Levels of Editing & Terminology

Editing means a variety of things to different people. But there are standards, although these too vary from editor to editor. I offer the following services and have defined them below.

My editing services include four main levels of editing:

1. Developmental editing is a review of a text for overall structure and organization, plot development (for fiction), purpose, and audience. In the case of textbooks, it is also a review of competitive texts, collaborative creation of feature elements, and often, managing submissions by various authors and reviews by peers. There is little emphasis on copyediting. This is “big picture” editing.

2. Substantive editing is also called line editing. The editor reviews structure, organization, language, style, voice, and presentation to ensure that the purpose is clear for the intended audience. This level of editing may involve rewriting and reorganizing.

3. Copyediting ensures accuracy, clarity, and consistency in spelling, grammar, punctuation, word use, and adherence to house style. There are essentially three levels of copyediting:

  • Light: Repairing spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation consistency, and correctness (including table of contents and references)
  • Medium: All of the above plus reviewing for gender neutrality, content, and style (audience, word use and choice, consistency of formatting of titles, references, and table of contents)
  • Heavy: All of the above plus eliminating triteness, wordiness, redundancies; improving flow and organization; ensuring consistent tone and voice

4. Proofreading is the last step in the editing process in which the proofreader corrects glaring errors in spelling and punctuation in a typeset text. A proofreader checks page layout to be sure text does not run off the page and that all text is accounted for and formatted correctly. Recasting of sentences or changes in copy and organization do not occur at this point. Many clients mistake proofreading for copyediting.