.
  • If you’re self-publishing for family/friends, a beginning editor is probably okay.
  • Intermediate writer? Get at least an intermediate editor.
  • Want to get the most out of your experience? Hire the best editor you can afford.

There are ways to keep the cost of editing down. For example, if you start with an overall critique/content edit, you won’t have to pay for line-by-line editing of material that will be substantially revised or deleted. If you start by having just the first few chapters of your manuscript edited, you can implement what you learn from that initial edit into the rest of the chapters before sending more to the editor. That way you’re not paying to have the same mistakes marked over and over.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click on the appropriate link below.

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Do I Need a Professional Freelance Editor?


First let’s clarify what we mean by “freelance editor.” There are several types of editors in the publishing industry. The ones you’ll deal with fall mainly into three categories:

1. Acquisitions editors—representatives of publishing houses who are looking for new manuscripts and new authors to “acquire” for their houses

2. Publishing house editors—hired by the publishing house to polish your manuscript after it has been accepted.

3. Freelance editors—people hired by authors to help them improve their manuscripts, to increase their chances of acceptance by a publisher or agen, or to self-publish professionally written material.

In this article, we’ll be dealing with that third kind of editor—the freelancer.

So, do you need to hire a freelance editor?

It depends on where you’re at and what you’re looking for.

If you’re just starting to think about writing for publication, you probably don’t need an editor yet. First you should learn writing skills and hone your craft. Although a freelance editor can certainly teach you what you need to know, that can get expensive. You may want to start by reading books and taking classes on how to write for publication, or attending a writers’ conference and taking all the workshops you can, or visiting some of your favorite authors’ websites (many have a page or two of helpful tips).

If you’ve learned some basic things about writing but haven’t actually written anything yet, you still probably don’t need to hire an editor. You can’t really use a freelance editor if you don’t have something to be edited.

Many new writers start by writing short pieces: articles, short stories, play scripts, devotionals, Sunday school take-home papers, or curriculum. That’s great practice. And it can be helpful to show your writing to others—fellow writers, a critique partner or group, members of your target audience—to get valuable, objective feedback. If you’ve written a few short pieces or a few chapters of a book, but no one (other than family and friends) has seen your work yet, you might want to get a professional edit on them.

If you’ve at least started writing a book—whether you’ve done just a few chapters or you’ve finished a first draft of a complete manuscript or you’ve been working on it for years—an overall critique can help you get your writing to the next level of quality.

If you’ve already had your chapters/manuscript critiqued, you may benefit from a second (or third) critique. Every editor will have something different to offer, and each opinion is equally valuable. Just like every reader has his or her own likes and dislikes, various editors will provide a unique perspective.

If you haven’t been able to find a critique group or partner, you do need a freelance editor to catch errors and polish your manuscript. None of us can see our own mistakes near as easily as a fresh pair of eyes. Though you may get some good suggestions from friends or family, they probably don’t know writing techniques, so their advice will not be deep enough. Their suggestions may even be wrong if they don’t understand the rules for the type of writing you’re doing.

If your manuscript has already been reviewed by a critique group or critique partner, this is a great time to start working with a freelance editor who can catch things your critique partner(s) didn’t. And a good editor will know the industry-standard rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling that your critique partner(s) may not be sure of.

If you’ve put together a book proposal but aren’t sure if it’s ready to send to agents or publishers, you’ll greatly increase your chances of acceptance by having it critiqued first.

If you feel you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, you’re ready for an in-depth substantive content edit and/or a line-by-line copyedit to take your writing to the next level.

If you think your manuscript is ready to submit to an agent or publisher, you should definitely hire a freelance editor before submitting. You only get one chance to make a powerful first impression. Having an editor check your manuscript optimizes your chances of acceptance.

If you’ve self-edited to the point that you don’t want to look at your manuscript anymore, hire a freelance editor who can give you fresh insights. You may be revitalized by the editor’s ideas and fall in love with your manuscript again.

If you’re planning to self-publish, you should absolutely hire a freelance editor. Some subsidy publishers offer editing services (usually for an additional fee). But there’s usually a limited amount of time allowed per project. So unless your manuscript is extremely clean when you turn it in, there’s a chance their editor will miss a few things. And you don’t want to end up with a garage full of books you paid good money for but don’t want to sell because you caught mistakes in them too late.

If you think your work is perfect and the only thing you want is someone to tell you how wonderful it is, don’t bother hiring an editor. If encouragement and raves are all you’re looking for, show your manuscript to your mom.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click on the appropriate link below.

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