The different levels of editing

You’ve probably been advised that before you contact an editor, you need to determine what type of editing it is you’re looking for. If you’ve searched online for definitions of the different levels of editing available, it’s possible that you’ll be more confused than ever – even editors can’t agree!

What matters most is that you’re clear about what services are being offered, and what you’ll be getting. With that in mind, here’s a brief explanation of what I mean when I talk about the different stages of editing.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing looks at the big-picture elements of your novel. Is your plot plausible and compelling? Are your characters believable? Does your story drag at times and zip by too fast at others? Will your readers feel satisfied by the ending?

I’ll look at your work objectively and make suggestions as to how you can develop your story, offering constructive and honest feedback in the form of an editorial report, or manuscript critique. And if you want a full developmental edit, I’ll also highlight issues and make comments and suggestions throughout the manuscript itself.

Line and copy-editing

Put simply, line editing – also known as stylistic editing – focuses on improving your writing by ensuring that it’s artful in the way that it flows, and correct and consistent in the way that it’s presented. Copy-editing aims to correct the writing by making sentences and paragraphs clear in meaning and consistent in style. So, you can see that the lines between the two are somewhat blurred.

This is why I offer a combination of line and copy-editing, balanced according to the individual needs of the text, which takes place before proofreading and involves an in-depth treatment of the text at word and sentence level. If your budget only allows for one editing process, my advice would be to make it this one.


Proofreading is the final polish, enabling you to publish with confidence knowing that your readers aren’t going to be distracted by irritating typos and spelling mistakes. If your work has already been professionally edited and revised, this is the last thorough review where I’ll look for any errors that have slipped through or been more recently introduced.

Proofreading is often used as a generic editing term, so many writers think they want their work proofread when in fact they want a copy-edit. If you’re not sure, please send me a sample and I’ll be happy to advise you on what level of editing is most appropriate.